Playing With Fire: Celebrating The Fighters That Go For It (Part 2)

In today’s MMA, fighters are often so closely matched in skill that the winner is simply decided by strategy. The athletes speak of identifying and exploiting their opponent’s weaknesses, emphasizing intelligence and a smooth, safe win. But some fighters are different. Some fighters fight to make statements. Instead of avoiding the bear trap, some fighters jump right in and smash it to pieces.

The purpose of this series is to celebrate those fighters. They engage their opponents in their strongest areas, risking a rough win or even a loss to stand out in a crowded sport. Or maybe because that’s just the way they are.

Last time, we looked back on a couple of gusty performances from Nick Diaz and Alan Belcher. For this installment, we start a few pounds north: the heavyweights.

Frank Mir vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira – December 10, 2011 – UFC 140


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Frank Mir and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira have a violent history, to say the least. Long considered among the best submission-based heavyweights in MMA, these two former champions have competed twice in the UFC. Each time, jaws dropped.

The first matchup was full of drama and controversy. Mir became the first man to ever stop the Brazilian legend at UFC 92, battering him with punching combinations throughout the contest before stopping him in the second. Many blamed "Big Nog’s" lethargic performance on a staph infection suffered before the bout, while others credited Mir for improved accuracy and power on the feet. Either way, Nogueira was granted a rematch, which eventually came at UFC 140, three years later.

Nogueira started off strong. In fact, he beat Mir exactly where he had fallen short before: the standup game. His strikes were crisp and strong, both in close and at range, and he was beating Mir to the punch every time. He knocked Frank to the ground and pounded away, giving some validity to those who claimed he wasn’t his real self at UFC 92. This was the real Nogueira. But then he made a big, big mistake.

With a TKO finish within grasp, Nog abandoned striking in favor of a submission finish, snatching onto a guillotine and rolling into top position. He was the better grappler overall, right? But Mir recovered, cleared the cobwebs, and eventually reversed into side control, latching onto a kimura. Moments later, you could almost hear Nogueira’s humerus snap. Mir got up and celebrated with his team while Nogueira lay motionless, staring at his injured arm. Did that really just happen?

Submission of the night? No. Submission of the century. Some of the most thrilling three minutes and thirty-eight seconds of fighting you’ll ever see.

Randy Couture vs. Chuck Liddell – June 6th, 2003 – UFC 43


Photo via

MMA was different in 2003. UFC 43 was a different time.

There was no deal with FOX, no big endorsements, no reality TV, no glitz, and no glam. The shadow of the "SEG dark ages" still loomed, and the UFC was under constant attack from politicians. When Couture and Liddell first met at UFC 43, Jon Jones was 15 years old.

The fights, though, were something to be remembered.

When Couture met Liddell for the Interim Light Heavyweight Championship in Paradise, Nevada, he came in as a 4-1 underdog, having lost his last two bouts at heavyweight. However, Couture surprised everyone by keeping Liddell on his back foot with forward pressure, mixing up his clinch strikes with powerful takedowns. The dominant "Iceman" was looking flustered after five minutes.

In rounds 2 and 3, "The Natural" continued to score standing at the bemusement of the commentators, and certainly Liddell himself. He was neutralizing Liddell’s ferocious overhands with tight defense, and crisp, accurate punches down the pipe. The NCAA Division 1 wrestler was winning the standup against one of the best strikers the sport had ever seen.

"Randy Couture is winning the standup battle," Joe Rogan exclaimed. "This is incredible!"

Eventually, "The Iceman" began to wilt under the confident attack of Couture, who scored yet another takedown, passed to full mount, and began raining down punches.

"Randy Couture is going to stop Chuck Liddell. Unbelievable. Unbelievable!"

Thus, "Captain America" was born.

Couture went on to spank Tito Ortiz for five rounds, quite literally, to become the undisputed Light Heavyweight Champion of the World at 40 years old. The rest, as they say, is history.

\The FanPosts are solely the subjective opinions of Bloody Elbow readers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Bloody Elbow editors or staff.

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