Over the years, Mixed Martial Arts has seen its fair share of heart stopping excitement, thrilling storylines and dramatic knockouts. There are few events in sports that can get your blood racing like a big fight. The anticipation you feel before it, the tension you feel during it, and the emotional release you experience after a huge stoppage are all part of what keeps us coming back to the sport we love.
Sometimes, however, the sport serves up some really pathetic moments that just make you sigh and put your head in your hands. It might be a desperate promoter looking to cash in on a fighter well past his prime, or an insane Japanese matchmaker putting together a lightweight vs. heavyweight freak show. Whatever it may be, there has been no shortage of moments in MMA that are so stupid and ridiculous that words escape you have nothing left to do but sigh and facepalm.
These are some of the most absurd that come to mind, but I’m sure you can think of many more. These are in no particular order, and this is not a list of the greatest, just some that come to mind.
Facepalm: a popular online expression referring to the physical gesture known more widely as "smiting one's brow" or "smiting one's forehead;" that is, striking one's own face in a display of exasperation.
In typical Japanese matchmaking fashion, the boys over at Dream FC decided to set up Kazuyuki Fujita (one of the most popular fighters in Japanese MMA history) for his execution, literally.
This fight had "bad idea" written all over it. It didn’t make sense for Overeem, and it sure as hell didn’t make sense for Fujita, who was very inactive leading up to the fight, and was also on a two fight losing streak against less than stellar competition. Fujita was a +1150 underdog, and that was putting it nicely.
The facepalming moment came during the fighter introductions. Fujita was in the tail end of his career, and it showed in his appearance; he looked old, overweight and didn’t even bother to shave that day; He looked past his prime.
Then, the impending sense of doom for Fujita was amplified when the camera panned around to Overeem, a 256 pound killing machine who was so ripped and chiseled he would have made a Greek statue self-conscious. “The Reem” was on a three year unbeaten-streak and had also been doing serious damage in K-1.
Guy Mezger summed it up nicely when he said “Fujita looks a lot bigger, and not in a good way”. I just put my head in my hands and said “this won’t be pretty”
After the commentary team was done frothing over Overeem’s physique (which seems to have become standard practice nowadays), the fight was on. The contest played out predictably, with Overeem stalking Fujita as he scurried nervously around the outside of the cage, but the Japanese fighter was quickly running out of room to run.
Overeem was hitting Fujita with peppering knees and punches before he landed the big one, an absolutely massive left knee that hit Fujita’s “iron head” so hard that he was forced out of the ring.
Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy a good knockout, but there was something sad and tragic about watching that fight. Fujita was once a staple for tough, hard-nosed fighting; to see him get setup in a no-win situation, and then be subsequently annihilated, was just stupid.
Double facepalm moment: When Overeem revealed on the MMA Hour that the cannonball knee he landed not only knocked Fujita out, but also sent him into a six hour coma and almost killed him, read that again if you have to. At first I thought “what the hell where these guys thinking” but then I realized “oh yeah, it’s Japan, they do this all the time”
This fight had me shaking my head in disgust well before the cage door closed. Originally intended to be a boxing match between the former Olympic Gold Medalist and the ostracized former UFC champ, the fight was not sanctioned in New Jersey and had to be moved to Alabama and changed to MMA rules.
The gut wrenching facepalm moment came well before the fight took place. Adrenaline MMA decided to hype the fight through promotional videos distributed around the internet. The grease-factor skyrocketed as a result of the videos, which looked like they had been filmed in a garage with a camera phone, but that wasn’t the worst part. During the video, Tim came on to say a few words, and they almost made me puke.
In typical Tim Sylvia fashion, overconfident and arrogant, he proclaimed: “I’m not just boxing for myself, I’m boxing for the entire MMA community, and after this is done, we are going to get the respect we deserve”.
Me and my friend, who where both watching, hung our heads at this point. I remember thinking “NO! NO! We don’t want you to represent us, send Anderson in there, Overeem, anyone but you!”
Surprisingly, Tim’s performance was more pathetic than even I expected. After the fight was changed to an MMA bout, both men publicly made a gentlemen’s agreement to only box each other, despite the change in rules.
When the fight started, an overweight Tim Sylvia immediately went back on the agreement and connected with a solid inside leg kick to Mercer. Ray dropped his hands and glared at Tim in disapproval, then came back with a rocket of an overhand right that put Sylvia to sleep. Just like that, nine seconds in, game over.
The result wasn’t a surprise given Mercer’s pedigree, a little quick maybe, but not surprising. Tim’s hands where about a foot away from his face, and he didn’t even see the shot coming. Considering Tim’s asinine proclamation before the fight, there was nothing to do but facepalm (or perhaps, laugh for hours).
I was debating whether or not to make this page about Ken’s entire career from 2005 onward, where he amassed an abysmal 1-6 record, all losses coming by way of TKO in the first round; there where certainly plenty of facepalm worthy moments over the last five years of Ken’s career.
But it’s Shamrock’s fight with Clifton that I have decided to highlight here. Just hearing about this fight was facepalm worthy. It was Ken’s sole win since 2005, and that’s about the only good thing he could take away from it. Clifton was in horrible shape, weighing in at 360 pounds. He had a terrible record at 6-10 and claimed to be a “pit fighting” practitioner, whatever that means.
The fight was lacklustre. Shamrock circled, found an opening, blasted Clifton with a left and then caught him in an armbar when he hit the deck. It was a victory, but nobody, not named Ken Shamrock, was impressed at all.
You have to give some credit to Ken; the man was involved in MMA since the beginning. He was the very first Pancrase champion and the first UFC Superfight Champion. His career has lasted 14 years, he is a legend, but that doesn’t make fighting tomato cans like Clifton any less pathetic.
This fight showed everyone that current day Ken Shamrock is only capable of defeating fighters with almost no talent, and zero athletic ability. Clifton tragically died of a heart attack later that year at the age of 32, a testament to his physical condition.
Double facepalm moment: shortly after the fight, word came out that Shamrock tested positive for steroids; that’s right, he took steroids to fight Ross Clifton; it doesn’t get more shameful then that.
2009 saw what might go down as one of the weirdest, and most pointless, Japanese MMA tournaments in history, the Dream FC Super Hulk Grand Prix. It could have very well been titled “The Freak Show Grand Prix” as the tournament consisted primarily of match-ups that featured large weight and undeniable talent discrepancies between opponents.
The main theme of the tournament was large, low talent fighters against smaller fighters with more skill. But this fight was simply a large talented fighter against a smaller man with absolutely zero skill, the fight had no value.
This was by far, the most obscure bout of the tournament—maybe of all-time. Everyone in the media was facepalming at the idea of an old, washed up, steroid-using baseball player stepping in the ring with a seven foot tall professional kickboxer.
Most MMA fans will say that they enjoy a freak show match-up every once in a while, myself included, but this was just a little too ridiculous. The sole reason for Canseco to be in the ring that night was for him to receive a beating and collect a pay check.
Before the fight, Kenny Rice on Inside MMA questioned whether or not a “super freak show” like this was what Japan needed to keep the fans interested in MMA. The answer was no, which was good, considering the fight was one of the most pitiful moments in mma history.
If it wasn’t blatantly obvious to fans before the fight, it was obvious five seconds in that Canseco’s plan was to swing overhand rights and pray to god.
Swinging hail mary punches is already a very low percentage strategy, but when you consider who was throwing them, the odds of success had to be close to zero. Once Choi was done defending every “attack”, he connected with a solid jab which knocked Jose to the ropes.
At this point, Jose Canseco was clearly done. You could see it on his face, and about a minute later, he was thrown to the ground after attempting a kick and mercifully saved by the referee. I give credit to Canseco for stepping in the ring that night, but the display was pretty awful.
To people like me, Mixed Martial Arts is at its best in the midst of a hard fought battle in combination with a strategic chess match between two talented athletes. This fight never really had any of those qualities that make the sport so thrilling
Usually in big mismatches like this, the old adage "anything can happen in MMA" allows for people to be captivated by the prospect of a big upset. But in this fight there was no such chance. Before the fight began, TV commentator Micheal Shavello said “its hard to imagine what Canseco could possibly do here”, and he was right. Even the fans who tuned in to just to see Canseco get a beating left disappointed (no doubt all of the baseball fans who believed he ruined the game would’ve enjoyed a 15 minute beat-down), this fight was utterly pointless and pathetic.
Double facepalm moment: When Jose Canseco’s need for cash lead him into the boxing ring, aginst a sixty year old man, where he lost. The “bout” took place at Dickey-Stephens Park before a Double-A baseball game. Although it appears that Canseco isn’t really trying to win, this public humiliation won’t help him get any closer to a fight with Herschel Walker. Something that Canseco has bean pursuing for sometime now.
The 2009 Dream Super Hulk Tournament seemed to be a source of a lot of facepalmming moments. When Minowa and Sokoudjou met in the tournament final, many North American fans already considered the tournament a failure.
Rewind to the second bracket of the tournament for a moment. Sokoudjou was originally scheduled to meet Gagard Mousasi, but unfortunately, Mousasi was forced to pull out of the bout due to injury.
Bob Sapp, who had already lost in the opening round, was brought in to replace Mousasi. Sokoudjou defeated Sapp, only to be defeated a month later by Gagard Mousasi at Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Rogers.
But since the Strikeforce bout was not part of the tournament, Sokoudjou moved on to the finals despite losing to the man he was supposed to face in the second bracket. All of this added up to most fans not buying in to the legitimacy of the championship fight between Minowa and Sokoudjou. But that isn’t what made me facepalm, it was the final bout itself.
The opening two rounds where fine, Sokoudjou tried to land strikes, and Minowa attempted his usual submission attempts. Through the first two rounds, both men had success implementing their respective game plans, but after the second round, things just got weird, even by Japanese MMA standards.
When the bell for the third round rang, both men stepped towards each other, squared up, and just stood there; that’s it. Sokoudjou and Minowa simply stood in their respective stances and gazed at each other. This continued for about a minute before the ref stopped the fight and told both men to pick it up.
That didn’t work. The stare down continued for 30 seconds before the ref again stopped the fight, this time to issue yellow cards to both fighters; that didn't work.
The staring contest picked up right where it left off, and I think you get the idea. It was an astounding three and a half minutes and two yellow cards later before the first offensive move was taken, a spinning back kick by Sokoudjou.
This was without a doubt, the most boring three and a half minutes in Mixed Martial Arts history. It wins by default considering that literally nothing happened.
Both men were issued a pair of yellow cards each, and it was thirty seconds after the second yellow card before Sokoudjou made the first move. There was a realistic possibility that both of these guys could have received another yellow card for inactivity, which would have of course meant a double disqualification.
Thankfully, we never had to see the shameful double DQ. But viewers of the fight did have to witness one of the most peculiar displays of “athletic ability” in MMA history. This was one of those moments that was so frustrating, I actually rolled my finger tips against my temples as if I had a massive headache.
On a funny note: After the aforementioned spinning back kick, which broke the dreadfully boring deadlock, Minowa jumped in with a flurry of punches and knocked Sokoudjou out. Not only did this probably save the round from being the worst in history, but it also made me chuckle; Minowa only had six knockouts over 83 fights leading up to the bout, while Sokoudjou won 77 percent of his fights by KO. A weird ending to a weird tournament
Although I have highlighted these fights and labeled them as pathetic and embarrassing, I believe it’s important to take a step back and look at the big picture. You have to give all of these athletes respect for what they are putting on the line when they enter the ring. There is only a small minority of people who have the moxie to step into an arena and do battle with another human being, risking their health and future.
Kazuyuki Fujita, despite being a massive underdog, still stepped into the ring against one of the most dangerous men on the planet. He is one of Japan’s most recognizable fighters, a legend in his home country, and a brave hero to many. Fujita will always be remembered for his toughness and courage, which he displayed so many times over his career.
As for Tim Sylvia, the man has accomplished more in Mixed Martial Arts than many fighters could ever hope to achieve. He won the UFC Heavyweight title twice, defended it three times, and is always looking for the knockout. I give Tim Sylvia credit for everything he has done in his career, including the guts it takes to step in the ring with a former Olympic boxing gold medalist and WBO world champion. Despite the lacklustre fight with Mercer, Sylvia has made his mark on MMA for better or for worse.
Ken Shamrock has been in MMA since the beginning. After 2005 his career really fell off, but before then, Shamrock was a legend. He has been a part of MMA since its inception, and the man is still fighting to this day, that alone deserves some respect. Ken was also the first man to win the Pancrase Championship and the UFC Superfight championship. He is a UFC hall of famer, and rightfully so. Although the last few years haven’t been kind to Ken, he has still done a lot in this sport, and no one can say he doesn’t love it.
Even Canseco deserves respect for what he did. It was one of the worst displays of MMA in the sports history. But honestly, what is else is Canseco really expected to do beside throw a big overhand and pray that it lands? He’s not a fighter; he doesn’t have the skills, so a pathetic outcome is predicable. Whether he did it for money or not, I think you have to give him credit for the courage it takes to step in the ring like he did.
As for the terrible third round between Minowa and Sokoudjou, it was awful to watch, but neither fighter wanted to make a mistake and lose. They where both waiting on each other, and that manifested itself in their unwillingness to engage. It was obvious they both had a lot of respect for each other’s skills. At the end of the day, they are both fighters, and I will always have a huge amount of respect for anyone who is willing to do what they do.
Facepalm moments like these are few and far between in the world of MMA. Most of the time, the sport is filled with excitement and entertainment worth the money we pay. There is no doubt that over the years to come we will see many more great upsets, dramatic knockouts, slick submissions, and more moments worthy of a facepalm.