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wandshogun09

2000-09 in MMA: Top 50 Fights Of The Decade

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#37 - Jason Black vs Matt Grice - UFC 77 - Oct 20th 2007

This is another one that has been pretty much completely forgotten. I think a lot of that is because it was tucked away on the prelims at a time when we never got to see prelims like we do now. These days, with Fight Pass, we have the capability to watch the entire fight card live from the very first curtain jerker to the televised prelims to the PPV main event title fight. In 2007 that wasn’t the case. If there was a corker on the prelims, the only way you were getting to see it was if all the main card fights ended quick and they had to fill time. If you were lucky it might surface online somewhere, otherwise you’d be waiting until the DVD came out months later. This fight fell into that category.

Neither man were big names in the sport, then or now. Add to that it was the very first fight on the undercard of UFC 77, which isn’t one of those shows people revisit anyway. It’s easy to see why this mostly went under the radar. I think a lot of people simply never saw it.

If UFC 77 is remembered at all, it’s as the show where Anderson Silva came to Rich Franklin’s hometown of Cincinnati and smashed him to pieces, for a second time, in front of his crying wife. That’s it. I think everyone tried to erase the Tim Sylvia vs Brandon Vera co-main from the memory the second it was mercifully over. So it’s not one to really go back and watch unless you hate Rich Franklin for some odd reason. Like I always did at the time, I avoided the spoilers and watched the main card on Bravo on the Sunday night. Then I did my usual thing of reading up on what happened up on the prelims. And I saw rave reviews for Black vs Grice. Two guys I’d never heard of at the time but it got Fight Of The Night and the Lightweights had been killing it in 2007 so I wanted to see it. I actually ended up buying the DVD when it came out, and it was mostly the intrigue of finally seeing this fight.

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Jason Black was actually a bit of a veteran. A BJJ black-belt from the Pat Miletich gym. He’d fought in Pride, King Of The Cage, SuperBrawl, HooknShoot, a bunch of different promotions. He was 23-2-1 at this time and his most high profile fight was probably his submission loss to Shinya Aoki on one of the last Pride Bushido shows. He’d made his UFC debut in June 2007 against Thiago Tavares. He got submitted in that one as well but it was a belting fight. It probably should’ve made this list actually. This was his attempt to rebound.

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Matt Grice was looking to get back in the win column. He went 9-0 at the start of his career but got submitted by Terry Etim at UFC 70, the night Cro Cop got Cro Copped by Big Gabe Gonzaga.

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Jason Black vs Matt Grice 

UFC 77: Hostile Territory 

October 20th 2007

Cincinnati, Ohio

Had to search for UFC 77 on Fight Pass to get to this. For some reason it wasn’t under the 2007 section.

One thing I’m noticing here, despite this being the first fight of the night between two relative unknowns, the arena looks mostly full. A lot of times now, if you’re watching the early prelims, it’s empty chairs everywhere.

Rogan’s bigging Black up a bit before the fight and saying he had a bad weight cut for the Tavares fight. Seems there were some high hopes for Black.

Round 1: Both wrestlers come out swinging but Grice uses Black’s momentum and throws him to the mat. Black going for subs off his back but Grice slams his way out of it. Grice with good top control and ground and pound. Black going after the Kimura now. Grice manages to stifle it and stay on top but Black keeps threatening with it as the round ends. Grice 10-9.

Round 2: They both look like they want to strike a bit now. Turns out to be a mistake for Black...

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Somehow he weathers this storm but now he’s hurt, bleeding from the eye and Grice is on top of him again. Grice keeps dishing out the punishment while Black tries desperately to find an opening for a submission or sweep. He’s taking a hammering here. But right when I say that...

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This could be some Anderson Silva vs Chael Sonnen 1 shit. Grice even sits back to counter it like Chael did. Grice isn’t tapping though. Black doesn’t have the triangle anymore but he’s still got Grice’s head trapped and is just elbowing the fuck out of him. Now he’s got a triangle/armbar combo!

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“Grice is gonna get his shoulder ripped apart if he doesn’t tap here.” - Joe Rogan

Now Black’s got him in a mounted triangle and is dropping punch after punch on him. The ref looks just about ready to stop it when the round ends. Black 10-9. What a round and what a turnaround for Jason Black.

They both look done when the round is over. Grice can barely get up and Black is stumbling and has to be helped to his stool.

Round 3: Amazingly, after looking like Balboa and Creed in the 15th round in the first Rocky, these two look rejuvenated now and they both come out aggressively. Grice with a takedown and ground and pound. And that’s the story of much of this round. Black looks spent but he’s still throwing up the legs looking for a triangle. What a pair of tough bastards. Black just can’t get from under him and Grice is smashing him in the last 10 seconds. Definitely a Grice 10-8 for me that.

Winner - Matt Grice by split decision.

At first it’s declared a split draw but the scores got ballsed up and it was announced to the crowd later that Grice had won a split decision. Don’t really get how the one judge had it for Black myself but it was a hell of a fight all the same. The last round was just Grice dominating but the fight as a whole is tremendous.

Of course, Grice went on to have an even better fight in 2013 with Dennis Bermudez. I reviewed that in the 2010-19 thread. That was Grice’s last fight. He nearly died and was left with brain damage from a car crash in late 2013. Ended his career and by all accounts he’s lucky to be alive.

This fight with Grice turned out to be Jason Black’s farewell. He was 35 at the time and he took a beating for most of this from a younger man. You can see why he’d had enough. Shame though. I’d have liked to have seen a 25 year old version of Black in that 155 pool of talent in 2007. He could’ve had some killer fights with Roger Huerta, Tyson Griffin and Clay Guida back then if he had less miles on him.

Edited by wandshogun09

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dont recall that one, Grice/Bermudez was a classic though.

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It really is a bit of a lost fight. Hardly anyone seems to remember it.

Grice had some crackers over the years. The fact he’s made both my lists, spanning two decades, says it all considering he spent pretty much his entire career on the prelims. The Bermudez fight was his best, no doubt. This fight with Jason Black is well worth checking out. And I vaguely recall a mad one rounder Grice had on a UFC undercard with someone else who’s name is escaping me now. He was ace.

Edit - the one round brawl was against Matt Veach in 2009. Had to check it would’ve irritated me. 

Edited by wandshogun09

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#36 - Mirko Cro Cop vs Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira - Pride Final Conflict - Nov 9th 2003

I’ll say it right now, Big Nog is going to pop up a lot in this thread. Everyone remembers Nog as this loveable bloke, and rightly so. But it shouldn’t be forgotten that he’s also one of the greatest Heavyweights in MMA history, one of the best submission artists in MMA history and he might just be the most consistently entertaining fighter in Heavyweight MMA history. I can’t think of a Heavy who’s had as many awesome fights as old Noggles. And yes, I have heard of Mark Hunt. Nog’s probably had even more fights I’ve loved than Hunt has though.

Bit of backstory on Nogueira and then I’ll crack on.

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The Nogueira twins were born in 1976. They were both into sports at an early age and took up Judo at 4 years old. When he was 11, during a family party, Rodrigo was hit by a truck while he was playing outside with his brother. The truck reversed almost completely over his body.

His family’s memories of that day...

“He kept trying to stand up and he would fall down again. So much blood. In a couple of seconds, he passed out.” - Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (brother)

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“Rodrigo was such a strong kid, even though the truck ran over him, he didn’t break any bones in his body. But his ribs punctured his lung and his liver. They had to open up his body. He was caught between life and death.” - Antonio Nogueira (father)

It’s amazing that he survived. His list of injuries makes for pretty grim reading. He was in a coma for 4 days, punctured his liver, crushed his kidneys, torn Achilles’ tendon, and he also lost a big chunk from the muscles in his back, which is why he always had that big dent/hole thing in his back throughout his career.

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“They had to open him up four more times to pull out these tumours that were being created in his body. He was going through hell. The doctors at the hospital really did not think that he was going to make it.” - Antonio Nogueira (father)

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“I remember the day I woke up. I felt pain everywhere. I’ve got about 20 stitches on my stomach, about 30 in my neck, 20 on my back. My legs, about 50. To start to walk again, to have a normal life, took one year. Nothing compares to when you are in a coma and you hear voices and think you are dying. Then you come out of the coma and hear more voices saying you will not walk, not play sports, not be normal. All the time your mind is fighting back saying you will be strong, you will fight. I think I’ve been fighting ever since.” - Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira

He eventually got back into martial arts and found it was good physical therapy to get his body working properly again after all the injuries. Throughout his teens he trained more and more in Judo, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Boxing.

He made his MMA debut in 1999, at the age of 23 and won his first 6 fights before dropping a split decision to Dan Henderson in the semi finals of the RINGS King Of Kings Tournament. He won the next RINGS Tournament and by the summer of 2001, he was making his Pride debut.

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Nogueira won his first 8 fights in Pride and had victories over the likes of Gary Goodridge, Mark Coleman, Enson Inoue, Bob Sapp, Semmy Schilt and he avenged the loss to Hendo. He was also Pride’s first Heavyweight champion, beating Heath Herring for the vacant strap in 2001.

He ran into Fedor in March 2003 and that was that. His championship belt gone and it was also the first time he’d been decisively beaten. He bounced back with a decision win (albeit a questionable one) over Ricco Rodriguez in August 2003. The champ Fedor was out with a hand injury for the second half of the year so Pride created an interim title match between the 2 top contenders for the Final Conflict show in November. They were Nogueira and the terrifying Croatian KO machine Mirko Cro Cop. The winner would face Fedor at a later date.

Anyway, I’m dragging this out...

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Mirko Cro Cop vs Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira - Interim Heavyweight Title 

Pride Final Conflict 2003

November 9th 2003

Tokyo, Japan

Pride certainly had a unique poster game.

We’re at the Tokyo Dome for this one. And in keeping with the ‘conflict’ theme of the event, Bas is all decked out in camo in the show opening. But he’s caught off guard and taken down and spanked by Randy Couture...

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Who needs Pornhub?

Nearly 70,000 people were in attendance to see a card featuring the likes of Kazushi Sakuraba, Wanderlei Silva, Rampage Jackson, Chuck Liddell, Dan Henderson and Olympic gold medalist Hidehiko Yoshida. Even Dana White was there...

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...in his days of still clinging onto what remained of his receder. His hairline in 2003 was higher than Nick Diaz at a post-fight piss test.

But even on a card full of names like that, Big Nog vs Cro Cop was big boy shit. It can’t be overstated what a monster of a fight this was at the time. Pride was where it was at as far as Heavyweight MMA went in the early-mid 2000s. Don’t let the UFC/Zuffa revisionists like Rogan fool you. As fun as Andrei Arlovski was to watch in his prime, Pride had the strongest pool of Heavies and Big Nog and Cro Cop were the consensus #2 and #3 behind Fedor. This fight would determine who was #2 at the time.

Seriously, anyone comparing the UFC Heavyweight division to this mustn’t have been watching at the time. This fight, as an interim title fight, pissed all over anything the UFC Heavies had going on at the time. Nog was the former champ, BJJ black-belt and 20-2-1 with 15 finishes. Cro Cop was this Kickboxing cyborg who was kicking peoples heads off and was unbeaten so far in MMA. He was only 9 fights into his MMA career but already he’d battered Igor Vovchanchyn, Heath Herring, Kazushi Sakuraba and Kazuyuki Fujita twice. Nog was 27, Cro Cop was 29. This was two absolute killers in their physical prime, squaring off just for a CHANCE to go against the champion. Over in the UFC, Tim Sylvia was the champ and had just defended his belt against Gan McGee. Fucking Gan McGee. You also had Frank Mir feuding with Wes Sims and Kimo was still knocking about. Yeah, Pride had some shite as well but from 2003-06, you weren’t fucking with that mid-top level of Fedor, Big Nog, Cro Cop, Sergei, Barnett, Aleks, Werdum, Hunt etc. Put any of them in the UFC’s division in 2004-06 and they’re probably your new champ or at least close.

Sorry, on with the fight.

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“When Mirko Cro Cop fights, I’m always a little nervous. Something REALLY BAD can happen.” - Bas Rutten

Fuck sake, I forgot Damon ‘The Dog’ Perry commentated on the 2003 GP. Headkick me, Mirko.

Round 1: Nog’s moving well. Already, it’s such a difference seeing him like this compared to his last few years in the UFC when he was barely mobile with worse hips than your Nan. But Cro Cop’s stalking him. And whenever Cro Cop was on the front foot he was lethal. Nog pulls guard but Mirko manages to stay out of danger and lands a few shots. Not a lot happening here but it’s impressive how Cro Cop is able to stay out of trouble in Nog’s guard considering he’d only made the full-time switch to MMA a year or so earlier. Mirko has had enough and gets back to his feet. And now Nog’s not having fun. Cro Cop is blasting away with the kicks to the body and he’s getting that left hand going as well. Nogueira is getting nowhere near with his takedowns now. It’s not looking good for him and Mirko is starting to bust him up now.

The usually quiet Japanese crowd is getting louder now. They sense this one’s about to end brutally. Nog’s got no answers. He’s got decent Boxing but he can’t match Mirko strike for strike. And every time he shoots in or tries to clinch, Mirko sprawls or shrugs him off with ease.

“Yeah, I don’t see Nogueira taking Cro Cop down anymore.” - Bas Rutten

Really impressive stuff from the Croatian Sensation. Some sickening sounding kicks to the ribs now. Nog’s tough as fuck and he’s somehow not even backing up when they land, but you sense that even he can’t withstand much more of this assault. Then it happens. Cro Cop lands the big left high kick of death...

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But it connects right at the end of the round and the bell rings just as Nog hits the deck. Nog was lucky it was the foot that landed and not the shin or they’d be scraping his remains up with a dustpan right about now. He still got dinged big time there but was saved by the bell.

Nog looks fucked on the stool between rounds. Looks like he’s about ready to vomit his ballbag into the spit bucket. All those body kicks really did a number on him.

Round 2: Nog comes out more aggressive right off the bat now. He doesn’t want anymore of those kicks so he closes the distance quickly and manages to surprise Cro Cop with a takedown. Mirko is on his back for the first time in the fight. Nog’s got the mount! Cro Cop looks panicky, Nogueira with punches, Cro Cop tries to buck out of it...

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And Nog’s on his arm like lightning. Mirko taps! It’s over!

Winner - Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira by submission. Round 2 - 1:45.

Unbelievable comeback. That Japanese woman is crying tears of joy again at ringside...

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I read years ago that she was some model in Japan. She bloody loved a bit of Nog, didn’t she? Seemed like pretty much every time he had a big win, they’d immediately cut to her crying her heart out.

She looks almost as emotional as Fedor...

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Fedor vs Nog 2 didn’t happen right away though. They both ended up in the 2004 Heavyweight Grand Prix Tournament, and met in the finals only for it to end on a cut. Of course, Fedor won the series in the end, dominating Nogueira on the New Years show at the end of 2004. But Nog solidified himself again with this win over Cro Cop. Not only was it a hell of a comeback that once again showed what an insanely tough bastard he was, it was also a win over prime Mirko Cro Cop. The man many considered the scariest Heavyweight in the game back then and the closest thing MMA has ever had to a real life Ivan Drago.

This is quite a photo...

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Nogueira celebrating what might’ve been the best win of his career at the time, and a dejected Cro Cop leaving the ring.

It’s kind of surprising they were never booked to face off again when they were both in the UFC years later. I remember talk of it around 2011 when the UFC came back to Brazil but that ended up being the show Nog made Brendan Schaub do the Flair Flop and I wouldn’t swap that for anything. I’m actually glad the rematch didn’t happen in the UFC. By that point they were both far past their best. If Nog vs Cro Cop 2 was ever going to happen, the 2004 GP was the time but Kevin Randleman sparking Mirko put paid to that. It could’ve been the finals of the 2006 GP as well if Nog got the decision over Josh Barnett. I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.

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Two of the best ever. 

Edited by wandshogun09

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1 hour ago, wandshogun09 said:

Fuck sake, I forgot Damon ‘The Dog’ Perry commentated on the 2003 GP. Headkick me, Mirko.

Perry was also on commentary for the Shockwave show that followed the 2003 GP. I only found that out recently. Shockwave 2003 is one of the few shows Pride hosted between 2003 and 2006 that I have never been bothered to watch in full. 

Jerry Millen was the man responsible for Perry's hiring. Millen replaced Michael Braverman as Pride's US producer in early 2003. Subsequent to his appointment, Millen made the decision to stop using Quadros. He phoned Quadros to inform him that Pride were going to "try another commentator". That commentator turned out to be Damon Perry - a friend of Millen's from his home state of Michigan.

Perry was a disc jockey, who talked a lot, but said little of substance. MMA fans voiced their displeasure of his presence on message boards, and even Rutten, who liked Perry on a personal level, later voiced that Perry didn't really understand the sport. Pride's bigwigs thankfully agreed that Perry was out of his depth, and asked Rutten to recommend somebody else for the role of co-commentator. Rutten recommended Mauro Ranallo and the rest is history. Ranallo replaced Perry from early 2004 onward. Millen, being the petty prick that he is, proceeded to treat Ranallo like dirt. 

Ranallo, Rutten, and I presume Qaudros all loathe Millen to this day. 

Edited by jimufctna24

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“HE’S WEARIN’ A GI!” Fuck me Perry was bloody awful. Doesn’t surprise me he was mates with that bellend Millen.

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#35 - Nick Diaz vs Robbie Lawler - UFC 47 - Apr 2nd 2004

Righty then. This sounds like a massive fight now, and it is. But back in 2004, these two were really just prospects. Lawler had just turned 22 at the time of this fight and Diaz was only 20. Lawler was the one who had more of a rep going in. He was 8-1 and had already had 5 fights in the UFC. He was coming out of the Pat Miletich team as well and they were one of the top camps back then so that gave him instant credibility. All that added to his wild and fan friendly style. He quickly became a must-see fighter.

Less was known about Nick Diaz. He was 8-2 but had only had one UFC fight. Looking back, Diaz had a funny old start to his career. He debuted the same month he turned 18, and within his first 10 fights he’d already completed a trilogy with Jeremy Jackson, fought in Shooto in Japan, fought in WEC and won a belt there and he beat Chris Lytle in just his second pro fight, which is mega impressive. Especially as Lytle had 20 fights under his belt already by then. Quite a start.

Going into this Lawler fight, all anyone really knew of Diaz was that he was a Cesar Gracie student and known as more of a BJJ guy. The thinking was if KO artist Lawler could keep it on the feet, it was his fight to lose. But Diaz was talking a good game in the pre-fight video...

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“He’s a tough guy, he’s real strong. You gotta watch out because he’s coming with hard punches and he’s got knockout power. But...I think he looks a little sloppy. I think he thinks he’s a little better than he is.” - Nick Diaz

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Nick Diaz vs Robbie Lawler 

UFC 47: It’s On! 

April 2nd 2004

Las Vegas, Nevada

This was a huge card for the time. The Tito and Chuck thing had dragged on so long so for them to finally be facing off was massive. Lawler and Diaz getting on the main card of this PPV was big for them.

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Before Diaz can even get in the cage, Rogan and Goldberg are sounding like they think he’s a lamb to the slaughter here. They’re trying to talk Diaz up but you can tell what this is meant to be. They sound a lot more enthusiastic when Lawler is walking out.

Round 1: Immediately you can tell this is going to be something a bit different when Diaz comes right across the Octagon with a fucking hopping side kick.

“You know, the word from Cesar Gracie’s camp is that Nick Diaz has some really great strikes, that he’s much improved.” - Joe Rogan

We’re only 20 seconds in and Diaz is taunting him already. Sticking his chin out, hands down, talking shit, the lot. Lawler looks a bit perplexed. Lawler goes at him and Diaz counters with a right hook that knocks him off balance. They both start swinging and Lawler’s tagging him.

“Does Diaz really wanna mess with fire here? Does he really wanna go toe-to-toe with Robbie Lawler?” - Mike Goldberg

Yes, Mike, he clearly does. Diaz is just walking Lawler down now. It’s not so crazy looking at this now, with the benefit of the 16 years since and knowing how nuts Diaz is. But back then? Bit of a mindfuck. Diaz had never fought like this before and you certainly wouldn’t expect him to adopt this style against Robbie Lawler of all people. Shit like this...

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Madness. For those keeping score, he slapped Lawler, then rocked him, and then talked shit when Lawler returned fire.

They clinch and Diaz with shoulder strikes now. Ha, fuck you McGregor. Nick Diaz was doing that shit when you were still at school. Now Diaz is doing some weird jazz hands thing and stomping his foot. This is surreal. Lawler’s had enough. He’s had enough of this shenanigans.

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Both connecting more now. This is awesome to watch. Diaz with some ridiculously slow Karate kicks now. He’s full on taking the piss and it seems to have thrown Lawler right off.

Round 2: Again, Diaz right away takes the centre of the cage. It’s genius strategy really because putting Robbie on the backfoot goes against everything he’s about and he doesn’t like it. Right when I say that, Lawler waffles him! Lawler comes at him again. He wants this over with. He lunges at Diaz with punches and...

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Diaz plants one square on the chin and Lawler faceplants. He tries to get up and his face looks confused and like he wants to continue, but his legs have already tapped out. It’s done. 

Winner - Nick Diaz by knockout. Round 2 - 1:31.

We see a young Nate in the cage as Lawler goes over to congratulate Diaz. They hug it out, which was cool to see after all the taunting and shit talking.

“Nick Diaz has outstruck the striker! I have chills. Because if Nick Diaz was going to win, no-one imagined it would be in this fashion.” - Mike Goldberg

Watching this fight and how good it was, and knowing they were so young, you’d have bet a bollock they’d meet again down the road somewhere. It’s crazy to me that they never had a rematch. They were in EliteXC at the same time, they were in Strikeforce at the same time, then even as recently as 2016/17, there was talk of Lawler vs Diaz 2 when Lawler was on that run of mad slobberknockers. I’m sure at one point Dana said they offered Diaz a fight with Lawler. But Diaz seemed about done with fighting even back then. And if you’re not 100% committed to the game, the last place you want to be is locked in a cage with this nutter.

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The ship has well and truly sailed now. It’s a shame the rematch never happened. Or is it? When I watched that interview Ariel Helwani did with Diaz a few months back, where Diaz rambled on for 40 minutes and made no sense, he really seemed like all those wars over the years have taken their toll. He’s only 36 years old but he talks like an old boxer who’s had 100 fights. Another war with Ruthless Rob wouldn’t have helped matters. 

Edited by wandshogun09

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#34 - Forrest Griffin vs Stephan Bonnar 1 - The Ultimate Fighter 1 Finale - Apr 9th 2005

An obvious one here. It’s almost a cliche now but I had to include it. I know a few on here have said this fight is overrated and I get that in the sense that, if this was a UFC list, this fight would most likely be the nailed on #1. They bum it furiously. I understand why, it was a big turning point for the UFC as a company. But purely as a fight, I can’t have it that high when there are so many fights I like better. It’s still a cracker though and more than worthy of a spot in anyone’s Top 50.

I won’t bother going into a load of backstory for this. The story of TUF 1 has been told to death now. If you somehow don’t know about it, watch basically any UFC documentary on the history of the company and you’ll hear Dana, Lorenzo Fertitta, Joe Rogan and that lot jizzing themselves dry over it.

TUF 1 was class though. People who got into MMA much later when TUF was getting old might not appreciate just how fresh and interesting the show was when it first hit the screens back in 2005. Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell as coaches wasn’t a laugh a minute but they were the perfect choice to represent the sport to a brand new audience. Then you had stuff like drunk Chris Leben, Jason Thacker being dubbed ‘Strangebrew’ on the first night, the whole ‘Fatherless Bastard’ episode with Leben vs Koscheck and Southworth, drunk Diego Sanchez being told the aliens were coming for him and freaking out. Just a fun show to watch. Oh and Sam Hoger being nicknamed ‘Sausage Tits’ never fails to make me chuckle. Sausage Tits!

Griffin and Bonnar weren’t involved so much in all the drunken mayhem at the house. All I really recall of Bonnar was the argument he had with Diego over asparagus where he told Diego he might be his Dad.

They both made it to the finals. Griffin repping Team Liddell, Bonnar with Team Couture. Griffin was 9-2 and had faced Dan Severn in his MMA debut! He lost that one but did have wins over Chael Sonnen, Jeff Monson and Travis Fulton (the man who’s had more fights than the whole UKFF has had Chippy Teas combined. Seriously, if you don’t know, look him up). Bonnar at this time was 7-1 and had wins over Terry Martin and Brian Ebersole.

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Forrest Griffin vs Stephan Bonnar

The Ultimate Fighter 1 Finale 

April 9th 2005

Las Vegas, Nevada

This is weird. Forrest Griffin is coming out to Vampiro’s Insane Clown Posse entrance song from WCW. Forrest could’ve at least painted his face and done a proper tribute.

Round 1: Wasting zero time here. They were both saying in the pre-fight video that they’re both down for a brawl and they’re already delivering on that promise. Every exchange is just flurries of punches and not much in the way of defence, which makes for exciting viewing.

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The crowd is starting to come unglued now and we’re only about halfway through the first round. Forrest has him rocked, chases him across the cage and clubs him with what I can only describe as a bit of a Lariat. Clinch battle and they’re teeing off with punches and knees. Bonnar cracks him and Forrest backs up. Bonnar starting to land more now.

“I would hate to have to score this fight!” - Joe Rogan

I was just thinking the exact same thing. Every time one starts to pull ahead the other guy unleashes a flurry. Forrest gets a takedown and takes the back. He’s going for an armbar as the buzzer goes. Great round. I think Forrest nicked it with the grappling at the end there so Griffin 10-9.

Standing ovation from everyone between rounds, including Dana White, Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture. Hyperbole Rogan then goes and spoils it by comparing it to the first round of Marvin Hagler vs Tommy Hearns. Nah. Sorry Joseph. Just...no.

Round 2: Straight back at it and now Bonnar’s going after him like he caught him in bed with his Mrs or something. Forrest takes him down but somewhere in the chaos his nose got smashed. He’s covered in blood. After a brief check from the doctor, they’re back to business. The business of trying to take each others’ head off.

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Bonnar is throwing big shots. Now Forrest with knees from the Thai clinch. Back and forth the whole way. Forrest looks knackered now and Bonnar absolutely clobbers him with a big knee. Forrest’s clinching to try to survive but gets kneed in the gob again. Both throwing with reckless abandon in the last minute but Bonnar’s getting the better of it now. Bonnar 10-9. So it all comes down to the final round.

I don’t think Chuck’s sat down since the opening bell. He’s fucking loving this.

Round 3: Both look like they’re feeling the effects of this battle now. Slower pace the first couple of minutes. But then Bonnar opens up and starts connecting with a series of punches. Now Forrest coming back and he’s starting to outwork Bonnar as the round goes on. Bonnar with a spinning wheel kick in the last 30 seconds but it doesn’t land clean.

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Just emptying the tank now as the end approaches. Time runs out. It’s over. They have a respectful bloody embrace. Dana’s beaming from ear to ear.

Lots of talk about a fourth overtime round if it’s a draw but it’s not needed.

Winner - Forrest Griffin by unanimous decision.

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Bonnar falls down, half jokingly but I daresay he was probably legitimately struggling to stand after that fight. But he perks up when Buffer announces that both men will be getting six-figure UFC contracts.

Bags of fun. I haven’t watched it in forever. I think all the historical banging on about this as the BEST FIGHT EVER made me sick of it for the longest time. But watching it back now after years of not seeing it, I really fucking enjoyed it.

They fought again a little over year later in August 2006 at UFC 62.

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Griffin won another unanimous decision. It was alright. Not a patch on the first one though and it was soured more when Bonnar got popped for steroids in the post-fight drug test.

That first fight is iconic though. I still think that when giving props for making the UFC what it became, Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock don’t get nearly the credit they deserve. Yeah, TUF 1 and Griffin vs Bonnar turned the company around at a crucial time. But if it wasn’t for the Tito vs Ken rivalry keeping Zuffa afloat a few years earlier when the Fertittas were haemorrhaging money and ready to pull the plug, the UFC wouldn’t have even made it to 2005 and Griffin vs Bonnar wouldn’t have happened. Still, it’s a huge part of MMA history. It wasn’t my favourite MMA brawl ever but it’s definitely up there.

The fight even has its own merchandise, for fuck’s sake;

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Here’s Griffin and Bonnar talking about TUF 1 and the fight...

Griffin;

And Bonnar;

Good shit. It’s always going to be held up on a pedestal and overrated to some degree but when you have a fight that both delivers in the cage and has a huge impact on the growth of the sport, that’s always going to be the case.

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“So you wanna be an Ultimate Fighter?”

Edited by wandshogun09

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19 hours ago, wandshogun09 said:

.

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Mirko Cro Cop vs Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira - Interim Heavyweight Title 

Pride Final Conflict 2003

November 9th 2003

Tokyo, Japan
Pride certainly had a unique poster game.

Just catching up on this thread (all fucking gold as always, wand - I say again: you really should put all these on a blog or something).

The poster's very Japanese - it's a lotus, which is big in Japanese religion/spirituality, because it's one of the central symbols of Buddhism. The tag line reads "Of the strongest, there is only one" - the "only one" bit directly translates as "one wheel/circle" as it's a reference to the centre of the lotus. Basically saying "all these strongest guys are petals in the lotus, but only one can be the whole/centre of the lotus".

19 hours ago, wandshogun09 said:

Unbelievable comeback. That Japanese woman is crying tears of joy again at ringside...

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I read years ago that she was some model in Japan. She bloody loved a bit of Nog, didn’t she? Seemed like pretty much every time he had a big win, they’d immediately cut to her crying her heart out.

She looks almost as emotional as Fedor...

Norika Fujiwara - one of my "hottest ever" list, and one of Japan's biggest stars for years. Not just a model, she was an actress as well.

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Cheers for the info @Carbomb 👍

I got a different name on the Japanese Big Nog fangirl though. I got Eiko Koike? Apparently she’s an actress as well. 

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She married pro wrestler Wataru Sakata in 2007. I definitely think she played around in Nog’s guard at some point before that though.

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Ha, so weird - she looks a lot like Fujiwara. Still fit as fuck though. Lucky Sakata.

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1 hour ago, wandshogun09 said:

An obvious one here. It’s almost a cliche now but I had to include it. I know a few on here have said this fight is overrated and I get that in the sense that, if this was a UFC list, this fight would most likely be the nailed on #1. They bum it furiously. I understand why, it was a big turning point for the UFC as a company. But purely as a fight, I can’t have it that high when there are so many fights I like better. It’s still a cracker though and more than worthy of a spot in anyone’s Top 50.

100% agreed. 

The importance of the fight isn't overrated. It played a significant role in the sport's growth in the US. However, the fight itself is overrated. It wasn't even the fight of the month. Hughes vs Trigg 2 at UFC 52 was better in my opinion. 

1 hour ago, wandshogun09 said:

I still think that when giving props for making the UFC what it became, Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock don’t get nearly the credit they deserve. Yeah, TUF 1 and Griffin vs Bonnar turned the company around at a crucial time. But if it wasn’t for the Tito vs Ken rivalry keeping Zuffa afloat a few years earlier when the Fertittas were haemorrhaging money and ready to pull the plug, the UFC wouldn’t have even made it to 2005 and Griffin vs Bonnar wouldn’t have happened.

TUF 3 was also a huge ratings success in 2006. This came after viewing figures for TUF 2 had collapsed as the season progressed. 

The TUF 3 finale and the 3rd Ortiz vs Shamrock fight also drew record ratings on Spike TV. 

Edited by jimufctna24

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I've never been a big fan of Griffin or Bonnar, particularly Bonnar, but its an exciting fight to watch. And I think that is the most important part on why its heralded, it didn't have the "boring" ground attacks, it was big punches being thrown with aggression. For someone just casually watching that was what grabbed their attention and got them into it. I don't think the fight goes beyond that in terms of technical skill and certainly not the kind of MMA chess that goes on in some fights where they adapt and figure out how to beat the opponent.

While the influx of these new fans were vital for the UFC, it certainly also brought a lot of the "just let me bang bro/just bleed" fans that still exist to this day. But without them we'd have no UFC, so what can you do.

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2-D7-EDD8-F-0-C4-C-4250-8015-1-BD0-A3603

#33 - Fedor Emelianenko vs Mirko Cro Cop - Pride Final Conflict - Aug 28th 2005

This was a biggie. When it comes to finding out who the #1 Heavyweight fighter in MMA is, this fight was just about as close as you could get at the time to a real concrete answer. As formidable as Arlovski and Sylvia were in the UFC around this time, that triangle of Fedor, Cro Cop and Nogueira in Pride were the cream of the crop. All 3 were in or close to their career best. There wasn’t another Heavyweight in MMA who was as skilled a pure striker as Cro Cop at the time. Same on the grappling side with Big Nog. And Fedor had enough of both sides covered to stand at the top of the mountain. But the 3 Way Dance in Pride wasn’t complete. Fedor had beaten Nogueira twice at this point. And Nogueira had submitted Cro Cop as I covered earlier in the thread. But Fedor and Cro Cop were yet to meet. It was the ultimate dream match of two of Pride’s top stars that hadn’t come nose-to-nose yet. And again, both were still in their prime. Fedor was 28, Mirko was 30, and they’d both been tearing through the competition.

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Fedor was technically undefeated. He had a record of 22-1-1 but the blemishes weren’t down to anyone getting the better of him in the ring. The loss was back in 2000 to Tsuyoshi Kohsaka in RINGS. But the fight ended in 17 seconds when Fedor got cut and it was stopped. And with it being a tournament and them needing a winner, it went down as a TKO win for Kohsaka so he could advance to the next round. Fedor avenged the loss in 2005, just before this fight with Mirko, and put a right beating on poor old TK. Then there was the No Contest with Nog in the finals of the 2004 GP, again due to a cut. And again, he smashed Nog the next time they fought. So he’d never actually been legitimately beaten. The Arona decision has been questioned over the years but I don’t think I’ve ever seen it myself.

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Cro Cop had bounced back big time after the loss to Nogueira in late 2003. He’d fought 10 times and gone 9-1 with 8 finishes. The only hiccup being the shock stoppage loss to Kevin Randleman, which he got revenge for in the rematch. Maybe the most notable win during that stretch came in August 2004 against Aleksander Emelianenko. Fedor’s ‘little’ brother.

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As you can see there, Mirko fucked Aleks up.

He had a few more wins after that and had respectfully called out Fedor after a couple of them. In the Summer of 2005, it was finally time.

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Fedor Emelianenko (c) vs Mirko Cro Cop - Heavyweight Title 

Pride Final Conflict 2005

August 28th 2005

Saitama, Japan

A crowd of around 47,000 came to watch this. The Grand Prix Finals had already become a huge event over the previous few years and the emergence of a young Shogun had taken this one by storm. But the long awaited mega clash of Fedor vs Cro Cop even eclipsed that. This was massive.

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Always loved the presentation of Pride’s events. It’s the one thing I think is missing from the UFC to this day. The UFC shows look slick but, in terms of how the shows look on TV, there’s nothing really to distinguish their really big events from their bog standard Fight Nights. Pride’s biggest shows had a different feel to them. Then there was the Bushido series which was its own thing with a different canvas, entrance set-up, music and so on. I guess it’s the pro wrestling fan in me coming out but I liked that stuff.

On with the fight and even now, 15 years after the fact and with me already knowing how this fight goes, I’m getting goosebumps watching the staredown.

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Round 1: Right away Fedor’s walking him down and that’s not good for Cro Cop because he’s never been as effective on the backfoot. Neither landing anything too meaningful early on but Fedor is constantly pressing the action and throwing power shots and it’s keeping Mirko from coming forward. Cro Cop whips in a hard body kick, that sounded nasty, but Fedor won’t fuck off and gets him on the retreat again. Mirko narrowly misses the headkick and Fedor goes flying through the ropes.

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Get the fuck out, chubby.

Cro Cop seems to be loosening up now. He’s kicking more and landing some decent left hands. When Fedor fires back it’s not with the same technique but his hands are heavy and Mirko’s having to be careful about when he opens up. He’s choosing his attacks wisely though and he’s got Fedor wobbly now...

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He’s on jelly legs for a few seconds and the crowd goes mad but he recovers well. Fedor was no stranger to coming back from shaky moments in fights, as he’d shown against Fujita and Randleman.

Fedor finally gets him down for the first time. He’s cut from that exchange on the feet though. Seriously, a stiff wind would’ve marked Fedor’s face up. Fedor’s on top now and it’s interesting that Mauro Ranallo is talking about Mirko’s Jiu-Jitsu training with Fabricio Werdum. Who’d have ever guessed at this time that it would actually be Werdum who would end Fedor’s reign of terror? Cro Cop showing solid defence off his back here, especially considering he was still relatively new to the grappling side of the game. But Fedor’s able to control him and land occasional meaty punches. That’s the story of the last few minutes of the round.

Good stuff. For a 10 minute round, that flew by. It was nearly all standup and, in that area, it was very evenly matched. If anything I’d say Mirko might’ve edged the striking but it was near 50/50. But Fedor’s spell of success with the top control gave him the round overall for me. Doesn’t matter anyway as Pride didn’t score round-by-round.

Round 2: Fedor’s taking it to him right away here. He’s all over him.

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But Mirko back with another brutal body kick. He just can’t find the target to land that left high kick clean though. He looks like he’s starting to feel the pace and Fedor’s constantly stalking him. Fedor takes him down with a nifty trip from the clinch and starts going to work again from the guard. Cro Cop does a nice job of avoiding any serious damage and keeps Fedor from passing guard, which is impressive. But it’s clear this is Fedor’s game. And that’s another round in the books.

Round 3: To look at both mens’ physiques you wouldn’t think so, but Fedor just seems to be in better condition here. Mirko has looked more tired and less of a threat at the start of each round. Fedor lands some punches then gets another takedown. Bad news for Cro Cop because there’s still about 4 minutes left of the round. All Mirko can do here is defend and survive. He has no real answer for Fedor’s top game. But the ref then stands them up and gives Fedor a yellow card for inactivity. Total bollocks stand up that was. Fedor only had him down about a minute and he was working. But I guess Pride wanted the fight to end with some fireworks. Fedor’s not playing ball though and just immediately hits another trip takedown. You don’t get to tell Fedor what to do, Mr Referee. He stands them up again. Fuck me. One minute to go. The tension! Mirko throws some kicks but he looks pretty spent now. Fedor gets him down one last time and that’s the end of the fight.

Winner - Fedor Emelianenko by unanimous decision.

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I’ll say this, purely as a fight this isn’t the most exciting to watch. If you’re following this thread and watching as we go, and somehow never saw this fight, don’t go in expecting some balls to the wall slobberknocker. It wasn’t that type of fight. But I had to include it. It’s one of the real epic clashes in MMA history and I loved it. That little Fedor-Nog-Cro Cop round robin between 2003-05 was the absolute peak of Heavyweight MMA for me.

We know the story after this. Fedor continued on his winning ways for 5 more years before going on that inevitable slump like every fighter does if they stick around long enough. We last saw him battering Fat Rampage in Bellator.

And Cro Cop had a right rollercoaster career after this. The Pride Grand Prix win in 2006, the disastrous first UFC stint and that devastating Gonzaga KO, going back to his Kickboxing roots and winning the K-1 Grand Prix in 2012, avenging the Gonzaga loss spectacularly in 2015, winning the Rizin Grand Prix in 2017. Him suffering a stroke last year has ended his Hall Of Fame worthy career for good but it’s cool that he finished up on a 10 fight win streak and got some redemption with the Gonzaga rematch and the GP wins. An absolute legend. 

Edited by wandshogun09

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38 minutes ago, wandshogun09 said:

Right away Fedor’s walking him down and that’s not good for Cro Cop because he’s never been as effective on the backfoot.

Interestingly, Fedor's team had instructed Ibragim Magomedov to try and walk Cro Cop down earlier in the year. That strategy, to say the least, didn't work. 

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Fedor seemingly wasn't affected though. He continued to train with Ernesto Hoost and Tyrone Spong in Holland. His gameplan was to walk Cro Cop down while at the same time neutralising the Croatian's kicking game and parrying his left straight. It was a very risky strategy, and on another night, it could well have failed. As you wrote above, there were times where Cro Cop stunned Fedor with his deadly left straight, and had one of the Croatian's high kicks landed flush, which they nearly did on a few occasions, we could now view both men's careers a bit differently. Yet, through careful preparation and good judgement, Fedor ultimately made the strategy work. He weathered the early storm and eventually took over the fight once Cro Cop had slowed down a bit - something that Fedor hastened by working Cro Cop's body. It's still one of the best performances in MMA history in my view.

This is how Fedor, the fighter, should be remembered. A clever and well-rounded maestro, who succeeded at the highest level of combat sport. Not the complacent slugger that we saw in Strikeforce and continue to see in Bellator. 

Edited by jimufctna24

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29 minutes ago, jimufctna24 said:

had one of the Croatian's high kicks landed flush, which they nearly did on a few occasions, we could now view both men's careers a bit differently.

Yeah some of them were so close. Like a matter of fractions of seconds away from landing flush. But Fedor always managed to either deflect it by getting a hand or arm up just in the nick of time or he’d move his head just enough so that it clipped the top of his head rather than a full impact connection.

I mean, you look at this...

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And that’s got to be close to a KO strike, hasn’t it? We’re talking the tiniest of margins for error there and if he hadn’t got his right hand up to take a little bit of the brunt of the force, who knows? Fedor had to play a risky game to get through that storm and wear him down. I’m not sure anyone else outside him or Nogueira could’ve pulled it off against 2005 Mirko. 

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