Team AKA: UFC’s Best at a Decline?

The American Kickboxing Academy can be found in San Jose, California as the home for some of the best mixed martial artists to ever step foot into a cage. During the early 2000’s, fighters belonging to the lower weight classes quickly made a name for themselves. The most notable being, Josh Koscheck, Jon Fitch, and Mike Swick. Despite success in organizations like Bellator, Strikeforce and World Series of Fighting, neither fighter was able to capture UFC gold.

Today, AKA fighters from the heavier weight classes, like Luke Rockhold, Daniel Cormier, and Cain Velasquez were all successful in winning UFC titles in their respective divisions. Despite their success, there is a good chance that all three athletes could end the year empty-handed. Both Velasquez and Rockhold lost their titles by way of upset finishes. Cormier failed to dethrone Jon Jones back in UFC 182, but he did manage to secure gold after defeating Anthony Johnson and Alexander Gustafsson following Jones being stripped of the title. In ten days Daniel Cormier will have to defeat the man who handed him his first loss in order to hold onto his light heavyweight championship.

While it was surprising to see Velasquez, Cormier and Rockhold lose, what was even more surprising was the manner in which all three men lost.

Velasquez did not look like the cardio machine many were accustomed to seeing. Instead he was outworked and outclassed by Fabricio Werdum and eventually submitted in round 2. Velasquez’s head movement was lacking and a large part of the blame for his loss at UFC 188 was placed on his lack of preparation for Mexico’s high altitude.

Prior to his loss at UFC 199, Luke Rockhold’s impressive resume’s lone blemish came by way of a quick knockout loss against Vitor Belfort in his UFC debut. He got caught. It can happen to anyone, right? Since the loss, Rockhold racked up win after win followed by dethroning the once undefeated Chris Weidman in vicious fashion at UFC 194. The sky was the limit for the swift kicker as he entered his first title defense against a familiar foe on two week’s notice who he submitted two years earlier. Then, the unthinkable happened. Rockhold was knocked out cold within minutes of the opening round. Rockhold appeared overconfident and has frequently shown a tendency of sticking his chin up in the air and dropping his his hands. He paid for his arrogance, uttered critics. The newly crowned champion was dethroned because he failed to protect himself at all time.

Cormier’s performance against Jon Jones was criticized as being geared towards emotion rather than on skill and concentration. Cormier was unable to keep up his usual relentless pace in the course of five rounds. These were some of the factors that fans pointed towards as reasons why Cormier lost. If all three men managed to lose because of mistakes they made, what does that say about their team?

Now that the air of invincibility no longer present, fans patiently await how each AKA product performs in their next outing. It’s fair to say their backs are up against the wall but that can also be said about AKA’s undefeated lightweight, Khabib Nurmagomedov.

Nurmagomedov’s most formidable foe has been the injury bug and despite holding a dominant victory over current UFC lightweight champion, Rafael dos Anjos, many are beginning to question his chances in a rematch. Following his decision victory over UFC newcomer Darrel Horcher on short notice, Nurmagomedov’s performance was deemed unimpressive by many. It’s safe to say that it’s now or never for all four AKA fighters.

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