If it wasn’t for bad luck, Strikeforce’s upcoming “Carano vs. Cyborg” card wouldn’t have any luck at all. Despite the best intentions, some MMA events are destined to be magnets for injuries, unwelcome surprises, and other bizarre occurrences. But which events have been screwed by fate the hardest? Knock on wood, grab your crotch, and read on…
#10: UFC 67: All Or Nothing, 2/3/07
The aptly-titled “All or Nothing” event was the first UFC pay-per-view in nearly a year to lack a title fight by the time it finally took place. That’s all the more disappointing when you consider that it had two a couple months out from the event, pitting TUF “Comeback” winners Matt Serra and Travis Lutter against the champions in their respective weight classes.
The first title fight went down the drain when Georges St. Pierre injured his knee during training and had to put off the fight with Serra (and we all remember how that went when it finally happened). Fortunately they still had Anderson Silva vs. Travis Lutter to fall back on…right? Only Lutter failed to make weight for his title shot, downgrading his “Rocky” storyline to a “Bad News Bears” one. Instead they just had themselves a normal old three-rounder, with Lutter holding his own in the first round before getting triangled/elbowed to death in the second. What fun.
#9: UFC 98: Evans vs. Machida, 5/23/09
The event that famously launched “the Machida Era” only included Lyoto as a last resort. Originally, the card was to be headlined by the heavyweight title scrap between Brock Lesnar and Frank Mir, until Mir informed the UFC that he was still recovering from knee surgery. The main event was then changed to a light-heavyweight title fight between Rashad Evans and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, but Jackson — who had just gone the distance with Keith Jardine two months earlier — bowed out due to lingering hand and jaw injuries. And so, the UFC decided to give a well-deserved light-heavyweight title shot to that weird Brazilian guy with the unibrow.
If you’re Rashad Evans, that would be enough to make this one of the unluckiest fight cards ever. But UFC 98’s string of setbacks extended to the supporting cast as well. Josh Koscheck pulled out of the event due to a broken toe and was replaced by Brock Larson; Koscheck’s scheduled opponent, Chris Wilson, missed the show because of incomplete paperwork. James “Born Under a Bad Sign” Irvin suffered one of his many knee injuries and was replaced by Xavier Foupa-Pokam. Yushin Okami also went down with a dodgy knee and was replaced by Chael Sonnen. And finally, hard-luck-case Houston Alexander broke his hand during training and was replaced by Krzysztof Soszynski. Later, it was discovered that the MGM Grand Garden Arena had been built on an Indian burial ground.
#8: PRIDE 32: The Real Deal, 10/21/06
PRIDE’s first trip to the United States hit some turbulence right from the start. Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic was unable to compete due to a lingering foot injury, and Wanderlei Silva was barred from competing by the Nevada State Athletic Commission due to the fact that he had just gotten his head kicked in by Cro Cop at PRIDE’s Open Weight Grand Prix finals the previous month. Then, an odd super-heavyweight match between Mark Hunt and Butterbean was canceled because the NSAC felt that Hunt would have an “unfair mat advantage”; Hunt was replaced by pro wrestler Sean O’Haire. And so, an epically stacked card was downgraded to “pretty good, considering.”
But “The Real Deal” may be better remembered for what happened after the fights were over. As mentioned in our steroids timeline, Vitor Belfort tested positive for 4-Hydroxytestosterone, Pawel Nastula pissed dirty for Nandrolone, and Kevin Randleman tried to fool the Nevada State Athletic Commission by submitting a urine sample that either came from a dead person or an animal; his ruse was unsuccessful. The busts gave more support to the belief that steroid use was widespread in PRIDE, and fighters were getting away with it only because of the notoriously lax testing policies in Japan. Still, PRIDE brushed its shoulders off and redeemed itself four months later with another card held at the same venue in Nevada. And this time, only Nick Diaz tested positive for banned substances.
#7: UFC: Fight For The Troops, 12/10/08
Rarely has there been a charity event that seemed like such a good idea at the outset, but wound up being so sadly ironic by the time it was all over. UFC’s “Fight For The Troops” was a benefit show for the Intrepid Fallen Heroes fund, raising money to treat Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) for members of military wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. The event reportedly raised over $4 million for a new medical center, and it provided hours of entertainment to the military members in attendance that night in Fayetteville, N.C. The only people who didn’t make out so well were the fighters.
It wasn’t your usual cursed event as Brian Stann and Frankie Edgar were the only two fighters forced to pull out of this event with injuries beforehand, but chances are they were glad they did. Five fighters ended up in the hospital that night, and of the seven bouts aired on Spike TV, four saw serious injuries. On the undercard, lightweight Corey Hill suffered a gruesome broken leg after a low kick attempt that left his foot dangling off his shin like an empty sock. Brandon Wolff got eye-poked and then kneed into oblivion by Ben Saunders. Razak Al-Hassan refused to tap to a Steve Cantwell armbar and the whole arena watched as his elbow turned into Silly Putty. Jonathan Goulet and Yoshiyuki Yoshida both suffered ugly, concussion-inducing knockouts, with Yoshida’s looking all the more frightening the longer he lay motionless on the mat afterwards.
In the end, everyone has or is at least expected to make a full recovery, and $4 million is still $4 million. That said, let’s hope the UFC never does an event to benefit testicular cancer research.
#6: EliteXC: Heat, 10/4/08
After Kimbo Slice got all he could handle from James Thompson at EliteXC: Primetime, Gary Shaw made sure to set up his bearded golden boy with an opponent who was guaranteed to crumble in the first round — and UFC Hall of Famer/glass-chinned steroid abuser Ken Shamrock sounded like just the man for the job. Kimbo vs. Shamrock was supposed to be a compelling freak show at the end of an impressively legitimate MMA card that featured such bouts as Gina Carano vs. Kelly Kobold, Andrei Arlovski vs. Roy Nelson, and Jake Shields vs. Paul Daley. Instead, it turned out to be the most epically backfired main event in MMA history.
Just hours before the show, Shamrock pulled out of the fight due to a mysterious cut he sustained over his eye during training. Though his estranged brother Frank offered to ditch his color-man duties to step into the cage with Slice, it was eventually decided that Ken’s replacement would be light-heavyweight TUF vet Seth Petruzelli, who was scheduled to fight on the undercard. With Slice’s concentration blown due to the opponent switch, Petruzelli shocked the world (or at least Gus Johnson) by sending Slice to the canvas with a back-pedaling jab then slugging his way to a TKO win in just 14 seconds.
As if humiliating EliteXC’s most bankable star wasn’t bad enough, Petruzelli then revealed during a radio appearance that he may have been paid to keep the fight standing. The resulting scandal was the final coffin nail in an already sinking company; EliteXC never put on another event, and Kimbo Slice went from making $500,000 per fight to bunking up with 15 other heavyweights on TUF 10 for a shot at a UFC contract. Smooth move, Seth.
#5: Strikeforce: Carano vs. Cyborg, 8/15/09
In retrospect, maybe Strikeforce shouldn’t have defied the Gods by scheduling four title bouts on the same card. One by one, “Carano vs. Cyborg” lost all its marquee fights except for the main event. Champions Alistair Overeem and Josh Thomson were forced to pull out due to old injuries, and welterweight contender Joe Riggs was laid low by a bad drug reaction. Affliction’s demise helped patch some holes, but five days before the show, Nick Diaz was barred from competition for ditching the drug test required for his licensing, and was replaced by TUF 7 vet Jesse Taylor.
In the end, four title fights became two title fights (Carano vs. Cyborg, Sobral vs. Mousasi) and one interim title fight (Melendez vs. Ishida), and Nick Diaz officially became a liability to his organization. The only way the event could have been a bigger debacle is if Gina Carano was forced to drop out due to an unplanned pregnancy and Cris Cyborg tested positive for testicles. But hey, anything could happen in the next 96 hours…
#4: YAMMA Pit Fighting, 4/11/08
If ever there was an event that did everything possible to curse itself, it was this one. The flawed premise behind YAMMA Pit Fighting was that MMA fans had grown tired of the same old “fighting surface.” If only the octagonal cage could be swapped for a giant bowl-like structure, former UFC promoter Bob Meyrowitz seemed to believe, this would somehow spark more action and revolutionize the world of MMA. The fact that there was only one YAMMA event (at least so far) should tell you how well that theory panned out.
One of YAMMA’s appeals was their “Master’s” division, which is a nice way of saying ‘old guys.’ Don Frye was originally scheduled to take on Oleg Taktarov, while Butterbean was slated to face Gary Goodridge. Not bad, right? Only Frye pulled out with a shoulder injury, was replaced by Patrick Smith, who was later dropped after an arrest following a high-speed chase made his participation seem doubtful. Then YAMMA got Maurice Smith, who later pulled out due to illness, at which point they reinstated Patrick Smith, whose charges had been reduced to misdemeanors. Oh, and Goodridge pulled out too. By the time it was all over Patrick Smith fought Butterbean and Taktarov fought Mark Kerr and no one gave a shit about any of it.
YAMMA’s other attraction – a heavyweight tournament – was hindered by rules allowing for only one five-minute round in all but the final fight. In part because of this, six of the seven fights in the tournament went to decision. Travis Wiuff ended up winning, by the way, but that’s not really what we remember now, is it?
#3: UFC 3: The American Dream, 9/9/94
Like dating a stripper, the tournament format in MMA always seems like a brilliant idea until you inevitably become the victim of the problems inherent in its nature. UFC 3 was supposed to be the night that Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrock met for the second time in a climactic battle, which explains why they were pictured on the event poster and placed on opposite sides of the bracket from one another. Trouble is, neither of them actually made it to the finals.
Gracie faced future steroid-abuser/totally not dead guy Kimo Leopoldo in the first round and defeated him via armbar 4:40 in. But the bout took a heavy toll on Gracie, who at that point had only been past the three-minute mark once in a UFC fight, and he was unable to continue in the semifinal bout, giving karate expert/mullet enthusiast Harold Howard the first official UFC victory over Gracie. Meanwhile, Shamrock fought his way into the semis and beat Felix Lee Mitchell, who was himself a replacement for Keith Hackney, who hurt himself wailing away on Emmanuel Yarborough in the first round.
This meant that the finals of UFC 3 featured Howard, who had really only won one fight, against Steve Jennum, who came in as a replacement for Shamrock and had won zero fights. Just to make sure the tournament’s integrity was further compromised, Jennum won the whole thing by beating Howard via submission due to strikes. It was Jennum’s first pro MMA fight, and with it he became the first person not named Royce Gracie to win a UFC tournament. He would win one more fight at UFC 4, then lose three straight before hanging up his purely figurative gloves.
#2: 2007 IFL Grand Prix, 11/3/07 and 12/29/07
In theory, the IFL Grand Prix was supposed to be a year-end, two-night tournament that would take the best fighters from around the league and pit them against one another to crown individual champs in each weight class. In reality, it was a total shitshow marred by injuries, contract disputes, and bracket gerrymandering that made the whole thing almost impossible to follow. Here are some of the highlights:
- Arguably the league’s most popular fighter, Ben Rothwell, declined to sign a contract extension before the tournament and was not allowed to participate. Reese Andy was slated to take his place against Roy Nelson in the opening round, but had to pull out due to injuries and Shane Ott stepped in, though not against Nelson. “Big Country” won the whole thing anyway.
- The light heavyweight bracket was even worse. Mike Ciesnolevicz was under medical suspension and couldn’t fight, and Andre Gusmao, his replacement, got hurt and had to pull out. Another tournament-eligible fighter, Mike Whitehead, also had some contract trouble, and eventually the IFL decided that this part of the “tournament” would be reduced to a single fight: Vladimir Matyushenko vs. Alex Schoenauer. Vladdy won.
- In the welterweight division, Antonio McKee violated his contract by fighting outside the IFL and was summarily pulled from the welterweight tournament. Pat Healy, Mark Miller, and Brad Blackburn all pulled out with injuries. Jay Hieron won.
- Wagnney Fabiano beat an already-injured John Gunderson in the first round of the lightweight tournament, but was then shuffled into the newly-created featherweight division, which he won, while Bart Palaszewski was inexplicably selected over Shad Lierley, who had a better record, to face Chris Horodecki for a second time. Horodecki would win a decision, Lierley would get hurt anyway and be unable to fill in after Fabiano was moved down in weight, Gunderson’s injury kept him from getting a second life, and Ryan Schultz smashed Horodecki to win the lightweight tournament as an alternate.
Anybody else need a drink? If not, then you obviously didn’t work for the IFL during this little nightmare.
#1: UFC 85: Bedlam, 6/7/08
“Bedlam” turned out to be a sadly appropriate title for the UFC’s most injury-plagued and chaotic card of all-time. We’ll start with the main event, and count ‘em up: The original headliner of Chuck Liddell vs. Mauricio Rua changed to Liddell vs. Rashad Evans after Rua dropped out due to a blown out knee (1), and then became Matt Hughes vs. Thiago Alves after Liddell tore his hammy (2). Elsewhere on the main card, James Irvin was brought in to fight Evans then injured his foot and withdrew (3); Evans left the card altogether at that point. Also, Chris Leben had to pull out of a scheduled match against Michael Bisping due to an outstanding warrant for a probation violation (4), and was replaced by Jason Day.
The undercard was just as snakebit. Jonathan Goulet dropped out because of “a shortage of training time” (5), and his scheduled opponent, Paul Kelly, had to withdraw due to a messed-up finger (6). Ryo Chonan suffered a rib injury (7) and was replaced by Kevin Burns, and Neil Wain broke his nose (8) and was replaced by Eddie Sanchez. That’s eight fallen soldiers; nine if you count Rashad. If only the bedlam stopped there. As you may recall, this is the same event where Thiago Alves came in four pounds overweight, Marcus Davis fought through (and lost because of) a bad shoulder injury, and Thales Leites scored an upset split-decision victory over Nate Marquardt thanks to two different point-deductions. So in a roundabout way, the Curse of Bedlam was responsible for propelling Leites to arguably the worst championship fight in UFC history. Truly, UFC 85 was the gift that kept on sucking.
Oh, and one more thing: An ill-advised UFC 85 fight-picking bet resulted in one CagePotato editor having to film himself projectile vomiting. Now let us never speak of this miserable event ever again.