Backflips, Flying Kicks and More: The Craziest Moves in MMA History

Lyle Fitzsimmons@@fitzbitzFeatured ColumnistSeptember 20, 2019

Backflips, Flying Kicks and More: The Craziest Moves in MMA History

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    Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    At the corner of MMA and gymnastics, there's Michel Pereira.

    The Brazilian welterweight took to the ground, the air and nearly every space in between last weekend in Vancouver, dazzling a UFC Fight Night crowd in a 170-pound match with Tristan Connelly.

    The duel earned a "Fight of the Night" bonus at the Saturday show, with Connelly ultimately winning a decision but making a point afterward to admit just how difficult it is to deal with that elite whirling dervish.

    "You can't stop against him and you can't back up against him," he said at a post-fight news conference (via "Those are two things I knew. ... I've been training with capoeira guys for a long time and they're all like, 'Man, what he's trying to do is get you to freeze so he can hit ya.'"

    And while Pereira's athletic prowess didn't get him a W, it did get us to thinking about some of the more memorable moments in MMA history pertaining to, shall we say... non-traditional maneuvers.

    Think of the ones you'd include and see if they match any or all of our half-dozen picks.

The Crane Kick

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    Perhaps Randy Couture could sue the estate of Pat Morita. Or at the very least, garnish the wages of Ralph Macchio.

    The former two-division UFC champion can arguably trace the end of his career back to the crane kick made popular, if not exactly perfected, in their 1980s trilogy staple: The Karate Kid.

    Couture was 47 years old and already in tough against Lyoto Machida at UFC 129, but his evening turned far worse the instant the Steven Seagal-inspired Brazilian hopped forward with his left leg and quickly snapped his right leg toward his unprepared foe's face.

    Machida's foot landed flush on the left side of Couture's jaw and sent him to the floor in a semi-conscious backward heap, prompting a humane rescue by referee Yves Lavigne at 1:05 of Round 2. Thankfully, sans bodybag.

    Couture never fought again. And it's probably still a good idea if he avoids basic-cable movie marathons, too.

The Giant Swing

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    If it's labeled on Twitter as perhaps the "most mind-blowing submission in the history of MMA," we couldn't  ignore it, could we?

    That's the level to which user "Catch Wrestling U" elevates the giant swing/Achilles lock combination employed by Genki Sudo to submit Craig Oxley at the Pancrase-Trans 6 show in Tokyo in October 2000.

    Sudo was admittedly an acquired taste, what with his costumes and haircuts and other flamboyance, but the guy could flat-out scrap.

    And once he got you on the ground, your night was typically over.

    Predictably, Oxley was on his back and in a particularly vulnerable position when the Japanese veteran decided to up the ante. He leaped to his feet while holding his foe's ankles, then spun him around in two complete circles before dropping back to the mat, cinching in an Achilles lock and forcing Oxley to tap.

    Game. Set. Grandiosity.

The Double Armada Kick

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    What it lacked in star power, it made up for in suddenness.

    And for a fight that barely lasted 20 seconds a decade ago, it's shown a fair bit of staying power, too.

    A hapless Keegan Marshall was in just his second pro fight at the North American Challenge 24 event in Vancouver in 2009, but his career arc veered downward the moment Marcus Aurelio began spinning toward him with a capoeira kick.

    Aurelio’s matrix-like revolutions concluded as his left foot slammed into the left side of Marshall's head, leaving the comparative novice to crumble face-first to the floor as the winner's corner entourage charged the ring to raucously celebrate with the victorious Brazilian.

    Marshall, like Couture in the fallout of his abrupt KO loss, never fought again.

The Cartwheel Kick

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    If you're making your MMA debut and Brian Ebersole begins cartwheeling toward you, here's a tip: retire.

    Problem is, Shannon Forrester didn't take that advice quite soon enough.

    The Australian hasn't fought in the 10 years since he and Ebersole met at an XFC event in Perth, but his exit didn't come until after he was vaporized by an exchange that's generated nearly 300,000 views on YouTube.

    A veteran of more than 50 fights at the time, Ebersole took one step toward Forrester at the opening bell before lurching to his right and beginning the fast-forward spin that ultimately sent his right leg square into his foe's face.

    Forrester crumbled to the floor as if he'd been shot and quickly waved himself out of the fray as the referee leaned in and began to count the knockdown.

    Given the ferocity of the KO, it may be another 10 years before he can stand to watch the clip.

The Rampage Slam

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    Think kicking a guy is the only way to establish highlight superiority? Think again.

    Combat sports legend Quinton "Rampage" Jackson proved in 2004 there's more than one way to end an MMA fight, reaching into the wrestling playbook for an Undertaker-quality powerbomb.

    Jackson was struggling early against Ricardo Arona at a Pride FC show in Japan and had taken several leg kicks before Arona took it to the ground and locked in a triangle choke as Jackson hovered above him.

    Undaunted, the burly Jackson simply scooped up his man—lifting Arona until the Brazilian’s chest was above his head—then slamming him back to the mat with a ferocity that instantly ended the match, and left blow-by-blow man Mauro Ranallo claiming he'd known it all along.

    Of course, there may have been a DQ-worthy headbutt delivered as Arona landed, but that's just details.

    "I told you, he'd pick him up and slam him to the ground," Ranallo said on the broadcast. "Arona was busy going for the triangle choke, but against a guy like Jackson that also sets him up for something like this—a high-angle powerbomb like slam and it's lights out for Ricardo Arona."

The Showtime Kick

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    If you're an MMA fan and you don't know the phrase "the Showtime Kick," guess what? You're not really an MMA fan.

    Current UFC star Anthony Pettis sent the now-defunct WEC promotion out in memorable style nearly nine years ago, blending his ninja skills with some Matrix chops to create a piece of octagonal history.

    He was in the final minute of the final round of a lightweight title fight with Benson Henderson—who'd matched him shot for shot until that point—when he suddenly charged up the side of the cage, pivoted to his left in mid-air and snapped his right foot into the side of his opponent's utterly unprepared face.

    The viral highlight made Pettis a household name among fans and launched him into the UFC, where he's gone 9-8 in 17 fights, most recently a loss to Nate Diaz last month in Las Vegas.

    "You're setting your opponent up with high kicks. You're running toward the cage, launching off the cage with the same foot that you want to kick him with," he said in a video breakdown of the move (via ESPN). "You're using the momentum of the cage to spring you off and into your opponent's head."

    Ahhh, yes, it's the stuff that memories—and migraines—are made of.