7 Injuries That Changed the Course of MMA History

Andrew Saunders@SaundersMMACorrespondent IIMay 28, 2013

7 Injuries That Changed the Course of MMA History

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    One man's misfortune is another man's opportunity. In the sport of MMA, that has proven to be the case several times. On occasion, an injury to one fighter will pave the way to success for someone else. 

    In other situations, an injury to a key fighter is the first step toward an unavoidable tragedy.

    Here is a look at seven injuries that, for better or worse, changed the course of MMA history.

Matt Serra: Herniated Disc

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    After shocking the world and knocking out Georges St-Pierre, Matt Serra was scheduled to defend his newly acquired welterweight championship against Matt Hughes at UFC 79. However, a herniated disc suffered during training forced the champion from his hotly anticipated contest.

    Due to Serra's injury, St-Pierre was tapped to fight Hughes in a rubber match for the interim UFC welterweight championship. 

    Without the need for a big star in a replacement title fight, GSP wouldn't have gotten the nod to jump back into a fight for gold. He had only picked up a single victory since losing the belt, and you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone that would call the win one-sided.

    At the time, Jon Fitch was a top welterweight on a seven-fight winning streak. Had Serra vs. Hughes gone on as planned, the AKA fighter likely would have faced the winner. Considering that many have referred to Fitch as arguably the best welterweight not named St-Pierre, the argument could be made that Serra's herniated disc cost Fitch a world title reign.

Alistair Overeem: Toe Injury

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    When Strikeforce announced a Heavyweight Grand Prix, many were excited to find champion Alistair Overeem's name in the brackets. Due to the caliber of competition, the tournament winner would undoubtedly be the best heavyweight in the organization, so fans around the world were ecstatic.

    After defeating Fabricio Werdum in the opening round, Overeem suffered an injury to his toe that would not allow "The Demolition Man" to return in time for the semifinals. The news of Overeem's removal from the tournament came only days before his abrupt and shocking release from his Strikeforce contract, despite being their reigning champion.

    One man's misfortune is another man's opportunity.

    This injury not only led to the firing of Overeem, but it also brought tournament alternate Daniel Cormier into the GP. Cormier would ultimately win the tournament and is currently one of the brightest stars in the heavyweight division because of it.

Dan Henderson: Knee Injury

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    The UFC has seen its fair share of injury-plagued events, yet, until last year, the organization was never forced to cancel a card due to injury. That is absolutely amazing, especially when you consider how plagued UFC 108—and 149—were.

    However, when it came to UFC 151, it took only one injury for the UFC to lose their "the show must go on" mentality.

    Light heavyweight contender Dan Henderson found himself on the wrong end of a knee injury while training for a matchup against champion Jon Jones. Unfortunately, Hendo waited until it was too late to tell the UFC, and a suitable replacement could not be found in time.

    Champion Jon Jones took more heat over the card's cancellation than anyone else due to the fact that he refused to meet Chael Sonnen, who had volunteered to step in and fight on short notice.

Frank Mir: Unrevealed Injury

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    Former champion pulls out of a fight in 2012, and as a result, the promotion is forced to cancel a fight card. I'm not talking about Dan Henderson again. This time, the man in question is heavyweight Frank Mir.

    Originally scheduled for a November 3 clash, Mir, a UFC mainstay, was crossing into enemy territory to face Daniel Cormier on a Strikeforce event. That is, until Mir backed out of the fight due to an undisclosed injury.

    Without a suitable replacement for the fallen Mir, Strikeforce was forced to cancel their second consecutive card, which led to the promotion's shutdown only two months later.

    Say what you want about the inevitable demise of Strikeforce, but a cross-promotional superfight between Cormier and Mir would have undoubtedly provided the type of ratings boost that could have convinced Showtime to continue their relationship with the brand.

    Just like you can't blame a missing life raft for a ship sinking, it's not fair to say that this injury caused the death of Strikeforce. However, without that life raft, those on the ship were doomed.

Brock Lesnar: Diverticulitis

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    Technically, diverticulitis isn't an injury, but this particular case of the affliction had enough of an impact on MMA that it deserves a mention.

    Say what you want to about the career of Brock Lesnar. In the eyes of many, the guy is one of the best pure athletes to ever compete in combat sports. Others think that the NCAA is a disgrace to the sport of mixed martial arts.

    Regardless of what side of the fence you find yourself, Lesnar is a former heavyweight champion and unquestionably one of the most important figures in UFC history.

    After avenging the sole loss of his career by dominating Frank Mir at UFC 100, Lesnar was diagnosed with an intestinal condition called diverticulitis. After carrying the physical burden of his condition, Lesnar had surgery, but hardly came back looking like the same monster he once was.

    Lesnar eventually retired only eight fights into his professional career, which cost MMA the biggest pay-per-view draw that it had ever known.

Ken Shamrock: Cut

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    It's hard to believe that Ken Shamrock had any real impact on the MMA world in 2008. However, when "the World's Most Dangerous Man" was cut during warm-ups for a fight against Kimbo Slice, he had unknowingly set into motion a series of events that would lead to a promotion's demise.

    The undefeated and uber-popular Slice would have to settle for a matchup with Seth Petruzelli, who was one of the only available options on such short notice. Petruzelli shocked the world when he knocked Slice out in only 14 seconds on national television.

    After the fight, Petruzelli talked with a radio show where he told the world that Elite XC promoters had attempted to dissuade him from grappling with Slice. With serious allegations that the company had paid off talent to fight a particular way, Elite XC closed up shop less than three weeks after the fight.

Rashad Evans: Knee Injury

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    Jon Jones is currently among the best championship reigns that the light heavyweight division has ever witnessed. However, were it not for a knee injury suffered by teammate Rashad Evans, the spectacular run might not have existed.

    Evans was a former champion who was planning to cash in on an earned title matchup against Mauricio "Shogun" Rua. However, less than two months away from their scrap, "Suga" was injured and unable to cash in on his opportunity.

    Jones was offered the chance to replace his teammate and famously dismantled Rua to win the belt.

    You guys are probably saying to yourselves "Jones would have won the belt from Rashad if the injury didn't happen." However, that's not likely.

    Evans and Jones were teammates under coach Greg Jackson. With an established pecking order, it was understood that Evans vs. Jones was not an option due to their friendship. In fact, Rashad clearly stated that he wouldn't fight Jones.

    Had Rashad refused Jones as a challenger, it is possible that Jones would still not have a title around his waist.