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


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#32 - Cung Le vs Scott Smith 1 - Strikeforce - Dec 19th 2009

First trip to Strikeforce in this thread. This was a good one. Cung Le was the talk of MMA around this time because of his exciting striking style and highlight reel finishes. He had an extensive background in martial arts and was undefeated in Kickboxing and Sanshou.

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I remember seeing him on the late night Kickboxing shows Channel 5 used to air in the early 2000s and he was so much fun to watch. But with Kickboxing never really catching on with US audiences and the growth of MMA coming off the success of TUF 1 in 2005, plus he had a working relationship with Scott Coker going back to the Sanshou days, it was just a matter of time before Le jumped over. He was on Strikeforce’s first ever card back in 2006 and all his MMA fights had been under the Strikeforce banner. At this point he was 6-0 and coming off a big win over Frank Shamrock in one of the best fights of 2008. So Le was kind of taking the MMA world by storm at the time. I remember a real buzz around his fights back then. He was definitely one of the most talked about fighters outside the UFC in the late 2000s. He was a little whirlwind of spinning shit and knockouts.

He was up against Scott Smith here. A brick fisted banger known for his toughness but not particularly skilled or technical. He’d had an up and down run following that mental KO win over Pete Sell which I covered a few pages back. He bounced around after the UFC let him go in 2007. He knocked out Terry Martin in seconds and had another wild forgotten comeback KO against Benji Radach but when he stepped up against Robbie Lawler and Nick Diaz, the results didn’t go his way. Although they were still ridiculously fun scraps.

So on paper, this was expected to be nothing more than an exciting showcase for Cung Le.

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Cung Le vs Scott Smith

Strikeforce: Evolution 

December 19th 2009

San Jose, California

Jimmy Lennon Jr is the emcee! Fuck Bruce Buffer, this is how you do the big time fighter intros. Unfortunately, Mauro’s here again. I watch a Pride fight he’s there, I watch a Strikeforce fight he’s there. There’s no escape.

Round 1: Well this doesn’t look like a good start, as Smith just flails right at Le recklessly. We’re a minute in and Smith’s already getting picked apart and now he just got dropped by a spinning back kick.

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Le with ground and pound and Smith looks lost here on the ground. He’s just turtling up and taking a beating. Big John’s watching closely but Smith manages to get back up. He looks unsteady on his legs though and Le clips him with another spinning kick that knocks him down again. Le lets him back up and slaps him in the face with his foot. Honestly, it looks like Le is toying with him here. Body kicks and punches from Le as the crowd rides his dick. Smith still pushing forward because he’s too tough/dumb to know better. Le 10-8 easy. A total mugging.

Le’s pregnant wife looks quite pleased with how all this is going so far.

Round 2: Again, Le’s just outclassing him here. He’s added side kicks to the ribs and leg kicks to his attack now. Spinning kick to the body again sends Smith flying arse-first to the mat...

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Le’s on top again now but not doing much and McCarthy stands them up. Smith’s woke up now. There’s finally some real urgency and he’s going all out to make something happen. Problem is he’s mostly hitting thin air. And Le continues with his kicks. They’re clinched up against the fence now and Le’s slowed down. He looks a bit gassed. He’s thrown everything at Smith and the mad bastard’s still there. He’s definitely fading and now Smith’s finally starting to land some strikes.

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But the round ends. Worrying signs for Le at the end there. I’d still say he won the round but he took his foot off the gas big time in the second half and Smith has to be growing in confidence going into the 3rd.

Round 3: Le looks rejuvenated now and he knocks Smith off balance with a spin kick to the head. He’s looking sharp again, especially with the kicks to the body. And at this point it feels like Smith’s moment of opportunity has passed him by. God, I forgot just how annoying Mauro Ranallo and Frank Shamrock were as a team on commentary. Le moving well and racking up the points as we approach the closing stretch of the fight. Nice punch combo from Le. Backfists, spin kicks, we’re getting a full array of strikes here. Le picks him up and slams him but they pop back up. And now Le is slowing down again. Smith coming at him with a late surge. He catches Le with a left hook and drops him! Le’s hurt but he’s trying to back up...

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And Smith puts him down again with a big right. It’s over.

Winner - Scott Smith by knockout. Round 3 - 3:25.

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Crazy finish. I remembered this as pure domination from Le then Smith landing the KO punch out of nowhere. It’s not far off that but rewatching it now, the signs for Smith’s comeback were there from the second round when Le started fading. And Le hitting that big powerslam in the 3rd seems like a massive mistake in hindsight. The momentum shifted from that point on. He was was bossing that round before that. The slam looked good but it was really a waste of energy as Smith was able to get straight back up and then Le was noticeably shot cardio-wise. Smith saw it and pounced on him.

They had an immediate rematch about 6 months later and Le schooled him and finished him in 2 rounds.

And from there, Le ended up in the UFC and only fought 4 more times, going 2-2. The highlight being that vicious one punch KO against Rich Franklin. His fight with Wanderlei in 2011 was probably the best of the bunch though. He finished up on a loss to Bisping in 2014. He took a hammering in that one.

Smith fought 6 more times, went 1-5 and was stopped in 4 of them. One being that scary KO loss to Paul Daley where he completely faceplanted. Don’t know what he’s up to these days.

So yeah, Smith vs Le 1 was a fun one. This and the Pete Sell fight are no doubt the wins he’s most remembered for.

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#8 - Diego Sanchez vs Karo Parisyan - UFC Fight Night - Aug 17th 2006 Sanchez was still unbeaten at this time. 15-0 and the UFC hype machine had been fully behind him coming off his TUF win a yea

OK then. I’m FINALLY finishing this thing. Can’t believe how long it’s taken me. Fucking March this started. Here’s numero uno... #1 - Roger Huerta vs Clay Guida - The Ultimate Fighter 6 Fin

#2 - Josh Thomson vs Gilbert Melendez 2 - Strikeforce - Dec 19th 2009 OK then. Wanted to include more Strikeforce in this countdown but a few fights just narrowly didn’t make the cut. This one genu

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#31 - Eddie Alvarez vs Tatsuya Kawajiri - DREAM 5 - Jul 21st 2008

Back in Japan but it’s the first fight in this thread from the DREAM promotion. DREAM was pretty much just bootleg Pride in terms of the look and presentation of the events. It was a bit of an underrated fed though. Their Lightweight and Featherweight divisions were especially great but even their Middleweight division had the likes of Mousasi, Jacare and Manhoef. DREAM pumped out some fun shows in the late 2000s.

This fight came right in the middle of an excellent Lightweight Grand Prix tournament. Alvarez at this time was 14-1 with his only loss coming against Nick Thompson on a Bodog show in 2007. He beat Andre Amado and Joachim Hansen (in a great fight that I’ll get to later in the Countdown) to advance in the GP. Kawajiri was 22-4-2, had done pretty well for himself in Pride and had gone 2-0 in DREAM. He beat Kultar Gill and Luiz Firmino to get to the Semis.

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Eddie Alvarez vs Tatsuya Kawajiri - Lightweight Grand Prix Semi-Final

DREAM 5

July 21st 2008

Osaka, Japan

You won’t find this on Fight Pass but the full thing is easily found on YouTube. And this is the HDNet version so it’s got the English commentary by Kenny Rice and Bas Rutten.

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Like I said, top notch production values in DREAM. The Japanese did it best when it came to making a show feel big time.

And we’re off! Winner faces Shinya Aoki in the Finals.

Round 1: Bit of a clinch battle early on until the ref splits them up and then the mayhem begins. There’s a couple of exchanges where both throw with serious heat and before you know it they’re just going to town slinging bombs at each other. Kawajiri had become a bit of a decision merchant in his recent fights before this so him getting into a slugfest with someone like Alvarez wasn’t exactly expected. But he seems more than up for a scrap here. And he’s holding his own, Eddie’s eye is bleeding already.

The feeling out period is over. These two are throwing down. Eddie drops him with a flurry of rapid fire punches. He hurts him again with a big knee to the body. More body shots and you can see Kawajiri is feeling them. He’s in some bother here. Eddie’s pushing the pace but he gets too aggressive and Kawajiri counters him with a flush left hook and floors him while slipping...

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Love that. Reminds me of that time The Rock hit a Peoples’ Elbow while wearing shoes and slid before dropping the elbow.

Kawajiri is all over him as soon as he hits the deck. Crowd is going bananas. Eddie manages to weather the storm but he’s got Kawajiri on top of him and that’s never good. Kawajiri with a sweet guard pass and into mount. Eddie somehow powers out of it and escapes. And the slobberknocker continues...

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“It’s like a Rocky movie!” - Bas Rutten

Going balls to the wall. Alvarez is getting the best of the boxing now but Kawajiri is landing some nice knees from the Thai clinch. Both swing for the fences against the ropes and Eddie’s really putting it on him and drops Kawajiri again...

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This is wild. Eddie thinks it’s over and steps off but the ref hasn’t stopped it. So Eddie jumps back on Kawajiri and batters him with more ground and pound and the referee finally waves it off.

Winner - Eddie Alvarez by TKO. Round 1 - 7:35.

That was awesome. There was quite a lot of praise for it at the time but it’s kind of been forgotten over the years. Especially with Alvarez’s future classics with Michael Chandler overshadowing it. But these fights in the early days of DREAM are the ones that really built Eddie’s reputation as a must-see fighter. If he wasn’t on your radar before the Hansen and Kawajiri fights, he soon would be.

Unfortunately for Alvarez at the time, he didn’t get to face Aoki in the Finals because of the cut he suffered in this fight. Hansen took his place as he’d won the reserve bout on the same night. And he ended up stopping Aoki to win the Grand Prix. Alvarez got submitted by Aoki on the New Years show at the end of 2008 but ultimately came out on top when he smashed Aoki in their Bellator rematch in 2012.

If you haven’t seen Alvarez vs Kawajiri, you should probably change that. Should be easy enough to find on YouTube. 

Edited by wandshogun09
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On 5/1/2020 at 1:04 PM, wandshogun09 said:

Back in Japan but it’s the first fight in this thread from the DREAM promotion. DREAM was pretty much just bootleg Pride in terms of the look and presentation of the events. It was a bit of an underrated fed though. Their Lightweight and Featherweight divisions were especially great but even their Middleweight division had the likes of Mousasi, Jacare and Manhoef. DREAM pumped out some fun shows in the late 2000s.

I should have loved DREAM. 

Their shows had great production values, featured a young Mousasi and an ancient Sakuraba, and had Bas Rutten doing the commentary. Their roster, while very weak in some divisions, still had enough top-level fighters to make the promotion relevant. 

However, their shows were very difficult to gain access to for those outside of Japan and America. It thus became a promotion that I kept tabs on, but never really became invested in emotionally. It's difficult to get too excited about MMA shows that you can only read about after the fact, rather than watch live in the moment. They also faced stiff competition from the UFC, Strikeforce, and WEC - promotions whose shows were either viewable on TV or relatively easy to torrent. 

Still, it provided a lot of entertainment for those who found a way to watch their shows. 

 

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#30 - Falaniko Vitale vs Robbie Lawler 1 - SuperBrawl - Jul 23rd 2005

This one’s popped up once or twice on here over the years but usually just in passing when talking about Lawler’s history of nutty fights. I saw this years ago when I picked up this DVD set off Amazon;

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There were 5 events included and i can’t say I recall much of any of it, despite some of the recognisable names involved. But like has often become the case, the Robbie Lawler fight stuck with me.

Lawler was 8-3 at this time and had parted ways with the UFC not long before this fight after losses to Nick Diaz and Evan Tanner. This was his first fight since. Niko Vitale had a very respectable 20-3 record with wins over Yushin Okami, Dave Menne and Aaron Riley. He was probably most known for his peculiar KO win over Matt Lindland at UFC 43 though, where Lindland basically knocked himself out attempting a takedown. He was the ICON Sport Middleweight champion here.

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Falaniko Vitale (c) vs Robbie Lawler - Middleweight Title

SuperBrawl 41: Icon 

July 23rd 2005

Honolulu, Hawaii

This looks so dated. It’s 2005 but it has the look and production values of those dimly lit WWF shows at Madison Square Garden in the early 80s. I noticed it when watching the Penn vs Gomi fight earlier in the thread as well. These Hawaiian shows look old as fuck for some reason. To think this was the same year as TUF 1 and Fedor vs Cro Cop. Yet this looks like 1983.

Vitale makes quite an entrance in front of his home crowd. He’s got some Samoan dancers doing their thing in the ring before he even walks out. They’re dancing right in front of Lawler. He doesn’t look enthused by it but what’s new? Vitale’s also got his kids accompanying him to the ring, carrying his belt.

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Ring announcer is dire. Horrible sounding voice. Anyway, balls to that. It’s on. Pride’s main man Yuji Shimada is reffing this one.

Round 1: And Lawler comes right out with some jumping head kicks. It’s clear from his body language right away he’s looking for the early knockout. He’s like a coiled spring. Vitale’s trying for the takedown and failing and they end up in a clinch battle for a bit before the ref breaks them up. And then the pandemonium begins.

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Ruthless Robert drops him with a flying knee out of nowhere. Niko does well to stay composed and...well, conscious. Lawler’s like a wild animal here. Like, more than usual. Every chance he gets he’s trying to destroy Vitale. He hadn’t quite figured out how to pace himself and use his aggression in bursts like he did later on during his UFC title reign. No controlled chaos here. He’s all violence, all the time. Vitale’s just trying to contain him and hope he slows down at this point. Crowd chanting for their boy and he hits a big takedown on Lawler.

Close round. A lot of it was gruelling clinch work and that was pretty even. The Hawaiian commentators are giving it to Vitale, unsurprisingly. He did have that big slam/takedown. But Lawler dropped him with that flying knee and he landed some hard kicks as well. I’d lean towards Lawler myself.

Round 2: Lawler’s starting slower this round. All that clinch work seems to have sapped his energy a bit. Niko recognises it and goes on the attack. He’s going for it now.

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He opens up more on the feet with an absolute barrage of punches but that just seems to reawaken the beast as Lawler eats it all and fires back. Now Lawler’s going to town with punches. Niko’s got a chin on him because Lawler waffled him good a few times. Back in the clinch and Lawler’s breathing heavy now. Huge slam from Vitale! But he drops back for a leg lock and that allows Lawler to escape and stand up. Now Niko looks like he’s feeling the pace.

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But he’s still busting out all kinds of shit here to make something happen. This is some round. The ref gets Lawler back in the ring restarts them in the centre. Niko looks proper knackered now though. He’s moving at a snail’s pace and his hands have dropped to his waist. He couldn’t be inviting Robbie’s attack any more unless he laid out a Welcome mat. Lawler gladly obliges. Gives him a couple of knees and series of rights and lefts...

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And Vitale finally drops. He’s toast. Robbie Lawler is the new Middleweight champ.

Winner - Robbie Lawler by knockout. Round 2 - 4:36.

It doesn’t go down too well with the Hawaiian crowd and it’s certainly not a popular result with one person in particular...

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Pretty sure I read that was Vitale’s sister. Only time I’ve ever seen Lawler back down.

It’s wild scenes and twats are throwing drinks in the ring and all sorts but thankfully it doesn’t get too ugly and it calms down fairly quickly. There’s respect between both men post-fight but Vitale keeps rambling on in his interview about having a full-time job and Lawler being able to train full-time at Miletich and it just sounds like excuses. But he redeems himself by going as far as to strap the belt on Lawler himself, which was pretty classy.

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Don’t see that often.

Lawler followed this victory with a win over some fucker called Jeremy Brown on a King Of The Cage show. Only notable thing about that win is it’s still the only submission win Lawler’s had to date. Vitale got submitted by Mayhem Miller in his next fight. But oddly, he got a rematch with Lawler off the back of that loss.

I’d never seen anything of the rematch before, just watched it now.

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And Christ. This time Lawler done him in a round. It’s a decent little sub-5 minute scrap. Not as good as the first fight but it’s short and sweet with a brutal finish. I’d recommend giving both fights a look if you’re at a loose end.

I think I’m going to have to delve more into these ICON/SuperBrawl shows at some point. Definitely think I’ll be checking out both Lawler and Vitale’s fights with Mayhem and I’ve just noticed the show with Lawler vs Frank Trigg is on Fight Pass as well. Been wanting to see the full version of that for years. Despite the shows looking ancient, there are gems to be found on them. A lot of old UFC and Japanese names went through the Hawaiian MMA show circuit back then. 

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#29 - Matt Hughes vs Frank Trigg 2 - UFC 52 - Apr 16th 2005

OK then. A well known one here. There was some bad blood going into this fight. They’d fought at UFC 45 back in November 2003 and Hughes had submitted Trigg in a round with a standing rear naked choke;

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I remember seeing the clip of that finish at the time and it looked cool as fuck. The way Trigg just goes out and collapses backwards was highlight reel stuff.

Hughes had that loss to BJ Penn after that but rebounded with a decision over Renato Verissimo and a submission over a young GSP. Trigg had got back on track with a couple of TKO wins. What made a strong case for Trigg getting the rematch was who he beat and how. First he stopped Dennis Hallman in a round. Hallman had previously submitted Hughes twice, in 37 seconds combined! Then he finished Verissimo who had taken Hughes the distance a few months earlier. So Trigg had made quite a statement with those 2 wins. Plus with BJ Penn off in Japan at the time, stuffing himself to make Heavyweight, there wasn’t an obvious challenger for Hughes at the time anyway.

So the rematch was on. And the shit talking began.

“Once I get that title on April 16th, my next thing is to beat him into oblivion by getting 7, 8, 9 title defences. I get to kill two birds with one stone. I get to fight Matt Hughes and I get my championship the same night.” - Frank Trigg

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“He didn’t even know how to defend a rear naked choke. That’s terrible. That’s day one stuff, right there. Whatever way you look at it, he made a mistake and I capitalised on it. I didn’t hurt him and now he wants the rematch. I’ve gotta hurt him now.” - Matt Hughes

There was just a natural dislike there. Both cocky twats, both wrestlers, both ultra competitive. They just weren’t ever going to get on. Pretty sure there was a bit of needle before the first fight as well but can’t remember what it was about. Why do I seem to remember a woman being involved? Think it was in Hughes’ book but I can’t recall the details.

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Matt Hughes (c) vs Frank Trigg - Welterweight Title 

UFC 52: Couture vs Liddell 2

April 16th 2005

Las Vegas, Nevada

Fucking Dolph Lundgren is in attendance! Sweet. So Mike Goldberg ruins the moment and does about the worst Ivan Drago impression I’ve ever heard.

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Intense staredown but I don’t know if Frank wants to fight Hughes or fuck him. Their lips nearly touched there and then he blows Hughes a kiss from across the cage before the first round begins. Complex man, was old ‘Twinkle Toes’.

Round 1: Mirko Hughes throws a headkick to start off and it looks all kinds of wrong. Looked about as alien as Bob Sapp going for a twister. Rogan is saying that shows how Hughes is constantly evolving as a fighter, which I find funny because Hughes never really evolved. He’s an all-time great, not taking that away from him. But he was always a wrestler with submissions. The only times he ever looked threatening on the feet were the second fight with Penn and that awful fight with Renzo Gracie, where both Penn and Gracie gassed terribly.

Anyway, they’re both pretending they want to strike but it’s clear they’re both looking for the takedown. They’re clinched up and Trigg knees him square in the scrotum. Hughes is trying to back away and signal to the ref but it’s Mario Yamasaki and he gives zero fucks. With the ref not stepping in, Trigg jumps all over the opportunity, drops Hughes and starts battering him with ground and pound. He’s all over him. He gets the mount and ends up taking the back.

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Hughes is in deep shit as Trigg starts to sink in the choke.

“Could this be payback for the first fight?” - Joe Rogan

This could be some poetic justice for Trigg if he can finish Hughes the same way Hughes finished him the first time.

Hughes not only survives the choke, he escapes and he’s getting up...

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“WHOA! From the brink of defeat and he pulls it out. It’s payback time!” - Joe Rogan

Unbelievable. A spinebuster Arn Anderson himself would be proud of! The crowd is going bloody berserk after that.

Now Hughes has the mount. What a mad shift of momentum this fight has taken in about a 30 second span. Hughes is holding him by the throat with one arm and punching and elbowing him in the gob with t’other. He seems to be enjoying this. Trigg tries to buck and roll out and Hughes is on his neck like a pitbull.

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It’s a wrap. An absolutely mental come from behind victory. Especially for a one rounder.

Winner - Matt Hughes by submission. Round 1 - 4:05.

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A hell of a fight. Drama from start to finish, twists and turns, controversy with the low blow, Trigg nearly getting revenge with the same finish, the running slam! It had the lot. Dana White has said a few times over the years that this is his favourite fight of all time. I wouldn’t personally rank it that high. It’s not even my favourite one rounder ever (Diaz vs Daley, since you ask), but it’s not a bad choice. Doesn’t hurt that the crowd was molten hot for it as well. This fight came just a week after the Griffin vs Bonnar 1 brawl at the TUF Finale and, of course, the coaches Randy and Chuck were headlining this card. So this was probably the first PPV a lot of those new TUF fans ordered. Having a grudge match title fight that delivered like Hughes and Trigg did here can’t have hurt.

Hughes’ dominance didn’t last too much longer. He beat Royce Gracie and BJ Penn in 2006 but after that we were into the GSP era and Hughes’ days on the Welterweight throne were numbered. His last fight was a knockout loss to Josh Koscheck in 2011 and he finished up with an impressive record of 45-9. He goes down as one of the best ever though. To this day he’s probably still the #2 GOAT at 170lbs behind our Georgey.

In 2015, the Hughes vs Trigg 2 fight was actually inducted into the UFC Hall Of Fame.

But in 2017, it all nearly ended in tragedy for Hughes when his truck was hit by a train. He could’ve easily been killed and was left with serious head injuries. He’s really lucky to be alive. 

Trigg fought on until 2011. Had a few decent wins but lost to the top boys and split his time between fighting and doing commentating/analyst work. He ended on a 21-9 record and went into refereeing later.

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It’s a great fight. Definitely one of the best one rounders in UFC history and pretty much as good as a 4 minute fight gets. 

Edited by wandshogun09
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great stuff wand. 

Imagine if Trigg had a run as UFC Champ? i think he could possibly have been a box office heel for the UFC. Always outspoken and usually arrogant, it would have been to watch.

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Yeah he could’ve been a bit of a 170 version of Tito Ortiz. Just came along at the wrong time. Nobody was getting a look in with Hughes and GSP around back then. Penn came the closest to breaking their stranglehold on the division but he never had the consistency and wasn’t naturally big enough for Welter anyway. But the Hughes reign of dominance and then the GSP reign of dominance directly after it meant everyone else was pretty much fighting for second or third place throughout the 2000s.

Trigg probably would’ve been better off as the dickhead champ in Strikeforce but he’d already had the losses to Hughes by the time Strikeforce got rolling. 

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even Hughes/Trigg 3 would have been fantastic, imagine if Trigg had won and they went to a trilogy 😵

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22 minutes ago, wandshogun09 said:

. Why do I seem to remember a woman being involved? Think it was in Hughes’ book but I can’t recall the details.

Hughes had previously dated Trigg's wife. Monte Cox discussed it on this podcast (53:40 in) - https://www.sherdog.com/radio/MMA-Stories-How-Monte-Cox-Destroyed-Tim-Sylvias-Career-5539

Edited by jimufctna24
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Cheers for that Jim. Knew there was something more personal to the beef than just competitive rivalry. I would’ve ended up having to go and look for Hughes’ book in the cupboard in the spare room because it would’ve bugged me. I’ll sleep tonight now. 

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I only really heard of Trigg initially because TNA brought him in as a manager/coach for Angle in his feud with Samoa Joe, leading up to that MMA-style cage match at Lockdown. I first thought they'd only brought him in because he looked like Angle, but he was actually pretty good with the ol' gift of the gab.

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#28 - Takanori Gomi vs Tatsuya Kawajiri - Pride Bushido 9 - Sep 25th 2005

Honestly, there’s about 5 fights on Bushido 9 that I could’ve included here but I’ve narrowed it down to this one. One of the best MMA cards ever and if you’re looking for a way to pass a couple of hours you could do worse than watching the whole show. It’s brilliant. Skimming through it again now, there might actually have been a couple of fights that were even better than this but this was my favourite of the bunch.

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In 2005, Pride held a press conference announcing two Grand Prix tournaments to finally crown their first Welterweight and Lightweight champions. The first phase of the tournament would take place in September at Bushido 9, with the Quarter and Semi-Final matches. Then the Finals of both tournaments would go down at the big Shockwave event on New Year’s Eve.

Bushido is almost a forgotten bit of Pride’s legacy now but they were really good cards on the whole. They mostly showcased the lighter weight classes but you also had early Shogun, the odd fight from Fedor and Wanderlei, Cro Cop kicking Del Rio’s head in...and shit like this;

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Yeah, that’s Giant Silva waving his wood about.

The Bushido shows were fun. I liked the little tweaks in presentation on those shows as well. They had different music, the red logo on the canvas, the Bushido entrance set-up was class as well...

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But yeah, they also delivered some cracking fights. And of all 13 of the Bushido cards Pride put on, 9 stands out as the best. It’s not stacked with names like Final Conflict 2003 or Shockwave 2004 or something, but for pure fight quality Bushido 9 is up there with the best cards Pride ever put on.

Gomi was on fire at this point. Right smack bang in the middle of what ended up being the best stretch of his career. He came into this fight on a 7 fight win streak with 6 finishes. Kawajiri was 15-2-2 and had gone unbeaten over his last 9 fights. So these two were really at the top of their game here. This could’ve easily been the Finals if the brackets worked out differently.

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Takanori Gomi vs Tatsuya Kawajiri - Lightweight Grand Prix Quarter-Final

Pride Bushido 9

September 25th 2005

Tokyo, Japan

I love that poster. 

This actually turned out to be one of the last Pride shows Bas Rutten would commentate on. Thanks to backstage issues with that Jerry Millen dickhead, if my memory serves me correctly. Think Pride 30 in October was Bas’ last appearance.

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Round 1: Kawajiri sets the stall out right away with a wild overhand right that misses. Nice leg kicks from Kawajiri but Gomi soon has enough of that and lets him taste the power of his fists. Kawajiri looks quite taken aback but it’s no wonder Gomi hit so hard. He launched his punches like he was bowling a cricket ball. Kawajiri shoots for the legs to no avail. Not a good sign, that. Gomi starts to turn up the heat. Kawajiri still throwing but this isn’t the type of game you want to play early in a fight with a fresh Fireball Kid.

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Gomi defending the takedowns well and he’s going to the body with those heavy hands. Gomi’s really pouring it on here. Kawajiri returns fire with a big loopy overhand right. That was straight out of Gomi’s playbook. Gomi mixing up the head and body attacks beautifully again. He was better at that than he’s given credit for, and at a time when body shots were barely used at all in MMA. Kawajiri is trying but he’s getting overwhelmed now. And Gomi drops him with knees...

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Kawajiri’s fucked. Gomi takes the back and is peppering him with punches. Kawajiri is turtling up and just trying to weather the storm. Gomi punching from the back mount then suddenly switches to a choke...

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And Kawajiri is done for the night.

Winner - Takanori Gomi by submission. Round 1 - 7:42.

It’s pretty one-sided but don’t let that put you off. Kawajiri is game enough that it’s still exciting and Gomi was so entertaining to watch at this time. This was probably one of Gomi’s best all around performances for me by far. His hands were always lethal but he also showed excellent takedown defence, attacked the body a lot, used knees, his timing was on point, he didn’t take many shots himself and then he finished with a submission. He became remembered as just a banger who got pissed and didn’t train much but there was a time when he was legitimately one of the best fighters in the world and could put everything together. He wasn’t just a slugger at his best. There are parallels with Gomi and how Fedor’s career went, in my opinion. They both ended up relying on just bombing their way out of trouble towards the end but they were both better than that in their primes.

Gomi went on to win the Grand Prix. He beat Luiz Azeredo on points in another really good fight later on the same night at Bushido 9. Then he stopped Hayato Sakurai in a round in the Finals at Shockwave to become Pride’s first (and only) Lightweight champion.

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Of course, the less said about the slump the better. He really peaked with that GP win in 2005. He still had little patches of success after that but the losses became more and more frequent. He’s still one of the best Lightweights ever though. That run he had in 2004 and 2005 is up there with pretty much anyone’s before or since. 

Edited by wandshogun09
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#27 - Jason MacDonald vs Demian Maia - UFC 87 - Aug 9th 2008

Maybe an unexpected one this. Unless you’ve seen it then you’ll know why it’s here. This came on the same night as a prime GSP title defence and Brock Lesnar’s second UFC fight against Heath Herring. So needless to say, little fucks were given about this one going in. It was always a decent matchup though. Maia was undefeated in MMA at this time. 8-0 with 7 finishes, training with Wanderlei Silva and he had some hype on him due to guys like Joe Rogan talking about his “top of the food chain” BJJ skills. Rogan loved that “top of the food chain” phrase for a bit didn’t he? He was right though. Maia came in having already established himself as one of the elite grapplers on the planet. So any praise he got was deserved.

MacDonald wasn’t seen as a top guy but he was definitely a solid test for Maia at this stage. He had a 20-9 record with submission wins over Chris Leben and Ed Herman. And his only UFC losses were against Rich Franklin and Yushin Okami. He’d knocked about a bit and was well rounded enough that you'd expect him to ask some questions of Maia. But most probably saw it as a fairly easy night’s work for the Brazilian.

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Jason MacDonald vs Demian Maia 

UFC 87: Seek and Destroy

August 9th 2008

Minneapolis, Minnesota

This one opened up the PPV main card. And MacDonald seems confident in the pre-fight video package. Talking about not being a stepping stone for Maia. I wonder why Maia and Wanderlei stopped working together. They seemed pretty tight here.

Anyway, we’re off.

Round 1: Maia throwing a few lazy kicks out there and, surprisingly, it’s MacDonald who initiates the clinch so Maia happily pulls guard. Before you know it, Maia slaps on a triangle choke. It looks tight but MacDonald is staying calm and gutting it out. Then in a shocking twist, he escapes and takes Maia’s back!

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Crazy. He’s trying for a choke but his positioning is a bit wonky and Maia calmly rolls out of it. But MacDonald is still on top and he’s sent a message early here that he hasn’t come to lose. Shoulder strikes from MacDonald now. Somehow 12 years before Conor McGregor invented them. Maia just looks so at home on the mat though. Even when he’s in a disadvantageous position, he just looks at peace. But MacDonald is really going for it every chance he gets.

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It’s not enough to catch Maia but it’s great to see the fearlessness and him trying to create openings for himself. Maia hops over to the other side of MacDonald’s body though and he’s out of danger. Maia’s got the back now...

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He’s working for the choke but runs out of time. Close round that. Both had submissions on but I think Maia edged it with the triangle early and the RNC late. Great round.

Round 2: They exchange on the feet, Maia actually stuns him with a punch and MacDonald clinches again. Maia with some knees from the Thai clinch now! That training with Wandy paying off. Maia with a takedown. He’s got the mount and there’s nearly 4 minutes left of the round. Disaster. Maia landing a ton of punches and elbows here and MacDonald is bleeding. He’s constantly trying to escape but Maia is all over him. He’s surviving though and Maia’s ground and pound seems to be losing a bit of steam. With seconds left of the round MacDonald finally escapes and he’s on top. Game as fuck. But that’s a 10-8 for Maia.

MacDonald’s corner are telling him not to grapple. They want him to go for the knockout. He definitely needs a finish at this point.

Round 3: Maia has other ideas though and takes him down almost immediately. MacDonald reverses position and ends up on top. What a battler. He’s losing but he’s not going away easily at all. Ground and pound from MacDonald and briefly takes Maia’s back again but winds up back on the bottom in the scramble. This is great. Maia’s got the mount again. Elbows. MacDonald rolls but gives up his back...

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And it’s over.

Winner - Demian Maia by submission. Round 3 - 2:44.

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Incredible effort from MacDonald. He was clearly a few levels below Maia on the ground but he really made Maia earn the victory. I’ve got no doubt MacDonald could’ve gone the distance if he’d gone in defensive minded like guys did against Maia later in his career. But MacDonald went all out to try to win and put himself at risk of getting caught as a result. Really good fight. It’s always one of my go-to answers whenever anyone asks about favourite grappling heavy fights in MMA. 

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