THIS DAY IN MMA HISTORY (1/23): A “where are they now” look at 2008’s UFC Fight Night 12 event

By Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief

So I’ve been busy as of late and ended up not completing a piece for last week. I offer my apologies as I wasn’t able to tackle this week’s until after most of the events worth noting had their date pass by. So we’re largely left with a few UFC Fight Nights to choose from. Hmmm…. While none of them were notable from a historical perspective, I thought it would be fun to take the oldest of the cards to see where the participants of that card are at in 2016. So let’s take a look at UFC Fight Night 12 from 2008 from a historical point of view.

Overall there wasn’t really a fight or moment to remember from the card. It was headlined by Mike Swick vs. Josh Burkman as Swick was making his welterweight debut. Swick would score a majority decision win, while the co-main event featured Patrick Cote scoring an early TKO over Drew McFedries. The rest of the main card was rounded out by Thiago Tavares earning a unanimous decision over Michihiro Omigawa and Nate Diaz submitting Alvin Robinson in the first round.

A revisionists look back on the event provided no shock as to how the card was set up. Both headliners were TUF alumnus as the Fight Nights were still heavily populated by the reality show stars. At the time, the Fight Night series and TUF were the only fights that many fans saw, as there were no televised preliminary fights before the pay-per-view events. There were no Fox cards. Only Fight Night, TUF, and TUF Finales. And to think we often complain about how much MMA we have available to us now; how the eight years ago versions of ourselves would now slap us! So the Spike executives would try to litter the Fight Nights with fighters fans were familiar with thanks to TUF. In fact, Chris Leben of the first season didn’t appear on a pay-per-view card until his eighth UFC appearance, showing up only on TUF Finale’s and Fight Night cards. Of the four televised fights that night, three featured former Ultimate Fighter competitors with Patrick Cote and Nate Diaz being the others.

Having chuckled to myself at how TUF-heavy the early Fight Night cards were, I also wanted to look at how many of the participants of the card were still on the roster. I was shocked to find out that, of the 18 fighters in action that night, half of them are still on the roster: Matt Wiman, Jeremy Stephens, Cole Miller, Gray Maynard, and Dennis Siver were all on the prelims, with Diaz, Tavares, Cote, and Burkman still around from the main card. None of them are considered to be true title contenders today, but a few are still notable. Diaz is Diaz, and coming off his biggest win since before his December 2012 title shot, making him a relevant figure at 155 lbs again. Cote has experienced a late career resurgence since moving down to 170 lbs, having won five of his six fights there, including an impressive finish of Ben Saunders last weekend.

Though none of the participants would be considered title contenders at this point, some did eventually receive title shots. I’ve already mentioned Diaz receiving one, but Maynard and Cote did as well. Maynard actually was involved in one of the best title fights in the UFC’s history when he fought Frankie Edgar to a draw at UFC 125. Cote’s title shot is best left unmentioned as he blew out his knee against Anderson Silva at UFC 90. It wasn’t exactly an entertaining fight up to that point anyway.

Others would have impressive stretches as well. Siver was relatively new to the UFC at the time in only his third fight. He’d lose one more before finding his footing and winning 10 of his next 12 fights to make himself a longtime fixture. Wiman was in the midst of a four fight win streak at the time during a period when he was one of the busier fighters on the roster. Injuries have slowed him to the point that he has only fought three times since 2012 (less than once a year), but he was once one of the UFC’s go-to guys for action.

There are a number of fighters on the card who I haven’t thought about in a long time. Remember Kurt Pellegrino? For five years, the man known as “Batman” was a staple in the lightweight division of the UFC. He’d have a four fight win streak of his own that began later in 2008 before deciding he’d had enough in 2011 following a two fight losing streak. He’d come out of retirement later that year, only to lose to Patricky Friere of the Pitbull brothers in less than a minute in his last MMA fight. How about Drew McFedries? For fighters with at least five UFC fights, McFedries owns the shortest average fight time in the history of the UFC at 2:20 a fight. Of his nine UFC fights, only one left the first round, as he would either be finished quickly or he’d quickly finish his opponents. I’d forgotten how fun he was.

Of course I hadn’t forgotten about Swick. An original TUF cast member, Swick called it a career this past summer after a non-competitive fight against Alex Garcia. At one point, Swick was seriously seen as a candidate to challenge for longtime welterweight kingpin Georges St-Pierre’s title. Unfortunately for Swick, he lost a key fight to Dan Hardy to prevent that from happening, and injuries and illness dominated the narrative for him from there. It’s easy to forget that he seemed to be a rising star after winning his first four UFC fights in a combined 5 minutes and 10 seconds. Damn, that was a long time ago.

Of course I have to pause on Corey Hill. Hill would become known for all the reasons a fighter wouldn’t want to be known. He’d suffer a snapped leg less than a year after this card (think Anderson Silva) which would derail his career. He’d step into a cage again, but not in the UFC, and he was never the same fighter afterwards. Even sadder, he passed away last year after a collapsed lung put him into cardiac arrest, leaving behind a wife and three kids. This was his first official UFC bout and he looked good in ripping off a win against Joe Veres. Hill introduced himself to the MMA community on TUF season 5 as a character few, if any, would forget. Many felt he had it in him to become a star. Unfortunately, he became a tragic story who was forced out of the UFC before his time, in addition to leaving the world too early.

Sure, UFC Fight Night 12 wasn’t in itself a memorable card. That doesn’t mean the action was horrible, but nothing really left an impression upon our memories. But ya know what? I’m glad that I took the time to look back on the card. It served as a reminder of forgotten fighters who may not have been the cream of the crop, but were usually fun to watch. And isn’t the biggest reason we watch MMA is to be entertained?

This Week in History

A quick note, I’m including last week as well since I slipped on that.

January 11, 2002: In one of the rare occasions in which the defending champion pulled off a major upset, Jens Pulver held off a heavily favored B.J. Penn to score a majority decision victory after falling behind early in the fight at UFC 35. Murilo Bustamente also ripped the belt away from a sick (as in flu-like symptoms) Dave Menne. The card is also notable for a virus running through the staff and fighters, with Kevin Randleman famously wearing two trunks so that the audience wouldn’t see that he had crapped himself in the midst of the fight… no joke.

January 14, 2012: In his first time headlining a pay-per-view at UFC 142, Jose Aldo scored a brutal KO over Chad Mendes, landing a vicious knee with a single second left in the first round to retain his Featherweight Title. The event was also notable for Anthony Johnson missing weight by 11 pounds, coming in at 197 lbs. for his middleweight fight with Vitor Belfort.

January 19, 2008: Remember when the UFC would still hold title fights in the UK? This was the last time it happened, as B.J. Penn secured the vacant Lightweight Title at UFC 80 by bloodying and submitting Joe Stevenson in an absolutely one-sided beatdown. Penn became the second fighter in UFC history to claim titles in two separate divisions after Randy Couture.

January 20, 2007: In the WEC’s first event under the Zuffa banner, two titles were on the line at WEC 25. Urijah Faber defended his Featherweight Title with ease, scoring an early stoppage over Joe Pearson, while Rob McCullough had a similarly easy time disposing of Kit Cope to claim the vacant Lightweight Title to start the new era.

[Photo (c) Mark J. Rebilas via USA Today Sports]

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