Every sport has that passing-of-the-torch moment where the old guard relinquishes their spot to young, hungry newcomers. The fight game is no different in this regard, but more often than not it means the older guard gets beaten into a pulp as the audience cheers on for the next generation.
Dana White recently announced matchups between Paddy Pimblett (28) & Tony Ferguson (39). Along with Shavakat Rakhmonov (28) & Stephen Thompson (40). These matchups are a prime example of setting up youngsters to defeat the older crowd favorites and get over.
Since these fights have yet to happen, let’s look back at the times where UFC previously put on similar matches, and the aging stars were fed to young ones.
5. UFC 232: Alexander Volkanovski (29) vs. Chad Mendes (33)
Chad Mendes was riding high in 2015, with big-name fights against Conor McGregor and Frankie Edgar. After losing both of those, Chad was radio silent. For the next 3 years, he didn’t fight. But he eventually came back in July of 2018 to put away Myles Jury in the first round.
Volkanovski on the other end was on a tear, ripping apart all featherweights that were put in his way, and was 5-0 in UFC. The only thing missing from his record was a win against a big name. So, they paired Chad, clearly out of his prime, with Volkanovski. This was Volk’s first fight on the main card of a PPV. He showcased his skills to the viewers as he TKO’d Mendes towards the end of the 2nd round.
4. UFC Fight Night: Dominick Reyes (29) vs. Chris Weidman (35)
Chris Weidman, The All-American always has a sweet spot in the hearts of MMA fans worldwide. He brought new life into the Middleweight division after so many years by beating Anderson Silva. But, he went on a rough patch after losing the title to Luke Rockhold, on a skid of 1-4 in three years. Weidman sat out for a year and subsequently jumped up a weight class to light heavyweight in 2019. For a matchup against title-shot-bound Dominick Reyes.
Dominick, on a five-fight win streak, was the next to face Jon Jones for the title. All UFC would’ve wanted was a big-name win and an ex-champ is the cherry on top. These two were the main attraction of the fight night, for a matchup that was scheduled for 5 rounds. It ended in just over a minute of the first round. Reyes brutally knocked around Weidman for a minute before getting a KO/TKO victory.
3. UFC 217: Paulo Costa (26) vs. Johny Hendricks (34)
Big Rigg Hendricks once had the world at his feet. He had a close fight with George St. Pierre and then defeated Robbie Lawler to claim the welterweight title. But, then things started to change… A losing record, with failures at the scale prompted a move to middleweight, where he once again was facing weight issues. After winning the title, he was 2-5 in 3 years and for his last fight on his UFC contract, he shared the cage with the marauder Paulo Costa.
Costa was undefeated at that point and all of his fights ended with him knocking out his opponents. Getting knocked out by the muscular, younger, and title-bound Paulo Costa was Hendrick’s fate as he was finally put down in the 2nd.
2. UFC 292: Ian Machado Garry (25) vs. Neil Magny (36)
Neil Magny might not have held a title previously, but he has been in the services of UFC for the past 10 years. In that time frame, Magny has defeated many of the crowd favorites such as Robbie Lawler, Carlos Condit, Daniel Rodriguez, and many more. Nearing the end of his UFC career, he has been thrown to up-and-comers in the division for the past year. But his short-notice fight against Ian Garry was one of the starkest examples of older fighters being fed to young ones.
Garry has made a name for himself since the beginning of his UFC career. Firstly, for his comparisons with fellow countryman Conor McGregor and then for being undefeated. As Dana pointed at the post-fight presser of UFC 292, “He has a plan for Garry”. As soon as “The Future” earned a ranking next to his name, he was booked against Geoff Neal (33) who stepped down because of an injury. But another stalwart was presented to Garry in Magny. Ian Garry toyed with Magny for the entire 3 rounds, completely dominating the fight in standup and clinch.
1. UFC Fight Night: Yair Rodriguez (24) vs. BJ Penn (38)
Towards the tail end of his career, “The Prodigy” was bouncing around weight classes, along with several gap years. UFC was putting him against legends of his caliber in these last matches. But, even after a record of 1-5-1 over four years, he decided to come back to the sport after a hefty layoff of 3 years. The matchmakers paired him against Yair Rodriguez…
After winning TUF: Latin America, Yair was undefeated in UFC on a five fight win streak. All he needed was a big name on his record book to propel him to the next level. The fight against BJ Penn was just that. Yair battered Penn from pillar to post in the first round, it was a miracle the fight wasn’t stopped there. But, as the ref saw more of the same was in store for BJ, he called it within 30 seconds of the 2nd.
Only time will tell what it has in store for Tony Ferguson and Wonderboy. But looking back, it’s clear these matches rarely fare well for the old guard. More often than not, it ends with retirement for the veteran. Paddy Pimblett and Shavakat Rakhmonov though, will have their hands full on December 16 at UFC 296.
What are your thoughts on Prospect vs. Veteran matchups? Let us know in the comments.