For hardcore and casual MMA fans alike, Chris Lytle’s name held enough weight to hype a fight, even in the absence of the stereotypical smacktalk that clogs media outlets prior to most fight cards. Perhaps it’s due to the fact that although Lytle’s smash-mouth, submission-hunting style had roots in technical expertise, he slung it with just enough calculated craziness to remain unpredictable and exciting. Or maybe it’s because when Lytle fought, he would bring it with a class and a purity that sometimes eluded his peers. Whatever the case, here are seven (okay, okay…nine) of Lytle’s fights that will forever remain in the memory of fight fans across the globe.
7. ROBBIE LAWLER
UFC 45: NOVEMBER 21, 2003
UNANIMOUS DECISION LOSS
When two men going by the monikers of “Ruthless” and “Lights Out” are locked inside a cage and told to fight, bombs are expected to fly. Not one to disappoint, Lytle played his part in this slugfest, not only to meet fans’ expectations, but also to exceed them. The most memorable tidbits of this scrap were not the ones that saw fists and feet flying, but the noteworthy showmanship of both Lytle and Lawler, who at one point stood center stage and postured at each other with a blood-curdling scream and bodybuilder pose-off on Lawler’s part, while Lytle feverishly clapped and nodded his head in excitement. Much to the delight of those lucky enough to be watching, Lytle kept at it with the applause, even after receiving a flooring, jaw-crushing blow that would’ve crumpled anybody else into an unconscious heap.
6. JASON GILLIAM
UFC 73: JULY 7, 2007
SUBMISSION VICTORY: ROUND 1, 2:15
Following back-to-back decision losses to Matt Serra in the TUF 4 finale and Matt Hughes at UFC 68, something snapped inside of Lytle. In an instant, gone were the days of playing it safe with strategic and lackluster planning, and resurrected was Lytle’s balls-to-the-wall approach from the days of old. In a fight that lasted only 135 seconds, Lytle quickly established his dominance over former JUCO wrestler and game opponent Jason Gilliam. The ensuing action was a knock-down, drag-out brawl akin to two cartoon mutts viciously scrapping in a dusty cloud of chaos, where all that can be observed is flailing limbs, shooting stars, cheesy sound effects, and of course, a snazzy inverted triangle/straight armbar submission that saw Gilliam tapping out in pain.
5. THIAGO ALVES
UFC 78: NOVEMBER 17, 2007
DOCTOR STOPPAGE LOSS: ROUND 2, 5:00
When Chris Lytle and Thiago Alves clashed in the cage, they treated fans to two high-powered rounds of punishing action before a cut over Lytle’s right eye prompted the cageside doctor to prematurely stop the fight. Even so, post-fight footage told the tale well, as close-ups of both fighters showed that the right sides of each man’s face had clearly seen better days. Perhaps more of a tease of what could have been than what actually was, this fight served to showcase Lytle’s wild hands and gutsy fighting spirit, while leaving fans salivating for more.
4. KYLE BRADLEY
UFC 81: FEBRUARY 2, 2008
TKO VICTORY: ROUND 1, 0:33
Ironically enough, it was in this UFC fight, and this UFC fight only, that “Lights Out” lived up to his name in a literal sense of the expression. With a few punch/kick combos, followed by a flurry of boxing so dirty that it could be considered filthy, Lytle sent Bradley face-planting to the canvas, where referee Yves Lavigne mercifully called a stop to the bout. In fact, Bradley’s brain was so scrambled by Lytle’s shots that as Lytle danced in celebration, Bradley haphazardly pulled Lavigne into his open guard and fought fruitlessly to control his posture, thinking the fight was anything but over.
3. MATT BROWN
UFC 116: JULY 3, 2010
SUBMISSION VICTORY: ROUND 2, 2:02
Things didn’t start out so hot for Lytle in this bout, as the larger Brown seemed to bully Lytle around the Octagon, eventually catching him in a D’Arce choke. Despite the choke being ratcheted tight enough to render half of the fans unconscious simply from watching, Lytle gutted it out to survive the first round. Following the one-minute break, Lytle rallied in the second round, first securing a mounted guillotine on Brown, before switching to side mount—a seemingly foolish maneuver to most. In a split second, Lytle transitioned into his near-trademarked inverted triangle/straight armbar combo that had Brown submitting to Lytle for the second time in as many fights, this time by way of screaming in pain rather than traditional tap.
2. PAUL TAYLOR, MARCUS DAVIS, KEVIN BURNS
UFC 89: OCT. 18. 2008, DECISION WIN (VS TAYLOR)
UFC 93: JAN. 17, 2009, DECISION LOSS (VS DAVIS)
TUF 9 FINALE: JUNE 20, 2009, DECISION WIN (VS BURNS)
In these three successive fights, Lytle displayed immeasurable heart and physical toughness on his way to two decision victories and three well-deserved Fight of the Night bonuses. Fights like these best epitomized Lytle’s fighting fortitude, as well as the uncharacteristic fan expectation that came along with it—whereas most fights that go to the distance are accompanied by boos and stale action, the only disappointment in fans’ eyes at the conclusion of Lytle’s fights were due to the fact that there was no more action to be seen. It is in this sense that Lytle will be most missed in the Octagon, as his unorthodox style and true grit served to embody not a sport where rankings, celebrity status, and statistics were the core of conversation, but rather where the deeper meaning of MMA could be acutely observed—man battling man until the bloody end, no questions asked.
1. DAN HARDY
UFC LIVE 5: AUGUST 14, 2011
SUBMISSION VICTORY: ROUND 3, 4:16
With Lytle announcing his retirement plans prior to his 20th career fight in the UFC, there was only one question on the minds of MMA fans: Would Lytle remain one of the very few professional fighters to avoid defeat in his swansong? With proficient striker Dan Hardy standing across the cage, guesses were mixed and emotions were high. However, Lytle abused the face and body of the Brit in front of millions before locking in a fight-ending guillotine late in the third round. Between the foresight and wisdom he displayed in his pre-emptive retirement announcement, to the actual fight and heartfelt post-fight speech, fans were treated to a storybook ending of a prolific career, with Chris “Lights Out” Lytle at his finest every step of the way.
When Chris Lytle fights, there’s no quit in the guy. With some fighters, they get to a point where they see their own blood or they take a beating and they get tired and you start to see little signs of surrender coming out of them, but there’s no quit in Chris Lytle. He’s all fight, yet he doesn’t walk around like a tough guy-he is a tough guy. As a fan of his fights, I’m going to miss him, but as his friend, I just want to congratulate him on an awesome career. -Matt Serra
Chris was always a class act and a fighter who gave everything-every time out. I am exceedingly happy that he was able to end his career on his own terms and with a great victory. He is the true definition of an MMA fighter and a family man. -Pat Miletich