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The 10 Worst Game Plans in MMA History

In honor of the revelations this week that terrible strategist Art Jimmerson has once again obtained gainful employment with Zuffa, LLC., while notorious self-saboteur Gabe Gonzaga might be done with MMA entirely, we offer this retrospective on awful game-planning throughout the short history of our sport. Some guys – like Randy Couture – are considered master tacticians, poring over tape on their opponents in order to cook up just the right recipe for success. The guys on this list? Yeah, they’re not quite on that level.

Though there are clearly scads more examples, after the jump you’ll find our ideas for the most memorable strategic fails in MMA history. Some of these dudes? We’re not sure how they ever made it to the cage in the first place. Still others are respected veterans who just don’t seem to have a knack for planning their work and working their plans. Since we’re in a good mood, both Jimmerson and Gonzaga get a pass here, though Art’s one glove stunt surely deserves a place among the worst in-ring gambits of all time. What’s the No. 1 thing to take away from this list? Well, let’s just say if you come to a fight against Couture with a crappy game plan, that old sumbitch will make you pay. Believe that, player.

10. Mark Coleman vs. Randy Couture

OK, so you’re Coleman or, for that matter, you’re world-renowned trainer Shawn Tompkins. You’re going to have a fight with Couture at UFC 109. If you win, it sort of revitalizes your career. If you lose, your career is essentially over. Knowing that your single tangible advantage in an MMA fight against the former multi-time, multi-divisional UFC champion is your amateur wrestling base, what do you do?  Answer: You try to strike with the guy.

Next stop: Dana-mandated retirement. Coleman’s performance in this fight is even more abysmal when you consider what a big deal his people made about how this was one of the first times in his career that he’d left Ohio to have a real training camp with a real coach (Tompkins) before a fight. Maybe he was better off working out by himself in his living room at the Hammer House.

9. Jorge Gurgel vs. KJ Noons

There is probably no real need to throw more dirt on Gurgel’s grave at this point, but (like Gonzaga) he’s just one of those fighters who seems to have made it his mission in life to ignore his own strengths. For all we know, Gurgel could tap a one-dimensional pug like Noons in under a minute if he’d just take him to the ground. But no. As an alternative, Gurgel would rather lose by vicious knockout. This bout is also noteworthy for the god-awful refereeing job, as the in-ring official allows Gurgel to answer the bell to the second after he was basically KOed by an illegal blow at the end of the first. Yep, pretty  much everyone fucks this one up, which makes it an easy pick for this list.

8. Tony Halme vs. Randy Couture

Couture’s MMA debut came at UFC 13 against one Tony Halme, a 300-pound former professional wrestler who is billed here as the “heavyweight boxing champion of Finland” which – you’re right — sounds made up. Like Jimmerson, Halme couldn’t possibly know what he was getting into against the future Octagon hall of famer, but nonetheless went for broke while explaining his fight strategy to the UFC cameras. “First, I’m going to try to hit him as hard as I can,” Halme said. “If I miss that one, I’ll try to head butt him. If I miss that one, I’ll rip his arms out of their sockets or his legs out of their sockets … I’ve got balls of iron and I go in there to rip the head off or die trying.”

Halme doesn’t die, per se, but he does immediately sprint across the Octagon at the opening bell, assumedly looking to implement his punch-head-butt-rip-the-arms-off game plan. Instead, the big fella finds out why it’s such a bad idea to run full-tilt into the waiting arms of a former Greco-Roman national champ. The rest of the fight goes: Double leg, pass, choke, roll credits. Total time: 56 seconds. next thing you know, a UFC star was born. Spoiler alert: It wasn’t Halme.

7. Jeremy Bullock vs. Travis Fulton

Just prior to what becomes one of the most virally famous beatdowns in MMA history, tae kwon do stylist Bullock describes his chances against Fulton in a single sentence that I’m not even going to try to punctuate: “My name is Jeremy Bullock and my style is tae kwon do and what I have to do to win is just keep my butt in a bind right there,” he says. Me? I have no idea what that means. Neither did Bullock, apparently. He comes out to the cage with “Kick Start My Heart” blasting and does some wicked jumping kicks to warm up before the bell, as Fulton noticeably limps his way down the aisle. Unfortunately, that’s about as awesome as things get to get for JB on this night. His first and only offensive move is to run across the cage and flail through the air in the general direction of Fulton’s torso. Next, Fulton takes him down. Thirty seconds later, Bullock is nearly killed with a slam.

6. Greg Stott vs. Mark Kerr

Now, you can’t always tell who’s going to win a fight based solely on physical appearance, but in the case of Greg “Ranger” Stott vs. Mark Kerr at UFC 12 well … yeah, you totally could. When one guy is a gargantuan former Division I national wrestling champion and the other is fat little jarhead who comes to fight in his khaki, military-issue ballhuggers, you don’t have to be Joey Odessa to make a favorite. Stott rolled in repping a fighting style called the Ranger Intensive Program (RIP, get it?) and declared that when he got in the Octagon he’d prove why “RIP rules and all other styles rest in peace.”

Snappy, right? Didn’t help him in the fight, though. If what we saw against Kerr is any indication, RIP was mostly based on throwing weirdo, simultaneous jumping punch-kicks until your opponent grabs you around your tiny, balding head and knocks you stiff with a single knee. Highly entertaining. Watch the video evidence of RIP totally ruling the planet, right here.

5. James Toney vs. Randy Couture

Shit, what to even say about “Lights Out” at this point? Dude  is speaking English in the above vid and still gets subtitles.  The fact that Dark Gable was even allowed in the Octagon is fucking unfathomable fewer than six months later. Still, there he was ready to unleash what he describes here as “real punches, real fighting” against Couture at UFC 118. He never got the chance, nor the chance to show off his infamous side check kick after Couture shot a low, low ankle pick and took him down. After that it was pretty much academic.

Couture flat out admitted in the postfight that he wouldn’t even try that takedown against anybody who had any clue what they were doing in there. Against, Toney though, he wasn’t worried. Oh, did we mention Toney maybe did this for free? The IRS put a lien on his paycheck. That’s a cold act, homie.

4. Aliev Makhmud vs. Kiyoshi Tamura

Though we have no idea exactly what he thinks he’s up to here, Makhmud puts on a tour de force of shitty strategy in this Pride 23 bout against Tamura. In the early-going he seems to want to shoot for a takedown, but really just succeeds in launching himself into a bunch of Tamura’s kicks. All the dancing quickly wears on him – and Bas Rutten and Mauro Ranallo, who are both at a total loss to describe the action – as Makhmud gets totally tuckered out after just a couple of minutes of utter foolishness. Luckily, he gets a good chance to rest after Tamura brutalizes his balls as both guys attempt simultaneous jumping knees a few moments later. Makhmud milks it for all it’sworth, at one point actually lying down with an ice pack behind his head in the middle of the ring.

Things don’t get really, really weird until after the eventual restart. Makhmud tries at least one flying kick before abruptly deciding he doesn’t want to fight anymore. Then he decides maybe he could fight a few more seconds. Then he changes his mind again says he’s done. For reals this time. And that, kids, is how you get a loss listed as “TKO (retirement)” on your record over at the Sherdog fight finder. We assume when they say that they simply mean he retired from this partiuclar fight, though it’s hard to tell because Makhmud never competed in MMA again.

3. David Gardner vs. Shinya Aoki

Coming into the bout at 16-10, you gotta think Gardner was already a pretty significant underdog to The Man in Tights during their Dream 7 bout. No need to go making the odds any longer with unnecessary grab-assing, right? Au contraire, motherfucker. It takes Aoki under a minute to get Gardner down and in deep trouble, though the scrappy American proves more difficult than expected to finish, lasting just over 5:30 before he looks up with Aoki on his back and suddenly realizes he’s on television. Gardner raises his right hand to wave and says, “Hello, Japan,” … though the end of the word “Japan” is cut short as Aoki takes the opportunity to choke the shit out of him.

“Oh my God, this is so dumb,” says Bas as it happens. “So dumb.” And it is. My favorite part? The Japanese hipsters in the front row laughing their asses off as Aoki secures the tap out.

2. Koji Oishi vs. Nick Diaz
In one of the most bizarre one-and-done Octagon appearances of the modern era, Oishi renders Joe Rogan damn near dumbfounded during his UFC 53 bout with Diaz. The Japanese Pancrase vet comes out of his corner with the apparent strategy to try to block Diaz’s punches by … uh … punching them. Oishi takes a sort of Patriot Missile approach to striking with the Pride of Stockton, attempting to intercept his strikes by plucking them out of midair with strikes of his own. You can imagine how that works out for him. It takes Diaz all of 1:24 to finish things via knockout.

Weird part is, Oishi’s not a bad fighter. As of today, his professional record stands at 20-8-6 and he’s currently riding a three-fight win-streak in Japan. In the bout immediately following his KO loss to Nick, he defeated Nate Diaz via unanimous decision. No clue what sort of crazy pills he was taking on this night in Atlantic City.

1. James Thompson vs. Aleksander Emelianenko

Though he’s perhaps best known for having his ear explode on national television, here at the Potato we prefer to think of Thompson as the posterboy for Gong n’ Dash offense. The Colossus may not have originated the technique of tearing pell-mell across the cage to attack your opponent at the opening bell – clearly Tony Halme and Jeremy Bullock were hep to that style long before Thompson made his MMA debut – but he certainly perfected it. One problem: This game plan is rendered ineffective when your opponent is a dead-eyed, soulless Russian killing machine.

At Pride 28, Thompson took on Aleksander Emelianenko, a three-time winner of Pride’s prestigious “Fighter Most Likely to Wake Up Next to a Dead Hooker” Award (2003-05). At first, Thompson’s G n’ D attack takes Emelianenko by surprise, probably because motherfuckers this scary looking aren’t used to people running toward them. Once he gets his wit about him (yes, singular wit, that ain’t Einstein in there) Emelianenko realizes that the answer to the riddle of James Thompson is just to stand back up and punch him in the face. Which he does. And it works.


  1. jimbonics Says:

    Sat, 11/06/10 - 08:51

    God Bless the Emelianenkos
  2. evident Says:

    Sat, 11/06/10 - 09:11

    Good list, but I was surprised to not see Kenny Florian vs. BJ Penn. Kenny basically hugged BJ against the cage for three rounds, and then got trounced in the fourth. The plan was apparently to use Kenny's terrible wrestling skills to wear out BJ's well tested wrestling defense. In a title bout no less.
  3. steampunk22 Says:

    Sat, 11/06/10 - 09:31

    Good list, good post! @evident good call, I remember watching and thinking (as has happened often in Florian fights lately)," What the fuck does he think he is doing?"
  4. Gener Says:

    Sat, 11/06/10 - 09:50

    Personal honorable mentions... Sakuraba's near death experiences trying to trade strikes with Wanderlei... Nearly all of Ken Shamrock's fights since he returned to MMA where he's done nothing but stand and trade instead of working submissions... Randy Couture ditches the clinch to trade blows with Brock Lesnar... BJ Penn tries to outbox Frankie Edgar for five failed rounds instead of using his jiu jitsu... Babalu bum rushing Chuck Liddell with punches in their rematch (I guess he didn't here the one about Chuck in the UK, backed against a wall knocking wankers out left and right while Lee Murray was feeding Tito a humble meat pie)... Tito Ortiz gets in the Octagon with Chuck Liddell...
  5. Knee Deep Says:

    Sat, 11/06/10 - 10:23

    I must admit, I lost a good chunk of time laughing when I first saw Bullock, simply "taekwondo guy" at the time, screaming and gasping like a fish after being slammed so brutally. Always felt bad for him too though. Outsized and outmatched, no game plan could have helped him.
  6. Fried Taco Says:

    Sat, 11/06/10 - 10:24

    And a recent one: Megumi Fujii vs. Zoila Frausto. Megumi, considered the best pound-for-pound female fighter, having finished nearly all of her fights via submission, decides instead of using her ground game she's going to stand and trade with Frausto, because that's the only thing Frausto knows how to do. And even though many people (and one judge) thought Megumi won the stand up battle, Frausto gets the split decision and hands Megumi her first ever loss.
  7. Sakuraba3900 Says:

    Sat, 11/06/10 - 10:32

    @ Gener Sakuraba dropped Wandy in their second fight and in my personal oppinion was wining up until he got his shoulder torn out of its socket Diaz vs Oishi takes the win in this one man... that should have been number one.
  8. SouthSideEssay Says:

    Sat, 11/06/10 - 10:35

    "clearly Tony Halme and Jeremy Bullock were *hep* to that style long before Thompson made his MMA debut" Subtle way of reminding us that Aleks has the hep? I think so...
  9. MKO Says:

    Sat, 11/06/10 - 11:09

    Should have included Rashad doing whatever the hell he was doing instead of wrestling against Lyoto.
  10. NomadRip Says:

    Sat, 11/06/10 - 11:32

    I would say Scott Morris was the originator of the G&D attack at UFC2.
  11. noname Says:

    Sat, 11/06/10 - 12:14

    Fedor jumping into Werdum's guard should be on this list.
  12. DangadaDang Says:

    Sat, 11/06/10 - 01:42

    Well obviously Seth Petruzelli studied RIP before he fought Kimbo Slice
  13. Gener Says:

    Sat, 11/06/10 - 01:53

    @Sak3900 It was actually in their first fight that he dropped Wand with a punch, but alas he took the worst beating of his prime career for the next minute and half... I agree he was doing well in their second fight - he immediately took Wand down in the opening seconds, and was trying to apply a choke when he got slammed on his clavicle. However, in the first and third fights, he was obviously trying to beat Wand at Wand's game... and paid dearly in both. Bummed me out both times. Sak's my fav.
  14. Gener Says:

    Sat, 11/06/10 - 01:54

    @noname See Fedor's fights with Big Nog....
  15. danomite Says:

    Sat, 11/06/10 - 02:26

    I laughed at pretty much every sentence in Aleks vs. Megapunk. I for one, would love to see Koji Oishi use that punch vs. punch technique versus a skilled RIP black belt. You could add Leben's strategy of blocking Anderson Silva's punches with his face too.
  16. RH1N0 Says:

    Sat, 11/06/10 - 02:50

    Sherk vs BJ Penn deserves mention too. A short wrestler with little t-rex arms deciding to box with the man who the great boxing trainer Freddie Roach said has the best hands in MMA was a pretty big failure. Jeremy Horn going in and aggressively striking Chuck Liddell was laughable too... All the guys like Jay Silva and Whisper Goodman who bum rushed Lombard either forgot they were facing an evil cuban or didn't have a plan to begin with. And Tyson Griffin deserves mention for trying to initiate a slugfest with Gomi.... LOL!
  17. Sakuraba3900 Says:

    Sat, 11/06/10 - 03:06

    fuck that KO that Gomi gave Tyson was ridiculous... im gonna go relive that right now
  18. Crackity Bones Says:

    Sat, 11/06/10 - 03:08

    BJ Penn makes no effort to take Frankie Edgar to the ground... Brock Lesnar bum rushes Cain Velasquez and gasses in twenty seconds... Frank Mir allows Shane Carwin to have his way with him in the clinch...
  19. Art Vanderley Silva Says:

    Sat, 11/06/10 - 05:20

    what about jose conseco's game plan of even being an mma fighter to begin with?
  20. ashkenaziTROLL Says:

    Sat, 11/06/10 - 05:28

    yeah, more video lists CP .. the toothless fat guy learned a lesson too .. ran in on a kickboxer and meet that niggas feet
  21. ReX13 Says:

    Sat, 11/06/10 - 07:47

    Great post, had me laughing out loud at home. Props, C$.
  22. Mofo Says:

    Sun, 11/07/10 - 08:09

    !!! GIANT ASS ALERTS !!! At 4:01 in the Couture fight, you see the ONLY time the UFC has EVER hired a ring girl with an ass on her. Man, do I wanna smack that thing. At 3:01, you see a 300 pound ass enter the ring. Man, does Randy wanna smack that thing. Seriously. 4:01. Go check out that ass. I'll wait. You back? I first watched this fight in 2000, and it's still the main example of why Randy is a genius, and more importantly of how skill beats muscle. This fight is a work of art. Hilarious writing in this post! Kudos. Or as all these web wiggaz say, props.
  23. Mofo Says:

    Sun, 11/07/10 - 08:10

    [deleting my post]
  24. RSparrow Says:

    Sun, 11/07/10 - 08:56

    Great article, props brother...well written. Some other bad game plans.. -Rampage and his monster truck -The iceman with early morning interviews -Sonnen and his needle -Leben taking the wheel -War Machine and his pen
  25. Mofo Says:

    Sun, 11/07/10 - 12:44

    Seriously, did you guys hire someone new? This is the funniest post I've seen on CP since I started milling about here about 8 months ago or whatever. I actually enjoy all CP posts, but this one is a frikkin MMA classic. "Highly entertaining." Indeed.
  26. Diaz Cartel Says:

    Sun, 11/07/10 - 10:49

    How come Kaleb Starnes' run and retreat gameplan against Nate "Rock" Quarry isn't on this list? I mean, seriously...
  27. Charming Charlie Says:

    Mon, 11/08/10 - 01:42

    Art Jimmerson is a made up name, isn't it? That's some George Costanza shit.
  28. ytrebil Says:

    Mon, 11/08/10 - 06:19

    Aliev Makhmud vs. Kiyoshi Tamura was hilarious. I liked Aliev's spinning back kick into the ropes. The way he tries to retire then he plucks up a bit more courage and continues. Then when eventually everyone takes him seriously that he has had enough, he grabs his balls. Good list! I enjoyed it.
  29. Dagnut Says:

    Mon, 11/08/10 - 07:31

    You Tony Hamle is dead right? shot himself in the face...
  30. Mofo Says:

    Mon, 11/08/10 - 07:38

    And you want to be my latex salesman...
  31. dkommel Says:

    Mon, 11/08/10 - 10:38

    I'm surprised Kalib Starnes vs Nate Quarry isn't on this list somewhere.
  32. bodysnatcher Says:

    Mon, 11/08/10 - 09:21

    spot on about leben. worst fucking plan ever.
  33. SumDumGuy Says:

    Sat, 05/21/11 - 03:45

    Every time I read this post, I laugh myself teary eyed.
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