Friday, April 17, 2015

Ten Greatest MMA Upsets of All-Time

Ten Greatest MMA Upsets of All-Time

It has been a long time since I have made a post on this blog. I thought I would return with a topic that sports fans in general can connect with: underdogs. Every sport has teams or athletes that are so good that they are expected to win. Whether it is the New York Yankees or the LA Lakers, fans at times become bored of watching the same people win time after time. But every once in great time, there comes an opponent that is expected to lose only to shock the entire world and beat their "superior" counterpart. Mixed Martial Arts is a sport that thrives on the underdog story. As this list will prove, even the greatest fighters of all time can have a bad night or simply have an opponent that has yet to prove their self worthy. My criteria for this list is not only a shocking win, but a win that was either extremely dominate or a finish that is so shocking, nobody could have seen it coming.

Honorable Mentions
Rameau Sokoudjou vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira

Rameau Sokoudjou was only three fights into his career and making his Pride FC debut when he fought Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (Lil Nog). Nogueira had proven himself a viable asset to the company with notable wins over Sakuraba, Nakamura (x2), Alistair Overeem (x2), and Dan Henderson. He had also recently been in one of the most exciting fights in the promotion's history against Mauricio Rua. It was very clear on paper who would win considering Nogueira's experience, wins over notable competition, and the fact that he was a Brazilian national boxing champion. It only took Sokoudjou 23 seconds to prove everyone in the world wrong. The reason this only receives an honorable mention is the fact that despite this win and Sokoudjou's next win (a knockout of another Pride star Ricardo Arona), the African failed to gain anymore big wins throughout his career, showing that his biggest win was simple luck.

Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen I
Ahh the upset that almost was. Anderson Silva was undefeated in his first 11 UFC fights (7 of them title fights) and seemed completely unstoppable. He had dominated every opponent convincingly up until his fight against Sonnen. The level of intensity going into the fight was high due to Sonnen's impeccable trash-talking and threats to shock the world.

And shock the world he did.

Not only was Sonnen beating Silva, but he was dominating the champion. It seemed that there would finally be a new Middleweight champion for the first time in nearly four years. Had it not been for Silva's extreme heart and jiu-jitsu skills, Sonnen would have succeeded. As history goes however, this was not the case. Silva threw a hail-mary triangle choke and finished the would-be champion. The fight, in this fan's mind, is the best example of the unpredictability that MMA brings to its fans. Had Sonnen won the fight, this would have easily been the number one pick.

Ryo Chonan vs. Anderson Silva
Where Chael Sonnen failed, Ryo Chonan succeeded years before. Before Silva fought and dominated in the UFC, he fought for various organizations, including Pride. Silva was showing some of the dominance that he would later show in the UFC in the Japanese organization. He knocked out former UFC champion Carlos Newton with a flying knee and beat journeyman Jeremy Horn by a hard fought decision. Silva picked Chonan apart for most of the fight. Chonan, who had not been in the fight at all, went for a flying scissor heel hook, a move that very few have actually succeeded in. He caught Silva by surprise and submitted him. Like Sokoudjou, Chonan missed the list due to his lack of other big wins and the fact that Silva was still young into his career when the submission occurred, indicating that Chonan got lucky.

10. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Bob Sapp
This entry is not to imply that Nogueira is a lesser fighter. The man is an absolute legend and was even the Pride Heavyweight champion going into his fight against Sapp. The thing that made him an underdog was the pure size and strength of his opponent. Sapp, although only a couple of fights into his career, ran through the competition with his gigantic 350 pound frame. Compared to Nogueira's 235 pound frame, it seemed that the Brazilian did not have a chance. Only seven seconds into the fight, it seemed that everyone's fears for the champion were confirmed.


Nogueira was spiked onto his head by the behemoth and seemed as though he could have been dead. Past the first seven seconds did not seem much better for the decorated champion. Sapp used his size advantage to control the champion. However, never one to be out of a fight, Nogueira fought his way back from adversity and eventually locked in an armbar, submitting the Goliath to his David. This fight continues to show that even when faced with adversity, the smaller underdog can always prevail.

9. Randy Couture vs. Tim Sylvia
This fits into the same category as the latter entry. Randy Couture is a legend of the sport, being the only person to hold the UFC Light-Heavyweight and Heavyweight championship. After a hard streak in the Light-Heavyweight division that involved him being knocked out twice by Chuck Liddell, Couture retired from the sport for over a year. However, he decided to return to the sport and return to the weight class that initially made him famous: the Heavyweight division. He was given an immediate title shot against the 6'8" Tim Sylvia. We as fans obviously view Sylvia as a joke by today's terms but Sylvia was the UFC champion, on a six fight win streak, and had beaten notable names such as Andrei Arlovski and Jeff Monson. Combine this with the fact that Couture was a natural Light-Heavyweight, had not competed at Heavyweight in nearly five years, and the fact that he was going into the fight at the age of 43, it seemed as though it would be a bad day for the Hall of Fame fighter.

Then Couture threw the first punch, dropping the champion.

It seemed as though Couture got lucky and knocked the champion out, but Sylvia refused to be finished. Instead, Couture showed that it was more than luck that had him drop the champion. He used his immaculate skill set to control Sylvia in the stand-up and controlled him on the ground. At no point was the massive champion in the fight. Couture showed that age is simply a number and won the UFC Heavyweight championship at the age of 43, making him the oldest champion to date. Not only did he win the championship, which he would defend before losing it to the ultra-massive Brock Lesnar, Couture went on to have some of the best fights of his career when he was even older, showing that it is never too late to get a second chance.

8. Frankie Edgar vs. BJ Penn I
When this fight was made, it made a lot of people scratch their heads. As the champion of the Lightweight division, Penn had been on a terror, showing his dominance and that he deserved to be the champion. He beat down Joe Stevenson to win the title in one of the bloodiest fights in history, knocked out Sean Sherk with a flying knee, submitted Kenny Florian, and dominated Diego Sanchez to a doctor's stoppage, the only stoppage in Sanchez's career. Edgar had also defeated Sherk, but in a forgettable decision, and received his title shot by defeating Matt Veach (if you ask yourself who that is, you are proving the point). Many people felt that Penn had cleared out the division and that he was taking title fights against lesser competition. Edgar, however, was out to show that he had simply not came into his own yet.

Although the fight had a controversial decision, with many feeling that Penn slightly edged out the challenger, the level that Edgar pushed the champion was something that nobody saw coming. Penn received an immediate rematch to quiet the skeptics, only to be met with an unquestionable decision with for Edgar. While we today realize the talent that Edgar has, his heart truly showed when facing arguably the greatest Lightweight champion of all time.

7. Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Mirko Cro Cop

Right leg hospital, left leg cemetery. That is the story of Mirko Cro Cop. The Pride legend was arguably the biggest asset when the Japanese organization merged with the UFC roster, considering he had recently won their Open-weight Grand Prix and beat three different former UFC champions while with the organization (Kevin Randleman, Mark Coleman, and Josh Barnett a total of three times). His devastating head-kicks dominated the likes of Igor Vovchanchyn, Alexander Emelianenko, and the ultra-tough Wanderlei Silva. Cro Cop dominated Eddie Sanchez in his initial UFC fight, showing that he was a viable asset to the company. His fight against Gonzaga would yield the next challenger for the UFC Heavyweight title. Experts and fans saw Gonzaga as a sacrifice for Cro Cop to receive his highly anticipated title fight against Randy Couture. Gonzaga, who was primarily a Jiu-Jitsu fighter, had only fought one big name before when he was knocked out by Fabricio Werdum. There was almost guaranteed to be a vicious knockout. And there was.

The fight started out tentatively, with both fighters picking their shots carefully. When Cro Cop went for a high kick, Gonzaga took advantage and took him down. On the ground, Gonzaga surprised people by beating the Croatian down with elbows. The referee eventually stood them up, a huge disadvantage for Gonzaga in the eyes of the fans. Then, with nine seconds left in the first round, Gonzaga threw a head kick, one that will be burned in the minds of fans for years to come. Gonzaga Cro Cop'ed Cro Cop. The knockout was so brutal that Cro Cop's foot twisted under his leg. Not only did nobody see Gonzaga winning the fight in any form, nobody could have possibly seen him take out the kickboxer with his own signature move. Gonzaga went on to fight for the title, for which he was unsuccessful, and fought some other bigger names. Because of the Cro Cop fight, he was catapulted into a whole different level in the Heavyweight division. Cro Cop never again achieved the momentum he had going into this fight. It seemed that this underdog destroyed Cro Cop's psyche.

6. Forrest Griffin vs. Shogun Rua I
This is almost the same story as the previous entry. Shogun destroyed all the competition that he faced in Pride, only losing to Mark Coleman because of an injury he suffered during a takedown. In his reign, he dispatched of Rampage Jackson, Alistair Overeem (x2), and Ricardo Arona, all by knockout. He also had a fight of the year against Lil Nog. His knockout of Arona earned him the 2005 Pride Middleweight Grand Prix title. A rematch against Jackson seemed to be in Shogun's future. The only thing in his path was Forrest Griffin. Griffin was a fan favorite that was famous for winning The Ultimate Fighter against Stephan Bonnar in a fight that most consider to be the greatest fight of all time. Besides this and two losses to higher level competition (Tito Ortiz and Keith Jardine), Griffin had no experience that could compare to Shogun's accomplishments. According to Dana White, he actually received messages from fans asking why they would put Griffin against Shogun.

Griffin shocked the world not just by getting lucky with a knockout or submission (as some people thought Gonzaga had against Cro Cop) but rather by genuinely beating the Brazilian over the course of the entire fight. With only 30 seconds left in the fight, Griffin had Rua controlled on the ground and could have easily waited the clock out to earn a decision win. Instead, Griffin showed extreme heart by sinking in a rear-naked choke and submitting Rua with only 15 seconds left in the fight. Griffin earned his title fight and, in another upset, beat Jackson to become the champion. This fight shows that even a fighter who most people count out right away can make a career with enough heart.

5. Rafael dos Anjos vs Anthony Pettis
This one is still very recent but I think it will leave a lasting impression on the fans. Critics believed that Pettis was well on his way to being the best Lightweight champion of all time. He had won the championship by being the first person in the UFC to finish Benson Henderson and being the first person ever to finish Gilbert Melendez. He is also the only person to finish Donald Cerrone, delivering a body kick that floored the notoriously tough kickboxer. I even had my doubts about the legitimacy of Pettis, but after his finish of Melendez, he had me convinced. Dos Anjos' UFC career has had high points and low points. The man who was previously finished by Clay Guida and Jeremy Stephens was riding a wave of success. He had beaten fellow Lightweight contender Donald Cerrone (although not convincingly), knocked out Benson Henderson (in a somewhat controversial referee call), and had only been beaten by Russian superstar Khabib Nurmagomedov. Dos Anjos went into his fight against Pettis with a dominate win over Nate Diaz. Having been the underdog in four in his past five fights, it seemed that dos Anjos would be going in as a sacrifice to a man Dana White called the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world.

When I heard about the fight, I was very sure that Pettis would win. He had superior striking to the Brazilian and had a slight edge in submissions, having submitted two people who are notoriously difficult to submit. I wanted dos Anjos to win and succeed his career comeback, but it did not seem possible. The variable I did not consider was pressure. Pettis' lone UFC loss was to Clay Guida, a man known for pressuring fighters with a barrage of of strikes and takedowns. As soon as the fight against dos Anjos started, it was clear that it would not be an easy night for Pettis, as many people predicted. The Brazilian challenger pressured the champion in every way possible. He controlled the stand-up. He dominated the champion on the ground. He looked for submissions. I remember texting my friend during the 5th round and told him Pettis' only way to win would be to pull an Anderson Silva and finish dos Anjos in the 5th. The champion could not muster the Brazilian's heart and by the end of the night, there was no doubt in anyone's mind that there was a new champion. This fight holds a special place in my heart. Everyone loves an underdog story, with many simply being fighters who have yet to prove themselves, but this one was different. Dos Anjos had attempted to prove himself throughout his career and had previously failed. He had lost his first two UFC fights, a streak that could send other fighters to different organizations. But he stuck with his career and improved himself with every fight. Sure, it is great to see a fighter finally prove their self worthy early in their career, but seeing a career make a massive comeback is a heart-warming experience.

4. Fabricio Werdum vs Fedor Emelianenko

If you are not familiar with Fedor Emelianenko, then I am not sure why you are reading this blog. Fedor is a legend in the sport of MMA, having accomplished things that other fighters could only dream about. Some of these accomplishments include winning the Pride Heavyweight belt, the 2004 Pride Heavyweight Grand Prix, beating some of the best fighters of all time that includes Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Mirko Cro Cop, and going nearly a decade without a loss. After the closing of the Affliction organization, it was announced that Fedor was coming to Strikeforce, an organization that was famous for having a list of famous Heavyweight fighters. His first fight for the organization was against Brett Rodgers, a fight that saw the Russian knockout the powerhouse. His next fight was against Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu champion Fabricio Werdum. Werdum was a decent Heavyweight, having picked up wins against big names like Alistair Overeem and Fedor's brother Alexander while with Pride, but was nowhere near the level that Fedor was at during his reign. Emelianenko's lone loss in his career was due to a doctor's stoppage due to an illegal elbow, which was almost a decade before his fight against Werdum.

The fight started and Fedor showed the fans why his aura was on Chuck Norris level by dropping Werdum with a punch. Werdum was rushed by the Russian with a flurry of ground-and-pound. However, the Brazilian stayed calm and looked for a hole he could exploit, which he found by locking in a triangle choke. Fans were shocked but still thought Fedor would pull through the adversity, as he did when he was slammed on his head by Kevin Randleman and still pulled off a submission win. The more Fedor fought, the tighter Werdum locked in the hold. Then the unthinkable happened: FedUFCor tapped. Werdum had accomplished what some of the greatest of all time could not do in just over a minute. This was the MMA equivalent of Superman being beaten by one of the reporters he worked with, it just didn't seem like something that could happen. Werdum set up a path for Fedor that had him losing three fights in a row. The Brazilian lost his next fight, but transitioned back to the UFC, where he is the current Interim Heavyweight champion, showing that it takes one big win from a "lesser" fighter to catapult them into being the best.

3. TJ Dillashaw vs Renan Barao
UFC 173 was set to be one of the biggest cards of the year. The card was set to have Chris Weidman vs Vitor Belfort (and later Lyoto Machida after Belfort withdrew), Chael Sonnen vs Wanderlei Silva in a grudge match, and Junior Dos Santos vs Stipe Miocic. However, the pay-per-view had it's share of problems and many of the fights were cancelled or rescheduled. The event was left with Robbie Lawler vs Jake Ellenberger, Daniel Cormier vs an undersized Dan Henderson, and a title fight between Renan Barao and TJ Dillashaw. The first two fights peaked some interest but the title fight left people scratching their heads. Barao, like Fedor before him, had been unbeaten in almost a decade, only losing his first fight and undefeated in his next 33 fights, including the domination of the UFC Bantamweight divsion such as Urijah Faber twice, Michael Mcdonald, and Eddie Wineland. Dillawshaw lost the Ultimate Fighter, was one for two in his previous two fights, and his biggest win came against Mike Easton. The perception was that Barao had cleaned out the division and was just keeping himself busy until the former champion Dominick Cruz came back from his injury. Some sources gave Dillashaw only a 6% chance of winning his fight against the Brazilian.
Dillashaw went on to prove to everyone what the heart of a champion is truly made of. He dominated the previously dominate champion over the course of five rounds, securing a guaranteed decision win over the champion by dropping him with multiple strikes and dominating the fight in every aspect. Then, in the 5th and final round, Dillashaw hit Barao with a head kick that dropped the champion again, allowing Dillashaw to finish the champion with strikes. This fight was special because not only was Dillashaw given no chance of winning only to dominate and finish the champion, but he also saved the card from fading into obscurity. He took a boring concept of a fight and turned it into something that people will remember for years to come.

2. Chris Weidman vs Anderson Silva I
This was the fight that made my neighbors hate me due to the screaming that ensured. Anderson Silva is easily the greatest fighter that ever lived, having dominated the Middleweight division for years, beating the best of the best. His striking and Jiu-Jitsu skills stumped even the best fighters in the world to the point of obscurity. With every fight came a new contender who claimed that they would be the next to beat the unstoppable champion, but each one failed to keep their promise. When Chris Weidman came up as the next contender, he made a similar promise. He did have the tools to beat the champion, but it did not seem like he would be able to. His only way to win would be to take the Chael Sonnen route and out wrestle Silva. His last fight saw him brutally knock out Mark Munoz, but Silva's chin has been tested by some of the best strikers in the world.

The fight was rather strange. The first round saw Weidman taking the previously mentioned route to success, taking the champion down and landing several hard punches on the ground. It seemed like he could shock the world by taking the champion to a dominate decision. In the second round however, the champion stuffed the challenger's takedowns, preferring to keep the fight standing. He then began to toy with the challenger, taunting him by dropping his hands and inviting the challenger to attempt to punch him. When Weidman did make a connection, Silva toyed with him more, pretending to be stunned by the punch, while dodging the challenger's incoming punches. Then Weidman connected...hard. Silva dropped to the ground in a heap, only to be pounced upon by Weidman in an attempt to finish the fight. But the fight was already finished. The arena erupted with a collective gasp. And just like that, we had a new Middleweight champion for the first time in nearly seven years. Weidman is obviously a great fighter, but the likelihood that he would defeat the greatest fighter of all time, especially by knockout, seemed unlikely. We were very very wrong.

1. Matt Serra vs Georges St-Pierre I
When the fourth season of The Ultimate Fighter was announced, it was an interesting concept. The show brought back former UFC fighters to give them another shot at the world's most famous MMA organization. Not only would they receive a contract with the UFC, they would also receive an immediate title shot. This was a cheap gimmick as most of the fighters on the show were mediocre fighters that didn't fare well in the early days of the UFC and would likely not fare well against the two champions at the time: Anderson Silva at Middleweight and Georges St-Pierre at Welterweight. The Middleweight winner, Travis Lutter, did not even receive a title shot against Silva as he did not make weight for their fight, one he eventually lost. The Welterweight winner was Matt Serra. Serra was a stepping stone of sorts for up-and-coming fighters to go through before making it big, such as BJ Penn and Karo Parisyan. His most famous fight was against Shonie Carter, where Serra was knocked out with the first spinning-back fist that was seen in the UFC. When you are most famous for being knocked out by a fellow mediocre fighter and you are fighting Georges St-Pierre, things are not looking good for you. The betting odds agreed, giving St-Pierre a -1100 to Serra's +700.

The fight started out as a decent back and forth between the two, with St-Pierre using his reach well against the shorter, stockier Serra. Then Serra connected with a strong punch that rocked the champion slightly. Serra smelled the blood and went in for the kill. He overwhelmed the champion with strong punches that dropped St-Pierre multiple times. Before St-Pierre could recover, the referee called the fight. Jaws hit the floor worldwide. The man who was literally given a title shot rather than earning it had just knocked out the greatest Welterweight of all time. Serra would only gain one more win before retiring from MMA, but one win cemented his legacy in the sport. With the other fighters on this list, their legacy started with their underdog win, but with Matt Serra, his legacy is his win in the biggest upset of all time.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Anderson Silva's Win Streak: 2006-2013

Anderson Silva...and that is all I really need to say. He is without a doubt the greatest fighter of all time. He has fought the best of the best and dominated everyone in convincing fashion. My friends and I joke about his abilities in the same way people talk about The Most Interesting Man In The World: He knocked a guy out with an uppercut...with his elbow. He danced in the middle of the octagon...while dodging punches. He knocked a guy out with one punch...while running backwards. How could anyone beat him? just happened. Anderson Silva was defeated inside the octagon. People have had many mixed feelings about the long time champion considering his long time unbeaten streak combined with his somewhat arrogant attitude when fighting. What is undeniable is his legacy inside the octagon. He has accomplished more than most fighters could ever dream of doing and has done it with relative ease. I have always been a supporter of Silva, through the highs and lows in his career, because while he does come off as arrogant, he was the best and deserved the right to be arrogant. But where do we go from here? Silva has now said he does not want an immediate rematch, which I find respectable. Does he go the route of the space filler by filling in whenever a fighter is unable to compete? Does he take the route his former opponent Rich Franklin took by accepting fights the fans would like to see, whether they have title implications or not? Or does he eventually retire with his legacy minus a loss on his UFC record? Only time can truly tell what will happen to the...and it pains me to say this as a long time fan....former Middleweight champion will do with his UFC tenure and what will happen to the sport of MMA in general, but I can only hope great things from the now new, and surprising, champion Chris Weidman.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Greatest MMA Knockouts

It's been a while since I have made a post on this blog because of things such as graduating college, moving, and starting a new job. I thought I would bring back the blog with a topic that people often argue about when talking about MMA: What is the greatest knockout?

Mixed Martial Arts is a sport that is based on technique and heart. It is based on who can use their technique to out class their opponent and use their incredible heart to continue to push the pace. If you look at some of the greatest fights ever, they are often battles that go to a decision because both fighters do not give up. However, and let's be honest, most people when they watch a fight are looking for the epic knockout. These are my personal favorites for various reasons that I will mention. I was going to do a top 10 list but while compiling a list, I came up with a list of 11 knockouts and could simply not justify cutting any of them. Before I get to the top 11, here are some honorable mentions.

Honorable Mentions

Double Knockout by...Does it really matter?
Couldn't help but put this somewhere on the list. I am not fully aware of who the fighters are but the wide spread of this video on the internet has opened some people to the sport because of how entertaining and humorous the video is. It is almost too perfect of timing to be true.

Lyoto Machida vs. Rashad Evans

This is possibly one of the best rag doll moments in MMA. Rashad Evans, who had just won the Light-Heavyweight championship by knocking out Forrest Griffin, was on a hot streak and was undefeated. However, it was the same boat for Lyoto Machida, who had been going through the Light-Heavyweight division by demonstrating an elusiveness that nobody had seen before. In the end, the cocky attitude of Rashad combined with the elusive striking of Machida resulted in Rashad lying in a heap on the octagon floor.
Admit it, you just laughed

11. Igor Vovchanchyn vs. Francisco Bueno
This is a fight that most fans are probably not very familiar with. Few except hardcore fans even know who Igor Vovchanchyn was but do not let his unknown name fool you because Igor was a beast in his day. To this day, he holds the record for longest unbeaten streak against quality opponents (Travis Fulton actually has a longer unbeaten streak but against virtual unknown fighters). During this unbeaten streak, he defeated Gary Goodridge twice, a No-Contest against Mark Kerr that was originally a win but overturned due to illegal strikes (Kerr was undefeated at the time btw), and a stoppage of Kazushi Sakuraba in the 2000 Pride Grand Prix that he was on his way to win before his unbeaten streak was stopped by Mark Coleman.

After the No-Contest against Kerr, Vovchanchyn fought Fransisco Bueno at Pride 8. It was a typical fight until Vovchanchyn cornered Bueno and landed a devastating punch that knocked out Bueno...and then another...and another. He managed to to hit Bueno with four punches that each would be considered knockout punches while his unconscious opponent fell straight down to the mat like a tree that was just cut down. In the documentary Pride Decade, which goes over the history of Pride FC from Pride 1 to 34 and is a wonderful documentary that is worth a viewing, Josh Barnett talks about the knockout and mentions it as being the best knockout in Pride history.

10. Rashad Evans vs. Chuck Liddell
While Chuck Liddell ended his fighting career by being knocked out by Rich Franklin, it was really the knockout at the hands of Rashad Evans that sent his career into a downward spiral. He had previously lost his Light-Heavyweight Championship by being knocked out by Rampage but that was a series of punches. With Rashad Evans, it was very apparent that Liddell was not the fighter he use to be as well as not having the chin he use to have. The hard punch left Liddell completely out in a pile on the mat along with his career.

9. Scott Smith vs. Pete Sell
In my first list on this blog, the best fights in UFC history, I forgot to add this fight. This fight demonstrates what is so wonderful about the sport. The two fighters were good friends on The Ultimate Fighter and it showed during the fight. The two would embrace at the beginning of the rounds, end of the rounds, and even during the rounds if one fighter landed a good punch. In the second round, Sell landed a body shot that had Smith hunched over in pain. Sell smelled the blood and went in for the kill. Smith, who has since said it was over and he only had one punch left in him, used that punch as Sell ran towards him and knocked him out in one punch. This goes to show you that no matter how over it seems, it is never over until the ref calls it.
8. Mirko Cro Cop vs. Wanderlei Silva/Igor Vovchanchyn
Both of these fights are tied for the same reason: Right leg hospital, left leg cemetery. The first fight is Cro Cop vs. Wanderlei Silva. The two had previously fought and the fight ended in a draw. In the second fight, the stakes were higher. The two were fighting for a spot in the finals of the Pride 2006 Openweight Grand Prix. Silva, being much smaller than Cro Cop, was being picked apart and the fight was almost stopped due to the damage to Silva's face. After the fight continued, Cro Cop landed one of his patented left head kicks that brutally knocked Wanderlei out. Cro Cop won his place in the finals of the tournament and eventually won the tournament.

While the Silva knockout was devastating and earned Cro Cop a chance at the finest moment in his career, it was his knockout of Igor Vovchanchyn that was probably Cro Cop's biggest knockout. As I previously mentioned, Vovchanchyn was widely considered one of the best Heavyweight fighters and one of the best Heavyweight strikers. When Cro Cop entered the picture, the two fighters matched up perfectly. Of course, Cro Cop being Cro Cop, he landed a head kick that seemed as though it would have decapitated Vovchanchyn. That was the moment that Mirko Filipovic became simply Cro Cop.
7. Anderson Silva vs. Chris Leben
Now while the ending knee was impressive, I am not talking about that specific knee. I am talking about the entire fight being one big knockout. At this point, Anderson Silva was somewhat unknown. He had picked up impressive wins in Pride but had also lost during his stint in the organization. Silva's previous win was a very impressive knockout over Tony Fryklund, which almost made this list, where he knocked him out by uppercutting him with an elbow. Chris Leben was a well-known UFC veteran known for his durable chin and hard-hitting power. Silva came in and made Leben look like a rookie. Silva managed to land 100% of his punches while rocking Leben in the first few seconds of the fight that lead him towards a deadly clinch that knocked out Leben for good. Silva has many impressive knockouts, such as his two against Rich Franklin and his humiliation of Forrest Griffin, but it was his UFC debut that showed the world that The Spider had arrived and was there to stay.

6. Wanderlei Silva vs. Quinton Jackson II

This is possibly the biggest rivalry in MMA history. The two fighters were at the top of the Light-Heavyweight totem pole in Pride at a time when the organization had all the best 205 pounders not named Chuck Liddell. Their first fight ended with Silva knocking Jackson out but not in too brutal of fashion leading Silva to win the 2003 Middleweight Grand Prix. The second fight was for Silva's Middleweight championship and it went somehow less successfully for Rampage than the first fight. Silva's clinch work proved to be too much for Rampage and Silva brutally knocked him out leaving him dangling between the ropes while everyone was in awe over the power that Wanderlei possessed.
Rampage planking before it was even popular.
 5. Quinton Jackson vs. Ricardo Arona
Ask most people what their favorite knockout is in MMA and they would probably look at you very strangely since the sport is not as popular as some people would hope. However, mention the fight where a guy picks his opponent over his head and slams him hard enough to knock him out, then they can tell you all about it thanks to the power of Youtube.

Rampage Jackson has had many fantastic knockouts in his career that started in 1999 and is still going such as his two knockout victories over Chuck Liddell and his revenge knockout of Wanderlei Silva, but it is his knockout over fellow Pride star Ricardo Arona that is the focal point of his career. The two were fighting for a chance to fight Wanderlei Silva for the Pride Middleweight championship. Arona acquired three wins in Pride against three dangerous opponents: Guy Mezger, Dan Henderson, and Ninja Rua. Rampage had previously been knocked out by Silva and wanted revenge. While Rampage won the chance, see the post above to see how it went. But in the Arona fight, Rampage was in his opponent's guard, an especially dangerous guard at that. When Arona went for a triangle choke, Rampage countered by picking Arona up over his head and slamming him hard enough to knock him out. While the actual knockout is controversial since it appears that there was an accidental headbutt during the slam, the knockout still stands and is considered the greatest knockout in Pride history.

 4. Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Mirko Filipovic
In order to truly think about the placement of this entry, watch the video above and think about the beast that Mirko Filipovic (AKA Mirko Cro Cop) was before he entered the UFC.

In his second fight in the UFC, he was given the opportunity to fight for the chance at a title shot. He was put up against Gabriel Gonzaga, a decent Heavyweight fighter specializing in Jiu-Jitsu. While Gonzaga had compiled a five fight win streak that included three wins in the UFC, most experts were saying that Gonzaga was the sacrificial lamb to Cro Cop's eventual title fight. Early in the fight, Gonzaga took Cro Cop down and started to ground-and-pound the great kickboxer. When the fight was stood back up, everyone thought that it was only a matter of time before Cro Cop landed one of his famous head kicks. Then this happened...
Gonzaga Cro Cop'ed Cro Cop. In a highlight that nobody saw coming, Gonzaga landed a right high kick that knocked Cro Cop clean out to the point where his ankle twisted underneath him. Gonzaga earned a title shot that he lost and his career fizzled while Cro Cop's great potential in the UFC fell flat. However, in that one kick, the two cemented one of the best moments that happened in the octagon.
3. Edson Barboza vs. Terry Etim
This is the only knockout on this list that I saw happen live. Honestly, UFC 142 was a card that I did not have the highest hopes for and only watched it because my friend got a live feed of it. It turned out to be one of the best cards I have ever seen. The main event was a great fight that cemented my faith in Jose Aldo and featured two wonderful submissions. However, the lasting effect of the event was the first fight on the main card. Edson Barboza was an up and coming lightweight while Terry Etim was a popular British fighter that had nine fights in his UFC career. The fight was a decent fight with no particular build up to it. Then in the last round, Barboza landed a spinning wheel kick that knocked out Etim and left him falling straight back. The knockout was amazing and the first of its kind. Since then, fighters have been trying to emulate Barboza with spinning wheel kicks. It was the focal point of one of the best cards of all time.

2. Anderson Silva vs. Vitor Belfort
How could this not be on anyone's greatest knockout list? The fight had build-up that made it a huge grudge match. The two fighters use to be training partners when both were members of the Chute Box academy but had negative things to say about each other. Not only was this a grudge match, but there was also a lot of doubt about Anderson Silva as a fighter. Early in his career, Silva had dominated everyone he faced so much that he seemed indestructible. After his lack-luster fight against Thales Leites, people began to question Silva. After embarrassing himself and his company in his fight against Demian Maia, everyone began to question Silva. Then came the fight against Chael Sonnen where Silva was dominated very convincingly for four and a half rounds, only keeping his title because of a Hail Mary triangle choke in the fifth round. Silva was obviously not the fighter he use to be. So combine all this with the fact that Silva had not faced an opponent with the striking credentials that Belfort had, and an upset was in the midst. 
The fight did show us something: Anderson Silva is back. Belfort, who usually barrages his opponents in the first round, was unable to get into the range to connect with Silva. Silva, with his typical elusiveness, surprised Belfort with a front the face. Front kicks are typically used to connect to the body in order to create distance. Silva used his technique and power to kick him in the face and simultaneously handed Belfort his first knockout loss and the first front kick knockout in a major MMA organization. It was between this and Lyoto Machida's front kick knockout over Randy Couture, but the original was more shocking and spectacular. Besides, they were essentially the same kick since both learned it from Steven Seagal. (Tries to hold back the laughter)
I also invented gloves and the jab.
1. Dan Henderson vs. Michael Bisping
UFC 100 was one of the biggest events of all time. It was an important milestone in the sports history that featured legends of the sport, an up-and-coming future champion rising even further, a star from Japan making his UFC debut, two title fights, and a coach fight from The Ultimate Fighter, all in one event. The latter fight is the one of interest right now. Dan Henderson, the coach for the USA team on the show, is an absolute legend with Olympic credentials, a UFC tournament title, and being the only person to hold a belt in two different weight classes at the same time in a major MMA promotion. Michael Bisping had collected a series of wins and was a TUF winner himself, making his position as the UK coach on the show warranted. During the course of the show, Bisping, as usual, had many insulting things to say about Dan Henderson as well as anyone that would listen to a word he had to say. Henderson, being the calm and collected type, waited for his opportunity to show Bisping up in the Octagon. The fight was decent back and forth fight with each fighter picking their shots wisely. Then, when the time came, Henderson set up a devastating right hand that put Bisping out for good. While the right hand put him out, Henderson then performed what I like to refer to as a "flying Hendo Bomb" on Bisping by jumping onto his seemingly lifeless body with an even more powerful right hand. Hendo, in his post-fight interview, said that he knew Bisping was out with the first punch, but landed the second to "shut him up". The glorious knockout can be added to the impressive career of one of the greatest fighters of all time. It only makes sense that one of the greatest fighters of all time landed one of the greatest knockouts of all time at one of the greatest events of all time.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Greatest MMA Fights That Never Happened

As a fan of Mixed Martial Arts, I spend a lot of my time talking with my friend about what would happen if so-and-so fought so-and-so. The idea of dream fights define what it means to be the best and what match-up would work best. Many of these fights happen, but over the course of the history of the sport, there have been different factors that went into a fight that made it so it did not happen. There have been fighters that an organization failed to sign, there have been fighters who refuse to fight each other, and there have been fighters who came into their own after another fighter is past their prime. No matter the reason, the fights that never happened are a major letdown to everyone who wanted to have the "Batman Vs. Superman" of our sport. So what I decided to do is to compile a list of the best and most significant theoretical fights that never happened, whether they were originally suppose to happen or whether they were just purely in the minds of the fans.

Honorable Mention

Lyoto Machida Vs. Anderson Silva/Wanderlei Silva Vs. Shogun Rua

Both of these fights would have been huge fights if it wasn't for the fact that both fights would not and will not happen because of the fighters refusing to fight each other. While making up this list, I tried not to put any teammate fights on there just because it is a bad excuse not to have a fight to me and makes the idea of the fight that much less appealing when one actually thinks about how a fight between two friends would be.

During the Pride era, Wanderlei Silva was the popular and reigning Middleweight champion. Shogun Rua, Wanderlei's teammate, won the 2005 Middleweight Grand Prix, making him one of the best 205 pound fighters on the planet. The logical step would have been to put Shogun against the Middleweight champion, but instead he fought five other fighters before making his way over to the UFC. The idea of two of the greatest Light Heavyweight fighters of all time fighting each other in Pride while still in their prime would have been fantastic, but it obviously was not meant to be.

While the possibility of having Lyoto Machida fight Anderson Silva is still within the realm of possibilities,the actual likely hood of the two meeting in the octagon is unlikely. The two are not only close teammates but also great friends outside of the cage. Lyoto has bounced the idea of moving to Middleweight back and forth over the years, but as long as Anderson is the champion, he is likely to stay at 205. The fight was very close to happening after Anderson proved himself a huge threat at 205 by completely decimating Forrest Griffin at UFC 101, a time when Machida was the champion. Obviously it never happened and while the two are very similar in style and would undoubtedly put on a great show for the fans, it is unlikely it will ever happen.

Matt Hughes Vs Pat Miletich
This is similar to the previously mentioned fights, but on a different level. Hughes was a major player in Pat Miletich's fight team, which also included former champions Jens Pulver and Tim Sylvia. Miletich himself was the UFC Welterweight champion before he was defeated by Carlos Newton. However, it was Miletich's student Matt Hughes that defeated Newton in his first title defense. This lead people to think what would happen if the student and the coach would end up fighting for the title. Both were in their prime and had very distinctive and successful wrestling styles leading to them being dominant champions. Unfortunately, the fight never happened because of the relationship between the two and the fact that Miletich's major feud with the UFC and Dana White. The fight would have been impressive, but still in the same boat as the previous two fights where neither fighter would want to seriously hurt the other one, which keeps it off the main list.

Fedor Emelianenko Vs Brock Lesnar
 I will probably be chastised for saying this, but I do not think the fight between Fedor and Brock Lesnar would have been as incredible as most people seem to think. I am a firm believer that there would be a weight class split in the Heavyweight division where one goes to 235 and the other goes to 265. This is a prime reason because while Fedor was at a very natural weight, Brock had to cut weight to make it to 265 pounds, which made the weight advantage significant enough that it almost seems unfair. That is why I did not fight the fight between Brock and Randy Couture overly impressive either. While skill is the overall important factor, you cannot deny that an incredible size advantage helps as well. I think Fedor is an amazing fighter and would have rather watched him fight other UFC Heavyweights rather than fight Brock.

10. Robbie Lawler Vs Chris Leben
This could just be the fan in me, but I think this fight has potential to be one of the biggest wars since Griffin Vs Bonnar. Both men have incredible strength as well as inhuman durability. During his first stint in the UFC, Lawler only fought at Welterweight except for his last fight against former Middleweight champion Evan Tanner. Ever since that fight, he fought at Middleweight and the fans were chomping at the bit for these two known warriors to collide. There would have been blood and there would have been bruising, but unfortunately the blood and bruising was left only in people's minds. Lawler did eventually come back to the UFC, but returned to Welterweight. So the weight class change along with Lawler's success being compared to Leben's cold streak and personal problems shows that this fight is unlikely to ever happen.

9. Mark Coleman Vs Tito Ortiz (Prime)
Do not let his over the hill fights fool you. Back in the day, Mark Coleman was an absolute beast. He had his hot and cold moments, but his status as a legend is indisputable. He was the first wrestler to not only dominate his opponents on the ground, but implemented a ground-and-pound strategy. Coleman used this strategy to win the first UFC Heavyweight championship, two UFC tournament championships, and the Pride 2000 Openweight Grand Prix championship. Shortly after Coleman left the UFC for Pride, Tito Ortiz came into his own implementing the same strategy as Coleman. With a similar style, the two would pair up perfectly. Obviously Coleman had his greatest successes at Heavyweight, but has competed at Light Heavyweight in the past as well. The two have had heated words (as shown in the video above) and the fight seemed as though it could happen and even was scheduled to happen but Coleman was forced to pull out and was replaced by Forrest Griffin. However, the fight where they had their words was Coleman's last fight. A fight when the two fighters were in their prime would have been arguably the best ground-and-pound fights in history.

8. Shinya Aoki Vs BJ Penn
BJ Penn is quite possibly the greatest Lightweight fighter of all time. His list of wins is an incredibly impressive resume including being the person to overthrow the long time Welterweight champion Matt Hughes. While BJ was applauded for his boxing skills, it was his Brazilian Jiu Jitsu that really caught the eye of fans. His submissions, especially his rear naked chokes, showed incredible skill that only comes from a well-trained black belt. However, another Lightweight fighter showed that the UFC was not home of all the greatest Lightweights. Shinya Aoki had great success in Pride but became world famous as one of the poster boys for Dream where his submission skills were only outweighed by his post-fight antics, such as when he flipped off both his opponent and the audience. A fight between these two would possibly be the biggest Lightweight showdown ever as well as the biggest Jiu Jitsu showdown. However, due to Aoki never making it to the UFC and BJ's ability to run out of gas faster than a Hummer, it seems as though the fight will never happen.

7. Chuck Liddell Vs. Dan Henderson

The Light-Heavyweight division has always been one of the best divisions with regards to depth throughout the years in MMA. It is a division that has held some of the greatest fighters of all time. Two of these fighters that are strongly considered to be the best are Chuck Liddell and Dan Henderson. Henderson is the only fighter to simultaneously hold a belt in two different weight classes in a major MMA organization when he was the Pride Middleweight and Welterweight champion. His list of accomplishments is mind-boggling and is shown here on his Wikipedia page:
Chuck Liddell is...well Chuck Liddell. He is one of the most beloved fighters ever and was the face of the UFC, and in sense MMA, for years and is the former Light-Heavyweight champion and UFC Hall of Fame inductee. This is a fight I personally think would have been fantastic to watch. Both have an aggressive style that the other would be sure to match. The fight was close to happening. When the UFC/Pride merger happened, Dan Henderson was the 205 champion and was given an immediate rematch. The man he ended up fighting was Rampage Jackson, who had previously won the title from Liddell. If Liddell had been victorious against Rampage, this fight would have happened and most likely would have been fantastic. Unfortunately, it only exists in my mind and the simulated fights I play on UFC Undisputed 3.

6. Randy Couture Vs. Bas Rutten
There was a time when Randy Couture was the UFC Heavyweight champion...okay maybe that was more than just one time but Randy Couture during his early years in MMA was an unstoppable force, becoming the first person to beat the legend Vitor Belfort and then beating Maurice Smith to become the UFC champion. At the same time, Bas Rutten was busy being a dominate force in Japan's Pancrase organization. Rutten eventually came to the UFC, but came at a time when Couture was in a contract dispute, leaving the Heavyweight championship vacant. Rutten won the title against Kevin Randleman and also relinquished the title due to injury, one that eventually retired the legend. Shortly after Rutten retired, Couture was able to come to an agreement with the UFC, shortly missing a match that would have been epic. Rutten's great kickboxing and submission skills would have matched greatly with Couture's Olympic level wrestling and ground-and-pound. Both are now retired and leave the idea of what could have been in the minds of the fans.

 5. Bas Rutten Vs. Wanderlei Silva
As I previously mentioned, Bas Rutten in his prime demolished the competition during his days in Pancrase. Wanderlei Silva also demolished his opponents during his prime in Pride. Obviously Silva came into his own after Rutten retired from MMA, but the fight that these two would have put on would have been incredible considerng Rutten's high-level kickboxing and Wanderlei's furious Muay Thai. Although Rutten retired before Wanderlei's Pride run, the two almost competed against each other. During an interview with Joe Rogan on his podcast, Bas talked about a moment when one of Silva's opponents was forced to drop out of the fight, leaving him without an opponent. Rutten, being the type to never turn down a fight, offered to step in and fight the Pride Middleweight champion, but the match was scrapped due to unknown reasons. But the possibilities seem to be endless of how the fight would have went.

4. Randy Couture Vs. Dan Henderson
 These two fighters are some of the most accomplished fighters in history. Couture has fought the best of the best, was an Olympic wrestler, and won a title in two weight classes in a major MMA organization. As for Dan Henderson, just copy and paste what I said about Couture. They are almost the same fighter. Henderson won the Pride 185 pound and 205 pound title while Couture won the UFC Light-Heavyweight and Heavyweight championships. The two have had what seems to be a friendship in the past, but it has never been documented that they would be unwilling to fight each other. They have actually even been reported to fight for each other rather than against each other, meaning that they were supposedly in a bar fight in 1995. The fight would have been an amazing wrestling match with each man using their solid boxing skills during the stand-up portion. A fight that would have went down as one of the best Light-Heavyweight fights of all time seems as though it would have been two great to actually happen.

3. Anderson Silva Vs. George St. Pierre
"What are you talking about? These two are totally going to fight as soon as they beat their next opponent!"
I hate to be negative but let's be honest, these two are not going to fight. Even if all the stars align, theres a solar eclipse, and hell freezes over and the fight is actually booked, the fight could never be as epic as the fans have imagined it in their head, but that doesn't mean it would not be a fantastic fight. The two greatest fighters of all time have proven themselves to be dominate champions that have won the championship, cleaned out that division, and are now facing a second wave of title contenders. Why is this the fight that fans want to see so badly? Is it because both are amazing fighters that bring an impressive arsenal of skills to the fight? Yes, but I think it goes beyond that. The reason that the fight is so intriguing is because both have been so dominate that it is getting to the point that most fans simply want each fighter to lose just to have something different happen. This is a fight fan's wet dream because it is the ultimate fight that represents the best fighting the best

2. Randy Couture Vs. Fedor Emelianenko
If you go to almost any legitimate Mixed Martial Arts list where the greatest Heavyweight fighters in history, chances are that there will be three names mentioned: Minotauro Nogueira, Randy Couture, and Fedor Emelianenko. Big Nog has fought both Couture and Fedor, but the fight that never happened was Fedor fighting Randy. It has been wanted by the fans. It was almost begged for by Dana White. It reportedly caused Randy Couture to have a major contract dispute and almost not compete in his final two UFC fights left on his contract when the organization failed to bring Fedor in to fight him for the title. Couture even mentioned fighting Fedor after his contract ended. Eventually, Randy made up with the UFC while Fedor's notorious management failed to come to terms with Dana White. Both fighters have since retired, leaving the argument of who was the better Heavyweight fighter still up in the air among fans.

1. Kazushi Sakuraba Vs. Rickson Gracie
Over the years, there has been a major controversy over what would happen if Rickson Gracie had fought tougher competition. Over the years, he has been overly critical over modern mixed martial artists abilities in fights, saying that he could easily beat the likes of Fedor. While having Rickson fight any tough competition opponent would be a fantastic fight to watch, the one that everyone was dying to see was to have Rickson fight the likes of Kazushi Sakuraba. Sakuraba gained his nickname "The Gracie Hunter" by defeating Rickson's brothers Royler and Royce as well as his cousins Renzo and Ryan. Sakuraba was the first person to make the first family of mixed martial arts look human, even submitting two of the master jiu-jitsu practitioners. While the four previously mentioned Gracies possessed great skills in jiu-jitsu, their skills were reportedly nothing compared to the skills that Rickson possessed. This lead to the dream match-up: The best Gracie Vs. The Gracie Hunter. However, the fight would never happen. While Sakuraba would most likely have been interested in the fight, Rickson was not on board. It was once reported that Rickson turned down a staggering $5,000,000 from a major promotion (most likely Pride FC) to fight the man who put his family's name through the gutter. If he turns down $5,000,000 for the fight, the fight is unlikely to ever happen. Rickson may remain with a perfect record of 11-0, but Sakuraba remains 4-1 in fights against the greatest family in mixed martial arts.