In the heavyweight division, there are a few key characteristics that set it apart from its smaller counterparts. 1) Extreme power: a one punch knockout can occur anywhere, in any fight, and change the course of the fight. 2) Suspect cardio: unless you're looking at the elite of the big men, odds are you're going to see a heavyweight gas himself at some point in the fight. It comes with carrying around the extra pounds. 3) More intrigue: society likes to watch giants, strong men, entertain them. Why do you think Bob Sapp continues to get fights? He's a big, threatening looking man. Perhaps no heavyweight personifies this more than the recently-resurgent James Thompson.
Now hold on. Hear me out. Yes, that James Thompson. The big, musclebound, Brit with a penchant for growing his own personal supply of cauliflower ears. I know he will never be a relevant world champion (he may yet capture a belt in some bush league promotion). He may never make it into the top ten of his division. But I'm just saying, lately, he's been doing something right, even if the powers that be might not reward him for it.
First, let's air the grievances against him. He fought on MMA's biggest stage back in the day, Pride FC. However, his Pride stint was not the fond remembrance it should be. Alexander Emelianenko knocked him senseless in 11 seconds; Fugita blasted him into unconsciousness. The man simply had no chin. And still doesn't, frankly. 11 of his 14 losses have come by knockout. That's not a great key for success if you want to be a force in the 265lb division. Add onto that a stretch from 2006-2010 where he went 3-12, and he's easily forgettable.
But now let's look at what he's done well, and is to be commended for. In Pride, sure, he beat sideshow fighters Giant Silva and sumo wrestler Henry Armstrong Miller, but he also had knockout victories over MMA greats Don Frye and Hidehiko Yoshida. He avenged the first loss of his career, and did so to break up a five fight losing streak. He even knocked out future referee Marc Goddard, twice. That must be at least a little bit awkward when you've got the man looking over your fights.
Another thing worth noting: the man has gotten the short end of the stick several times. Against Kimbo Slice, in a fight he was winning, the referee stoppage was far too premature. Sure, his cauliflower had suffered a KO, but Thompson was still there, albeit dazed. In the most watched MMA broadcast at that time, Thompson got his ear burst, and lost his opportunity to defeat EliteXC darling Slice.
More recently, he got positively robbed by the judges in his fight with Yusuke Kawaguchi, and in his rematch with Polish strongman Maruisz Pudzianowski. The latter was changed to a No Contest due to a "judging error," but it still cost him his longest win streak since 2005. Frankly put, the man should be on a five fight win streak at this point.
Will Thompson ever make into the big leagues? No, absolutely not. With a chin of glass, a record littered with decisive losses, and an age continuing to climb, Thompson will never get to the relevance every fighter craves at some level. However, since September 2010, he's looked better. Better than he had in the past, mind you, but better. Look, I'm just saying, Thompson isn't so bad. He isn't so great either, but isn't so bad. Just saying.