There are still people today, in 2015, who think that Mixed Martial Arts is a disgusting, barbaric spectacle with little resemblance of a sport. It's been over twenty years, has gone to dozens of countries, and still there are people saying MMA is "gory" and "scary." It's funny, as a fan who watched some of the earliest events in his preteen years on VHS, how some can still even pretend to be shocked by this. Movies like the "Saw" franchise, the "Hostel" series exist, and people watch shows like "Dexter" and even sad, gory, whiney dribble like "Grey's Anatomy." The second two trained adults get into a cage and start fighting in technically sound styles, however, all of a sudden its enough to make a viewer whimper and recoil.
These are exactly the type of people who I personally enjoy sending videos of the UFC in its early days. For those who don't remember, prior to 2000, when the Unified rules came out, the UFC was marketed as, and criticized for being, a brutal, bloody and unruly affair. Senator John McCain, a former military man and POW (Prisoner of war), was among the most offended, wasting years of his time and plenty of his constituents' money, fighting the "spectacle" in its early days.
Little did he know, talking heads in politics and the media would brand the UFC with the monikers that would help contribute to the glorious product it is today. But moving back to the early days of MMA in general, prior to those pesky unified rules, it may have been slightly cringe-worthy at times, but there is no denying the entertainment value of two grunting neanderthals mangling each other until a ref has to jump in and stop things.
An interesting and seldom acknowledged fact is that the mixed martial arts promotions that appeared throughout the 1990s were not the first of their kind. In 1979 and 1980, a company in Pittsburgh, CV Productions, held what are believed the first MMA tournaments in the United States. They billed it as regulated street fighting, and after a few shows they were ordered to stop the contests. Very few videos of these early "Tough Guy Contests" and "Battle of the Superfighters" are still available.
In a look back to the early days of the sport, here are fifteen of the greatest knockouts of early mixed martial arts, featuring various leagues. Obviously not all mixed martial arts promotions follow the unified rules, so this will be, for the most part, knockouts that would be illegal in the UFC.
15 15. (Debatable) UFC 8: Gary Goodridge VS Paul Herrera - 12-6 Elbows?
I thought I'd start this list off with a divisive knockout and one of my favorite of all time. Gary Goodridge was an arm wrestler before he got his start in MMA and kickboxing. His first UFC fight was against Paul Herrera and lasted just over ten seconds. Herrera went for a takedown but Goodridge caught it, stopped it, and caught his opponent in a crucifix position, before landing a series of elbows that have become one of the most renowned knockouts in UFC history.
14 14. Pride 1: Gary Goodridge VS Oleg Taktarov: Knees to the Head of Downed Opponent
For those who (like me) think that our first entry was a legal knockout, here's Gary Goodridge again, this time doing something that is now very illegal under the UFC's rules.
13 13. UFC 11: Brian Johnston VS Reza Nasri - TKO Involving Multiple Headbutts
12 12. IVC 6: Wanderlei Silva VS Mike Van Arsdale - Soccer Kicks
11 11. Meca World Vale Tudo 8: Mauricio Rua VS Angelo De Oliveira - Soccer Kicks
Much like Wanderlei Silva, Mauricio Rua had a tendency, early in his career, toward kicking the heads of downed opponents. This continued into his time with Pride and he has been a vocal advocate of the UFC returning to a more "Pride-like" approach to kicks and knees against downed opponents.
10 10. UFC 1: Gerard Gordeau VS Teila Tuli - the Original Soccer Kick
This was the first fight in the UFC. As many of the promotions early organizers have noted: the karate expert and sumo wrestler, Gerard Gordeau and Teila Tuli, could not have started the promotion out with a better effort. It was quick, but incredibly brutal. Tuli, a sumo wrestle, essentially charged Gordeau, took some shots and fell into the corner. Gordeau then stepped back, wound up, and delivered a 65 yard field goal kick to Tuli's face, knocking out a couple of teeth and ending the fight via doctor stoppage (TKO).
9 9. UFC 2: Pat Smith VS Scott Morris - 12-6 Elbows
8 8. World Vale Judo Championship 3 - Mark Kerr VS Paul Varelans - Knee to head of Downed Opponent
This was Mark Kerr's first professional MMA fight, taking place at WVC 3 in Brazil. He picked Paul Varelans apart quickly and finished him off in just over two minutes, mostly with a mean ground and pound agenda. Officially the fight was ended due to a technical knockout via punches, but he landed a few vicious knees directly to Varelans' face, which accelerated the win. If you haven't caught on yet, those are illegal these days.
7 7. UFC 5: Jon Hess VS Andy Anderson - A Few "Infractions"
6 6. World Vale Tudo Championship 9: Bob Schrijber VS Josh Sursa - Several 12-6 Elbows
5 5. One FC 4: Zorobabel Moreira VS Roger Huerta - Soccer Kick
Skip to the 10 minute mark to see the KO.
This is supposed to be a list of brutal knockouts from before the sport had strict rules, but I had to make an exception for One FC's brutal knockout back in 2012. Moreira and Huerta were in the second round and Moreira had a clear upper hand in the fight. Huerta fell to the floor and was clearly done, but Moreira connected with a great soccer kick that sealed the deal.
4 4. World Vale Tudo Championship 9: Gilbert Yvel VS Fabio Piemonte - Multiple Kicks to a Downed Opponent
3 3. UFC 3: Keith Hackney VS Emmanuel Yarborough - A Few Rabbit Punches
Keith Hackney was one of those early UFC fighters who did whatever it took to win, and in the case of his victory over Emmanuel (Manny) Yarborough, shots to the back of the head were involved. Refs are still lenient with this rule, because oftentimes a strike is meant to hit the side of the head or face but the defending fighter turns his head at the last second and takes a shot in the back of the head.
2 2. UFC 1: Kevin Rosier VS Zane Frazier - Head stomping
1 1. UFC 4: Keith Hackney VS Joe Son: Multiple Groin Strikes
This one was just gross and there was no other way to end an article like this. Remember Keith Hackney? He was the gentleman who teed off on the sumo wrestler's head to win a fight at UFC 3. Just one event later, he fought Joe Son (who would later play Random Task, the parody of Oddjob, in the first Austin Powers film). It was Son's first fight in the UFC and Hackney submitted him with a series of direct groin strikes while the two were grappling. Though it was technically a submission, one could have easily called it a TKO. Who is going to get up and go again after a series of groin shots?
On an unrelated topic, Joe Son was arrested and convicted of torture, and would later commit murder while incarcerated. I for one don't feel too bad for his having sustained the vicious groin strikes that he did.
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