The decision was iffy, I disagreed with it, but officially the records say Martin Kampmann lost to Diego Sanchez. All things considered he has not beaten a single top 10 welterweight or middleweight and has suffered some devastating losses in the last two years. While he’s still at an age (28) where he’s not past his prime, you have to wonder whether or not he’s not meant to be one of the premier fighters in the UFC. I can’t even call him a gatekeeper because it’s slightly demeaning when he should be under “fringe contender”. I guess I’ll just have to put him in the “Almost Boys” group, where three UFC fighters have come so close to reaching the top of their division but have not only failed to win the title, they’ve blown their chances when given extra opportunities.
Martin Kampmann. The Hitman entered the UFC as a middleweight and after winning his first four fights with the organization he was given the biggest test of his career in the form of Nate “The Great” Marquardt at UFC 88.Sadly for Kampmann he got crushed in just 82 seconds and it’s currently his last fight at 185. With the move to welterweight at UFC 93 he comfortably stopped Alexandre Barros and then (controversially) defeated Carlos Condit in April 2009 via split decision. Kampmann’s path to a 170 lbs title fight against Georges St. Pierre was put on the express lane when he was scheduled to face Mike Swick at UFC 103 in Dallas. When Swick pulled out of what was to be a Number 1 Contender bout, Paul Daley stepped up on short notice and essentially put Kampmann in a no-win situation given Daley was making his UFC debut and was supposed to fight Brian Foster on the preliminary card. Daley’s power proved to be too much for Kampmann and he was blasted in just 151 seconds. Following two straight wins, including a domination of Paulo Thiago, Kampmann received co-main event status at UFC 121 against the UFC’s new plaything in Jake Shields. While it wouldn’t have granted him a title shot it would’ve vaulted him near the summit of the division. In an ugly fight in which Shields looked drained, Kampmann questionably chose not to play to his strengths but towards Shields and lost via split decision. Hard luck but life goes on…..until you put Diego Sanchez’s face through a trash compactor and still manage to lose. Two losses in a row no matter how you look at it essentially sets him back as a top contender at 170 lbs.
Nate Marquardt. If The Almost Boys was a band, Nate Marquardt would probably be lead singer. Marquardt did actually get a title shot against Anderson Silva but was TKO’d towards the end of the first round. His attempted return to the top was entertaining and dominant, to say the least. As mentioned earlier he pounded Martin Kampmann at UFC 88, walloped Wilson Gouveia and finished him with the Tekken combo at UFC 95, made Demian Maia fly at UFC 102, and next thing you know his shot at a rematch with Anderson Silva was just one win away. Chael Sonnen and Marquardt took FOTN honors at UFC 109 but Sonnen got the victory through domination on the ground. Marquardt was nearly helpless until Sonnen had his “please submit me” moment late in the 3rd, but he just could not finish off the guillotine choke. His next fight, against notorious leg-remover Rousimar Palhares, was the main event of a live Spike TV broadcast and after escaping from the clutches of Palhares’ Hulk-like arms during a heel hook attempt, he stopped Palhares with a barrage of punches while Toquinho chose to accuse Nate of greasing. Not even a few weeks later a title eliminator bout fell right into his lap when Vitor Belfort “was injured and could not face” Yushin Okami at UFC 122 in Germany. Marquardt stepped in and got bullied throughout the fight, losing by unanimous decision. Okami will get his title shot sometime in the next millennium, but for Marquardt he’s once again left feeling he came up just short when it mattered most. The Great unfortunately hasn’t proved to be great enough to be a champion, and he’s returning to the octagon in New Jersey to face Yoshihiro Akiyama at UFC 128. Maybe in a division as thin as middleweight Marquardt can make one more run at the title, but otherwise he’s had multiple chances and has taken none of them.
Kenny Florian. Ahhh yes. He chokes in big fights….right Dana? It’s hard to argue. Florian was stopped by Diego Sanchez in the TUF Middleweight Finale, was outwrestled by Sean Sherk for the then-vacant UFC LW Championship in 2006, then after a fantastic run of 6 consecutive wins, he finally got another crack at the lightweight belt against BJ Penn at UFC 101. Penn dominated him from the first second to the end and Florian was submitted via rear naked choke, ironically the submission he’s used in 7 of his career MMA wins. Back at square one, KenFlo easily submitted both Clay Guida and Takanori Gomi and was promised a #1 contender match in his home state of Massachusetts, this time against Gray “The Bully” Maynard at UFC 118. The result? A clear decision loss in which he spent the majority of his time on his back as the powerful Maynard ground out a decision win. It was after this fight Dana White made the infamous “Florian chokes in big fights” and with another setback at lightweight he’s moving down to featherweight and will face Diego Nunes in June. By the time the fight happens he’ll be 35. It’s almost a certainty that if Florian is unable to succeed at 145 then his title window is permanently shut. He doesn’t have age on his side and his skills will only get worse as he gets older.
Am I missing anyone else? Is it a tad premature to put Kampmann in the “almost” list even with that highly debatable defeat? So many questions, so few reasons to answer them.
First written at Bloody Elbow