By Josh Stein on Jun 14, 2009
There was a time when 6’8 menace Tim “The Maine-iac” Sylvia was the most feared heavyweight in the western hemisphere, perhaps the world. People laugh when I say it, but Sylvia (24-6 MMA, 9-4 UFC) was an incredible fighter. Emphasis, however, is placed heavily on the was.
After his recent loss to former WBO champion and 1988 Olympic boxing champion Ray Mercer (36-7-1 Boxing, 1-1 MMA) by knockout at a measly nine seconds into the bout makes it hard to give Sylvia any sort of credibility at this point in his career. While the experience and explosiveness of a former champion in boxing is duly noted, losing to a 48 year old making his professional debut is not what top fighters do.
Those fans newer to the sport, though, may require a reason why it is even relevant, why Tim Sylvia is important. Perhaps, in retrospect of a division that has given us champions like Randy Couture, Sylvia is not as significant as some, but his prime is often disregarded and not discussed by MMA fans. This disenchantment is largely due to Sylvia’s Mediocre title defenses following his knockout of Andrei Arlovski to retake the belt at UFC 59.
Sylvia went a career 5-4 looking for the UFC heavyweight title belt (including his win over Gan McGee, though Sylvia was stripped of the belt for testing positive for steroids in the aftermath), but the fact that he was allowed to fight for that belt as a challenger on five separate occassions speaks to his role as a proud prospect and, later, a villain in the division.
Having personally described Sylvia as a “pantspooping ogre” on many occassions, towards the end of his title reign in the UFC, it became necessary to defend the giant known as Timmy Chonga. Perhaps it’s that I read to much history, and watched too many of the fights from when Sylvia was a young Miletich student with fantastic headkicks and frightening footspeed for a guy with his build, but there was a time that I can remember when Sylvia crushed his opponents and people saw him as exciting and, dare I say it, he had fans.
Of course, when you fail to finish fights and are, for lack of a better cliche, more boring than watch grass grow, the fans will turn quickly. Tim knows that better than most, and his personal abrasiveness in interviews and rumors about him an Arlovski’s girlfriend didn’t help him garner support either. Still, it was largely his poor performances in the ring that have made him one of the greatest heels in heavyweight MMA history, his disappointing bout with Jeff Monson being a case study in how to be a terribly unpopular fighter.
Sylvia is clearly on the downswing of a career. While he’s fought some solid competition, Tim hasn’t finished an opponent since 2006, when he knocked out his old rival Arlovski in the first round (which was probably his last substantial showing), and the fighter who defeated Ricco Rodriguez in his first title bout, 14-0 with 12 finishes stepping into the cage that night, is unrecognizable. He will be missed.
NOTES: The 1-1 record listed for Mercer includes his loss to Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson in an exhibition match in Cage Fury, as the match was fought under a legitimate set of MMA rules and was won with, as much as it pains me to say it, a certain degree of legitimate skill and certainly a technical failing on the part of Mercer. The fight is not, generally, classified as a professional bout and not listed by most sites as a part of the records of Ferguson or Mercer, as it was an exhibition bout.
Sylvia is set to fight UFC veteran Paul Buentello (24-9 MMA, 3-1 UFC) at Affliction: Trilogy on August 1st. It has not been made entirely clear, at least to me, whether this bout will appear on the main card, though with only Fedor Emelianenko vs. Josh Barnett, Vitor Belfort vs. Jorge Santiago and Dan Lauzon vs. Chris Horodecki seemingly set for the main event, it seems likely the bout will be added to fill out the main card. In light of Sylvia’s loss, which will make him hard to push as legitimate, it may be dropped to the undercard, but both Buentello and Sylvia are relatively high profile veterans, so the logical conclusion is that the bout will appear on the main card.
Filed Under: MMA
About the Author: Joshua Stein is a writer and editor for MMA Opinion. He has worked as a photographer and journalist and has a number of print journalism credits. He also works as a moderator for MMAForum.com and a grappling columnist (covering judo, collegiate wrestling, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and submission grappling) for profighting-fans.com.