(Since this sculpture seemed to be a major talking point…)
Minoru Suzuki was born 43 years ago.
Why he matters: One of the co-founders of Pancrase — the pre-cursor to the UFC — Suzuki was of the best Japanese submission specialists of his era. He holds wins over Ken Shamrock, Vernon White, Matt Hume and Guy Mezger and Maurice Smith. A former Olympic alternate freestyle wrestler for Japan and former Japanese freestyle wrestling national champion, Suzuki retired from MMA competition in 2002 with a record of 27-20 to focus on professional wrestling, in which he is still active today.
(Video courtesy of YouTube/MrDartzero)
Many MMA luminaries from Bas Rutten and Ken Shamrock to Josh Barnett count Suzuki as one of THE best catch wrestlers the sport has ever known.
(Video courtesy of YouTube/scientificwrestling)
Kuniyoshi Hironaka was born 34 years ago.
Why he matters: Besides a win over Nick Diaz, and a stint as the Cage Force lightweight champion, Hironaka’s claim to fame could be that he is the fighter who created Shinya Aoki‘s appetite for arm-breaking.
(Video courtesy of YouTube/dannykeat)
In a 2007 jiu-jitsu competition, Aoki caught Hironaka in an armbar, but his opponent refused to tap out. Although Aoki was much more sportsmanlike and reserved than he would be when he duplicated the feat against Mizuto Hirota at K-1 Dynamite! two years later, the incident seemed didn’t seem to bother “Tobikan Judan” in the least. Incidentally, the pair fought a year prior to the jiu-jitsu match under the Shooto banner, with Aoki winning via TKO due to cut.
(Video courtesy of YouTube/belfastbootboy)
Andrei Semenov was born 34 years ago.
Why he matters: Semenov is one of the best fighters who never really got a fair shake in the UFC. Had he been given one, he may have become a household name like Chuck Liddell or Tito Ortiz, rather than a fighter most non-hardcore MMA fans have never heard about.
(Video courtesy of YouTube/Damienhis)
His 30-9-2 record includes wins over Amar Suloev, Ricardo Almeida, Martin Kampmann and Martijn de Jong, as well as a pair of draws with Mike Pyle and Denis Kang. After winning his UFC debut against Almeida, he lost to Ivan Salaverry in his second (and last) fight in the Octagon and was dropped by Zuffa. Folowing a three-year hiatus from the sport, Semenov returned to competition in April of this year to beat Luigi Fioravanti at M-1 Chalenge in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Chris Weidman was born 27 years ago.
Why he matters: Being an undefeated fighter in MMA is like being a messageboard commenter with actual MMA credentials — it’s a rarity. A product of Matt Serra‘s gym in New York, Weidman is 6-0 in the sport and 2-0 in his UFC career. He defeated veteran Alessio Sakara by unanimous decision at UFC Live 3: Sanchez vs. Kampmann in March and followed up that impressive performance three months later in Vancouver at UFC 131 with a first-round submission win over Jesse Bongfeldt.
Bellator 22 happened one year ago.
Why it mattered: Ben Askren won Bellator’s Season 2 Welterweight Tournament by defeating veteran Dan Hornbuckle by unanimous decision at the event. He would go on to win the Bellator strap from Lyman Good in his subsequent title shot at Bellator 33.
(Video courtesy of YouTube/BellatorMMA)