How good can a fight *really* be if it ends quicker than Michael Bisping’s prom night? That’s just the question we’re trying to answer this week, and we’ve got a whole slew of special guests to help us: Sydnie Jones of WomensMMA (making her second CP Roundtable appearance), Tim Burke (formerly of BloodyElbow), MiddleEasy Editor-in-Chief Jason Nawara, and MiddleEasy writer Nick Robertson. The topic: What is the Greatest One-Minute Fight of All Time? Join us for yet another thrilling CagePotato Roundtable, won’t you?
Anderson Silva vs. Chris Leben is an obvious pick, I know. The 49-second demolition from Ultimate Fight Night 5 has been anthologized in dozens of Internet lists — from “Worst Game Plans of All Time,” to “Most Spectacular UFC Debuts” — and kicked off the greatest win streak in UFC history. It’s a flawless victory, in the Mortal Kombat sense of the phrase.
Coincidentally, Silva vs. Leben synchronizes perfectly to my favorite under-a-minute song of all time, “Wasted” by Black Flag, which is officially listed at 51 seconds, but includes about two seconds of dead air at the end. For your convenience, I’ve overlaid the Silva vs. Leben fight with “Wasted” in the video above, so you can see what I mean.
The whole thing is fast, dumb, and violent, just like MMA at its best. And when Leben collapses to the mat at the end of the fight, as Keith Morris shrugs off the final line “I was wasted,” it’s such a perfect summary of Leben’s persona. He’s reckless, self-sabotaging, often intoxicated, always driving forward with no regard for the consequences. He’ll wake up the next morning with a massive headache, take a couple bong rips, and go skateboarding without a helmet, because fuck it, if it’s your time to go it’s your time to go.
Before there was a Nashville brawl in Strikeforce on American national TV, there was a Chute Boxe vs. Hammer House brawl on Japanese national TV that featured some of the more compelling characters in the history of the sport. And as a shameless Pride mark, I feel it is my duty to focus on the bout that led to this insanity. Yes folks, I’m taking you back to early 2006 for the first fight between Mark Coleman and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. Joint dislocations, bear-pawed refs, and angry Ninjas. Oh my.
The fight itself had everything you could want in 49 seconds. Shogun was still only 25 here and his knees weren’t at that Terry Funk level yet, so he was able to deal with Coleman’s old man strength by consistently looking for subs from the bottom and landing the odd punch to the grill. He almost finished the fight with a kneebar but the wrestler yanked his leg out and went for an immediate takedown. Because Rua was off balance when Coleman shot in though, he posted his right arm in an awkward way and his elbow just popped out of the socket. Gnarly.
It wasn’t quite apparent what had gone down right away, but this was in Japan after all – there were 43 close-up replays that made the gruesomeness quite clear, including a ref cam. They had to wait to show them though, because Coleman had completely lost his shit in the meantime.
After Mark swatted away the ref like a Japanese cicada, Shogun’s brother Murilo (known worldwide as Ninja, the lesser sibling that kisses his younger brother on the head a lot) jumped into the ring immediately to first check on his brother, then to scold Coleman for being a bro. Caveman Coleman wasn’t happy with that, and it led to reinforcements from both sides joining the festivities – The New York Badass Phil Baroni on the Hammer House side, Pride legend and current NSAC track star Wanderlei Silva on the Chute Boxe side. And they all brawled for about 30 seconds while the camera stayed on Shogun, who alternated between watching them fight and screaming in pain. Yeah.
Because Pride was awesome, they followed Coleman and Shogun around for a few minutes with a camera afterward. Shogun is in a lot of discomfort and swearing in Portuguese while Ninja just wants to cuddle with him. Coleman’s segment goes all the way from punching his dressing room wall to giving the ultimate meathead speech backstage before finally deciding to apologize to Chute Boxe. Suitably, the apology is hilarious – after Coleman says he’s sorry, it’s just Wanderlei yelling at everyone and Ninja looking derpy while Rampage Jackson yells “Who, me?” over and over again back at him.
This was Pride FC at it’s goofiest, and just one of the many reasons I loved it so much.
Though I have sentimental feelings for UFC 2’s opening televised bout between Pat Smith and Scott Morris because it took my MMA-viewing virginity back in 1994, I would be doing a disservice to one of the sport’s more revered competitors if I chose a brawl from the human cockfighting era. Therefore, I have decided to gush over BJ Penn. The Prodigy was widely acknowledged as the first truly complete mixed martial artist and in lieu of his latest (and hopefully final) retirement announcement; his 11-second obliteration of Caol Uno at UFC 34 is at the top of my list.
I will be the first to admit that I was never the biggest Penn fan due to my creepy fanboyish love for Georges St. Pierre, but even I have to show respect for the skill and achievement that a very special few are able to exhibit. That being said, I am not here to ballwash Penn like FOX and the MLB did to Derek Jeter during the All-Star Game, but BJ was in rare form that night in 2001.
The fight started with Uno’s only offensive maneuver when he ran forward and threw a kick that would make Liu Kang proud. Penn, however, easily sidestepped it. A straight right/left hook/right uppercut combo from BJ put Uno on his back with his head propped up against the cage. From there Penn unloaded 4 brutal punches to Uno’s mug and the fight was over. BJ popped up, bowed to several directions of the crowd, then sprinted out of the cage and up the ramp where he disappeared. It was almost like Penn had the meter running on a cab that was parked in the alley behind the arena.
It took 32 seconds from the moment the bell sounded to start the round until the moment Penn made it backstage. A slow-motion replay showed the damage he did as Dana White (WITH HAIR) sits cage-side clapping. When the dust settled, Uno’s expression resembled that of a college freshman. A college freshman attending his first frat party that is one Natural Ice away from getting dicks drawn all over his face with a Sharpie.
I thought long and hard about this topic, and I just couldn’t think of an answer. I had come up with a handful of candidates, but something about them didn’t feel right. I knew I was missing something. I was going to need to try a different approach. So like a young Ozymandias, I ventured out into the desert and swallowed and swallowed a small handful of hashish (approximately 6.7 grams).
I walked and walked searching for an answer. The hash wasn’t really kicking in and I was starting to get restless. When the hash finally did kick in, it hit me hard. My body started to produce a thick glossy sweat that almost looked like gelatin. A chill rolled up my spine and my stomach turned. I was starting to get sick, and I knew I was in for a long uncomfortable night.
After throwing up for what seemed like an eternity it seemed I was finally starting to gain clarity. It was like I suddenly had HD Glasses on. I looked out into the vast desert and there appeared two figures. One had a giant head of gold and an aura of invincibility. It was The Huntington Beach Badboy himself, Tito Ortiz. Across from him stood a dude who looked like an angry stepdad who hid his muscles under an unassuming polo shirt. It was a young, lean, Evan Tanner.
I watched as they felt the fight out on the feet for a brief moment before tying up. Tito managed to get a body lock and I knew the fight was already over. This was a prime Tito Ortiz, who likely had a broken spine at this point in his career, and he wasn’t going to let Tanner take his belt. Ortiz slammed Tanner so hard that he went unconscious. Before Tito could land a second punch Tanner’s spirit had ascended to the heavens. It was both terrifying and beautiful. Moments later I was vomiting uncontrollably again.
The greatness of Mark Kerr vs. Greg “Ranger” Stott at UFC 15 simply cannot be overstated, although I’ve tried my hardest to do just that in my tenure at CP. It is a 17-second window into what MMA was in the late 90′s — Japanese-level freakshow fights, made up fighting styles (R.I.P!!), and the Just Bleed guy. And beige swim trunks used as fighting shorts. My God, those beige swim trunks.
To be a fly on the wall of Stott’s locker room in the moments leading up to the fight…
Coach: “Greg, I know what you’re thinking: ‘This Kerr fellow just won the last UFC tournament and appears to weigh approximately 450 pounds. He is going to murder me and possibly eat my children.’ But you’re gonna beat him, Greggy! You hear me! You’re gonna shock the world!”
Greg: “But coach, I’ve never even been in a real fight before. Like, ever. R.I.P isn’t even real; I invented it two weeks ago while high on nitrous in my garage. It’s basically just a bunch of awkward jabs and stomps.”
Coach: “None of that matters now, Greggy! It’s too late to turn back. You just had to go shooting your mouth off to that Vinnie Barbarino-looking, Guido Chic, didn’t ya?!”
Greg: “Maybe I can come up with some last second excuse, like a knee injury. Or lupus.”
Coach: “No way, Greg. It’s time to sack up. You were an Airborne Ranger for Christ’s sake!”
Greg: “Why didn’t I just listen to Mom’s advice and stick with the piano lessons.”
Honorable mention: Chris Lytle vs. Kyle Bradley, UFC 81
Ah, so this is CagePotato headquarters, eh? I find it pretty funny that I get invited here for a roundtable only to see that what we’re gathering around seems to be an octagonal table. Did you guys get this made in 2009 or something? Does the irony of being near an octagon burn your heart and soul considering you’re not allowed near the Octagon™? Sorry, I know this is off-topic, I’m just kind of in awe of finally being here after reading you lovely humans for years. It’s pretty cool, but it smells kind of weird to be honest.
So yeah, my favorite fight that lasted under a minute. Well, when you guys told me the subject, I thought the pickings were going to be slim, but then I closed my eyes and exhausted all other thoughts out of my brain, and only let the fighting come through. You know what I saw in that moment of complete clarity? A mustache, my friends. A mustache. And it was good.
Let’s go back to UFC 8, the David vs. Goliath tournament held inside a hot arena located in Bayamon, Puerto Rico. A young Donnie (Donny?) Frye, stood like an adonis across from one Thomas Ramirez. A 300+ pound man, who, if I recall even somewhat correctly, had over one million unsanctioned street fight wins. They met in the center of the Octagon™ and after a quick bop to Frye’s forehead, Ramirez was overcome by a flurry that put him to sleep in 8 seconds. It was glorious. These early UFCs are my favorite era of MMA, and I remember specifically watching this show for the first time thinking that “Tom Selleck’ was going to get killed by Mr. Ramirez, but he ended up doing the killing in a figurative manner.
This was the fastest knockout in UFC history for almost a decade until Duane Ludwig’s 6.26-second KO over Jonathan Goulet was officially recognized in 2012 (Todd Duffee and The Korean Zombie also broke Don’s record with 7-second KOs, respectively). So how can this not be my favorite knockout in under a minute? It’s Don Frye knocking out a 300+ pound man in 8 seconds in his debut. This is what life is all about, right here. I’m not ashamed to admit that.
Special CagePotato Roundtable Bonus Selection!
Later that night, Don Frye would go on to TKO Sam Adkins in 48 seconds. This is worth mentioning because it’s a technical knockout in less than a minute, it was immediately after Don’s initial 8-second knockout (which I wrote about above if you’re coming in halfway) and most importantly, it was a fight that featured these unfortunate pants:
Way back in the day, before Matt Hughes was anything more than a regional fighter and former wrestler who once paired up with his twin brother to beat up their dad, Dennis Hallman took Hughes gently by the neck and schooled him on how to be a wrestler and suck in the cage. Hughes catches Hallman’s kick and starts to drive forward for a single leg, but I guess nobody told him, ‘protect ya neck,’ because he leaves it right out there. Hallman takes advantage of all that room created by the complete lack of level change and locks in an arm-in guillotine. It’s over in 17 seconds and Hughes is out cold.
In retrospect, this is pretty satisfying, but Hughes was fighting in relative anonymity and it was only his fifth fight (and third of the night), so, so the fuck what, right?
Well, when paired with Hallman vs Hughes II from UFC 29: Defense of the Belts (video here), it’s extra satisfying. It’s lagniappe satisfying. Because two years and a shit ton of fights later, Hughes is felled by his own blustering over-confidence, this time in 20 seconds, as he shoots in for a single leg and a slam. Having been slammed from a height of maybe 8 to 10 inches, I can say from experience that it hurts, but Dennis Hallman DGAF and he was a straight up angel on high when Hughes brings him down. Instead, he transitions to a fake triangle threat as a way to set up the arm bar…and Hughes slams him again, still to no avail. After Hughes steps on Hallman’s face, he topples over like a dumb tree while Hallman stays tight and finishes the arm bar.
From almost the first second of the fight, Hughes bungled nearly everything, like he was giving a very brief but pointed seminar on how brute strength and wrestling isn’t at all effective if you haven’t formulated a defense against the positions and techniques wrestling overlooks. The two fights combined create a 37-second cautionary tale, if you’re a Hughes fan. And if you’re explicitly not a Hughes fan (or, more charitably, if you’re a jiu jitsu fan), then the two fights are the MMA equivalent of Station: lovely discrete, but nothing short of divine when taken as a whole.
There’s a reason why nobody brings up a Fight of the Night earning preliminary scrap when discussing the greatest fights of the year, and that reason is because the greatest fights need to have something important behind them. A great one-minute brawl can go down at even the most obscure amateur MMA event, but the greatest one-minute fight has to have something on the line. My pick wasn’t for a world title, it wasn’t for a tournament championship, and it certainly didn’t cement the victor as one of the pound-for-pound greats. But Gerard Gordeau vs. Teila Tuli quite literally set the tone for the entire future of the UFC, in all of its bloodstained glory.
Through the hardened eyes of the modern MMA fan, Gordeau vs. Tuli isn’t much of a fight. It ended – many would argue prematurely – shortly after Gordeau landed his first (and only) kick. It was far from a technical masterpiece, but the thousands of viewers who paid for a tournament advertised as a ruthless bloodsport didn’t want it to be one. When Tuli’s tooth gets kicked into the third row, those viewers received everything that they were hoping the UFC would deliver. When the fight was called off seconds later, they booed mercilessly – not because they were frustrated by the fight, but because they wanted even more of it. Just like that, almost everybody watching the UFC was hooked on it. The rest, as they say, is history.
It’s hard to imagine how differently things would have played out for the UFC if Gordeau vs. Tuli was ten-minutes of circling, shoving, and jabbing culminating in a forfeit via exhaustion instead of a quick, decisive knockout. Would the UFC ever enter the World Fucking Domination era? For that matter, would it have even seen a second event if the audience stopped caring after a lackluster inaugural fight? It’s impossible to say for sure, but, as-is,one minute was more than enough time for the UFC to establish itself as the future of combat sports.
Gordeau vs. Tuli was everything we’d come to love about the UFC, well before we had any idea what to actually expect from it. Fights don’t get much greater than that.