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10 MMA First Rounds That Compare to Hagler vs. Hearns

Levi NileContributor IIIJune 19, 2012

10 MMA First Rounds That Compare to Hagler vs. Hearns

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    Perhaps one of the most intense struggles between two men in the professional world of combative sport occurred on April 15, 1985, at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada.

    Marvin Hagler and Thomas Hearns fought for the undisputed world middleweight championship, but as soon as the first round finally came to a close, all who were watching knew that this wasn’t a contest anymore: It was a brutal struggle for something worth more than any title.

    The first round of their fight is still (and rightly, in my opinion) considered one of the very best in the history of boxing, and in 1985 the bout was awarded “Fight of the year” honors by the bible of boxing, Ring Magazine, which dubbed the fight as “the most electrifying eight minutes ever.”

    And they couldn’t have been more accurate.

    Hagler vs. Hearns had it all—drama, aggression, courage, skill and blood—all mined under the shadow of a violent ending that loomed above all like a taskmaster that would accept nothing less than total war.

    There was something about this fight that was bigger than both men, and they fought like everything in the world depended on it.

    But the world of combative sport does not belong to boxing alone.

    Mixed Martial Arts has been a presence in the fight game of America (and the world) for many years now. During that time, some excellent fights have been won and lost in the first round.

    But is that good enough? Does MMA have any fights that produced a first round worthy of consideration alongside the first frame of “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler vs. Tommy “The Hitman” Hearns?

    I say “yes,” and in doing so offer 10 candidates from the world of MMA (in no specific order) that had first rounds just as good as that seen on April 15, 1985.

    And if they’re not “just as good,” they’re real damn close.

Nick Diaz vs. Takanori Gomi

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    When: PRIDE 33 (Feb. 24, 2007)

    Where: Las Vegas, Nevada

    Most first rounds must meet one criteria above all others to be considered great: that of a dramatic ebb and flow that sees both fighters hurt, only to rally back.

    Nick Diaz vs. Takanori Gomi satisfies that criteria, with a vengeance.  

    Diaz was dropped by a huge punch that opened a cut on his face (and would later cause his eye to swell hideously), but then came back near the last quarter of the round to unload on Gomi with punches in bunches, knocking him all around the ring.

    It was one of those rounds that pulled fans to the edge of their seats while firmly entrenching itself into the minds of all who saw it.

Randy Couture vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira

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    When: UFC 102 (Aug. 29, 2009)

    Where: Portland, Oregon

    When Randy Couture squared off against Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, we got to see what happens when two consummate professionals lay siege to one another, right at the front gates.

    As they seized each other in a mutual collar tie and began slamming fist to face, over and over, it was shades of Don Frye vs. Yoshihiro Takayama; when they tumbled to the mat and began grappling for position vs. submission, the old days of the sport―when wrestling was pitted against Brazilian jiu-jitsu―were revisited.   

    In many ways, the first round was like a PRIDE fight fought in a UFC cage, and it was glorious.

Diego Sanchez vs. Clay Guida

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    When: The Ultimate Fighter Season 9 Finale (June 20, 2009)

    Where: Las Vegas, Nevada

    If there is any sport that sees the use of adjectives to the point of abuse, it’s the fight game. Words like “war,” “incredible,” “unbelievable” are often used ad nauseam.

    The first round of Diego Sanchez vs. Clay Guida suffers undue injury from this because it was a war, it was incredible and more than a few times it really did seem unbelievable.

    The round started, they rushed forward and mere seconds later, they were throwing bomb after bomb, both men intent on destroying each other.

    The aggression both men poured into this bout was “staggering”―if you’ll allow me to abuse an adjective or two of my own―and by the time the end of the round came, it was questionable as to how much they had left for rounds two and three.

    This was the kind of first frame that makes fans out of detractors, and you can watch it again and again and never grow tired of it.

Eddie Alvarez vs. Tatsuya Kawajiri

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    When: DREAM 5: Lightweight Grand Prix 2008 Final Round (July 21, 2008)

    Where: Osaka, Japan

    The tournament format has long been the source of debate among fight fans due to the notion that as each fighter is trying to make it to the finals they are not fighting to the best of their ability; they are holding something back in reserve for the next fight of the night.

    Eddie Alvarez and Tatsuya Kawajiri had no such intentions; all their focus was aimed at the man across the ring.

    It started off as measured and clinical as you please, but every moment that passed showed them not as calm technicians but pots of water on the oven, growing to a boil.

    This first round saw both men hurt only to compose themselves and rally back; both men were dropped by heavy blows, but were tough enough by far to weather the storm and get the space needed to launch an attack of their own.

    Both men were attacking each other so often that it was clear they were not thinking about advancing to the next round. They were too busy trying to take each other's heads off.

    It was exciting and compelling, and when Alvarez finally finished the bout at the very end of the round, you didn’t feel cheated.

    They put an entire nights worth of fighting into one round, and it was a great one.

Melvin Manhoef vs. Evangelista "Cyborg" Santos

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    When: Cage Rage 15 (Feb. 4, 2006)

    Where: London, England

    This was the first act in a short story of two very hungry, proud fighters, unappreciated in their time, fighting because that’s what fighters do.

    But very rarely do they do so with such menace and drama.

    Both Melvin Manhoef and Evangelista "Cyborg" Santos were happy to engage in close quarters, throwing wicked punches in bunches while landing nasty leg kicks from range and on the inside.

    At one point it would look like Manhoef was about to close the show with his fast, accurate bombs, only to see Santos turn the tide, catching Manhoef flush with heavy counters and then going on the offensive himself.

    By the time the first round came to a close, it was very hard to say who had won, but it seemed clear that someone was going to have his candle put out before the night was over.

    And that’s what makes a first round great.

Leonard Garcia vs. Chan Sung Jung

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    When: WEC 48 (April 24, 2010)

    Where: San Antonio, Texas

    There are many sayings about glory, but there is one in particular by Pierre Corneille that stands out: “A victory without danger is a triumph without glory.”

    As Leonard Garcia and Chan Sung Jung were throwing everything but the kitchen sink at each other, it was clear that there was going to be plenty of Corneille’s species of glory to go around.

    Few fights with this level of brutality make the fighters smile as often as this one did. In watching both men ratchet each other’s heads back with painful shots, it was clear that they were having the time of their lives.

    It was a terribly exciting first round in what turned out to be one of the greatest fights of the year, and both men delivered and received enough damage to prove they were equally deserving of the triumph and the glory.

    God knows they provided the fireworks.

Mark Hominick vs. Yves Jabouin

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    When: WEC 49 (June 20, 2010)

    Where: Alberta, Canada

    When the WEC packed its bags and headed to Canada, everyone hoped they could win over the crowd with their best.

    In the end, it was two Canadians fighting in front of their countrymen that delivered the goods.

    Yves Jabouin may have been the lesser known fighter on the world stage, but he fought like a champion, attacking Mark Hominick with kicks to the body and legs and in the early going his combinations were sharp and precise.

    As the round wore on, Hominick found his way out of the pain and began to establish a rhythm of his own, landing blows to the head and body of Jabouin, and at round's close, he landed a series of hard shots to Jabouin’s face and rib cage.

    First rounds like this are like one of the top reasons why the fans are quickly flocking to the lower weight classes.

Nick Diaz vs. Paul Daley

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    When: Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Daley (April 9, 2011)

    Where: San Diego, California

    People who knew Nick Diaz and Paul Daley rightly groaned in anticipation of this fight at its signing, and when the call to start the first round was heard, they got what they wanted.

    It was the bombs of Daley vs. the high volume punching of Diaz, and it wasn’t long before the space between those two fighters had turned into tigers.

    Both men seemed to be in a constant flux between offense and defense, winging heavy punches one second and stiff combinations the next. Daley dropped Diaz twice, only to see the Stockton slugger come roaring back into the fray, throwing punches in bunches to both the body and head.

    It was a true barn burner, and when Daley finally fell from a Diaz flurry, Big John McCarthy had seen enough and called a halt to the fight—and one of the best first rounds seen in Strikeforce history.

Stephan Bonnar vs. Forrest Griffin

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    When: The Ultimate Fighter Season 1 Finale (April 9, 2005)

    Where: Las Vegas, Nevada

    There’s something special when two unassuming men are fighting for the same thing. They tend to make the most of what they have, letting their hunger pull them into dangerous territory with no hesitation.

    Stephan Bonnar and Forrest Griffin left it all in the cage because they had nothing to lose and everything to gain.

    Both men were happy to fight each other anywhere in the cage, and thus everywhere they went, threw heavy punches in abundance because that’s what they had.

    Each man ate some heavy leather, in addition to hard knees to the face and body, constantly looking for windows of opportunity to land that knockout shot. When no windows were to be found, they went back to simply throwing punches.

    The back-and-forth action in the fight was high, making it incredibly hard to tell who had the upper hand, and thus no one wanted to risk looking away for even a second.

    It was the kind of first round that saw both men start a fire that lit up living rooms the nation over and still keeps fans warm to this day.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Both men were happy to fight each other anywhere in the cage, and thus everywhere they went, throwing heavy punches in abundance because that’s what they had.

    Each man ate some heavy leather, in addition to hard knees to the face and body, constantly looking for windows of opportunity to land that knockout shot. When no windows were to be found, they went back to simply throwing punches.

    The back-and-forth action in the fight was high, making it incredibly hard to tell who had the upper hand, and thus no one wanted to risk looking away for even a second.

    It was the kind of first round that saw both men start a fire that lit up living rooms the nation over and still keeps fans warm to this day.

Matt Hughes vs. Frank Trigg II

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    When: UFC 52 (April 16, 2005)

    Where: Las Vegas, Nevada

    Rematches have a somewhat dubious reputation in the fight game and rightly so. When two fighters face each other for the second time, they seem to become creatures who serve the houses of both caution and hesitancy, to the advantage of neither.

    The winner of the first bout normally wants to keep his claim as the best, and tries to protect the victory of yesterday by fighting not to lose. Those defeated in the previous meeting are once stung, twice shy.

    But that is not always the case, as the rematch between Matt Hughes and Frank Trigg proved.

    This was a one-round wonder that had all the same excellent ingredients of Hagler vs. Hearns, done MMA style: punches on the feet, ground-and-pound, reversals of fortune, a mighty slam, submissions attempted (and one finally realized) and the crowd on its feet.

    It was so dramatic that it almost seemed scripted for the stage: a low blow and a referee caught unawares, a proud champion brought low by treachery and terrible wrath and a champion overcoming all to restore order to his kingdom.

    Yeah, I know, that’s some sappy and overly dramatic stuff there. But think about that fight for a moment; it really did have all of that, and more.

    Although I’m pretty sure Hemingway would have enjoyed it far more than any poet.

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