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The 10 Greatest One-Night Tournament Performances in MMA History

#10: Kaitlin Young @ HOOKnSHOOT 2007 Women’s Grand Prix (11/24/07)

Defeated: Suzi Smith (KO, 0:22 of R1); Miesha Tate (KO, 0:30 of R1, shown above); Patti Lee (KO, 0:53 of R1)

Though HOOKnSHOOT has been putting on high-caliber women’s MMA bouts since 2001, the organization’s most infamous moment was the eight-woman tournament it held last year, where an unknown Minnesotan named Kaitlin axe-murdered her way through three opponents in less than two minutes of combined fight time. Young would go on to face Gina Carano in the first women’s MMA match to be broadcast on network TV, at EliteXC: Primetime in May of this year. Even if she never wraps her wrists again, Young’s MMA legacy is secured.

#9: Gegard Mousasi @ DREAM Middleweight Grand Prix Final (9/23/08)

Defeated: Melvin Manhoef (sub. due to triangle choke, 1:28 of R1, shown above); Ronaldo Souza (KO, 2:15 of R1)

Unless you caught him in his PRIDE Bushido appearances in 2006, you probably had no idea who Gegard Mousasi was when he entered DREAM’s middleweight tournament earlier this year. But after choking out the highly-regarded Denis Kang in the opening round in April, and beating Dong Sik Yoon to a decision in June, he proved that he had a right to be there. And after the finals in September, he proved that he was one of the most talented middleweights in the world.

The event was almost anti-climactic in the way that it played out. These were not epic battles — this was Gegard Mousasi simply outclassing Melvin Manhoef (who had famously massacred Kazushi Sakuraba in the quarterfinals), then upkicking the daylights out of “Jacare” (who had torn through Zelg Galesic and Jason Miller in the tourney’s previous rounds). When the dust settled, Mousasi had picked up his 10th and 11th straight victories as well as a DREAM championship belt — a perfect ending to a breakout year.

#8: Don Frye @ UFC Ultimate Ultimate 1996 (12/7/96)

Defeated: Gary Goodride (sub. due to fatigue, 11:19); Mark Hall (sub. due to achilles hold, 0:20); Tank Abbott (sub. due to rear-naked choke, 1:23, shown above)

You have to remember — beating Gary Goodridge and Tank Abbott used to mean something. Both men were responsible for some of the most gruesome finishes in the UFC’s early history, from Goodridge’s crucifix/elbow-smashing of Paul Herrera to Tank’s starching/mocking of Jon Matua. The Ultimate Ultimate ’96 was just about the toughest eight-man field that the UFC could throw together in those days — it also included Ken Shamrock, Kimo Leopoldo, and Paul Varelans — and Don Frye notched his second UFC tournament win by cruising through it.

Frye pushed Goodridge past the breaking point in the quarterfinals (back before there were those cushy one-minute breaks between rounds that our spoiled fighters have today). After eleven-and-a-half minutes of back-and-forth brawling, Big Daddy found himself underneath Big Mustache and decided to tap before he suffered permanent damage. Frye’s semi-final match was a breeze — he’d already defeated tournament alternate Mark Hall twice in his career, and the third time was no different — but the Frye/Abbott final was a true superfight. Tank had just finished nelmarking Steve Nelmark in the semis, and his intimidation quotient was at an all-time high. Though the Predator got clocked with some big punches early, he was able to capitalize on a Tank Abbott slip, quickly sinking in a rear-naked choke. Don Frye — the toughest S.O.B. alive — collected his big-ass check and strolled out, never to fight in the UFC again.

#7 (tie): Takanori Gomi/Hayato "Mach" Sakurai @ PRIDE Bushido 9 (9/25/05)

Defeated: Gomi – Tatsuya Kawajiri (sub. due to rear-naked choke, 7:42 of R1); Luiz Azeredo (unan. dec.). Sakurai – Jens Pulver (TKO, 8:56 of R1); Joachim Hansen (unan. dec.)

Both these guys had impressive runs through Pride’s Bushido 9, with Sakurai probably getting the tougher draw.  He TKO’d Jens Pulver and then edged out a decision over Joachim Hansen.  Gomi choked out Tatsuya Kawajiri and then decisioned Luiz Azeredo.  Gomi would go on to knock Sakurai out at Pride Shockwave 2005 on New Year’s Eve (seen above), but both guys had gone through a veritable who’s-who of Bushido lightweights just to get to that point.  

Gomi would continue to be Pride’s lil’ poster boy before ending his tenure with the organization by getting gogo’d by a very stoned Nick Diaz in a fight that was later ruled a no contest.  Sakurai would knock out Mac Danzig and eventually land in Dream.  At least they’ll always have that one night in Tokyo.

#6: Ricardo Morais @ Absolute Fighting Championship 1 (9/25/95)

Defeated: Alex Andrade (sub. due to punches, 1:48 of R1); Onassis Parungao (sub. due to knees, 1:16 of R1); Maxim Tarasov (sub. due to punches, 1:49 of R1); Victor Yerohin (sub. due to punches, 1:33 of R1), Mikhail Illoukhine (sub. due to rear-naked choke, 9:44 of R1)

Yes, we’ve already featured this video on CagePotato. More than once, in fact. Doesn’t matter — it’s still insane no matter how many times you see it. After making four fighters cry uncle all before the two-minute mark at AFC 1’s 32-man bare-knuckle tournament, Ricardo “The Mutant” Morais faced off against Mikhail Illoukhine, a Sambo expert who had won the Absolute Fighting Eurasian Championship, another 32-man bracket held the previous July. Though Illoukhine was able to put Morais on his back, a sick reversal by the Mutant (check the vid’s 5:26 mark) led to a choke-out victory. Not only was Morais’s five-stoppage run one of the all-time greatest tournament performances, but it was also one of the most impressive MMA debuts ever. (So expect to see this highlight reel for a fourth time when we get around to putting that list together…)

#5: Mark Coleman @ PRIDE 2000 Grand Prix Finals

Defeated: Akira Shoji (decision), Kazuyuki Fujita (immediate corner stoppage), Igor Vovchanchyn (sub. due to knee strikes, 3:09 of R2)

You youngsters out there might not know this, but before he got old and headbutts got outlawed, Mark Coleman was a straight-up beast.  He proved this in his UFC days, but continued to do so over in Japan when he won the first ever Pride Grand Prix in 2000.  The finals of this open-weight tournament saw Coleman win a decision over Akira Shoji, take a bye over Kazuyuki Fujita (who was in no shape to fight after his quarterfinal victory over Mark Kerr), then claim immortality by kneeing Igor Vovchanchyn in the head until he submitted.

The tournament heralded the coming age of crazy Pride Grand Prix events, which included no small amount of mismatches, conveniently gerrymandered tournament brackets, and lots of awesome fights.  Here, as in his UFC days, Coleman was a pioneer.

#4: Renato Sobral @ IFC: Global Domination (9/6/03)

Defeated: Trevor Prangley (unan. dec.); Mauricio Rua (sub. due to guillotine choke, 3:07 of R3, shown above); Jeremy Horn (unan. dec.)

Before Forrest Griffin became a star in the UFC, before Mauricio Rua became a star in PRIDE, and before Chael Sonnen became that dude who fought a batshit-loony Paulo Filho in the WEC, they were just three light-heavyweight up-and-comers in an eight-man International Fighting Championship tournament, which also included the always-game Trevor Prangley and Jeremy Horn. The last man standing turned out to be Renato “Babalu” Sobral, who turned in one of the gutsiest performances in MMA history, going almost nine full rounds in one night.

By the time the future UFC fighter/Strikeforce champion wore down Rua and sunk in a guillotine choke at the end of their semi-final match, he was exhausted, and blood leaked from multiple cuts around his right eye. Then he had to face MMA ironman Jeremy Horn, who had already subbed Mikhail Avetisyan via armbar and knocked out Forrest Griffin that night — and in three rounds total, compared to Sobral’s six. The final match saw Sobral throw everything he had left at Horn from top position, slipping out of some scary submission attempts along the way. An illegal knee from Horn almost ended the action in the third round, but Babalu soldiered on to the final bell and scored the judges’ decision. An unforgettable display of massive balls and endless heart.

#3: Mauricio Rua @ Pride Final Conflict 2005 (8/28/05)

Defeated: Alistair Overeem (TKO, 6:42 of R1); Ricardo Arona (KO, 2:54 of R1)

Perhaps best captured in Genghis Con’s epic “Grand Theft Title – Saitama City,” (above) Rua’s run in the Pride 2005 Middleweight (205 lbs.) Grand Prix featured a cascading series of beatdowns.  Just to get to the finals “Shogun” tore through “Rampage” Jackson with knees and soccer kicks, then won a decision over Little Nog.  He was an underdog in the finals, but after TKO’ing Alistair Overeem he got revenge for his Chute Boxe brother-in-arms, Wanderlei Silva, by knocking Ricardo Arona out cold to claim the tournament title and the oversized check.  (BTW, thank you for that little tradition, giggling Pride ring girls, but shouldn’t you be home in bed this late on a school night?)

The win seemed to signal great things for Rua, but his next bout saw him suffer a freakish arm injury against Mark Coleman, then endure an even more painful backstage apology attempt from Coleman.  He still hasn’t lived up to the promise of 2005, but there’s time yet to rectify the situation.

#2 (tie): Royce Gracie @ UFC 1 (11/12/93), Royce Gracie @ UFC 2 (3/11/94)

Defeated: Art Jimmerson (sub. due to position, 2:11); Ken Shamrock (sub. due to rear-naked choke, 0:57); Gerard Gordeau (sub. due to rear-naked choke, 1:44) at UFC 1. Minoki Ichihara (sub. due to lapel choke, 5:08); Jason Delucia (sub. due to armlock, 1:07); Remco Pardoel (sub. due to lapel choke, 1:31); Patrick Smith (sub. due to strikes, 1:17) at UFC 2.

Without Royce Gracie’s sweep through the first UFC tournaments, you wouldn’t be reading this right now. As American audiences were exposed to the mysterious Gracie clan and the brutal tradition of vale tudo fighting, enduring legends were created — as well as a new sport that would become a worldwide phenomenon. And in the beginning, Royce was the shining symbol of all of it.

Anybody could have made a one-gloved boxer quit on the ground, but by the time Gracie sliced through jacked Pancrase vet (and future UFC star) Ken Shamrock, as well as Savate practitioner Gerard Gordeau — who had kicked some teeth out of Teila Tuli’s mouth earlier that evening — everyone watching knew that the Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace was something special. He didn’t look like a stereotypical big scary fighter, and yet nobody knew how to deal with him.

At UFC 2’s 16-man tourney, Royce cemented his rep by making short work out of hulking jiu-jitsu player Remco Pardoel in the semis, then beating down Patrick Smith, the fearsome striker who had made it to the finals after scoring three lightning-quick stoppages of his own. Gracie would go on to win a third tournament at UFC 4 in December ’94, but the message had already been sent: If you don’t know BJJ, you have no business fighting in a cage.

#1: Mirko Filipovic @ Pride Final Conflict Absolute (9/10/06)

EMBED-Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic vs. Wanderlei Silva – Watch more free videos
Defeated: Wanderlei Silva (KO, 5:26 of R1, shown above); Josh Barnett (sub. due to eye injury, 5:32 of R1)

The 16-man bracket in PRIDE’s 2006 Open-Weight Grand Prix was possibly the greatest crop of MMA talent ever assembled in one place. Over the first two rounds (held at Total Elimination and Critical Countdown), fighters such as Aleksander Emelianenko, Fabricio Werdum, Alistair Overeem, Mark Hunt, and Kazuyuki Fujita fell by the wayside. At Final Conflict Absolute, there were four men left: Mirko Filipovic, Wanderlei Silva, Josh Barnett, and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Let that sink in for a moment.

Cro Cop proceeded to give Wanderlei Silva the worst thrashing of his life in a complete pwnage that ended with a trademark head-kick KO. He then dominated Josh Barnett for the third time in his career, whaling on him from the top until a punch to Barnett’s eye caused the Babyface Assassin to tap in agony. Beating either of those men is an achievement. Stopping them both in the first round, back-to-back, is fucking insane. Mirko Cro Cop was the best fighter in the world that night. Then, he left for the UFC and his career sort of fell apart. But that’s a story for another time…

Cagepotato Comments

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junkass- December 27, 2008 at 5:47 am
Watching those first Ultimate Fighting tournaments I can see it (mma) wasn't that much a professional sport.

No gloves etc. and the ref seemed not to know what to do when one taps. I mean, in couple of occasions one tapped like 10 times and the ref was just minding his own business in the background. :D
Adam Bomb- December 26, 2008 at 8:23 am
Great Christmas present, CP. Thank you very much!
Anonymous- December 25, 2008 at 8:49 pm
Creepy J- December 25, 2008 at 6:48 pm
Kaitlin Young's preformence is #1 in my books. Argue otherwise and I have to point out...some guys are into to ass to mouth, I just prefer foot to face.
Robert- December 25, 2008 at 3:15 pm
"Jugger" You're out of your fucking mind!
123rh456- December 25, 2008 at 12:11 pm
Henderson in Rings: Yvel, Big Nog, and Sobral in one night.
Derly- December 25, 2008 at 11:48 am
Anyone who didn't watch Kaitlin Young should at least watch her Head Kick KO. It's about as good as a womans flash KO can get.
Anonymous- December 25, 2008 at 11:30 am

NB:thx for the selection
no one ever mention Yves Edwards who is one of the best imho
sPeLLcHeCkEr- December 25, 2008 at 9:30 am
whaling = "wailing" (unless harpoons were used on Barnett.)

I agree with kostellow, the talent pool simply isn't deep enough. An all-women's MMA tourney featuring at least 8 real contenders (and one heckuva marketing plan) would be pretty interesting imo.
kostellow- December 25, 2008 at 7:51 am
the problem with female mma is that they have only a couple of fighters matched up against loud housewives.
no sport yet.
Dmonicideals- December 25, 2008 at 1:37 am
I don't get what the big problem is with the chick fights.

Nothing wrong with ass-kicking hotties, so long as they kick-ass, and are hot.
Kuato- December 24, 2008 at 10:15 pm
Damn it New Brunswick, go be old and crusty somewhere else.
New Brunswick- December 24, 2008 at 9:48 pm
Okay, here's a mma related post. I loved Tank Abbott back in the day. I thought for sure he had that fight. He'll always be in my heart in "Friends" reruns.
New Brunswick- December 24, 2008 at 9:43 pm
Guess whose got VIP tickets to see 'tallica January 18th in Boston!!
Best fucking Christmas EVER!! (Best GF EVER!!)

**I don't want anyone flaming me for liking Metallica. Music is a matter of taste so don't even bother.**

PS. As a side note, hopefully they'll play a bunch of stuff from Kill Em' All...though I doubt it.
Rich S.- December 24, 2008 at 9:42 pm
i don't know if i should bash you for liking metallica or for talking about something COMPLETELY irrelevent to this article, or website for that matter...

Jeffro- December 24, 2008 at 9:27 pm
Thanks CagePotato for all of these awsome videos in one spot. I had never seen the Babaloo/Shogun fight. That was a great fight. Who the fuck was the IFC?

Also, no need for the chick fight. Nobody watches that shit.

Merry Christmas!
ssquare- December 24, 2008 at 8:22 pm
crocop definately gets number 1 Wandy is a freak probably not even human and crocop destroyed him, he looked like he died of a gunshot to the head. Rua is right up there but still gunshot to the head!
player from the south- December 24, 2008 at 7:52 pm
man ... cro cop did wreck that tournament . its too bad he fell off when he came to fight in the ufc.
Rich S.- December 24, 2008 at 7:02 pm
4:02 - 4:10 in the Ricardo Morais video = FAIL.
Armbreaker- December 24, 2008 at 4:43 pm
Some people making comments here are not showing the proper respect for Royce Gracie. He took on fighters of all styles and weights and prevailed.

It is time for Dana White to sign Mousasi. He would likely be some competition for Anderson Silva.
Jugger- December 24, 2008 at 2:42 pm
Anonymous... at least sign in if you're going to call me out.

I never said it was Crocops "fault". None of it was his "fault". It was Pride's fault. If you were CroCop or Barnett which path would you be more proud of?

CroCop = Minowa (MW), Yoshida (LHW), Wandy (ranked LHW).
Barnett = Nakamura (LHW), Aleks (ranked HW), Hunt (ranked HW with a win over CroCop), Big Nog (ranked HW with a win over CroCop)

Even though Barnett lost in the final he accomplished far more that Crocop ever could. Again, it's not Crocop's fault, but it still lessens the magnitude of his victory. No way he should be at #1. Not by a long shot.
Kuato- December 24, 2008 at 2:35 pm
I skipped over the female one, because who gives a rat's ass, but it was a damn good list overall. Jugger makes a pretty good point about the competition Crocop faced that night, though. I mean Minowaman? Fucking MINOWAMAN!?
scott whitt- December 24, 2008 at 2:24 pm
right kick hospital
left kick morgue
Kimbo is Crap- December 24, 2008 at 2:16 pm
i dunno. i would haver put royce at number 1 just because he ran shit at ufc 1 AND ufc 2... rua is the man also.

cro cop did bang that night, and he beat barnett a few times before so fatigue is nothing. its called training before. its your punishment if you cant finish the fight.
Anonymous- December 24, 2008 at 2:10 pm
@ just some dong:

Wandy is the bald guy, CroCop is the one who came out to the gay tunes. Silva's entry was to Sandstorm.