Forgetfulness is chronic in professional sports fans. What that means is that competitors who were once considered “great” are quickly forgotten about when the new breed of athlete makes a move into the sport in question. Combat sports isn't immune to this, especially mixed martial arts. Jamie Varner goes into UFC 169 as one of the fighters in this position -- overlooked when historians speak of his era of mixed martial arts.
Twenty-nine-year-old Jamie Varner was once considered one of the best lightweights in the sport of MMA. Yet when his name is mentioned now, it's often in a joking fashion, or in a conversation with him being portrayed as fodder for the upper echelon of the 155-pound division. And the last four years of his career haven't helped his case much, as he has been far from the best inside of the cage. However, Varner has the potential to be as dangerous as any competitor on the UFC roster whenever he steps into the Octagon.
During the height of his career, Varner presented the kind of offensive package that top-tier fighters should strive to achieve. His boxing was among the best of in the division and very technical. To go along with that skill, Varner often used his wrestling in a defensive manner, rather than looking for the takedown from the onset. If and when the fight went to the floor, “C-4” wasn't necessarily a Jiu Jitsu ace, but with his wrestling skill, he would create scrambles where he would come out on top. Those abilities were vital at that point, and are still a part of Varner's overlooked game today.
When Varner left the Ultimate Fighting Championship in 2007, he went into the World Extreme Cagefighting organization and quickly took over the lightweight division. For two years he would reign as the lightweight champion, until he ran into the developing Benson Henderson in 2010. That defeat to “Smooth” was the kickoff point for the down slide that Varner suffered through that would see him become one of the first fighters cut when Zuffa merged the two rosters. His struggles didn't stop there, as he was soundly defeated by Dakota Cochrane at Titan Fighting Championships and didn't seem invested in the sport anymore.
Fate would change when Varner stepped into the cage against Edson Barboza at UFC 146. He earned the upset of the year when he stopped the Brazilian striker in the first round of their fight. His post fight press conference made it sound like even he was expecting himself to fall short in the fight; expressing as much surprise as anyone who watched the contest. Since then he's alternated wins and losses while competing in the Octagon, but each fight has been exciting enough to hold the attention of MMA fans.
Even if Varner finds a way to defeat Abel Trujillo on Saturday, it would still be hard to see the Arizona native going on a major run towards the title in 2014. However, he's placed himself in a position to be a UFC competitor for an extended period of time, well after a point in his mixed martial arts career when he was counted out by most. Varner's resurgence has been very enjoyable to watch, and while he may never return to the level of being a championship-quality competitor, he's someone worth keeping your eyes on every time he steps into the Octagon.