Tonight at Bellator 95 on Spike TV, Karo Parisyan (22-9) will make his promotional debut against Rick Hawn in a welterweight bout. This match up is a must-see and altogether monumental for many reasons.
Parisyan is flat-out the best Judo practitioner in the history of mixed martial arts. And it's not even really close: Karo has implemented more Judo techniques, more often and more effectively than anyone else in MMA, and done so at the highest level of competition. Parisyan, who started Judo at age 8, closed out his UFC tenure with a 8-4 record (with 1 No Contest) that included wins over Nick Diaz, Matt Serra, Chris Lytle and Josh Burkman. "The Heat" was actually slated to contest Matt Hughes for the welterweight title at UFC 56 but was forced out with a hamstring injury and replaced by Joe Riggs.
Instead of pursuing new heights in Judo, Parisyan eventually opted for a full-time MMA career. Nowadays, since Karo's been out of the spotlight for a bit, a few Olympic-caliber fighters have risen up to represent Judo in MMA. UFC women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey is one, who snared the bronze medal at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, and 2004 Judo Olympian Rick Hawn is another ... who also happens to be Parisyan's opponent tonight at Bellator 95.
Hawn was strictly a Judoka and twice defeated Parisyan in Judo competition at the U.S. Open, yet the fact that Parisyan had dedicated much of his time and focus to MMA lends great appeal to this evening's clash, which stands to be the best Judo vs. Judo match up we've witnessed to date.
If all of that's not intriguing enough, this turns out to be a bit of a grudge match as well. Shortly after he crossed over to MMA and years before this fight was even conceivable, Hawn gave the following take on Parisyan to The Boston Herald:
"I wouldn't want to compare myself to him, kind of just because I can't stand the guy,'' said Hawn. "I'll be better than he was. He had a base with judo but he wasn't as good. My judo is a little more advanced."
More recently, Hawn was interviewed by Brian Hemminger of MMA Mania this week. Here's an excerpt of his updated feelings on Parisyan:
"We just never gelled. I never really liked the guy. People that I hang out and associate with never got along with him so much. I don't know. He's just one of those guys that I don't really like and everybody has someone they don't really like. He's that one person for me."
In the video above, Karo makes his professional MMA debut at the sprightly young age of 14, taking on an undefeated 23-year-old with a 10-0 record and a 25-pound weight advantage (165 vs. 140). Parisyan's age and the nostalgic No Holds Barred, bareknuckle format make the video worth watching alone, but the obvious potential, swarming pace and elite Judo that Parisyan displays are harbingers of his future success in MMA.
Bellator 95: Curran vs. Shamhalaev
Main Card (Spike TV at 10:00 p.m. ET)
Featherweight Championship: Pat Curran vs. Shahbulat Shamhalaev
Featherweight Tournament Final: Mike Richman vs. Magomedrasul Khasbulaev
Middleweight Tournament Final: Brett Cooper vs. Doug "The Rhino" Marshall
Welterweight Feature: Karo Parisyan vs. Rick Hawn
Preliminary Card (Bloody Elbow and Spike.com at 7:30 p.m. ET)