Breaking down the best career resurrections in UFC history
For the former light heavyweight champion, it was exactly the performance he needed to put himself back on the UFC map. After an extended run lacking wins but full of excuses, the victory gave Ortiz new life in the light heavyweight division.
But when it comes to the best career comebacks in UFC history, where does his win over Bader put “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy?” Is it the best of the bunch? A nice honorable mention to start things off?
I guess you’ll just have to keep reading to find out.
Honorable Mention #1: Georges St. Pierre
When you’re the guy everyone expects to dominate the welterweight division for the foreseeable future and a squat Long Island native walks in off a reality TV show, beats the brakes off you and takes your title, crawling into a cave and never coming out would be an understandable reaction.
Or you could be like St. Pierre and take the Daft Punk/Kanye West route and come back harder, better, faster, stronger. He’s the Six-Million Dollar Man of MMA, with Firas Zahabi playing the role of the scientist who said, “We can rebuild him. We have the technology.”
Since the night Matt Serra earned the biggest upset in mixed martial arts history, St. Pierre has been a man possessed. He’s rattled off nine straight victories, claimed the interim welterweight title in a bout with Matt Hughes, and unified the belts by demolishing Serra in their rematch.
Six consecutive title defenses against the best in the world at 170 pounds have followed. It took a finger in the eye for someone to be able to win a round against the new and improved GSP.
Instead of retreating into anonymity, St. Pierre has stepped even further into the spotlight, becoming the sport’s biggest star.
Honorable Mention #2: Vladimir Matyushenko
Consider this more of a Lifetime Achievement award.
Matyushenko was around when no one else thought the UFC was cool. He filled in for an injured Vitor Belfort opposite Ortiz at UFC 33 and was released from the organization after losing a heavyweight contest to future champion Andrei Arlovski at UFC 44.
Over the next six years, Matyushenko posted a 9-1 record, winning the IFL lighter heavyweight title; his lone loss came to Antonio Rogerio Nogueira on the second Affliction show, Day of Reckoning. He rebounded from that defeat with a win over UFC vet Jason Lambert, and earned a call back to the big leagues for UFC 103 in September 2009. “The Janitor” has gone 4-1 since then, losing only to the seemingly indestructible light heavyweight champion Jon Jones.
Did we mention he’s 40-years-old? When most of his contemporaries have packed up their things for good or moved on to the regional circuit, Matyushenko remains a consistent challenge on the biggest stage of them all.
Top Career Comebacks
5. Brock Lesnar
Following his victory over Frank Mir at UFC 100, Lesnar looked poised to run roughshod over the competition. He had become the ultimate bad guy with his post-fight antics, and was already the biggest draw in the sport.
Four months earlier, Shane Carwin had established himself as the next challenger to Lesnar’s title. Another juggernaut, Carwin had amassed a 12-0 record and never been past the first round. The bout was slated for UFC 106 in October 2009. Then Lesnar got sick.
His fight with Carwin was rescheduled for UFC 108 a few months later. Lesnar then came down with mononucleosis, and the rescheduled date was scrapped as well. Then came word that the UFC heavyweight champion was suffering from diverticulitis, an intestinal disorder that would require surgery to correct. People wondered if he’d be able to fight again.
When it was announced that Lesnar would return in the summer of 2010, Carwin made quick work of Mir in a bout for the interim heavyweight title, maintaining his place as the man to welcome the champ back to the cage.
Lesnar and Carwin finally met in the main event of UFC 116, a full year after Lesnar had last competed. Carwin put it on the champion in the opening round, dominating him to the point that some believed the fight should be stopped. After surviving the first round, Lesnar smiled at Carwin to start the second, then came out and submitted his exhausted opponent with an unexpected arm triangle choke.
While he’s subsequently lost the title to Cain Velasquez and been sidelined by another bout of diverticulitis, Lesnar’s return win at UFC 116 after a year of questions and turmoil remains pretty impressive.