Whenever strikes are flying with bad intentions, the chance of a foul is always there. Sometimes like a confused animal that stumbles into the scene by accident, other times like a snarling dog let loose by the offender.
For the former, it’s a regrettable moment in their career that is usually never repeated again.
For the latter, it’s the dark humor of the situation itself they cannot resist. Their opponent is putting their trust in him to obey the rules, and like Lucy yanking the ball away from Charley Brown as he runs to kick, they too choose to indulge their whims, simply because they can.
That’s not to say a fighter found guilty of landing a dirty strike is a dirty fighter. It is simply an acknowledgement of those things within the rules and those things deemed illegal.
The sport has seen its fair share of both unintentional fouls and those done with clear malice, but whatever the motivation, the result is the same: a dirty strike.
Here is a list of 10 of the dirtiest strikes in MMA history, where the strike itself is more often than not the main point of contention.
When: UFC 127 (Feb. 27, 2011)
Where: Sydney, Australia
Yeah, Jorge Rivera crossed a lot of lines, and no one is trying to excuse what he did.
But his actions were totally transparent. Everyone knew he was trying to get Michael Bisping furious, and Bisping insulted himself by playing the role Rivera so blatantly assigned to him.
Then came the fight, and Bisping showed just how angry he really was by launching a hard knee to Rivera’s head while he was down.
It was a clear violation of the rules, and Bisping got away with it all.
Yes, Dana White said he took away any chance Bisping would have had for a “bonus”, but that’s not really a punishment, is it?
Bisping got away with a lot that night, but the knee to the head of Rivera was the worst of it, and should have had consequences far above and beyond the taking away of an “award.”
When: UFC 75 (Sept. 8, 2007)
Where: London, England
For as long as Cheick Kongo is in active competition, buying stock in groin protectors will never be a bad investment.
When Kongo squared off against Mirko Cro-Cop, he utilized that go-to weapon found in almost every kickboxer’s arsenal in the bottom shelf of the toolbox: the knee strike to the groin.
What’s more disturbing is the justification Kongo gave, admitting that one of the knees to Cro-Cop’s groin was intentional. Yes, it’s refreshing that he admitted it in his own, confused way (4:55 mark), but the justification attached is distressing because it is so fractured in thought.
In Kongo’s estimation, Cro-Cop’s previous complaints of the illegality of Kongo’s previous knee strikes had been false. Those weren’t to the cup. They were beside it, in the upper thighs. So Kongo decided to give him one for real and delivered the last shot to the rocks intentionally, evidently to illustrate the difference.
This nut-cracker suite’s last occupant of note was Andrew Golata, who just “couldn’t seem to help” but use Riddick Bowe’s sperm bank as a heavy bag. Both men are so casual about their recidivism that it should be of no surprise to anyone if Kongo does it again.
When: WEC 20 (May 5, 2006)
Where: Lemoore, California
There’s nothing as bewildering as watching a fighter go totally foul-happy bonkers in a fight, then himself seem bewildered as to what the uproar is.
Mike Kyle is one such special individual who lapses into error simply due to his passion for the game.
Yeah, not so much.
An illegal boot to the head of a downed opponent during the fight, then punches to said opponent after referee intervention, with an additional kick for good measure. Those are not the actions of a man “caught up in the moment.” They’re the actions of a man who simply doesn’t care about the rules.
Some fighters cross the line simply because they love it. Their actions fully embody the saying “It’s easier to do the deed and beg forgiveness than ask permission.”
When: UFC 113 (May 8, 2010)
Where: Quebec, Canada
Yes, we know, Josh Koscheck can be a serious jerk.
He taunts constantly, belittling his opponents anytime a camera finds his smug face. Worst of all, he’s the kind of fighter with wrestling so good that he can avoid the danger of retribution by taking his enraged opponents down and stifling any offense they have with his superior top game.
And if that fails, he can score a knock out with a single blow.
Paul Daley saw much of the former and none of the latter in his fight with Koscheck. He was taken down and held down constantly, and much of that time Koscheck used to whisper sweet “your nothing”-s in his ear.
After the final bell, Daley wandered over to Koscheck and punched him right in the face.
That blatant foul got him a pink slip from the UFC, with Koscheck laughing at his expense all the way.
When: UFC 43 (June 6, 2003)
Where: Las Vegas, Nevada
What’s there to say about a fool doing foolish things?
Wes Sims knew the rules, but once he found himself getting thoroughly outclassed by Frank Mir, he decided to throw the rule book out the window, and stomping on the head of Frank Mir did exactly that.
The fact that Sims acted surprised by the disqualification and from there proceeded to play the role of the wronged party was proof positive that he didn’t belong in the UFC.
When a fool feigns ignorance, it’s rarely a convincing act, and Sims acting like a fighter was the true fiction to be found in the cage that night.
When: Rumble on the Rock 8 (Jan. 20, 2006)
Where: Honolulu, Hawaii
Sometimes fouls occur not by malice, but by misjudgment of the situation. That’s just part of the fight game.
But even then, there are some instances of serious damage being done, to the point that the fouled fighter cannot honestly continue.
When Anderson Silva landed a nasty upkick on Yushin Okami, that’s exactly what happened.
Okami was officially a grounded opponent, and thus the disqualification.
Men view this technique as one belonging to that “gray” area of the game, where a foul only becomes a foul but by a matter of degrees: had Okami had his knees up just a fraction, it would have been legal.
But that is the gamble fighters take, and when it fails them, it’s a dirty strike.
When: EliteXC: Destiny (Feb. 10, 2007)
Where: Southaven, Mississippi
This is one example of how confusing certain situations can be, and how it is good to have a referee who has the courage of his convictions and is willing to call a spade a spade.
Frank Shamrock and Renzo Gracie are both legendary figures in the world of MMA. They’re both also passionate fighters who go for the win.
As Gracie got a takedown against Shamrock, a foul occurred from when and where one would not expect.
Shamrock, from his back, delivered some driving knees to the back of Gracie’s head and neck with Gracie atop him in the side mount position.
Yes, it wasn’t as malicious as you’d first expect, and it is honestly debatable if it shouldn’t have been declared a no contest, as Shamrock couldn’t see where those knees were landing and didn’t seem possessed of a malicious mind at the time.
But it was still a serious foul, no matter if you think Gracie was acting up the damage done or not. And in such situations, the fouled fighter get’s the benefit of the doubt.
If he cannot continue, he wins. To declare it any other way would be to send the wrong kind of message. One that encourages fouling as an acceptable option depending upon the position.
No one else but Renzo really knows how hurt he was, but in his entire career he has proven himself a warrior, and it would be contrary to our experience to see him acting, especially considering he was in the more advantageous position.
During the post fight interview, Shamrock admitted to throwing knees that were in that general area and he assumed Gracie would move his head.
That strikes me as totally honest, and in truth it was an assumption he shouldn’t have made.
When: PRIDE 2 (March 15, 1988)
Where: Kanagawa, Japan
When a fighter steps into the cage and seems to know of no other method of engaging his opponent except via the illegal, something’s wrong.
Branko Cikatic looked so totally out of his element when fighting Mark Kerr that I wasn’t surprised by the first foul. But seeing just how comfortable Cikatic was at fouling anytime he got the chance was disturbing.
Shots to the back of the head and neck are incredibly dangerous. They can lead to a host of long term problems including severe brain damage. Cikatic knew this and simply didn’t care.
When Kerr finally realized this and began to maul Cikatic against the ropes, it seemed like poetic justice.
A fighter who displays such clear malice of forethought shouldn’t be involved in professional prize fighting in any form.
When: PRIDE 7 (Sept. 12, 1999)
Where: Yokohama, Japan
There’s probably nothing as ugly or premeditated as an axe kick to the back of the head of a downed opponent, after the bell.
Actions speak louder than words, and that moment told the world all we needed to know about Bob Schreiber. He was a fighter who saw it not as a professional sport, but a vehicle to serve his whims, no matter where they may take him.
Some fighters can claim that they were caught up in the heat of the moment, but Schreiber did it because he wanted to.
When: Fight Festival 12 (Nov. 13, 2004)
Where: Helsinki, Finland
While not against his actual scheduled opponent for the bout, Gilbert Yvel did his dirty against the referee.
Clearly not pleased with the officiating, Yvel decided to protest then and there, decking the ref and then kicking him while he was down.
This was not the first time Yvel showed he was a slave to his anger. He was gouging Don Frye’s eyes so much in their fight that Frye looked like Tammy Faye Baker. All because Yvel didn’t like being taken to the ground.
Still, among all his foul behavior, his attack of the referee was the worst and thus perhaps the dirtiest strike in all of MMA history.