(Actually, make that the “9 MMA Fights That Were Over Before They Started.”)
By Cage Potato contributor Chris Colemon
Your average Mixed Martial Artist devotes three months of his life to preparing for a fight. That’s ninety days of rigorous training and dieting; ninety days of mental preparation and time spent away from friends and family. That great sacrifice becomes worthwhile the moment the bell rings and he gets to show the world what ninety days of commitment can bring. There are few better ways of displaying your hard work than to shut down your opponent in the blink of an eye. After months of speculation, hype, and anticipation, you could say that such fights were over before they even began. You could say that, but you’d be wrong. That ignoble distinction belongs to a whole other category of fights. Fights that didn’t end with a winner and a loser. Fights that didn’t make the sacrifice of training worthwhile. Fights that were truly over before they began.
Check them out after the jump.
Matt Serra vs. Johil de Oliveira (PRIDE 9: New Blood)
(Who knew the fiery background of Oliveira’s PRIDE photo would actually predict his fate that night?)
MMA in itself is purely a sport, but every promotion walks a line somewhere between sport and entertainment; where that line is drawn is up to each organization. While some fans prefer the more straightforward, professional production values of the UFC, others long for the rich pageantry and theatrics of Pride. No matter where you stand, everyone likes a fight full of fireworks. Well, everyone other than Johil de Oliveira. A victim of Pride’s WWF-esque walkouts, de Oliveira was warming up backstage for his Pride 9 bout with Matt Serra when he stepped on part of the pyrotechnic display, setting it off like a landmine. He was rushed to the hospital with serious burns, setting a record for ‘most baked fighter’ that would stand until Pride 33. Johil would recover and fight again just six months later, though he still suffers the inability to shave frequently or sunbathe – a fate worse than death for a Brazilian.
Drew Fickett vs. Shannon Ritch (Rage in the Cage 129: Eastern Invasion)
(Ritch isn’t really an FBI agent, he just played one on TV, but it didn’t take a forensics team to figure out whehter or not Fickett was pissed.)
The bright lights, the roar of the crowd, they can be intoxicating to an MMA fighter. So can booze. Tank Abbott famously bragged about stepping off of the barstool and into the Octagon, but Fickett took that little saying to heart before his matchup against “The Cannon” at RITC 129. Cage-side physicians suspected he’d mixed some vodka with his Xenergy and administered a Breathalyzer test, which he failed miserably. Despite the fight being cancelled, Fickett lost a major battle that night.
We recently showed that even a mediocre career as a professional fighter can drastically improve your chances of laying the pipe, but did you know that the mediocre laying of pipe can affect a fighter’s career as well? Case in point, the non-existent heavyweight championship bout at UFC 24. Randleman was warming up for his bout versus Pedro Rizzo when he slipped on some pipes left lying about backstage. “The Monster” landed hard on the concrete, suffering a fight-cancelling shoulder injury and concussion and rendering “First Defense” one of the most inaccurately titled UFC events ever.
Mark Miller vs. Deray Davis (Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Rogers)
(“Where the hell is everybody? Seriously? The last episode of V? Well, let’s get this shit over with.”)
Producing a live MMA broadcast is an exercise in improvisation. With no control over the length of fights, it’s not a question of whether you’ll have to amend your schedule; it’s a matter of how well you’ll do it. Enter, Strikeforce. In the evening’s first three untelevised fights, two went to a decision with the third going deep into round two. Strikeforce execs feared that they wouldn’t have time to showcase their female bout before the start of the live broadcast, so just as Miller and Davis exited their dressing rooms and headed toward the cage they were informed that their fight would be bumped until the end of the night, following the main event. But Coenen subbed Modafferi in just over a minute, and the other undercard fight lasted only a minute and a half, leaving between thirty and forty minutes for this bout to take place. Coker & Co opted to stick with their plan for a post-title fight time slot, only they didn’t tell the commission…or the broadcast team…or the crowd. Basically, right after Fedor got his hand raised, everyone packed their shit and went home, cage and all. Miller and Davis were still paid their ‘show’ money, minus their ‘corner man fees’, naturally.
Heath Herring vs. Yoshihiro Nakao
I know what you’re thinking: Heath Herring dies his hair, enjoys fine theatre, and loves making a grand entrance in his 10-gallon hat and duster, but don’t get it twisted. He is not gay. He is not a homosexual. With a single, pre-fight punch the ‘Texas Crazy Horse’ made a clear statement that his home town of Amarillo is nowhere near the Brazos River Bottom. Nakao was knocked out in perhaps the most public unrequited NYE kiss on record. He may not have met his soul mate that night, but he did earn the awesomely enduring nickname “The Kiss”.
Joel Schott vs. Scott Marckini (Ground & Pound Promotions 9)
What can we say about this fight that hasn’t already been said. While Nakao at least got to first base for his troubles, Marckini not only got knocked out but had his piss poor flirting skills laid bare for all to see. Herring’s half-hearted slug was meant to display his displeasure, but Schott clearly went full force in hopes of knocking Marckini dead. This whole ugly scene could have easily been avoided had Schott only tuned in for Season 10 of The Ultimate Fighter. A well-timed ‘stank bref’ joke would have stung far worse than that cheap right.
Male nurse Phillipe Nover had struggled under the bright lights before. We first met the BJJ black belt in episode one of TUF 8, where he passed out during Dana’s “DYWBAFF?!?!” shtick. Nover settled his nerves and advanced to the final, but fell short of the glass plaque and wristwatch. At Fight Night 19, those jitters reared their heads once more. Leading up to his fight with Stout, Nover would pass out in his dressing room and suffer from seizures. The fight was cancelled and Nover was hurried to the hospital where he later was given a clean bill of health. Dropping his next two fights, Phillipe would return to the less stressful job of saving lives in a hospital.
Royce Gracie vs. Harold Howard (UFC 3: The American Dream)
Of all the non-bouts on this list, this one had the biggest impact on the MMA landscape at the time.
Royce won his first seven UFC fights in an average time of two minutes and was the odds-on favorite to sweep the tournament once more at UFC 3. His first round man dance with the muscle-bound Kimo was his toughest test to date, leaving him battered and exhausted as he headed into the semis to face Howard. Royce made his way to the Octagon more as a passenger aboard the Gracie Train than a man walking under his own power. The severely dehydrated Gracie stood in his corner, hanging on lifelessly to the top of the cage. Before Big John could give orders to ‘Get it on!’, the clan Gracie threw in the towel. It’s hard to say who really won this fight. It clearly wasn’t Royce. My gut says “Howard”, but then Kimo and Jo Son storm the cage, celebrating that Kimo had taken out Royce despite the loss. Howard did technically earn the unsatisfying W, but then he went on to lose to another guy who didn’t earn his way to the finals.
This is a clear example of why the UFC eventually threw in the towel on one-night tournaments.
HONORABLE MENTION: Mark Coleman vs.…Fujita:
Ok, so this one actually made it past the opening bell, but only because Fujita wanted to make that yen. Suffering from a knee injury and unable to continue in the tournament, Fujita elected to make a cameo appearance in his fight against Coleman simply to collect a check for participating in the second round. Seconds into the fight, Fujita dives for a double leg just as his corner throws in the towel, ending the bout. “The Hammer” essentially got a bye to the finals where he would take out Igor Vovchanchyn via tap out to knees to the head.
In another instance of tournament good fortune, Mark Coleman found himself without an opponent in the final match at UFC 11. This event highlighted the perils of the tournament format, with Jerry Bohlander dropping out citing head injury following his first round victory, and his replacement – alternate Scott Ferrozzo – visiting the hospital for dehydration treatment after winning his battle against Tank Abbott in the semis. Roberto Traven, winner of the night’s second alternate bout, would also incur injuries disallowing his further participation. Coleman easily defeated the empty corner across the cage that evening, but the corner would have its revenge.