au·ro·pho·bi·a -- n
1. The fear of gold.
At one time Pedro Rizzo was the most feared striker in the heavyweight division. With tree trucks for legs he could whip them at a devastating velocity. His hands were also not too shabby but his kicks are what set him apart from any other heavyweight.
Rizzo was a very poor child in Brazil and fell under the guidance of legend Marco Ruas to start his career in martial arts. He quickly moved up along the ranks of the very best in the UFC and has notable wins over legends Dan Severn and Tank Abbott. He holds TKO's over Andrei Arlovski and former UFC heavyweight champion Josh Barnett.
He's only real loss in MMA seems to be a phobia known as 'Aurophobia" which in all means a fear of gold.
The early years of the SEG led UFC featured a lot of stand up based strikers in comparison of BJJ wizards and collegiate stars. Pedro 'The Rock" Rizzo was the most elite striker in the heavyweight division between 1998-2001.
He had amassed an overwhelming 5 KO/TKO stoppages in his first 8 fights under the UFC banner. He stopped notables like Tank Abbott, Tra Telligman, Tsuyoshi Kohaska,Dan Severn and jJosh Barnett.
As you may now wonder what happened in those other 3 fights. Those 3 of first 8 fights happened to be UFC heavyweight title fights
.Rizzo first fought for the UFC heavyweight strap at UFC 26: Ultimate Field of Dreams against defending champion Kevin Randleman.
For 5 long rounds the Ohio State wrestler took down the feared striker at will and rained down plenty of ground and pound to ensure the win. The main flaw was shown for the first time in Rizzo's game; Mental.
In wrestling the mental aspect is huge as you must endure long training sessions, weight cuts and a need to be the very best. Countless wrestlers will tell you of the hardships they had to endure to get to the top.
Rizzo had not planned to get so easily dominated but knew the risks of fighting such an athlete with the credentials to back it up. The fight made Rizzo go back the drawing board to invent a good enough sprawl to negate Randleman or any wrestler.
Rizzo compiled wins over a very aged Dan Severn and a very good grappler in Josh Barnett. He would once again receive a world title shot against Randy Couture at UFC 31: Locked and Loaded. This UFC was the first of many under the Zuffa ownership.
This time Rizzo was able to implement his kicks to a whole new degree then against Randleman. Randy Couture weathered some of the most brutal and well-executed leg kicks we have ever seen in MMA. The kicks were so harsh that Randy Couture to this day still says his leg has never be the same.
After 5 rounds Couture was declared the winner much to the dismay of the Atlantic City crowd who felt Rizzo's kicks were enough. The fighter was recognized by 'The wrestling Observer" as it's fight of the year winner.
Clearly Rizzo was down on himself that even in what may have been his best performance was still not good enough to earn him a strap.
In his two and only opportunities he could not win a UFC heavyweight title. He could seem to win any 3 round war but the championship fights he would seem to not rise.
The UFC brass seemed to believe in the exciting Rizzo because at UFC 34: High Voltage he got one more shot at the strap held by Couture.
Unlike the first encounter Couture had worked with Maurice Smith and negated Rizzo by bullying him for the fight. .The fight would be stopped in the third round when Couture TKO'd Rizzo with strikes.
There was no doubt on this night who the more dominant and equipped UFC fight was. Couture celebrated while Rizzo realized he was 0-3 in UFC title fights.
Rizzo would go 2-2 in his next fights and lost his first non-UFC title fight to the giant Gan Mcgee by way of KO when his corner threw in the towel after round 1. Gan Mcgee had mashed Rizzo's nose into pieces with a giant overhand rights ending him reeling to the octagon fence.
In what seemed to be such a promising career had not been clearly thrown off the rails. The ironic story took a twist on lower tier shows
In back to back fights Rizzo won lesser known titles in the heavyweight divisions of IFA and UAFC against Justin Eilers and Jeff Monson respectfully. He never defended either title as well to add irony.
Many afns still strongly feel Rizzo could be a force in the UFC with how good his kicks were. He is riding a three fight win streak against UFC vets Ken Shamrock, Gary Goodridge and Jeff Monson. He was suppose to fight Tim Sylvia but 'The Maine-iac' lost to Abe Wagner via KO.
A modern example of this may be best shown by UFC fighter Kenny Florian who has lost all his title opportunities against Sean Sherk and BJ Penn. I don't think Florian is afraid of gold but the ability to rise hasn't been shown either.
Maybe Rizzo really does have a fear of gold and shuts down before attaining it. Maybe he just wasn't good enough on that given night. Whatever kept Rizzo from being one of the greats is a sign of mental weakness when the big lights of the main event are down upon him.
Whats your thoughts Maniacs?