HELLBOY HANSEN HL (via SloeGuys)
It’s a narrative repeated ad nauseam by fighters, critics, commentators and assorted others in today’s "modern" world of MMA. Increasingly, the "true" fighter — the person who wants to get in the cage because they love to scrap — is becoming a rarity as MMA continues its rapid global expansion, phased out by the "sport" aspect of it, increasingly replaced by "athletes."
The "fighter" wants to throw down, to trade hands or dive on a sub, to (T)KO, choke out or submit their opponent in impressive fashion, hit and get hit, lose themselves in the wild fury and chaos of combat, emerging triumphant — stronger, tempered. The athlete, however, wishes to win the contest by doling out, and receiving, as little damage as possible, accomplishing enough in the eyes of judges to gain the victory with their natural gifts, talent and training, but never embracing the primal aspects, the true spirit of the contest — never actually fighting.
While this narrative may be a bit exaggerated — anyone who gets in a cage, ring, etc., and engages is a fighter — there’s no questioning which side of the divide the genetic make-up of Norway’s Joachim "Hellboy" Hansen places him squarely upon.
In Sin City, when discussing the hulking Marv, Dwight sums up his plight thusly: "most people think Marv is crazy; he just had the rotten luck of being born in the wrong century. He’d be right at home on some ancient battlefield swinging an axe into somebody’s face or in a Roman arena, taking his sword to other gladiators like him."
MMA must not have been big in Basin City (unfortunately for Marv). However, it’s not that great a leap to imagine the paler than pale, tattooed (including a crucified Jesus square in the middle of his chest), shaven-headed (generally), terrifying-looking, lanky Hansen, who would regularly come to the ring accompanied by full-on death metal, in a different, more violent time. With little effort, one could easily picture Hellboy covered in furs and leather armour, gleefully swinging a mace or battle-axe into an enemy’s skull, laughing manically while crimson stained the purity of fresh-fallen snow.
The lightweight (for the majority of his fighting career) Hansen cut his teeth on the Finnish MMA circuit, running up a three, one and one record in FinnFight and Shooto Finland before being invited to Japan organization Shooto’s 2002 year-end show, where the southpaw decisioned Takumi Nakayama in such impressive fashion that respected MMA veteran and Shooto staple Rumina Sato challenged him. It was not a wise move on the part of Sato, an MMA pioneer who had his first match in 1994. The still nascent Hellboy would (T)KO Sato in the first round before handing future Pride FC superstar and current UFC competitor Takanori Gomi his first loss (by decision) in his next fight, winning the Shooto lightweight championship and becoming the first-ever Scandinavian fighter to hold a world title in the process.
After losing the Shooto title to accomplished grappler Vitor Ribeiro in his next contest, Hansen would embark upon a seven-fight tear of devastation and destruction across the Shooto, K1 Hero’s and Pride organizations, showcasing his ferocity, power, aggressiveness and occasional craziness, in the best ways possible. Not only would he hand Gesias "JZ" Cavalcante his first loss, and only blemish for years, by majority decision, his back-to-back stepping knee KOs of Caol Uno and leg lock master Masakazu Imanari remain conscious-separating joys to behold.
However, consistency would become an issue for the Norwegian Nightmare, and after Hellboy’s breakout emergence into the wider MMA consciousness, he would go two and four between September 2005 and December 2006. Still, one need look no further than his Pride Bushido Ten match with Chute Boxe’s Luiz "the Joker" Azeredo, who had a reputation as a "loose cannon," to see that the violence was still very much still inside Hansen, waiting to be unleashed. Famously saying that he would show Azeredo what crazy really was, pre-match, Hellboy lived up to his words and, at one point, while in Azeredo’s guard, let the Brazilian repeatedly punch him in the head while mean-mugging. Hellboy would top this display of bravado by catching Azeredo with a knee/kick later in the fight that instantly ended the Joker’s night.
Hansen would be submitted very quickly in his next Pride fight via gogoplata by grappling phenom Shinya Aoki and his magical pants. Heading into 2008’s Dream Lightweight Tournament, Hellboy sported a three and four record in his last seven contests (following his seven-fight path of destruction). Featuring a stacked lightweight field, including the likes of current Bellator lightweight champ Eddie Alvarez, Aoki, recent UFC signing Tatsuya "the Crusher" Kawajiri, Calvancanti, Uno and Mitsuhiro Ishida, it’s safe to say that Hellboy wasn’t the favourite to win it all.
After decisioning Koutetsu Boku in the first round, Hansen would meet Eddie Alvarez two months later in the quarterfinals. Put simply, the two men gave absolutely everything in a 15-minute, 2008 fight-of-the-year, back-and-forth war of attrition that received a standing ovation from the Japanese crowd upon its conclusion. The American would drop Hellboy a number of times, mixing in takedowns and ground and pound, but the Norwegian never stopped returning fire or working for subs off his back, nearly hitting an elevator sweep to arm bar and kimura sweep to arm bar in the final round. Alvarez rightly received the unanimous decision nod in this instant classic and advanced, and that appeared to be all for Hellboy and the Dream lightweight tournament. However, fate, as she often does, had other plans.
With the semi-finals (Uno vs. Aoki and Alvarez vs. Kawajiri) and finals being held at Dream 5 (on July 21, 2008), meaning the advancing fighters would have to compete twice in the same night, Hellboy received the call to face Kultar Gill in the tournament reserve match. Hellboy easily arm-barred Gill barely two-and-a-half minutes into the first round, while Aoki went the distance with Uno, gaining the decision nod, and Alvarez engaged in another slobberknocker, this time with Kawajiri. However, in the process of (T)KOing the Crusher, in a hard-hitting, back and forth battle, Alvarez received significant damage to his right eye and, in an odd move that had some accusing the org of trying to stack the deck in the favour of Aoki, wasn’t cleared by doctors to face the light-hitting submission specialist.
Enter Hellboy, stepping up to battle Aoki, who embarrassingly submitted him in under two-and-a-half minutes at Pride Shockwave 2006. This time, however, things would play out differently for the darker than dark horse, who managed to avoid Aoki’s submission acumen and crazy-glue-sticky ground game long enough to overwhelm the "Tobikan Judan" with punches for the (T)KO victory, amazingly becoming the 2008 Dream Lightweight Grand Prix Champion and Dream Lightweight Champion.
Regardless of his desire to face the man he replaced in the tournament finals, Eddie Alvarez, Dream rematched Hansen with Aoki for the title, and rubber match of their trilogy, at Dream 11. Despite the increased ground game proficiency from the BJJ black belt, Hansen was subbed by Aoki with only seconds remaining in the match. He would then drop a weight class and challenge Bibiano Fernandes for the Dream Featherweight Championship at Dream 13, losing a split decision to "the Flash." Hellboy has gone four and two since, suffering his first (T)KO loss in the process (to Hiroyuki Takaya at Dream 14), as well as winning his most recent contest in April of 2013, at Road FC 11 in South Korea.
Joachim "Hellboy" Hansen’s legacy isn’t one of championships, impressive (T)KOs, equally impressive subs or all-out-wars, no, Hansen’s legacy is that of an indomitable will to fight — a warrior spirit. He’s a fighter’s fighter, without question, a throwback to a different time in the sport’s history, but with the skills and talent of the more modern MMA age. While he has yet to compete in the UFC, and likely never will (following some negative comments he made regarding the UFC and their contracts after being tendered an offer following the company’s acquisition of Pride), the 34-year-old Hansen (who has a current record of 23-11-and-1) has continually pitted himself against, and defeated, the best in the world, never taking a step back along the way.
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