I noticed this on a bulk order about a half year ago, made by Keith _h (you're guess is as good as mine) so def. wanted to catch all of this. It ranges from 1996 to 2006. If you're not familiar with Wrestling Observer, it's run by Yahoo reporter and aging hipster Dave Meltzer, who not only covers pro wrestling but has a great affinity for MMA, so his yearly awards issue has included the grand sport in the last 10 years or so. This should be the cream of the crop of MMA, let's see:
Maurice Smith v. Mark Coleman- 4
UFC Showdown- Heavyweight Title
Birmingham, AL July 27
This was fought under old school UFC rules of a 15 minute match time and then using 3 min. OT's if necessary. Coleman looked gigantic in the first 10 minutes, just outwrestling Smith and using tremendous power to hold him in place. Smith made a short comeback after a controversial kick but Coleman's exertion and carrying so much weight took it's toll and by the time the overtime periods came into effect, Coleman was spent and done. Smith was also hurting, suffering some arm damage, so basically he just shuffled in, took a shot and backed off. Coleman answered nothing that was thrown at him the last 8 minutes or so and gave up the fight and his title. UFC was a different creature at this time but both guys came off as out of shape by the time it was over.
Jerry Bohlander v. Kevin Jackson- 5
New Orleans, LA March 13
This was a fun fight, also fought under the old style rules of one long period before Overtime's kicked in. Jackson was aggressive and coming off a 20 second knockout loss right before this. His striking looked superior and he was swinging with confidence. Bohlander on the ground was displaying some really fluid BJJ, transitioning from hold to hold but Jackson had a lot of strength in him. He controlled Bohlander successfully for quite a while on the ground, but doing literally no damage. They weren't so fast to stand up competitors at this point either, with Big John threatening to do it for like 6 minutes. Jackson wore himself down trying to keep Bohlander grounded and eventually got caught in a picture perfect armbar, that he never tapped to, Big John ended the fight of his own accord, telling Jackson "didn't want you to get your arm broke." Jackson was pissed with the result.
Frank Shamrock v. Tito Ortiz - 6
UFC 22- Middleweight Title
Lake Charles, LA Sept 23
Big Time grudge match taking place here. Ortiz was a different man at this point, didn't say a whole lot just looked really focused on the task at hand. Right from the gate he connects with a right and catches Frank's kick sending him sprawling to the ground. He lets Frank up, and the crowd loves it. He controls the first round handily with two takedowns and constant work on the ground, although doesn't attempt any submissions or position advancement, just strikes. Tito 10-9. 2nd round is quite nearly a draw, Tito agains with takedowns and ground work but Frank fights out of a couple attempts and rocks Tito standing, as well as tries for a late front headlock. 9-9. 3rd round is more of the same, with Frank looking hurt, getting busted open and frustrated with Tito's dominant ground game. They trade a few shots standing here where Frank looks like he has a chance, but Ortiz fights a smart game and keeps him grounded, even standing in between rounds where Frank is sitting, sucking wind. Ortiz 10-9. 4th round is another close round but the fight ends here, Frank is more mobile, not content with trying his luck against Titos' dominant ground position, even though he does score a take down. Frank manuevers out of one and tries another choke, but as they fight for position, he gets back to his feet and swings on Tito, with several lethal blows to the back of his down opponent (obviously still legal at this point) to KO the Huntington Beach Bad Boy. Smart Fight by Tito and a fun comeback from Frank even though he was really beat up, just embarrassed by Tito's superior wrestling.
Kazushi Sakuraba v. Royce Gracie- 4
PRIDE Grand Prix 2000
Saitama, Japan June 23
Where to begin with this epic? First off the ringside was littered with dignitaries galore, ranging from ancient MMA pioneer Helio Gracie, famed pro wrestler/ trainer Nobuhiko Takada, the MAN Antonio Inoki and Slowhand himself, Eric Clapton. That's not a typo. This fight was under Gracie's own special rules, since he's so important where there is no time limit or round limit all with 15 minute rounds and no break ups on the ground. The first round Gracie had Sakuraba through the ropes looking outside, as he tried to hang onto a kimura that Gracie finally did escape from while giving him a good pounding from behind (that didn't sound good), I meant with his fists (okay, i'll just stop there.) Gracie wins 1st. 2nd round was all stalling, literally. Gracie backed Sak into the corner and held him there for the whole round, except one flurry where he came out and boxed him quite successfully. Sak was patient and calm and keep the crowd entertained when he started pulling Gracie's gi over his head then tried to take his pants down. Gracie wins 2nd. 3rd round started with more of the same, but Sak got some distance between them and scored with some punches, although Gracie dropped to the ground every time he threw and some leg kicks. Sak wins 3rd. The announcers at this point, while impressed with Gracie showing more skills than known for (leg kicks, some boxing) dogged him for his "special rules", with Bas stating the point that if you can't beat a man within an hour, or two hours then you shouldn't be fighting. Sak fought the whole bout to Gracie's standards, never cheap shotting him while fixing his gi, never pushing the pace at all really. 4th round Sak scored with more standing punches, but was also transfixed in the corner for a good amount of time but he certainly did more damage than Gracie. Sak wins 4th. 5th round saw them immediately go to guard position on the ground, where Gracie was really busy setting up positions, but he never tried any submissions, Sak was content with fighting off Gracie's attempts, feeling confident after taking the master practicioner down earlier in the fight several times. Sak did stand up and try to swing or powerbomb him twice but Gracie clung to his legs like a leech. Sak wins 5th. Okay 6th and final round, again, down in the guard, Sak still trying to score from the top, while Gracie hung tightly to him. The ref did finally stand them up here, and Gracie looked terrible on his feet, stiff arms and legs, no head movement, hands down, but suprisingly kept aggressing towards Sak, who measured Gracie several times and jacked his jaw, prompting the legendary fighter to fall back to the ground and start leg kicking like Inoki did against Ali. Sak's brutal leg kicks started taking their toll and Gracie was limping, in addition to having a busted lip and eye. 6th round ends and after 90 minutes of combat, Gracie denotes to his corner he's done. This had some interesting tactical warfare in it, but definitley long in the tooth for even the most insatiable MMA fan. I felt it was a glowing example of Gracie's lack of evolving past one style, as Sak mostly toyed with him the whole fight, never once near trouble of being beaten. In the end, Gracie looked as passe as slap bracelets and Trolls by the time this one ended.
Randy Couture v. Pedro Rizzo- 7
UFC 32 - UFC Heavyweight Title
Atlantic City, NJ May 4
This was a 5 round war and heavily competitive. Couture looked younger, but more like a meathead with terrible balding hair. 1st round was all Randy though, they tied up in the clinch right off the bat and traded blows but then Couture took over with a serious takedown and one severe beating, alternating fists as he bludgeoned Rizzo and made red plasma pour from his head. It was a near finish on two occasions. Couture 10-9. In the 2nd, Rizzo made a crazy comeback and just had Couture's number, stuffing all takedowns, outboxing him easily and nearly dropping him twice for a finish. Rizzo 10-9. 3rd round was slow, as at the end of the 2nd, both men looked absolutely spent. Couture pulled a takedown and mounted Rizzo doing little to no damage as Rizzo had no answer for Randy's ground attack. Couture 10-9. 4th round was a little more competitive, with both men slowly throwing hands, from fatigue, but Couture scored a slick behind the back wheelbarrow move and then mounted and worked Rizzo over. Couture 10-9. 5th and final round, both guys knew this was make or break and both seemed to be re-engergized, both throwing hands, with Rizzo outboxing Couture again and busting his nose open into a bloody faucet. Stuffing more takedowns and scoring a frenzy of punches in the last 10 seconds gave "the Rock" the round. Rizzo 10-9. A fast paced fight with two really capable fighters, loved the contrast of styles and heart both men showed. I wo'nt ruin the ending, all these scores i'm giving out are my own opinion and not the accurate scores from the judges.
Don Frye v. Yoshihiro Takayama- 8
Tokyo, Japan June 23
Drop the bombs! You may have seen highlights of this fight on SportsCenter or other sports related lists for craziest fight of the century. The fight starts with both men grabbing the backs of each other's heads and just hauling off on each other, a good 20 to 30 times. It's one of the most intense scenes in combat history you'll see. Takayama comes out the worse, with a huge mouse under his eye, which the commentator notes "has become a rat and soon to be an elephant!" Frye strikes with confidence and backs Takayama in the corner, just pounding his face until it's a mushy bloody mess. Tak gets one takedown and scores with some knees before Frye asserts himself again and beats Tak's face raw. Docs check on his eye and actually let the guy continue, why I have no idea. Takayama screws up a takedown and Frye winds up on top and continues the vicious assault until the ref has seen enough. One of the undisputed kings of brutal fights of all MMA, well worth your while to find it.
Wanderlei Silva v. Hidehiko Yoshida- 6
PRIDE Middleweight Grand Prix
Tokyo, Japan March 29
The crowd was so amped for this and my first inclination was this was a huge underdog fight with Silva being Silva and Yoshida being a nobody that didn't have a chance. He takes Wandy down immediately, who fights in the ropes for a triangle choke but never quite gets it. They have to reposition and nothing happens so we get a standup. Now Wanderlei takes control and puts Yoshida on his back but he has no luck either, another reposition and Wandy lights Yoshida up some, but nowhere near level of his usual obliteration. 2nd round starts and I have to give the 1st to Yoshida for more control but I think the judges see his bloody mouth and give it to Wandy. 2nd round is Silva at his best throwing bombs, which Yoshida absorbs quite a few of them, throws some of his own but little to no effect. Wandy gets another take down and controls from the top but not able to do a lot but throw strikes, the crowd is incensed and pops huge every time Yoshida tries to escape, ending with the last few seconds where he switches momentum and ends up on top in half guard. The crowd made what would probably have been an otherwise boring fight into something dramatic and exciting.
Quinton Jackson v. Wanderlei Silva- 7
Saitama, Japan Oct 31
Man this was a fun slugfest. Wanderlei was getting the better of the strike exchanges, he was just always in the pocket connecting with Rampage playing second fiddle, but a quick turnaround and heated exchange with Rampage scoring a knockdown, then set Rampage up really well for a side takedown. From there he was in the mount not doing much of anything except avoiding triangle attempts. He hit a few bodyblows while on top and effectively won the 1st round. 2nd round starts out with some tentativeness then explosion. Both guys didn't want to leave it in the ring and Wanderlei was throwing deadly strikes all over the place. Wandy's muy thai clinch was the nail in the coffin though and he bludgeoned Rampage's face until he was hanging over the ropes like a drunk teenager praying to the porcelain god at a frat party.
Forrest Griffin v. Stephan Bonnar- 8
UFC Fight Night 1
Las Vegas, NV April 9
This was every bit the slugfest war that I remember it being. 1st round shows some hesitation from either guy to pull the trigger in first minute or so but then they come together like two horny rams wanting to mount the same sheep during mating season. Forrest stays on top in the first enough to win the round, scoring takedowns and keeping Bonnar where he wanted him, even though both men scored some significant punches. Forrest also excelled with his knees in the clinch. Forrest 10-9. 2nd round was as close as they come, with neither man scoring more than the other and both continually letting their fists fly. Big exchanges landed over and over again, Bonnar seemed to assert himself more here but his whole face got busted open from crazy punches Forrest was throwing. The striking got a bit reckless here and both men were worn out. 9-9. 3rd round was another nailbiter with both men extremely gassed but still throwing everything they could muster. Forrest attemtped some takedowns but was unsuccessful but kept scoring with those knees in the clinch. In the highlight of the round, Bonnar scored with a spinning hook kick that came all the way across the cage and blasted the side of Forrest's head. Bonnar 10-9. So I had this as a draw, but as Joe Rogan said, there were no losers here, just two winners.
Diego Sanchez v. Karo Parisyan- 7
UFC Fight Night 4
Las Vegas, NV Aug 17
Another war that was as exciting in the 1st round as any fight you'll see. Diego comes in focused as always and breezes through a takedown that had Parisyan struggling to get up. But, get up he did, and scored not one, but two amazing judo throws that dunked Diego on his noggin. Karo controlled both short ground sections there. Parisyan 10-9. 2nd round is more of the same with Diego not wanting to go down but did fall victim to 2 more smaller takedowns but scored better on the feet. Some really impressive grappling up against the cage with both men fighting hard for position in a stalemate. Still, Parisyan scored more with his ground game, so again Karo 10-9. 3rd round Parisyan's gas tank was empty and was kind of just accepting Diego's short hard punches for most of the 5 minutes. A well developed bulge of blood and puss formed under his eye, Diego also got him down on the ground and pulverized him pretty well for a few minutes all the way up until the bell. Conceivably could be a 10-8 round here which would make this a draw, but I was pretty stunned by the judge's decision for Diego unanimous. This wasn't a travesty as much as Machida- Shogun but still quite surprising