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“Ask Dan” #3: The One Where Severn Spits Blood Into His Opponent’s Face

(“Nice hipster glasses, buddy! Let’s see what they look like…SUPLEXED!!!!” Photo via Dan’s Facebook page.)

In this week’s installment of his mailbag column for, UFC Hall of Famer Dan Severn discusses a memorably bloody Vale Tudo match, the greatest night of his career, and the technique that he wants to see banned from the sport.

DARKHORSE06 asks: What is the worst injury you ever received?

The worst injury I’ve ever received in my career has probably been a cut. One time I was competing in Brazil back in the No Holds Barred days — known as Vale Tudo in Brazil — and my opponent hit me with a big overhand right that split open my top lip. When I grabbed hold of him to try and shake some of the cobwebs out of my head I noticed he was covered in baby oil so I couldn’t get him down.

In the clinch, my opponent threw a knee up that hit me in the mouth and split my bottom lip open. Somehow he was able to get me into the corner and I couldn’t really see as he started trying to attack me with knees, stomps and other techniques of that nature. I was trying to think of some way out when suddenly it dawned on me to suck the blood off my face and into my mouth. Once it was in my mouth, I would basically just spit the blood into my opponent’s face because it was not against the rules. As my opponent looked away so as not to get any blood spit at him, that’s when I got the upper hand, swept his feet out from underneath him and dropped him down on his butt.

There was some fishnet outside of the actual ring canvas and I was hitting him with so many knees that I could tell he was trying to crawl out of the ring. At one point, I even crawled under the bottom rope in order to reach him with some elbows since the ref wasn’t restarting us in the middle. Once I could strike him, I opened up with some elbows that I threw with vicious intent. It was only the second time in my career that I threw strikes with intention to hurt my opponent. The other time I did that was against Tank.

danomite asks: Big Dan, anyone ask you what your favorite fight was yet? if not, what was it?

I don’t know if I have a particularly favorite fight but the event that was most memorable for me was the Ultimate Ultimate 1995 Tournament. I’d say that I probably rose to the pinnacle of my career as an athlete and as a professional cage fighter at that event. That was actually the first time that the UFC brought together the champions and runner-ups from previous events. It was an eight-man tournament still under the No Holds Barred rules and out of a two-hour Pay Per View I was inside the Octagon cage just over one hour between my three opponents. The event was in Denver, Colorado, with mile high elevation so I prepared a great deal for that one. I took 35 days out to prepare for that event.

At Ultimate Ultimate 95 I fought Paul Varelans, Tank Abbott, and Oleg Taktarov. Going into the tournament I knew about the Russian mentality because I’ve been to Russia a couple of times, which meant I knew that I’d pretty much have to kill Taktarov to beat him. I had to impose my will, whether that included knees to the head or an over-abundance of headbutts. I knew that a guy like Tank was dangerous on his feet because of his striking ability, but with Oleg it was going to be a more even grappling match because of Taktarov’s Sambo background.

danomite (again) asks: Being a submission guy yourself, what would you say is the most useful “grappling” martial art?

Well I draw greatly upon my wrestling skill set and background but wrestling does not teach you submissions. It teaches body positioning, body mechanics, and the principles of leverage. In terms of Judo, Sambo, Jiu-Jitsu and other grappling disciplines, I learned as I went. Having the wrestling basis and understanding certainly helped when I was rolling with these other practitioners. I already knew the limits of the human body and how to twist arms, legs and necks into submission or at least a painful position. So wrestling gave me the basic principles but for the most part, I was self-taught. I use some positions that some submission grapplers have never seen and yet they’re still very sound and effective. Every grappling martial art can provide you with a good base but ultimately it’s up to the individual to go out there and find the right teachers to help them become a well-rounded martial artist.

dim mak asks: Listening to your previous answers, it sounds like you’re not a big fan of ground and pound. Do you prefer pancrase to the MMA unified rules? What about the Pride rules, which allowed knees to a downed opponent and soccer kicks?

Well actually, I’ve won a lot of matches by ground and pound but usually its ground and pound up to a point. As my opponent puts out their arms to defend themselves that leaves them open to neck cranks, key locks, and other holds. So usually I go into ground and pound mode but I do see the need for rules on the ground to be put in place. For example, knees to a grounded opponent or soccer kicks, I can see why those aren’t allowed because they certainly look really bad and can cause a lot of damage.

I even think that eventually we’ll see an implementation that bans elbows in the Unified Rules. If they’re looking to get rid of elbows, I fully support that because it’s something that I’ve advocated since the beginning. It’s really a technique that will simply just cut your opponent. You see a lot of fighters get cut with elbows and the blood starts dripping into their eyes to the point they can no longer see and the fight has to be stopped. Also, we see some guys who continually get cuts and how that creates a lot of scar tissue above their eyes. That sort of thing can drastically cut short an athlete’s career because the scar tissue opens up and bleeds in almost every match, especially when an opponent recognizes that and searches for a cut. However, as long as elbows are still legal, I encourage fighters to use all of the techniques at their disposal.

William Hawtreee asks: Worst fighter/least prepared in the early UFCs? (Please god say Tank Abbott)

I think there have been a lot of opponents who have under-prepared for their matches against me. I’m not sure whether they didn’t think I’m as strong as I am or if they maybe thought that I was too old to compete. I don’t know if I would say this is the worst fighter but it did bother me when they had the first Superfight Championship bout between Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrock at UFC 5. I came from the world of amateur wrestling where you actually had to win something in order to be put in something like a championship match. So it kind of got on my nerves when the UFC decided to put Ken Shamrock in that fight.

At that time, Shamrock had not won any of the UFC events so he didn’t earn his place in a super bout. It was the same as when Ken Shamrock and Kimo Leopoldo faced off at UFC 8. Neither of those guys deserved that match. In fact, Kimo hadn’t won any matches. So I started to wonder what the UFC’s motivations were. Were they doing it for the right reasons? In my opinion, they were just looking at money and ignoring the competitive aspects.

Show Dan some love by visiting and his Facebook page, and show your support for men’s health issues by donating your pocket change to CagePotato’s Movember Team Page. (Special props to Karmaatemycat for raising more cash than anybody else we know. Solid, brother.)

Cagepotato Comments

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chzhuu- November 24, 2011 at 10:20 am
top boxing films in
welcome to visi
Phatdan78- November 24, 2011 at 8:04 am
@Tardo Ortiz. How dare he make fun of Tank. That guy had a 2 fight win streak 3 times in his career. While he had some spectacular knock outs, i doubt he was the most feared striker of all time.
Todd M- November 23, 2011 at 9:49 pm
The Most Demented, Dan Severn Invented. Good caption today guys, well fitting for the king of the Suplex.
Smokestack- November 23, 2011 at 7:47 pm
Wow, Dan Severen looks like he's beating up Urkel in that photo.
EnemyofReality- November 23, 2011 at 6:00 pm
Dan, when I was 14 I ordered UFC 5 and was in awe that you seemed completely fearless to attack your opponent yet you were able to focus your vast skills in doing so. This no doubt was a new standard. When you retire, would you consider writing a book detailing your mental attitude and thoughts on the sport you helped to create?
chzhtt- November 23, 2011 at 5:52 pm
top boxing films in
rpn452- November 23, 2011 at 5:09 pm
Good stuff, Dan. I've got a ton of respect for you.
Viva Hate- November 23, 2011 at 1:12 pm
Great to hear Dan talk about Oleg, he was my favorite fighter back in the day. Thanks for all the awesome answers Dan.
DARKHORSE06- November 23, 2011 at 12:22 pm
Dan - Thanks for answering my question. Your story has emasculated me through fourth quarter 2013.
Cestus84- November 23, 2011 at 12:14 pm
To danomite. Youtube Gary Goodridge vs Pedro Otavio. Reading about these Vale Tudo fights and actually watching are two different things. You'll love this fight.
TARDO Ortiz- November 23, 2011 at 11:46 am
Hey William Hawtreee. Tell Tank he sucks to his face, see what he says.....That man is to this day the most feared fighter in the history of the UFC including W. silva.He DESTROYED fighters for years with some of the most brutal knockouts to this day. I got countless number of friends into mma because of his fights. He helped build this sport dummy. Pull yer head out of your ass
danomite- November 23, 2011 at 9:20 am
Holy Crap, I read that story about the Vale Tudo match and couldn't believe what I was reading. That was straight out of Fight Club. I think if some guy punched me in the head and started kneeing me my first thought would be 'play dead and hope he gets bored', not 'swallow my own blood and spit it into his face'. I think Big John was right when he said you were one of the scariest guys he's ever met.
BaghdadBob- November 23, 2011 at 9:07 am
Very thoughtful and informative answers, Dan. Thank you.
jmors- November 23, 2011 at 8:22 am
that is me. just after my fight and this just made my day!