With three of the fights on UFC 170‘s main card ending in the first round, the CagePotato.com staff has decided to revisit the greatest one-round fights in MMA history during today’s CagePotato Roundtable. Despite their brevity, these fights were memorable enough to be worthy of any discussion on the greatest fights in MMA history. Read on for our picks, and please continue to send your ideas for future roundtable discussion topics to firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Photo courtesy of MiddleEasy.com)
Greatest fight that only went one round, you say? Psh, please. How about a fight that had more total strikes thrown in the first 30+ seconds than in the entire multi-year relationship between that (piece of crap) Ike Turner and Tina? Ok, ok, maybe not that many but Don Frye vs. Yoshihiro Takayama still resulted in a shit load of punches. So, to all the other contributors to this RoundTable, I respect your opinions but much like the original Highlander – There can be only one – your choices are all The Kurgan (and he was “the hardest screw that ever walked a turn at Shawshank State Prison” mind you, so you can take solace in that you losers).
After a multitude of viewings, according to my bloodshot eyes and my bourbon breath, there were 91 total strikes thrown by both Don Frye and Yoshirho Yamasaka in the opening 34 seconds of their epic collision way back at Pride 21 in June of 2002. True, I am not Reed Kuhn and these figures are not exact like a Cagepotato Databomb but let those punch-stats sink in. For a little more than half a minute, almost 3 strikes were thrown per second with almost ALL of them landing.
The two combatants literally played the roles of the Blue Bomber and the Red Rocker while trying to knock each others blocks off. Most hockey fights fail to deliver that type of jackhammer-punching and mano y mano awesomeness. Even Ryu and Ken have fewer strikes thrown in a three round contest than Frye and Yamasaka unleashed in the opening moments of their one round affair.
Sure, the fight was not exactly a technical masterpiece but it even had the passionately polite crowd at the Saitama Super Arena in a fanatical frenzy. The Frye vs Yamasaka contest went on to win Fight of the Year in many publications and it now lives in online infamy. Because Frye. Because Pride.
The 2004 PRIDE heavyweight grand prix semi-final between PRIDE heavyweight champion Fedor Emelianenko and 1992 Olympic silver medalist in judo Naoya Ogawa ended in less than a minute with Fedor winning via armbar. But the result was a combination of Fedor’s thwarted Olympic aspirations, PRIDE’s deception and skilled management.
When Fedor was on Russia’s national judo team, resentment collected as he was unable to surmount the politics that kept him from representing Russia in the world championships or the Olympics:
“In all of the Russian championships I was always third-third-third. In our sport the first place always goes to the world competitions, the second to Europe’s. I was always third. I was tired and was asking them if they had a conscience at all. I’m fighting, and the entire room’s yelling at the judge, ‘What are you watching?’ I couldn’t get through, so I left.”
Pro wrestler Ogawa had many asterisks next to his 7-0 win column in MMA. Gary Goodrige said he was offered a bribe of $20,000 to lose to Ogawa (Goodridge, who lost via keylock, claims he turned the bribe down). Going into the first round of the 2004 grand prix against Ogawa, kickboxer Stefan Leko could barely walk, but when his compensation was more than doubled from $150,000, Leko agreed to be shot full of painkillers and the fight went on. Leko quickly lost to Ogawa via arm-triangle choke .
Said Fedor and Leko’s then-manager Miro Mijatovic, “Fedor knew humiliating Ogawa was another step in building his legend amongst the general Japanese public. We insiders knew Ogawa was crap, and I was pissed at our role in allowing that fraud to get so far.”
The PRIDE brass wanted Fedor to take on Sergei Kharitonov in the semi-finals, but Fedor’s team knew that smashing Ogawa was a better proposition.
That Ogawa was an elite judoka who had enjoyed the opportunities to shine on the world stage denied to Fedor provided the fuel. The lack of a handshake before the contest was dropped like a lit match as Fedor coldly dismantled Ogawa in the first round en route to winning the 2004 PRIDE heavyweight grand prix.
You can read more about Fedor in Pound for Pound: The Modern Gladiators of Mixed Martial Arts)
So what if it’s a little under 10 minutes long – technically, the first battle in the three-part war waged by Wanderlei Silva and Quinton Jackson took place within a single round, so it qualifies for this list. Silva and Jackson, two of the greatest light heavyweights (or in PRIDE terms, middleweights) in the history of the sport, met in the culmination of the 2003 Pride Grand Prix for Silva’s middleweight title. At the time, the argument could be made that they were the best fighters on the planet. Jackson had just defeated Chuck Liddell earlier in the night, and Silva had dominated a game Hidehiko Yoshida as well. Silva was in the midst of his prime and Jackson was just entering his own.
If that context wasn’t enough, there was no love lost between these two heading into the finals. Following a knockout win over Kevin Randleman at Pride 25, Jackson had called out Silva for a title fight. Silva responded in kind by rushing into the ring, yelling “MY BELT” at Jackson and shoving him across the ring. Before it even came to blows, they engaged in one of the most intense staredowns in MMA history – Jackson unblinking and snarling as Silva hopped back and forth, their eyes never dropping for an instant. When the fight began, Jackson rushed across the ring to slam Silva as was his wont in those days. Silva countered by pulling guard and attempting a guillotine. While unsuccessful, he was able to avert the fate of Ricardo Arona and the fight continued from his guard. Jackson was active, but Silva was able to avoid any significant damage by utilizing an effective defensive guard.
Jackson was able to pass Silva’s guard after the latter attempted an armbar, and proceeded to land knees to Silva’s face from side control. Silva regained half-guard, but Jackson continued to work with body shots. His success was fleeting; Silva quickly regained guard and proceeded to stall where he was able. A somewhat questionable standup followed, as Wanderlei received a yellow card for inactivity but also benefitted from returning to his feet. Taking advantage of this opportunity, Silva managed to stun Jackson with a knee from the clinch. What followed was one of the most brutal and memorable displays of sanctioned violence ever. Silva chased down the backpedalling Jackson and managed to secure a Muay Thai plum. He proceeded to deliver 17 unanswered knee strikes to Jackson’s head, with the occasional soccer kick thrown in for good measure. In a surreal moment, Jackson and Silva seemed to lock eyes one final time and smile at each other before Silva delivered the final blow and Jackson crumpled to the canvas.
The fight itself is one of the most exciting and vicious you will ever see in MMA. It featured two of the best fighters at their peaks fighting for a title after each had already dispatched legitimate fighters earlier in the evening. Not only was it a seminal moment in the history of the sport, it contained seminal moments within it. Few other fights can claim to possess these accolades. None can do so having only lasted a round. That’s why this is the greatest one-round fight that ever was, and perhaps the best that will ever be.
We all may rip on Nick Diaz for being a delusional, numb-skulled stoner with sociopathic tendencies around here, myself included, but it’s hard to deny that the man was destined to be a mixed martial artist (which makes it all the more frustrating that he up and retires every time a fight doesn’t go his way). Few fighters display such a blind sense of confidence in the cage, and Diaz’s ability to do so from the very get-go of a fight, or regardless of whether he’s actually winning a fight, is a thing of beauty to watch. It’s goddamn heroic, is what it is. Call Nick Diaz stupid all you want, but I bet you’d be willing to trade in a few brain cells for the gift of fearlessness in a heartbeat. I sure as hell would. I sleep with a night light to keep out the monsters to this day. Nick Diaz sleeps under his bed every night hoping that one of those punk-ass bitches *tries* to start some shit with him when he’s not looking.
And that’s not even to mention his skill set. Diaz not only possesses some of the best Jiu-Jitsu in the game, but the kind of smothering, in-your-face boxing skills that have broken many a so-called “superior striker” in his heyday. Take his fight with Paul Daley at Strikeforce: Daley vs. Diaz in 2011, for instance. Although Diaz was the promotion’s welterweight champion at the time, Daley was the one being heralded as the guy who could change the complexion of a fight with a single punch. We expected nothing less than a Rock’em Sock’em match in Diaz vs. Daley, and they delivered one in the most dramatic fashion imaginable.
To his credit, Daley was able to drop and nearly finish the unbreakable Diaz with punches on two separate occasions in their one round war. As was the case in most of Diaz’s fights, it took getting dropped for Stockton’s finest to realize that his opponent hit like a bitch. Had Daley known that rocking a Diaz is like cutting one head off a Hydra, he would have probably pulled a Claudinei Angelo right then and there. Yet he kept fighting, the brave bastard.
Diaz quickly recovered on both occasions, picked his shots, clinched when necessary, and waited for his moment of opportunity, never reverting from his signature “come at me, bro” pose in the face of danger. That moment came with 20 seconds left in the first round, when during an exchange along the fence, Diaz blistered Daley with an overhand right that sent him tumbling to the canvas. A few follow up punches in the closing seconds came shortly thereafter, and just like that, Nick Diaz became the first man to ever stop Daley with strikes.
Nick Diaz, the guy who strikes with strikers and wins. The champion who favors a good fight over a gameplan, a back-and-forth slugfest over an easy decision win. How can you hate that?
On one hand, this is an extremely tough spot to be in: Both Matt Hughes vs. Frank Trigg II and Cheick Kongo vs. Pat Barry are still on the board, yet I can only pick one of these fights as my choice. Yet on the other hand, this really isn’t a difficult decision. Cheick Kongo vs. Pat Barry gets the nod here.
Everything that can possibly be written about this classic already has been, so I’m not going to beat a dead horse and recap it blow-by-blow. Besides, if you’ve ever so much as heard about this fight, you know exactly what happened. Kongo vs. Barry had everything that a great fight should: evenly matched opponents, logical strategies, and a dramatic build-up to the a climactic finish. And that was before Cheick Kongo came back from seemingly being knocked out to shut out Pat Barry’s lights.
You could take two of the best fight choreographers in Hollywood, two of the most talented professional wrestlers in the WWE, and give them an entire year to build up a fight to such an exciting finish in only two minutes and thirty-nine seconds, and their creation wouldn’t hold a candle to this. “Anything can happen in a cage fight,” MMA promoters will tell you. Sometimes, it’s actually true.
Did we omit your favorite one-round fight? Let us know your pick in the comments section.