Bubba Jenkins, 2011 NCAA wrestling champ for Arizona State, suffered his first loss in his professional mixed martial arts career in a stunning upset at Bellator 100 at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix Friday night.
Jenkins, described at the time of his June 2013 signing with Bellator Fighting Championships as “the world’s No. 1 MMA prospect” was taken out of action by a technical knockout at the hands of LaRue Burley at 3:40 of the third round in a match shown live online.
Prior to the Bellator 100 bout, Jenkins was 4-0 overall in his young MMA career and a 17-to-1 favorite over Burley, who had a record of 2-0 in just one year in MMA.
The 25-year-old Jenkins was transferred to a local hospital following his loss.
In describing the match, MMAFighting.com said that Jenkins “suffered a brutal sustained beating at the hands of unheralded local lightweight LaRue Burley.”
Another MMA website, Sherdog.com, had Jenkins winning the first round, but awarded the second to Burley in its play-by-play of the bout. In its coverage of the third round, Sherdog.com wrote, “Burley stuffs a shot from Jenkins and begins punching away with left hands, looking up at referee (Al) Guinee and trying to get a stoppage as Jenkins just absorbs the shots… Burley walks up the cage and sweeps to top position, then postures up in half-guard and blasts Jenkins with punches. Jenkins gives up his back, defends a rear-naked choke and then eats more right hands to the side of the head. Burley tries the RNC again, still can’t get it, and again sits up to throw more ground-and-pound. Burley stands up and steps away, and Jenkins remains face-down on the ground. Burley comes back, lands a pair of right hands and a knee to the body, and finally gets referee Guinee to step in.”
“Jenkins lost his previously undefeated record when referee Al Guinee mercifully stepped in midway through the bout's final frame,” reported MMAFighting.com in its post-fight analysis. “Yet from the latter moments of the first round onward, Jenkins appeared beyond lethargic, and Burley capitalized, unloading a relentless salvo of strikes on the wrestler.”
Respected MMA websites weren’t the only ones to be stunned by Jenkins’ performance.
"It was shocking,” Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney told MMAFighting.com. “It was as much of a shock to me as I'm sure it was a shock to anyone."
"Guys have trouble with gas tanks. You see that all the time, guys get gassed. But he looked beyond gassed,” Rebney continued. “He looked as though almost like something had happen physiologically that just stopped him in his tracks. When he went to the corner at the end of the first and then at the end of the second, he was just, there was nothing there."
“You take a drubbing and lose by 45 in college basketball, you come back the next week, you have everybody practice and you play the next one,” said Rebney. “In this game, you lose a fight in that kind of fashion, where it's that one-sided, it's that dramatic a loss, some guys it can have a real detrimental emotional impact to them moving forward.”
What are Bellator’s plans for Jenkins?
"We have a long, long, long term deal with him,” said the Bellator CEO. “So we've got to try to stop the machine right now and get some questions answered before anything's planned moving forward. There's no fights on the docket for Bubba Jenkins right now. Right now it's about refocusing and figuring out what's going on."
Four months ago, when Jenkins signed with Bellator, Rebney said, “Bubba Jenkins is MMA’s top young prospect and we have the optimal developmental program to maximize that talent. Our mission is to sign and develop the world’s best fighters. Bubba’s development will be strategic and disciplined, taking all appropriate preliminary steps prior to his facing the rigors of the toughest tournament in sports.”
With the exception of Friday's loss to LaRue, Bubba Jenkins has made quick work of his opponents since launching his professional MMA career less than two years ago. In December 2011, Jenkins submitted Josh Williams with punches at 2:00 of the first round at TPF 11. At the TPF 12 event in March 2012, Jenkins used a rear naked choke to submit Chris Gomez at 2:07 of Round 1. One year ago, Jenkins again incorporated the rear naked choke to get Jesus Adame to submit at 1:08 of the first round at the Resurrection Fighting Alliance 3 event. In his first Bellator event July 31, Jenkins scored a TKO at 1:05 of the second round vs. Mike Barreras at Bellator 97.
Jenkins announced his MMA career plans at the 2011 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships.
Jenkins split his career at two major college wrestling programs. For the first three years, the Virginia Beach, Va. native wrestled at Penn State, making it to the 149-pound finals at the 2008 NCAAs, where he lost to Iowa’s Brent Metcalf.
After three seasons, Jenkins had a falling-out with Nittany Lion head coach Cael Sanderson, and was dismissed from the program. He landed at Arizona State for his senior year, where he was a 2011 Pac-10 conference championships finalist. A couple weeks later, the fourth-seeded Jenkins found himself in the 157-pound finals of the 2011 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships, facing off against former teammate David Taylor, the No. 1 seed and Big Ten champ, who was undefeated as a freshman. Jenkins used a suicide cradle to pin Taylor at 4:16 to win the title, and a measure of revenge against Sanderson.
Ironically, after beating Taylor, the first words out of Jenkins at the post-finals press conference were, "Not undefeated no more!" making reference to his Penn State rival's up-to-then perfect record. Now the same can be said for Jenkins and his MMA career.
Want to know more about Bubba Jenkins' wrestling and MMA careers? Click here to see College Wrestling Examiner stories about Jenkins.
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