Mixed martial arts is an unpredictable sport, but most times you can count on one guy kicking the crap out of another guy. The following are 10 of fighting history's greatest exceptions to that rule.
Anderson Silva vs. Thales Leites UFC 97UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva is widely regarded as the best striker to ever fight in MMA. He dodges punches like he's in the Matrix and holding a NES Advantage. In the time it takes you to tell your foot to kick, he's circled behind you and built a bear trap under it. It's suicide to attack him. However, there's one problem with being Anderson Silva: everyone knows that you're Anderson Silva. Everyone who fights him is scared to death to get close. Let's try to attack the problem logically. 1. Anderson Silva is waiting for you to punch him. 2. That guy is Anderson Silva. 3. Don't fucking punch that guy.
Thales Leites is apparently a man of logic, because he came to the same conclusion. I've seen more aggression from lesbian couples reciting their wedding vows.
Thales' gameplan seemed to be waiting for a stage light to fall on Silva. He'd occasionally go for takedowns with all the enthusiasm of a tobacco-funded anti-smoking commercial. You'd swear he was trying to fail. Anderson was so bored that he started punching Thales in the legs and even danced his way into a behind-the-back shin kick. He was literally inventing new martial arts to keep from falling asleep. I don't speak Portuguese, but I think he was calling to his corner for a magazine at one point.
Leites only wanted to fight on the ground, and that was smart, but he couldn't take Silva down and he refused to try to knock him down. That left only one option-- throwing his own body to the mat. He used any excuse. The breeze from a jab: flop. A sudden change in direction: flop! None of it managed to trick Silva. Every time Leites flopped, the champ just turned his back and walked away. It was the classic matchup between Tripping and Leaving. Looking back, I don't think Leites was even trying to take the title that night. He was probably just waiting for his nail polish to dry and needed to find something to do for 25 minutes that didn't involve his hands.
Paulo Filho vs. Chael Sonnen WEC 36
Chael Sonnen has a reputation of being a "lay and pray" fighter. This refers to a mixed martial artist who lays on you and prays no one gets a boner. Sonnen once called fighters "lazy" for trying to knock people out. To those unfamiliar with competitive sports, this is like a coworker hauling a tuba into the office because getting music from radios is lazy. Actually, it's a little crazier than that. Let's upgrade the analogy to being like a coworker microwaving bowls of his own shit because it's lazy to use the city's sewage treatment.
Coming into the fight, Paulo Filho was the WEC Middleweight Champion and had good reason to be worried about Chael Sonnen. Chael may sometimes mistake hugs for combat, but he kicked Paulo's ass the first time they met. In this rematch, Paulo formed a two step plan to keep his belt. First, he came in fat. You can't take a champion's belt unless they're fighting in that weight class, so it was now a non-title fight. Note that Paulo Filho uses a grappling hook to climb stairs, so for him to come in above 185 pounds surely involved some type of anabolic burrito.
The second step of Paulo's plan was apparently psychoactive drugs. Lots of them. He wandered around the cage and seemed only vaguely aware that he was getting jabbed in the face. In fact, he spent most of his time chatting. Chael said later that Paulo was asking to lay down and rest for a bit. It was either the world's strangest time for a nap or the world's dumbest trap, so Chael said no. Paulo didn't care. By that point he was having conversations with people no one else could see. The fight literally turned into one person mumbling to nearby spirits while another person gently punched them. Like the movie ghost if Demi Moore sort of hated Whoopi Goldberg.
Harold Howard vs. Royce Gracie UFC 3
Harold Howard was a walking police sketch. He was a crazy-eyed hillbilly with a mullet and his idea of fitness seemed to be funnel-filtered light beer. Now keep in mind that back at UFC 3, we still thought that a black belt in tae kwon do made you a badass. We were all sure that any day, some 90-year-old Shaolin monk would hear about this "U.F.C." and show up to magically fireball everyone to death. But even in our naivety, we took one look at Harold Howard and knew that this is a man who takes karate with 3rd graders; a man with a 0-and-35 record against local law enforcement and 7 no-contests against his wife.
In his first UFC fight, he kept his skills secret by winning via caveman seizure. In his next fight, he was set to face Royce Gracie, a jiu-jitsu fighter one tenth his size who everyone knows dominated the first 2 UFC tournaments. Harold was ready for him. He claimed to be the 1984 Canadian jiu-jitsu champion as if that's a thing and honestly thought this would be two grand masters testing their skills against each other. Harold Howard even had a system that promised to bring the "karate aspect back to jiu-jitsu" which means so much less than nothing that several of those words took injuries during the sentence. This big goofy idiot was doomed. It was like a giant foot coming for his ass and Harold was the only one who didn't see it.
The time finally came to fight Royce. We huddled around the VCR as if Harold Howard was a sleeping camper and Royce was about to put his hand in warm water. This clueless bastard is going to piss himself! Then, just as the fight started, Royce's corner threw in the towel. He was too injured from his previous fight to go on and that meant that Harold Howard, a man living in the center of a sex offender Halloween costume, was going to the UFC finals. To call this a victory is like calling a lobster attack a handjob-- inaccurate and demeaning to everything involved.
In the tournament finals, Harold missed with a somersault kick that was so awesome it unfortunately depleted his entire doughy body's supply of karate. He lost and soon faded into obscurity. Then one day he wandered into a newspaper office covered in blood and told them he was injected with a substance that was slowly hardening inside him. While that might explain the way he fights or why he would sit still for that haircut, it's still batshit crazy and they kicked him out. He left muttering, "On to Plan B." Plan B turned out to be doing too many pills, attacking his sister and nephew with a hammer, and then driving his truck into a casino. Which leads me to my point: Harold Howard has forgotten more about not giving a fuck than you and I will ever know.
My personal favorite moment of the fight is when Harold's manager runs in to celebrate the "victory," sees that Harold is disappointed to win in such a way, and quickly tries to change his cheering motion into a gosh-darn-it! It's magical.
Sakuraba vs. Gilles Arsene Pride 23Japanese fighting legend Kazushi Sakuraba was at a rough point in his career. After being legally killed twice by Wanderlei Silva and then getting his eye socket broken by Crocop, he needed a nice easy match against someone who wasn't a gorilla or a cyborg. This is what's called a tune-up fight. They throw you in with a fighter past his prime or someone doesn't match up well against you. Well, Pride Fighting Championships was taking no chances.
Pride put him in the ring with Gilles Arsene, a man who emasculated the French population worse than World War 1. He had no right to be anywhere near a professional fight. He fought like he was washing a delicate load of panties, and knew just enough about grappling to hide like a bitch. Which is what he did. He spent the entire fight in a fetal position while Sakuraba slapped at him and sat on him and tried to think of different ways to pantomime how sorry he was to the crowd. Otters watch this fight to learn how to face off against clams.
While a polite Japanese audience waited, Sakuraba took 17 minutes to finally pry a tiny French arm out, and Gilles tapped before the submission was even locked in. France has a history of surrender, but not like this. This would be like France surrendering to Hitler's mother before she even fucked the goat that got her pregnant. Sakuraba needed to get his career back on track, but this guy wasn't fit to ask Sakuraba to open a jar for him. Gilles Arsene isn't tough enough to cry at a sunset without spraining a fallopian tube.
Takada vs. Mike Bernardo Inoki Bom-Ba-Ye
Kickboxer Mike Bernardo made his MMA debut against the massively defeated former pro-wrestler Nobuhiko Takada. With nearly one win between the two of them, we knew this matchup would be explosive. These two went to war.
Heath Herring vs Yoshihiro Nakao K-1 Dynamite!!! 2005As Heath Herring and Yoshihiro Nakao met in the center of the ring on New Year's Eve, the pre-fight staredown began. This is an an important part of the fight drama-- a final opportunity to either offer your opponent respect or to measure his dick against yours. Tonight things would go in a much different direction. Nakao stepped in as if to intimidate. Then he, surprise, sweetly kissed Herring on the mouth. Herring hated it. He let the rage build for a moment and unleashed it with a tiny punch against Nakao's chin. Nakao went out cold, probably more from a broken heart than a rattled skull.
As Nakao pretended to be dead, Heath Herring stormed around the ring, proclaiming that HE'S NOT A HOMO! He sounded less and less convinced as he repeated it. I think he was trying to ward off the invisible wizards that make you gay when your lips touch a boy and he was losing. As this went on, Nakao never did get up. They carried him out, hospitalized from rejection and face tap. This led to a difficult problem for viewers since all the insults you'd use for a fighter pretending to be unconscious are completely inappropriate to use if the guy is, you know, actually medically that way.
This led to a difficult problem for the promoters too. Do you declare the fight a draw? Do you disqualify the guy for sexual assault or the other guy for regular assault? I have to say, two men kissing isn't nearly as gay as showing up for a fight and getting a philosophical debate instead. You kissing assholes! If I wanted first base, an argument, and someone pretending to be asleep, I would have spent New Year's with my girlfriend!
Anderson Silva vs. Demian Maia UFC 112Demian Maia is one of the many people smart enough not to attack Anderson Silva. In fact, if that was the measure of intelligence, Demian Maia might be the smartest man alive. He stood almost perfectly still in front of Silva for almost 25 minutes, but he's not the villain in this story. This is the fight where Anderson Silva earned his black belt in High School Bully.
Once he saw that Maia wasn't doing anything, Silva teased the fellow Brazilian with little dances and Portuguese racial slurs. It looked like two children playing video games with Anderson Silva being controlled by a racist little brat and Demian Maia controlled by a kid whose Internet kept going out. This wasn't a fight. This was a boy jamming fireworks into a helpless cat while a crowd booed.
Despite the slow pace of the fight, it seemed like 15 minutes of making fun of white people and doing The Macarena was too much for the champ. He spent the last 2 rounds retreating in a circle and catching his breath. And while Silva didn't find the time to throw many attacks during this dance recital, one of the shots still fractured something near Maia's eye. When this happens and you blow your nose, your eye swells shut like an air mattress. Demian Maia blew his nose. That meant that for the rest of the fight, Demian had to watch this shimmying dickhead taunt him through an eye that looked like a body builder's vagina. At the risk of inventing an Internet fetish, his entire field of vision must have looked like Chyna giving birth to a boxing glove.
Ken Shamrock vs. Royce Gracie II UFC 5: Return of the BeastWhen casual UFC fans describe grappling as two dudes slow dancing on the ground, this is probably the fight they're talking about. Back in UFC 5, there were no judges. So when Ken Shamrock held Royce Gracie down in a loving embrace for the full 30 minute time limit, they had no idea what to do. Release scorpions? Buy them something from their registry? Someone finally decided to stand them back up and give them five more minutes to fight. As if I need to tell you, this almost immediately turned back into a hug and the five minute overtime slowly crept up to six minutes as the time keeper passive aggressively refused to end the damn fight. To the people that were still awake, the fight was a draw. Any student of the game will tell you that the technical subtleties of the Gracie-Shamrock chess match are difficult to describe, but luckily they're easy to illustrate: Click here to enjoy this terrible fight.
Ken Shamrock vs. Dan Severn II UFC 9: Motor City MadnessAt UFC 9, two guys spent 30 minutes trying to get out of each other's way in a Turkish bath. We found out later that this was actually a rematch between Dan Severn and Ken Shamrock. Click here to enjoy this terrible fight.
Muhammad Ali vs. Antonio Inoki June 26, 1976If Ric Flair and John Wayne combined their DNA and the result was played in a movie by Bruce Campbell, that would be the American equivalent of Antonio Inoki. He was a wrestling superstar in Japan and in 1976, he challenged Muhammad Ali to a wrestling vs. boxing shootfight. Ali's people immediately saw that the rules were ridiculous. Ali had to wear boxing gloves and Inoki would be bare-handed and be able to kick and grapp-- six million dollars!? Okay, we'll do it.
Ali flew to Japan and used Pearl Harbor and Inoki's ludicrous chin as a starting point for a long tirade of confusing trash talk. Later, when the cameras weren't rolling, he asked Inoki when they were going to do the rehearsal. It was right around here when the two men realized there had been a misunderstanding. Inoki was going to be fighting for reals.
Since it was too late to back out, Ali's people scrambled to change the already strange rules to be even stranger. There's no official record of them, but like everything in Japan they were designed for tentacles and then mistranslated. Most notably, Inoki was now only allowed to kick if one of his knees was touching the mat. Less notably, the new document contained far fewer unnecessary drawings of robot rape.
As soon as the fight started, Antonio Inoki laid himself down and threw an onslaught of insane but legal kicks at Ali. The closest Ali could come to fighting back was making rude gestures. This went on for 15 rounds. After all that time, Muhammad Ali managed to miss with 6 punches while Inoki landed 75,000 self-inflicted floor burns. It was such a waste of everyone's time and money that even the Tokyo stadium's rape robots apologized-- something they were programmed specifically never to do.