MMA is a year-round sport but December ’tis the season of giving; giving, and receiving, punishment. Japanese organizations Shooto, PRIDE, and K-1 have cultivated a rich tradition of mega-events in December over the years, and the UFC began honoring it beginning in 2006 at UFC 66. In honor of the holidays, FIGHT! offers our sincerest “season’s beatings.”
Hayato Sakurai vs. Frank Trigg, Shooto R.E.A.D. Final
Shooto’s rulebook asks opponents to answer a 10-count once they are knocked down but Frank Trigg didn’t need the break. Sakurai cut off “Twinkle Toes” with a crisp counter left hook and the American fell, bounced up, and told the referee, “I’m fine.” Sakurai ensured that wasn’t the case for long with a rocketing knee from the Thai plum. Trigg stood again, but it was the third act. Sakurai hit him with a copycat knee, and that’s where the third act ended.
Shooto – Frank Trigg vs Hayato Sakurai
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(The end begins at 7:40.)
Charlie Valencia vs. Ian McCall, WEC 31
Charlie Valencia scored a shut out against Ian McCall by clipping McCall with a right less than a minute into the first. McCall recovered, but Valencia countered with an overhand right so vicious it sent McCall up before he went down. As game as McCall was, Valencia took standing back control and launched him back overhead with suplex. He knocked him down again, finally showing mercy by locking up a guillotine. Even though he ended the fight via submission, Valencia beat McCall like he stole his presents.
Ian McCall vs Charlie Valencia – Every10Mins.com
(The end begins at 2:50.)
Diego Sanchez vs. Joe Riggs, UFC Fight Night 7
The best way to stop a heavy hitter from striking is to knock him out first. Diego Sanchez sent a message to the MMA world that he had stand-up skills to complement his tenacious grappling by blowing up Joe Riggs with a quick right hook that made “Diesel” run on fumes. Sanchez sprinted into a flying knee, knocking Riggs out completely. Three complementary punches earned the stoppage.
Keith Jardine vs. Forrest Griffin, UFC 66
A wild left hook weakened Forrest Griffin late in the first round. Keith Jardine knew it and smothered the Xtreme Couture fighter with more hooks. Griffin attempted to strike back, but hit the mat instead. Inside the Georgia native’s guard, Jardine reached his arm back as far as possible with each punch, nailing Griffin to the ground repeatedly for the upset. The Ultimate Fighter season one winner was so emotionally battered from the onslaught, he openly wept inside the Octagon after regaining consciousness.
Cheick Kongo vs. Mustapha Al-Turk, UFC 92
Once Mustapha Al-Turk hit the mat after some big Cheick Kongo rights, most expected the fight to finish with a few follow-up punches. They were wrong. The Frenchman proceeded to audibly punch and elbow the flailing Brit mercilessly for 27 seconds of bloodshed. Al-Turk looked like he was donating the quick, hard way. The scary part? Kongo only used his right hand.
(The end begins at 0:18.)
Tatsuya Kawajiri vs. Vitor Ribeiro II, Shooto Year End Show 2004
In a Shooto classic against Vitor Ribeiro, Tatsuya Kawajiri proved that ground-and-pound is an art. The Brazilian is one of the sport’s most decorated Lightweight grapplers, however “Crusher” kept the pressure on and limited Ribeiro’s options to being dissected by punches. The Japanese standout kept posture and landed shots at will — even after being stalled for a restart — en route to Shooto gold. It wasn’t visually compelling, but Kawajiri’s technique and the cumulative damage it caused was too great to ignore.
(Round two of a slow burn.)
Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto vs. Rani Yahya, K-1 Premium 2007 Dynamite!!
Then-pound-for-pound mainstay Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto had staggered ADCC champion Rani Yahya a few times already but when he cornered the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, the Killer Bee fighter unleashed a left hook and put Yahya on the mat where he punted him twice before punching him again. It was the kind of combination that makes future opponents reconsider contracts.
(The end begins at 3:10.)
Takanori Gomi vs. Mitsuhiro Ishida, PRIDE Shockwave 2006
Mitsuhiro Ishida was the last great lightweight Japanese fighter that Takanori Gomi had not defeated. Gomi, considered the world’s best lightweight at the time, would elevate his star in the Land of the Rising Sun with a win. “The Fireball Kid” threatened early and knocked down Ishida with a left. A knee, an array hammerfists, a soccer kick and some more hammerfists made Gomi the first person to stop the “Endless Fighter” in 74 seconds.
(The end begins at 2:10.)
Ben Saunders vs. Brandon Wolff, UFC Fight for the Troops
For the better part of 90 seconds, Ben Saunders held Wolff in the Thai clinch and kneed him relentlessly. When Wolff tried to turn and run, “Killa B” held him and chased him down, delivering knees in the process. Wolff was ruined so badly that a hematoma the size of a hockey puck formed in the middle of his forehead in less than two minutes of fighting.
(The end begins at 0:50.)
Josh Koscheck vs. Yoshiyuki Yoshida, UFC Fight for the Troops
A beat-down doesn’t always require a barrage of strikes. In fact, Josh Koscheck’s count against Yoshiyuki Yoshida was two. One trademark right from the American Kickboxing Academy fighter forced Yoshida to back into the fence like he was just shoved by a schoolyard bully. There was even a rattle. He was out on his feet. Koscheck, rather than rush and punch at a high pace, loaded up another right. It was the closest a punch has ever come to liquidating a human. It was so brutal, the mixed martial arts media wondered if the sport was, in fact, too violent.