Opinion: Top Five Disturbing Moments in UFC History
By Tom Taylor
Sure, we’ve never seen a fighter use the skin of his fallen opponents to craft himself a mask, and we haven’t yet seen an unconscious fighter rise again as a zombie, but the UFC’s octagon has still provided us with some sufficiently harrowing moments—ones that go beyond cuts and scrapes and send shivers down your spine. They strike when you least expect them (contrary to what you might assume, they don’t always coincide with Rick “The Horror” Story’s or The Korean Zombie’s fights), and when they do, you can’t help but watch in terror. Every now and then, the controlled violence that unfolds inside the octagon leads to some pretty gruesome sights. So with Halloween looming, let’s take a look back at some of the octagon’s most harrowing moments.
5: The Arm Collector Part I:
Though he has since fallen from the glory of being the UFC heavyweight champion, Tim Sylvia once ruled over the division with considerable dominance. After being stripped of his title for testing positive for the use performance enhancing drugs, Sylvia returned to action, taking on submission ace Frank Mir for the heavyweight title. Less than a minute into the opening round, the fight hit the canvas, and Mir wasted no time in locking up a tight armbar. Sylvia demonstrated considerable heart as he refused to tap to the submission, but Mir showed no mercy, breaking Sylvia’s arm just 50 seconds into the first round. In Mir’s grasp, the strain on Sylvia’s arm was visible, until finally the bone popped, jutting outwards as if it was trying to break free from Sylvia’s skin. The fight was waved off by referee Herb Dean, yet even at that point, Sylvia denied the break and protested the stoppage. After the fight, an X-ray confirmed what everyone else already knew; Sylvia’s arm had broken in several places.
4: The Arm Collector Part 2:
At UFC 92, Frank Mir made history by being the first man to knock out Brazilian Legend Antonio “Minotauro” Nogueira. While that knockout was historic enough, it was the two men’s second fight that earns itself a spot among the UFC’s most gruesome moments.
The pair of heavyweight submission specialists met for a second time, at UFC 140, with Nogueira hoping to prove that his earlier loss to Mir was a fluke, and Mir aiming to prove it wasn’t. As the fight began, it appeared that Nogueira would have his way, as he pounded away on Mir against the cage, visibly rocking him. Mir tumbled to the ground under the onslaught, and Nogueira followed him there. Without warning, Nogueira was barrelling towards one of the most disappointing moments of his mixed martial arts career. The two men scrambled on the ground, each trying to outmuscle the other as they fought for submissions. In the end, however, Mir again found his opponent’s arm. Despite Nogueira’s valiant attempts at escape, Mir trapped him in a deep, visibly painful kimura. And again, as he did in his fight with Sylvia, Mir found himself in the cage with an opponent who refused to tap out. Nogueira’s arm bent and bowed under the pressure of Mir’s grip until finally it popped, sending a sympathetic shiver down the spine of all who watched. With two broken arms on his mantle, one has to wonder whose arm Mir will steal next.
3: Men with Three Eyes:
As gruesome as bone breaks can be, there is no denying the visual horror of a deep cut. In MMA, we’ve seen plenty. The cut Eddie Wineland sustained in his victory over Scott Jorgensen was a nasty one, as was Marvin Eastman’s, sustained at the hands of Vitor Belfort. But one man in particular, has a tendency to sustain nightmarish lacerations—in wins and losses. This man is Diego Sanchez. One of his worst was a present he received from then dominant lightweight champion BJ Penn. Sanchez entered his title fight with Penn at UFC 107 as a significant underdog, but his supporters believed his speed, cardio and heart could carry him to victory. They did not. Sanchez showed the heart of a champion, but did not become one, as Penn had his way with him for the entirety of the fight. In the fourth round, however, Penn landed the most significant blow of the fight, butchering Sanchez’s forehead with a violent kick. The bloody fountain that sprang from Sanchez’s forehead would not turn off, and eventually, in the fifth round of the fight, the severity of the cut brought the fight to an end.
Things did not go Sanchez’s way that time, but they did when he beat Martin Kampmann at UFC on Versus 3 (however controversial the win was). While Sanchez was awarded a decision win at the conclusion of his affair with Kampmann, it was Kampmann who had undoubtedly done more damage. In particular was another gaping cut, this time across Sanchez’s cheek. The wound, which was framed by mountainous swelling and bruises, looked more like the result of a katana attack than a mixed martial arts bout.
2: The Spaghetti Leg:
At UFC: Fight for the Troops in December 2008, we saw what was possibly the most grizzly bone break to ever occur inside the octagon. The first round between Corey Hill and Dale Hartt was largely uneventful, save an inadvertent groin shot by Hartt. The second round, however, was something else altogether. Just seconds into the frame, Hill unleashed a leg kick that Hartt checked. As their legs made contact, Hill’s snapped, and flailed like an old elastic band. Even the toughest, most iron-stomached fans in the crowd had to focus on keeping their dinner down for a moment, as Hill collapsed in a heap, his leg laying on the canvas like a piece of soggy spaghetti. The injury remains one of the most visually brutal to date.
1: The two-headed featherweight:
When the UFC made its first trip to Toronto, Canada, at UFC 129, it brought with it two anticipated title fights. In the main event, we saw Georges St Pierre and Jake Shields duke it out for the welterweight crown, and in the co-main event, we saw the featherweight champion, Jose Aldo, defend his belt against the Canadian challenger, Mark Hominick. It was in the featherweight title fight that the gore unfolded.
The fight began with a typically aggressive Aldo punishing Hominick, essentially doing as he pleased to the feisty Canadian. This was the story of the opening rounds: a fight that was exciting, but nothing out of the ordinary. In the third round, however, following a successful takedown by Aldo, a giant goose egg began to grow from Hominick’s head. Under the relentless assault of Aldo’s ground and pound, a hematoma had formed and from there, things only got worse. What began as a nasty bump inflated to the size of a baseball. Once it had ballooned to sufficient grotesqueness, it was examined by a doctor, who—despite the doubts of the audience and commentator Joe Rogan—who repeatedly stated that the fight would be ended—waved the fight back on. From there, things only got wilder, as Hominick rallied in the last frames of the fight to put Jose Aldo in more trouble than he himself had ever been in. In the end, the Canadian’s late efforts were not enough to win the fight, but thanks to the second head that sprouted from his own, and the heart he demonstrated in the face of this gruesome injury, his fight against Jose Aldo is a difficult one to forget.
As amazing to watch as MMA can be, it can produce some of the most cringe-worthy injuries in sports. And as much as we’d love to see such injuries avoided, they are an inevitable part of our fine sport. The question is: Who will be the next fighter to sustain the kind of injury that makes us all look away in terror?