(Photo courtesy of Fight Magazine.)
After more than ten years in the game and 36 professional fights, it’s looking like the sun may have finally set on Jens Pulver’s career. “Lil Evil” wasn’t necessarily the guy who ever dominated his division completely. In fact, in many of his fights with big name opponents – guys like Takanori Gomi, Urijah Faber, and B.J. Penn (at least the second time) – he came out on the losing end. But fans have revered Pulver not because he won every time out, but because he always fought with fury and passion, and because there was always a chance that he might come close to decapitating someone with one well-placed left hand.
With a string of recent losses his fighting days are (hopefully) behind him for good now, but that doesn’t mean we should forget what a terror he once was. As we have with other MMA warriors, sometimes prematurely, we now pay tribute to some of Pulver’s greatest moments in the cage.
Jens Pulver vs. John Lewis, UFC 28, 11/17/00
(Fight starts at 6:57. Keep watching until the 7:30 mark to hear Mike Goldberg praise "The Little Eagle.")
Lewis is primarily remembered now as the jiu-jitsu aficionado who helped get Dana White and the Fertittas interested in MMA, but his own five-year MMA career came to a violent and sudden end when he met Pulver in Atlantic City. Just fifteen seconds into the fight a Pulver left found the point of Lewis’s jaw, and that was all she wrote. Pulver would go on to win the UFC’s 155-pound title via decision against Caol Uno in his next fight, while Lewis would never fight again.
Jens Pulver vs. B.J. Penn I, UFC 35, 1/11/02
Though this one didn’t end in fireworks, and while Penn probably still thinks he was screwed on the decision. Pulver reached a career highpoint when he defended his UFC title against Penn through five tough rounds. It was his most high-profile win, and one he would continue to hold over Penn’s head when they coached opposite one another on “The Ultimate Fighter” five years later.
Jens Pulver vs. Joe Jordan, Extreme Challenge 52, 8/15/03
(For the best part of the running commentary, skip to the 1:54 mark. Some leg kicks are so nasty that all you can really say is, ‘Oh, shit! Daaaamn!’)
After leaving the UFC following his win over Penn, Pulver bounced around the MMA circuit and eventually wound up back in the Midwest, fighting in front of raucous crowd in Rock Island, Illinois against Pikeville, Kentucky’s Joe Jordan. Jordan, who has fought almost every lightweight in the world at some point, made the mistake of basically inviting Pulver to hit him with his best shot midway through the second round. Then came that brutal straight left again, and yet another opponent was plunged into a peaceful slumber.
Jens Pulver vs. Kenji Arai, Pride Bushido 10, 4/2/06
What do you get when you combine Pride rules and a hard-hitting southpaw like Pulver? A colorful mohawk and a dude who can’t wait to soccer kick you in the face. Pulver’s stint in Japan may have been marred by earlier losses to Takanori Gomi and Hayato Sakurai, but he finished strong in a brutal battle with Arai. The pace was furious and neither man looked like he was even considering round two, though it was Pulver’s punching power that eventually decided the matter.
Jens Pulver vs. Cole Escovedo, IFL Legends, 4/29/06
In MMA, there are times when a referee has to stop a bout, and then there are times when he has to save someone’s life. Herb Dean’s intervention in this fight was an instance of the latter. Pulver had Escovedo rocked early on, and a second hard left resulted in a delayed knockdown that spelled the end for Escovedo. Pulver added one extra shot just to be sure, but thankfully Herb was there to prevent permanent brain damage.
Did we forget any of your favorite "Lil Evil" moments? Let us know in the comments section.