Our friends over at Intravid break down the resurgence of former UFC prospect Tyson Griffin and his WSOF debut.
It has been almost two years since Tyson Griffin was released from the UFC following an inexplicable loss in momentum. Between 2006 and 2009, Griffin was able to amass an impressive 7-2 record with the company, including Fight of the Night performances with some of the top stars such as Frankie Edgar, Clay Guida, and Sean Sherk. He was one of the most exciting young prospects in the lightweight division and pretty much guaranteed fireworks every time he stepped into the cage. With his only stumbles coming against former and future UFC champions in Edgar and Sherk, the idea of competing for a world title never seemed to be too far out of reach. After scoring his first knockout victory in the octagon over former title challenger Hermes Franca at UFC 103, it seemed like Griffin was finally ready to take that next step and really make a serious run at the belt. Unfortunately, what followed was a bizarre string of bad luck that nobody ever saw coming. After losing a close split decision to Evan Dunham in 2010, Griffin tried to get back in the win column as soon as possible by accepting a fight with former Pride champion Takanori Gomi less than two months later. Griffin instead found himself on the wrong end of a wild Gomi haymaker just a minute into the contest. Not only had he just lost consecutive bouts for the first time in his career, but it was also the first time he had ever been knocked out. Griffin’s nightmarish 2010 culminated in another split decision loss to Nik Lentz, marking his third straight defeat and eliminating him from any realistic title opportunities in the near future.
Griffin then decided to do what every other UFC competitor does when they need to reinvent themselves: change weight classes. He shed ten pounds and made his featherweight debut in June of 2011. His first test at the new weight came in the form of Manny Gamburyan, a former WEC title challenger and TUF finalist. After edging out a close decision victory over the Armenian and scoring his first win in almost two years, it seemed like Griffin was perhaps rejuvenated and ready to put together another streak. However, his second stint at 145 pounds did not go as well, as he suffered a first round knockout loss to Bart Palaszewski at UFC 137. The UFC seemingly lost their faith in the young competitor and he was quietly released from the company later that year. Griffin took a year off after the loss to do some soul searching and really figure out if fighting was what he wanted to do the rest of his life. He was only 28 years old at the time and eventually realized that he still had a lot left to offer in MMA. He returned to his old weight class and booked a fight in November of 2012. He took on TUF winner Efrain Escudero in the main event of Resurrection Fighting Alliance 4 in the night’s main event. Escudero was one of the bigger lightweight names outside of the UFC and a perfect test for Griffin at this stage of his career. Fortunately for Griffin and his fans, the old version of himself showed up that night. He pushed a fast pace and was very light on his feet. He mixed up striking combinations perfectly with his takedowns and bested Escudero in a very entertaining three-round scrap. Now nine months later, Griffin has found a new home with the World Series of Fighting. Griffin will be making his debut in the promotion’s fourth show against JZ Calvacante. Calvacante is one of the bigger names not to have ever fought in the UFC. A veteran of K-1, Dream, Strikeforce, and most recently WSOF, he is a very high-caliber opponent who should have Griffin extremely motivated to get up in the morning. Not only will the fight give Griffin a chance to prove his relevancy, it will also take him one step closer to capturing the organization’s inaugural lightweight championship. It was recently announced by WSOF that the winner of their bout will be entered into a four-man tournament along with Justin Gaethje, Dan Lauzon, and the winner of the Nick Newell-Keon Caldwell contest to determine the first lightweight champion. I believe that the winner of the Griffin-Calvacante fight will be the clear-cut favorite to win the whole thing based on their decorated track records. Now is a perfect time for Griffin to prove that he was not just a guy who slipped up in the UFC. He can show the world that he is still one of the best guys out there and solidifying that notion with a belt around his waist would be nothing short of poetic. If he can follow in Josh Burkman’s steps and use WSOF to revamp his career, MMA fans will forget about how he left the UFC and will instead focus on what he is capable of doing in the cage now. He is only 29 years old and is still brimming with superstar potential. Saturday’s contest could truly be the turning point in his career, and hopefully he can prove that life after the UFC can still be worth fighting for.