Combat Sports

The Rise and Fall of James Vick

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Winning is a part of all competition-based sports. Unfortunately, so is losing. In combat sports, so much emotion goes into training for a fight that losses always feel more devastating. Almost every MMA fighter will go through a loss at some point in their career (unless your name is Khabib). Losing by a knockout or even a TKO is a whole other level of devastation. Imagine training your whole life for a fight and then getting knocked unconscious in front of a massive crowd when given a chance to perform. 

In the case of James Vick, he is all too familiar with this result. And in his case, knockouts seem to hit differently to a viewer. Possessing a massive and fragile chin, Vick has had the lights go off several times in recent fights. While he is most remembered now for his inability to take a hit, Vick was once a rising contender in the lightweight division who ranked as high as tenth. Let’s talk about the rise and fall of the career of James “The Texecutioner” Vick. 

James Vick: Fighting Style

While the final two fights of his career were at welterweight, James Vick primarily fought at the 155-pound division. At a 6’3” 155 lb frame, he often possessed a significant height and reach advantage over his opponents. Originally a boxer, his size allowed him to control range and use his kicks to his advantage over opponents.

While Vick didn’t exactly have one-punch power, he could often use his length to his advantage and control fights. Of his 13 professional wins, three came by TKO, with five others by unanimous decision. Factor in that James Vick was a force on the ground with five submissions, and he should have been unstoppable, right? Wrong. 

Every fighter has their kryptonite, and for James Vick, it was the inability to defend his chin properly. Throughout his career, Vick had a habit of lowering his hands, leaving his head completely exposed. As his career went on, damage piled up, and Vick became less able to absorb the blows.

What resulted were several devastating knockouts, leaving the lasting images of James Vick asleep on the canvas. What’s sad is that he had a ton of potential as a fighter, who could have had a chance at doing damage at lightweight. However, because of how his career ultimately played out, he is often seen as a fallen warrior of the MMA community.   

Making a Name For Himself

With a professional record of 4-0, James Vick became a contestant on season 15 of The Ultimate Fighter. While he lost in the semifinals to Michael Chiesa, Vick still had a trio of impressive wins and ultimately earned himself a UFC contract. 

In his first fight in the UFC, Vick made a name for himself by getting a win over Ramsey Nijem 58 seconds into the contest by a rear-naked choke. He would win his next four fights in the UFC, with three coming by unanimous decision and another by a first-round submission. Relatively unknown coming into the promotion, Vick quickly made something of a name for himself, possessing a professional record of 9-0. By June of 2016, Vick would be ready to face a step-up in competition. 

Enter Beneil Dariush. 

Getting Knocked out by Beneil Dariush

Beneil Dariush had a ton of hype by his fight with James Vick in 2016, including wins over Diego Ferriera, Jim Miller, and Michael Johnson. However, he was coming off of a loss to Michael Chiesa, which opened the door for Vick, a lower opponent, to get a chance to compete. With several common opponents and James Vick on the rise, this fight between two rising fighters in their 20s made sense. 

From the start, both fighters came out firing as both guys landed a few haymakers. However, with just under a minute to go in the first round, Dariush went to work, landing a pair of big shots. With his opponent wobbled, Dariush unloaded a devastating left hook that put James Vick to sleep as he lay on the canvas.

While this was a tough pill to swallow for Vick, it was far from the end of his career. After all, it was only his first professional loss. However, having been knocked out, Vick’s chin became a lot more fragile and more manageable for opponents to later take advantage of.   

The Rise of James Vick 

2017 would turn out to be the best year of James Vick’s career. Coming off a loss with no momentum, Vick defeated Abel Trujillo by a D’Arce choke in February of 2017. Later that year, he knocked out Polo Reyes in what was seen as a statement victory for The Texecutioner. He also defeated UFC veteran Joe Duffy in November and Francisco Trinaldo in February of 2018. Ultimately, that would be the final win of his career. 

NEW YORK, NY – NOVEMBER 04: James Vick celebrates after bringing down Joe Duffy of Ireland in their lightweight bout during the UFC 217 event at Madison Square Garden on November 4, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Now the tenth-ranked lightweight and 13-1 as a professional fighter, Vick was looking to make a statement. He needed the hype and a big fight to set himself up for an eventual title shot; as with all fighters, a great way to build hype around your fight is to start trash talking. 

Enter Justin Gaethje.  

The Downfall of James Vick 

To Vick’s credit, momentum was on his side heading into his matchup with Justin Gaethje. On a four-fight win streak, The Texecutioner was set for his first main event as he looked to rise up the lightweight rankings. Gaethje had been coming off back-to-back losses at the hands of Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier. Infamously, Vick referred to Gaethje as “Homer Simpson,” citing how Gaethje takes a ton of punishment without throwing much in return. How ironic of James Vick to try to critique another man’s chin.

Needless to say, this did not end well for James. Eighty-seven seconds into the fight, Gaethje connected on a devastating right hook that put Vick out cold. As the tenth-ranked lightweight, losing to the seventh-ranked lightweight made it clear that Vick was not among the elite fighters in his division. In hindsight, Vick should have retired then to save himself from more punishment and embarrassment. However, one loss would not be enough for him to hang up the gloves. 

James Vick lost his next fight by a unanimous decision to a rising contender, Paul Felder, who dominated much of the bout. This result would be the only loss of Vick’s career that was not by a massive knockout, as he was able to go all three rounds. The same could not be said of his next three fights, however.  

With Dan Hooker now in the lightweight division, James Vick was looking for redemption to re-route his career. Surprise, surprise, Vick was knocked out cold by a flurry of punches by the Hangman. This loss marked three consecutive defeats, and Vick needed a change. 

Naturally, he decided to move up a weight class to Welterweight. At 6’3,” Vick was always a massive lightweight, so a move up should have helped him on fight night and hopefully allow him to take more shots. The Texecutioner would be paired up against a young prospect in Niko “The Hybrid” Price.

If we are being completely fair, this knockout was not entirely Vick’s fault. Setting up ground and pound, Price executed one of the craziest knockouts of all time by landing an upkick square to Vick’s face. Practically any fighter would have gone out cold from that shot. Regardless, Dana White had seen enough, and Vick was officially cut from the UFC in October of 2020. 

The End of James Vick

Last weekend, Vick was set to make his return to the octagon for the first time in 15 months with the new XMMA promotion. Set to face Andre Fialho, Vick was hoping to turn his career around and eventually get back to the UFC after a series of devastating losses. Spoiler alert, this fight would not go Vick’s way, either. While Vick didn’t go unconscious, Fialho brutalized Vick’s face by a series of uppercuts in the second round after Vick had lost his mouthpiece. After the referee ended the fight, Vick laid on the ground, severely bloodied and broken. 

While he is often ridiculed among MMA fans, you have to feel bad for the guy. Once a rising contender, James Vick suffered several devastating blows, and over time his body could not keep up. After his loss to Fialho, Vick officially took to Instagram to announce his retirement from the sport. Here is the full statement from Vick: 

“Idk where to start this. Few days ago I took the worst loss of my career. I went out on my shield like I always have like a warrior. I am very sorry to everyone who helped and believe in me so much this last year. The truth is I haven’t felt that passion/love for fighting the way I use to in a long time. But I have always been disciplined and trained hard no matter what. One of my main reasons for still fighting was to prove to my son that you can’t just give up when things get hard in life. But this is not the way to teach him that. This is not like failing a test or losing a basketball or football game. This is combat sports and this shit can be permanent. One of the last punches he landed i knew something was seriously wrong. I’m glad the ref stepped in because lord knows I would have been to tough and dumb to do that. My orbital is broke on my right side, the fracture went all the way through to the other side causing a Bi lateral break plus my jaw is completely displaced so tomorrow they are finally doing surgery to fix it. It really was a perfectly placed shot. The Doctor said i could definitely fight again after this if I wanted to but this was my last fight. I can’t keep putting my family through this. I have reached the top of where I was going to get in Combat sports in becoming a top 10 fighter in the UFC. Honestly that was probably a major over achievement considering I didn’t even start training until I was 20 yrs old, worked a full-time job for almost half of that and had several major surgeries after that. Trying to catch these guys that have trained their entire lives has seriously been the hardest thing I have ever done. The highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Thank you to anyone who has been there to support me, teach me or cheer me on along the way. I have made life long relationships in this martial arts journey I will always be so grateful for. It bothers me that my 3 year old son has to see his daddy with his jaw wired shut for 4 to 6 weeks because of all this. He is so little and doesn’t understand. Time to move on and focus more on my family and raising my son to be a great man. Thank you everyone and thank this sport for the memories”

With a professional record of 13-6, the era of The Texecutioner, James Vick, is officially over.  

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