Mixed martial arts is an inherently dangerous sport. Men and women are throwing body parts at each other with the maximum amount of force their bodies can muster, in an effort to incapacitate their opponent and claim victory. It is competition in one of the most primal forms ever conceived and has caught on with massive worldwide audiences. These people tune in and show up to see the giants in the sport go toe to toe with each other. Unfortunately, the bodies of these competitors are all too vulnerable and often pushed past their breaking points.
Every athlete that steps into the ring assumes the risks that are associated with the sport. At major promotions, medical personnel stand on hand at all times to administer care to athletes that suffer injury. This attempt at making a violent, inherently unsafe sport as safe as possible has stopped many athletes from suffering unnecessary trauma. In several cases, these devastating injuries have not deterred the injured competitors from continuing. Fighters serve as great examples of the indomitable human spirit.
One common thread between all of these injuries is that they all occurred while executing techniques with intention. They show that many techniques considered basic can be vital keys to victory under certain circumstances. In many cases, some of these athletes that suffered injury have had a chance to prevent further injury, but have declined whether due to pride or failure to realize the peril of their predicament. As mixed martial arts continues to evolve as a sport, we are sure to see even more bizarre and brutal injuries. Here are the worst of what the sport has seen so far.
*WARNING: These videos are incredibly graphic and are not for the faint of heart.
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15 Mark Hominick’s Hematoma
At the peak of his career in MMA, Mark Hominick took on Jose Aldo for the UFC Featherweight Title at UFC 129 in Toronto. In front of a crowd of his countrymen, Hominick fought an extraordinarily courageous bout that went the full five rounds. Unfortunately for Hominick, he sustained damage during the fight that made it impossible for judges to rule in his favor. Over the course of the fight, Jose Aldo focused his damage on Hominick’s forehead, creating one of the most enormous hematomas ever seen in MMA. The ringside doctor briefly stopped the fight to ensure Hominick’s safety, but allowed it to continue to the full duration.
14 Leslie Smith’s Exploding Ear
Cauliflower ear is something that wrestlers and mixed martial artists are accustomed to dealing with and rarely does it actually affect competition. Leslie Smith memorably became the exception to this when her ear was nearly ripped in half following a battery of punches from her opponent, Jessica Eye. Eye’s well placed right handed blow caused Smith’s ear to cleave and sent blood splattering across the canvas, which forced Herb Dean to stop the fight. Smith pleaded with the ringside doctor to be allowed to continue the fight, but her ear was on the verge of falling off.
13 Frank Mir Breaks Tim Sylvia’s Arm
Tim Sylvia is a tough dude. That fact is pretty much undeniable. Sylvia is a 6’8’’ man mountain that was the UFC Heavyweight Champion before having the title stripped for a failed drug test. Sylvia put his undefeated record on the line by fighting Frank Mir for the vacant Heavyweight belt. Mir put his expert BJJ skills to work almost immediately and soon had the undefeated Sylvia trying to power through an inverted arm bar. Sylvia lifted his opponent despite suffering a visibly broken forearm and immediately began to protest the referee’s pleas to stop the fight. Eventually, Sylvia agreed and thanked Herb Dean for preventing him from further injury.
12 Ronda Rousey Destroys Miesha Tate’s Arm
Ronda Rousey can lock in an arm bar better than almost any individual on the planet. This is a trend that has become apparent during her rapid rise through the MMA ranks. Rousey has used the move to devastating effect on several opponents and Miesha Tate was no different, it simply took longer than expected. Tate lasted until the final minute of the 3rd round of their bout, before succumbing to the inevitability that is Ronda Rousey’s arm bar. The fight was considered an overwhelming success for the UFC, especially considering the attention Rousey generated for refusing to shake Tate’s hand following the match.
11 Sakuraba Breaks Renzo Gracie’s Arm
Mixed martial arts and Brazilian jiu-jitsu are sports that are inseparable at this point in time. In BJJ, practitioners typically fight according to the code where you give an opponent an opportunity to tap out before inflicting true damage. This was on display during Kazushi Sakuraba’s bout with Renzo Gracie, when Sakuraba sunk in a deep kimura on the Brazilian legend. Sakuraba graciously gave his opponent an opportunity to surrender, but when Renzo refused, his arm was broken. Gracie seemed to accept his fate as he settled onto the canvas and was briefly embraced by Sakuraba in an amazing display of sportsmanship.
10 Shinya Aoki Stuns Keith Wisniewski with Standing Arm Lock
Shinya Aoki will be included later on this list for an incredible submission followed by a stunning act of disrespect, but his 2005 fight against Keith Wisniewski was an example of how Aoki developed a reputation as a world class fighter. Wisniewski was certainly holding his own and landed the majority of strikes, while Aoki seemed focused on submission opportunities. After missing a flying arm bar, Aoki was working on isolating an arm while standing. Suddenly he violently isolated Wisniewski’s left arm and spun his own body, causing the rapid extension and breaking of Keith’s arm.
9 Megumi Fujii’s Toe Hold on Serin Murray
Toe holds were a brutal part of the emergence of the UFC and have since come back into fashion. One of the best examples of this technique’s mastery is from one of the greatest women’s fighters of all time, Megumi Fujii. During her 2006 bout with Serin Murray, Fujii locked in a toe hold and would just not let go. She provided ample time for her opponent to surrender, but Murray continued to struggle, possibly because of not knowing the devastating consequences that were coming. Megumi completed the maneuver by dislocating Murray’s foot, leaving her to crawl away injured and defeated.
8 Jamie Varner Breaks Ankle, Keeps Fighting
James Krause displayed the devastating effects that strong leg kicks can have on an opponent, when he used them to defeat Jamie Varner at UFC 173. After Krause delivered several strong kicks in the early stages of the fight, Varner’s leg appeared increasingly unstable before folding dramatically under his body weight. Varner valiantly continued fighting, but was unable to continue following the bell to end the first round. Krause showed what is possible in MMA when targeted attacks can leave your opponent unable to continue despite the desire being there.
7 Gerard Gordeau Gives Telia Tuli Free Dental Work
In its infancy, the Ultimate Fighting Championship was a bizarre spectacle that matched up fighters of different styles, before Royce Gracie would ultimately strangle his opponents. In the very first fight in UFC history, Gerard Gordeau, a Dutch karate/savate fighter took on Telia Tuli an actor/sumo wrestler best known for his role in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Their fight was a brief affair, which involved the two circling each other for several moments, before Tuli charged and Gordeau delivered a flurry of strikes. When Tuli’s momentum carried him into the cake, Gordeau capitalized by using a devastating roundhouse kick which sent Tuli’s tooth sailing into the crowd. The referee stopped the fight as the crowd called for more bloodshed, and a new combat sport was born.
6 Imanari Destroys Mike Brown’s Knee
Masakazu Imanari is an expert at applying leg locks from virtually every conceivable position. His ability to do this was shown during his bout with Mike Brown in 2005, during a fight for short-lived promotion DEEP. In the second round of their relatively even encounter, Imanari landed an improbably rolling shot for a knee lock and somehow succeeded in isolating Brown’s leg. This daring shot led to Brown’s knee becoming dislocated and eventually turned perpendicular to the way it normally should face. Brown thankfully would recover and go on to become WEC Featherweight Champion.
5 Jon Jones’ Toe Bone is Showing
Jon Jones has proven that a fighter can be undefeated, but that does not make them invulnerable. Jon Jones refused to recognize Chael Sonnen as a significant contender during the run up to their UFC Light Heavyweight Championship bout at UFC 159. During the fight, Jones thoroughly dominated Sonnen, throwing him to the ground repeatedly and raining down blows. During this first round beatdown the big toe on Jones’ left foot was brutally dislocated while he struggled for traction on the canvas. The champ was able to pound Sonnen until the referee stopped the fight with 27 seconds remaining in the round. If not for that stoppage, it is unlikely that Jones would have been able to answer the bell for the 3rd round.
4 Anderson Silva Leg Break
When Anderson Silva stepped into the ring for his rematch with Chris Weidman, he never expected to leave physically broken. The former champion was caught while showboating by a well-timed flurry of punches from Weidman in their first meeting, but it was his own power that proved to be his undoing in the second bout. Silva threw a furious leg kick that was checked by the massive leg of Weidman and the Brazilian’s leg snapped like a twig being smashed across a tree trunk. Anderson fell backwards onto the mat in obvious pain and Weidman did not even throw a follow up punch, before Herb Dean stepped into stop the fight.
3 Frank Mir Breaks Noguiera’s Humerus
Frank Mir is one of the greatest heavyweight Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioners that the sport of mixed martial arts has ever seen. Mir’s mastery of high level techniques has been displayed throughout his career. During his fight with Minotauro Noguiera, Mir used it to escape what looked to be almost certain defeat by transitioning expertly from a guillotine choke attempt. Mir locked in a kimura from side control, and Minotauro responded with a textbook roll, however Mir found himself on top during the scramble and tightened the grip further. This caused Noguiera’s to break in gruesome fashion, but was another example of the warrior spirit displayed by Minotauro throughout his career.
2 Shinya Aoki Ruins Mizuto Hirota’s Everything
On New Years Eve 2009, Shinya Aoki avenged his friend Tatsuya Kawajiri’s loss to Mizuto Hirota by breaking the arm of Hirota in brutal fashion. Just moments into the first round, Aoki went on the offensive and began to dismantle the defenses of Hirota with his world class jiu-jitsu skills. Aoki quickly twisted his opponent’s arm behind his back and rained down blows from the dominant position. Hirota continued to struggle despite the hopeless position and refused to tap out to the Aoki’s hammerlock, so Aoki responded by breaking Hirota’s humerus. Following the referee’s stoppage, Aoki stood over his opponent and gave him the middle finger, in one of an act of complete disrespect. He eventually apologized for flipping the bird, but not for breaking the arm.
1 Corey Hill’s Leg Kick Goes Wrong
During Corey Hill’s fourth MMA bout, his career took a dramatic turn. It was Hill’s third fight in the UFC, and he needed a victory at UFC: Fight for the Troops 1 to continue competing in the sport’s premier competition. As Hill came to meet Dale Hartt following the start of the 2nd round, he threw a leg kick that was checked perfectly. Hill’s tibia and fibula snapped upon impact and he fell back to the mat in obvious pain. Despite the cries from the crowd and Joe Rogan, the fight momentarily continued until the leg break was pointed out. It is an incident enough to make any MMA fighter think twice about throwing unnecessary leg kicks.
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