(NOTE: While authorities continue to search for missing author Ryan J. Zeinert, the CDP will be publishing previously unreleased and ‘lost’ content from his vast archives in his absence. The following list was found on a flash drive Mr. Zeinert had left behind; it also contained a love letter to the Vanilla Latte’, a list of 14 words that rhyme with ‘orange’ and several photographs of Zeinert nude from the waist-down.)
With UFC 100 arriving* on July 11, I wanted to offer a personal list of my 25 Favorite Moments In UFC History. I’ve been with the evolution of the Ultimate Fighting Championship since Day One, and despite lacking any fighting knowledge whatsoever, nor having actually been anywhere near a legitimate fight myself, consider myself an expert in the field of Mixed Martial Arts. If you’re interested in looking deeper into any of these fights, I strongly suggest doing YouTube searches for the provided keywords. Here we go.
*[Editor’s Note: This essay was written prior to UFC 100.]
#25. Frank Mir Breaks Tim Sylvia’s Arm.
Not only did Tim Sylvia refuse to tap out, but even after the fight was stopped due to his arm snapping like a twig, he continued to complain to the referee about the stoppage. Say what you want about Sylvia being overrated, but that was an extremely badass moment.
#24. Matt Serra Defeats GSP.
In what was probably the most famous upset in MMA history, Ultimate Fighter winner Matt Serra was supposed to be fed to the wolves–in this case, Georges St. Pierre, arguably the greatest fighter in the world right now. Serra managed a stunning KO victory over the now 21-2 GSP, temporarily taking his Welterweight belt from him until their following matchup.
#23. BJ Penn Tastes Joe Stevenson’s Blood.
In one of the more…urm, disgusting fights in recent UFC history, BJ Penn and Joe Stevenson went toe-to-toe for the vacated Lightweight title, when Penn busted Stevenson’s head open, causing…oh, I don’t know, a gallon or two of Joe Daddy’s insides to spray out of the gash in his forehead. The fight was almost immediately stopped, and Penn proceeded to lick Stevenson’s blood off of his gloves during a post-fight celebration. I’ve never been a huge fan of Penn, but it’s admittedly a cold-blooded thing to do to a guy you just legally brutalized in front of millions of people.
#22. Houston Alexander Decimates Keith Jardine.
Anytime Keith Jardine gets the crap beat out of him, I’m a happy man. Not because I don’t like the guy (I think he’s an extremely underrated and constantly-improving Light Heavyweight), but it seems that whenever the ‘Dean Of Mean’ drops a fight, he always manages to do so in spectacularly jaw-dropping fashion. In this case, the recently-debuting Alexander dropped Jardine with punishing right hands, leaving Jardine a heap on the side of the cage, his mouthpiece miles away from their original location.
#21. Chris Leben KO’s Terry Martin From Nowhere.
From a UFC Fight Night from a couple of years back, Chris Leben was by all accounts unconscious on his feet, when he trudged forth and pulled a KO completely out of his ass. In real-life fights, this sort of Rocky-esque thing usually never happens, so when it plays out in front of you like it did here, it’s quite impressive.
#20. Scott Smith Has The Greatest Comeback Knockout Ever.
This sort of thing is not supposed to happen in reality.
#19. Andrei Arlovski Tees Off On Cabbage.
Hands down, one of the funniest and craziest fights I’ve ever seen. This is due in part to the fact that Cabbage is not a human being, and watching Andrei Arlovski pummel his rock-like head silly for minutes at a time with seemingly no damage done is almost baffling to watch. Even more fantastic is the announcing work, making it clear that nobody could understand how Cabbage was managing to stay vertical for so long.
#18. Amir Sadollah Beats CB Dolloway…Twice.
Going into last season’s Ultimate Fighter reality show, CB Dolloway was the early standout. The All-American Wrestler. The college prodigy. The cocky douchebag. Amir Sadollah, on the other hand, was destined for an early exit. He lacked self-esteem. Was too funny. Too goofy-looking. So when they faced off in a semi-final match and Amir tapped Dolloway with an armbar, more than a few people were whispering ‘fluke.’ However, Dolloway got a second chance, as he was moved into the finals to replace disgraced loser Jesse Taylor at the Ultimate Finale. And guess what? Tapped with an armbar. Dolloway looked weak, and the nerdy dude that never had anything good to say about himself had just won a 6-figure contract with the UFC. Fantastic.
#17. Wanderlei Silva Decimates Keith Jardine.
Remember all that stuff I said before about Keith Jardine hilariously getting fed to serial killer killers? Yeah.
#16. Don Frye Wins UFC 8 Over Tank Abbott.
Back in the early days of the UFC, the night functioned as an 8-man tournament, which meant that in order to win, you had to compete (and win) three fights in one night. As you can imagine, this led to a multitude of injuries, fighters being carried to and from the octagon, and generally terrible fights ensuing. Don Frye was one of the first guys that introduced me to the concept of technique and conditioning over brute strength and size. His championship fight with the giant, lunchbox-fisted Tank Abbott looked like a one-sided massacre from the start, with Tank rocking him early and closing in for a KO victory. However, Frye (and his mustache) hung in there, eventually choking Abbott out and earning him a place among the early UFC immortals. Thank goodness the tournament format was abandoned a decade ago.
#15. Brock Lesnar Makes Heath Herring His Bitch.
While the clip only shows the first few seconds of the fight, it’s the complete and total domination of the fight on Lesnar’s end that makes it so memorable to me. For the record, Brock Lesnar is the last man on planet Earth that I would want pissed off at me.
#14. Clay Guida And Diego Sanchez Go To War.
Clay Guida is my absolute favorite Lightweight fighter. I love him. I love his hair, I love his inhuman cardio, I love that he’s never in a boring fight, and I love that he genuinely enjoys being a UFC fighter and fan. So when I found out that he would be taking on fellow clinically-insane fighter Diego Sanchez just a few weeks ago, I knew that we would be witnessing the best fight of 2009, and for now, it certainly is. Just watch the staredown and first round of this showdown, and tell me you don’t want to see more from these two warriors. Intensely entertaining and worthy of multiple viewings. Watch, watch, watch this clip.
#13. Forrest Griffin Gets Robbed By Tito Ortiz.
You either know what I’m talking about or you don’t. This great 3-round fight had the potential to be a classic 5-round fight (if a title would have been on the line), and it’s a damn shame that Forrest walked away the loser in a fight that built up steam the entire time. A great fight worthy of hunting down, even if the bad guy won.
#12. Brock Lesnar Wins The Heavyweight Championship.
Damn. Even Superman can get killed, I guess.
#11. Chuck Lidell And Wanderlei Silva Finally Battle.
In probably the most anticipated fight in MMA history, the two most legendary Light Heavyweights in the world, both fresh off of devastating losses, went off and had a fight for the ages. The hype they were expected to live up to was nearly impossible, and the fact that they exceeded it should have almost been expected by hardcore fans. A must-see for any new or old fan.
#10. Keith Hackney Demonstrates TJD (Total Junk Destruction).
Looking back, it’s fairly understandable why people were initially turned off to the UFC, what with it not having any rules and whatnot. Cue Exhibit A, and for the guys out there, you may want to just skip this clip altogether.
#9. Oleg Taktarov Wins UFC 6 In The Most Grueling Way Possible.
Jesus. These guys fought for over 30 minutes, after already winning two previous fights earlier in the night, in the mile-high, oxygen-lacking city of Denver. Abbott had over 50 pounds on Taktarov, and yet he still managed to pull off one of the more grueling victories in UFC history.
#8. Rashad Evans Kicks Sean Salmon’s Head Off.
Many apologies to this being the best clip I could find on the web, because this is the KO that will remind you that you do not want to become a Mixed Martial Artist under any circumstances whatsoever. It doesn’t matter your size, weight, height, years of discipline or warrior spirit. All you need to remember is that it only takes one second for Rashad Evans to kick your head into the fifth row.
#7. Tank Abbott Gives Welcomes John Matua To The UFC.
Again, I’m glad that the UFC became sanctioned and added, you know…rules…to the fights. That being said, this was the first MMA fight I had ever seen (I think I was 13), and it more or less changed my life. As for poor John Matua, I don’t think he ever faught again. Maybe a good idea.
#6. The Craziest Finish In UFC History (Maynard/Emerson).
In Street Fighter II, we’d call this sort of thing a ‘Double KO.’ In reality, we’d refer to it as the strangest no-contest in MMA history. Rob Emerson was tapping out to an unconscious man!
#5. Chuck Lidell KO’s Tito Ortiz.
This is my favorite TKO over for a number of reasons. First off, it features Chuck Liddell, possibly the most popular American MMA fighter ever, squaring off against Tito Ortiz, the douchiest douche that ever douched. Secondly, this was the fight that essentially solidified the changing of the guard at the 205-pound division; a solid, wicked TKO that humbled Ortiz and sent Liddell’s stock into the stratusphere. Finally, the amazing, lightning-fast and pinpointly-accurate barrage of lefts and rights that Chuck peppers Tito with are nothing short of brutal poetry in motion. I could watch this clip a hundred times.
#4. Forrest Griffin & Stephan Bonnar Redefine Mainstream MMA.
UFC President Dana White refers to Griffin/Bonnar as ‘The most significant fight in UFC history.’ And can you blame him? For all purposes, this was the fight that propelled MMA into the mainstream. Broadcast on SpikeTV as the finale of The Ultimate Fighter, Finalists Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar stood toe-to-toe and decimated each other for 15 minutes in an attempt to win a six-figure UFC contract. No ground-based strategy, no chain wrestling or guard-passing, just an all-out war in the middle of the Octagon. As legend has it, there were three million more viewers at the end of the fight than there were at the beginning, speculating that fans everywhere were calling their buddies and demanding they turn to Spike to see the spectacle of a performance that Forrest and Stephan were putting on.
In the end, Griffin won the fight, but White and the UFC awarded contracts to both fighters as a sign of respect and mutual admiration. Just a few years later, Forrest Griffin would go on to become the Light Heavyweight champion (read further) and one of the most beloved fighters on the planet, and the UFC would be breaking attendance and PPV records on a monthly basis. If there was ever a moment in UFC history that solidified the changing of the Old School/New School guard, look no further than the Ultimate Fighter Finale. In tune, if you’re a new fan looking for a jumping-on point to get into the UFC, look no further than this fight.
#3. Gabriel Gonzaga Kicks Mirko Cro Cop’s Head Off.
Mirko Cro Cop is everything you could ask for in a fighter. Dude is a tall, thick, robotic, Croatian monster that, prior to fighting, worked for the Croatian Anti-Terrorism Unit (hence the nickname ‘Cro-Cop’). His reign of terror in the PRIDE organization is legendary, as are his lethal high kicks that have produced a veritable highlight reel of sending guys to the mat (and the hospital) in a hurry. Next to Fedor, he’s about the closest thing to a cyborg as we’ve ever seen in MMA.
When Cro Cop signed a contract to fight in the UFC, he was set to face Heavyweight Jiu-Jitsu specialist Gabriel Gonzaga in what was, to a lot of MMA fans, a tune-up fight for Cro Cop on his journey to the Heavyweight title. Mirko would walk in, boot the Brazilian’s head off and walk out. Easy pickings? Not so fast.
In what has to be the most brutal and stunningly ironic knockout in UFC history, Gonzaga turned the tables on Cro Cop, delivering a devastating high kick that instantly KO’d Mirko (damn near breaking his leg in the process) and cemented Gonzaga’s legacy in MMA history. Fans were left stunned (most of us were just upset that Cro Cop lost the chance to fight champ Randy Couture), but more than anything, knew that they had witnessed the most unexpected twist the fight could have ever given them.
#2. Forrest Griffin Wins The Light Heavyweight Championship.
If the UFC had a fighter that in any way resembled Rocky Balboa (or perhaps Rudy), it would be Forrest Griffin. The self-depricating, scar-tissue mangled, scrap-as-scrap-can warrior of a man has instantly become one of the most beloved fighters in the game. You just cannot help but root for the guy, if not for his work ethic, everyman qualities and complete lack of ego, but for planting the seed in the head of up-and-comers that yes, you can do this is you work your ass off and are clinically insane (which Griffin clearly has to be).
After winning his season of The Ultimate Fighter in historic fashion (see above), Griffin was asked back to be a coach in Season 7 against then-Light Heavyweight champion Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson. At the end of the season, the two coaches would then duke it out at UFC 86 for the title. You couldn’t have asked for two nicer guys to coach amateur fighters, and the typical animosity that usually results from putting two opponents in such close quarters was tame at best. That didn’t mean that they weren’t about to go to war, however.
Following a perfectly-executed gameplan, Griffin went on the offensive, using sharp low kicks to weaken Jackson’s pivot foot, preventing him from swarming in with a barrage of knockout shots. After five grueling rounds, we had seen Forrest Griffin evolve from a scrappy fighter to a true, well-rounded Mixed Martial Artist, and to top it off, he walked away from UFC 86 as the Light Heavyweight champion of the world. For MMA fans, it could not have been a sweeter moment.
#1. Randy Couture Regains The Heavyweight Championship At Age 43.
In such a relatively young (in the mainstream sense) sport, MMA doesn’t have many fighters you can truly call ‘legends.’ That being said, there aren’t many guys on the planet like Randy Couture. His legacy, record and list of downed opponents speak for themselves; when he retired in February of 2006, he had nothing more to prove to anyone but himself.
On March 3, 2007, Couture came out of retirement at the age of 43 to fight Tim Sylvia at UFC 68. Sylvia, the 6-foot-9, 31-year old, 270-pound monster of a Heavyweight champion was 23-2 going into the fight (by comparison, Couture is 9 inches shorter and about 50 pounds lighter), and a lot of fans and critics alike were wondering why a guy like Couture would risk tarnishing his legacy by getting his ass handed to him by a beast like Sylvia.
These critics were silenced no more than 10 seconds into the fight, when Couture layed Sylvia out onto the mat, where he proceeded to dominate the monster for the next 25 minutes, easily winning a decision victory and the Heavyweight Championship of the World.
As commentator Joe Rogan said, “43-year-old men are not supposed to dominate in Combat Sports.” However, a more poignant quote came earlier, in tune instantly echoing the sentiments of everyone watching such an inspirational battle, “That guy is my hero.”
I don’t know if I’ve ever cried while watching two guys beat the living hell out of each other, but this particular moment transcended the sport. It transcended the UFC and MMA in general. It was about overcoming adversity. Having the heart to see the impossible through and emerging victorious. In that moment, fighting was…beautiful.
Thanks for reading. Sound off in the comments section and enjoy your day.