This is the newest inductee into the Michael Bisping Hall of Almost Fame. You can read the rules for induction here.
Martin 'Hitman' Kampmann
Stats & Numbers:
Height: 6' 0"
Career Record: 20 - 7 (8 KO/TKO, 7 Sub, 4 Decision, 1 DQ)
UFC Record: 11 - 6 (5 sub, 2 KO)
VS Top 10 Opponents: 4 - 4
VS Champions/Contenders: 3 - 5
494 Significant Strikes Landed
679 Total Strikes Landed
2:34:24 Total Fight Time
2x Fight of the Night winner
2x Submission of the Night winner
1x Knockout of the Night winner
Why is he in the Hall?
Martin Kampmann was a two-division standout for the entirety of his career. He entered the UFC as the Cage Warriors middleweight champion and went on to win his first four bouts in the octagon, including a decision victory over future middleweight title challenger Thales Leites. After losing his next fight to middleweight contender Nate Marquardt, Kampmann then dropped down to welterweight, where he put together one hell of a resume and remained a Top 10 fighter until his retirement. Kampmann has one of the 10-15 best resumes in UFC welterweight history but never challenged for a belt. He was a damn fine fighter and should be recognized for that.
What was his game like?
Here are two facts:
1) Martin Kampmann is a former Danish Thai boxing champion, a fact which is referenced in every one of his UFC fights.
2) Martin Kampmann was out-struck in almost every one of his fights.
At least for portions of them. Seriously, go back and watch all of his fights. The way Joe Rogan lauded Kampmann's technique you would think he was the second coming of Saenchai. But Kampmann got marked up by Thales Leites(! and this is young, almost entirely grappling based Thales Leites we are talking about here) in the first round before wearing him down in the remaining 2 rounds. He has been stopped 4 times in his career and all of them came from strikes compared to his 7 stoppage victories, only 2 of which came due to strikes only 1 of those being a result of standing strikes. Kampmann has an 11-6 record in the UFC yet only landed 494 significant strikes while absorbing 504. The truth of the matter is Martin Kampmann knew how to strike but his MMA bread was buttered in the grappling department.
Kampmann was an above average defensive wrestler, boasting a 78% takedown defense in the UFC. That percentage may be higher but for the fact that Kampmann's favorite weapon was a guillotine choke thus when an opponent would shoot on him he occasionally ceded the takedown in an effort to snatch up the submission. He has an excellent front headlock series which he could turn either into a fighting ending guillotine or use to scramble to his opponent's back. The only person to have prolonged wrestling success against Kampmann was Jake Shields and we will discuss that fight in just a moment.
Offensively, Kampmann was not a great outside wrestler. Only occasionally would he look to grab a snatch single and when he did it was not pretty. Most of his takedowns came out of the clinch where he was decent and changing levels to finish off a single or double.
Kampmann excelled in clinch tie-ups, particularly the over/under. Defensively, he constantly turned his opponents and rarely ever found himself smashed against the cage for prolonged periods of time or taken down of a clinch tie-up.
Offensively, Kampmann had a variety of trips and foot sweeps which he used to great effect. When Drew McFedries was jawing him in their fight, Kampmann hit an over/under trip to take him down and then submit him. Against Rick Story, an NAIA national runner-up in wrestling and very good MMA wrestler, he hit a beautiful Hiza Guruma (or at least that's what I'm calling it, I don't pretend to be an expert in Judo so if I'm incorrect please inform me) multiple times. The clinch is also where Kampmann was able to use his Thai knees, likely his most effective single strike.
On the ground, Kampmann wasn't a nightmare on top but he was certainly not someone you wanted on top of you. His top position grappling was skewed much more towards finding submissions than doing damage. This single minded focus resulted in Kampmann accruing the fifth most submission attempts per minute in UFC welterweight history but also prevented him from putting away opponent he may have stopped otherwise.
However, his top control was very good and once you were under him, you likely stayed there for the remainder of the round. He didn't employ a diversity of passes but when standing over an opponent in guard, Kampmann almost always was able to shuck the legs and pass into side-control or half guard. Once there, he had excellent shoulder pressure, driving down into the face of his opponent and setting up for arm-triangle choke he favored.
On bottom was probably Kampmann's weakest area, which speaks volumes to his skills considering this is a man who escaped mount from Jake Shields multiple times. His bottom game was predominantly centered around not absorbing damage, which he was very good at. However, he wasn't much of a sweep/submit threat once on bottom and showed little urgency in getting back up to his feet. The one real threat Kampmann posed from his back was his guillotine choke but that came more during wrestling transitions.
As mentioned above, Kampmann was an average striker. Defensively, he was remarkably hittable especially when his opponent threw in combination. He used very little head movement and relied mostly on hand and elbow blocks for his defense. For the duration of his career, Kampmann would back straight up when under pressure instead of circling out. This tendency is directly responsible for several of Kampmann's losses. It's what got him clipped against Jake Ellengberger, why Thales Leites was able to knock him down in their bout, why Carlos Condit started putting the wood to him in their rematch and how Johnny Hendricks layed him out cold. Even in his wins, he still got hit more often than he should have; but it didn't upend his career because Kampmann had one hell of a chin and his recovery was excellent.
Offensively, Kampmann was pretty basic. He had technical punching and good leg kicks which he disguised in combinations (and which he didn't use as often as he probably should have) and excellent knees once inside. Aside from that he didn't throw many exotic attacks. He would occasionally run a high kick out there but they were always telegraphed and mostly used to keep distance. Kampmann didn't employ any spinning attacks and I believe only threw 1 front kick ever which is a shame since the 1 he did throw ricked Jake Ellenberger.
Kampmann was an interesting striker in that it is hard to pin point where he excelled even though he was known as a great striker. He wasn't a great counter fighter (little head movement and no world stopping power will do that) but he could counter for short bursts. He wasn't great in the pocket either because he rarely threw extended combinations and would get hit by opponents who did throw 4, 5, and 6 punch combos. Even on the outside he hardly ever used his footwork to create angles and he seemed to struggle with range when fighting anyone with a reach advantage. All in all, on the feet he mostly only beat up guys who were poor strikers (here's looking at you Jake Shields).
Are you sure you didn't leave anything out you long-winded duffer?
Fight IQ. Martin Kampmann was an excellent fighter but man did he make some puzzling tactical errors. Early in his career he was so focused on chasing submissions that occasionally he would abandon position to chase after one. He often jumped on guillotines that weren't there and even occasionally dropped back for a leg lock from top position.
Worse though were his lapses in strategy which cost him big time. Paul Daley's left hook can likely fell a tree. Paul Daley also is known for his grappling deficiencies. Martin Kampmann chose to engage in a pocket hook-fest with Paul Daley instead of taking him down. Jake Shields is one of the best grapplers in MMA. Jake Shields was practically keeled over from exhaustion in the third round when Kampmann was putting it on him on the feet. When Shields dropped from a knee, instead of separating and making him stand up, Kampmann went for a choke on Jake F***ing Shields and promptly got his back taken.
Martin Kampmann is awesome. Martin Kampmann's in fight decisions were less so.
Why didn't he ever get a title shot?
Bad luck and bad decision making.
Kampmann came into the UFC and impressed early, racking up 4 straight wins. In his 5th fight in the promotion, Kampmann faced his first ever ranked opponent in Nate Marquardt, the # 8 middleweight in the world at that time. Had Kampmann won that fight it is entirely possible his next one would have been against Anderson Silva for the middleweight title. A victory over Marquardt would have moved Kampmann into the top 10 and given him a much more credible resume than Silva's next challenger the then unranked Patrick Cote. Unfortunately for him, Marquardt ran Kampmann over, stopping him inside of 2 minutes.
After the Marquardt loss, Kampmann decided to drop down to 170 pounds. He was always a smaller middleweight, fighting near his actually walking around weight. The drop down served him well as Kampmann beat Alexandre Barros via TKO and then scored his first win over a ranked opponent when he took a decision off of Carlos Condit, then #8 welterweight in the world. That victory moved him to #5 in the welterweight rankings and set him up in a title eliminator match against #9 Mike Swick. Unfortunately, Swick was forced to withdraw from the bout due to injury and Kampmann took a replacement fight against Paul Daley who stopped him. Had Kampmann opted to wait for Swick it might have been he who would defeat Swick that November instead of Dan Hardy. It is definitely a fight I would have favored Kampmann in though it would have been close. Still had Kampmann beaten Daley he may have gotten a title shot anyway or at least put in a title eliminator situation with the guy who ended up being the next challenger to Georges St. Pierre, Dan Hardy.
After the Daley loss, Kampmann rattle off 2 more wins (including a decision over #5 Paulo Thiago) before being put in another title eliminator bout against #3 middleweight Jake Shields. Shields won via split decision in a bout many people thought Kampmann deserved to win. Had this fight taken place when all main events were 5 rounds, Kampmann would have almost certainly won a decision if not stopped Shields outright. Ultimately, Kampmann lost out on a title shot here because of his really bad decision to go for a choke on Jake Shields instead of continuing to strike with him. Had he done so he likely would have won the decision and fought GSP.
And still, Kampmann had one more run in him. After the Shields loss he was straight up ripped off by the judges against Diego Sanchez in a fight he won every round of. Then he put together probably the best professional stretch of his career taking a decision from #8 welterweight Rick Story, choking out former title contender Thiago Alves, and then knocking out #6 Jake Ellenberger with knees. This resulted in him being matched up with #4 welterweight Johny Hendricks. Had he won that fight his resume may have demanded a title shot instead of Nick Diaz. But instead he got knocked out cold.
After the Hendricks loss he rematched Carlos Condit who was now #3 and though he was successful early, Condit stopped him in the fourth round. That was the last fight of his career. Kampmann could have quite possibly have put together yet another run towards a title shot had he stayed at it but instead he chose to retire as the #7 welterweight in the world.
How would he have matched up with the champion?
Poorly. Georges St. Pierre would have been able to jab him up on the feet and knee tap him to the ground. Kampmann was a good wrestler but not of the caliber of GSP and certainly not the defensive chain wrestler needed to thwart St. Pierre. He was defensively savvy enough that I don't think St. Pierre would have done much damage on top nor could he really hope to sub Kampmann but it would have been a commanding positional performance. Kampmann's only chance would be St. Pierre slipping up and leaving his head in to get guillotined which is really no chance at all. It would have looked a lot like the St. Pierre-Dan Hardy fight only with Kampmann making St. Pierre work harder for it.
What was his best performance? What highlight reel fight of his should I watch?
Kampmann was extremely hittable on the feet and had a penchant for coming back in fights meaning he has tons of good fights to go back and watch. His TKO over Jake Ellenberger has both him recovering from a monster left hook and him crushing Ellenberger with knees. Also, his third round guillotine over Thiago Alves is one of the best come backs in UFC history so go with one of those 2.
Who do you wish he had fought but never did (aside from the champion)?
Basically any high level welterweight can be filled in here. Kampmann was an elite fighter and an entertaining one. Dan Hardy or Mike Swick would have been fun fights that seemed like they should have happened but never came to fruition. However, I'm going to say Chris Lytle (a guy who will likely be making it into this hall soon) because I think Kampmann and Lytle were alike in many, many ways and that would have been a fun all around scrap.
Any final thoughts?
Kampmann's career is the textbook reason for why I wanted to create this thing. For basically the entirety of his career it seemed a foregone conclusion that he would one day challenge for a belt but never quite got there. He was an elite fighter at both 185 and 170 for all of his UFC tenure and, unlike other fighters, was always fighting the best in his division. His resume is stellar and compares favorably with the namesake of this Hall. He retired with a 4-4 record against ranked opponents and 1 of those losses is highly questionable. The only people to ever beat him (with the exception of Daley on short notice) were champions and title challengers. Even today he would stand a decent chance of beating half of the current top 10 welterweights.
Kampmann's career suffered a lot from bad luck. Had the Swick fight not been derailed he may well have found himself in a title fight. Had the UFC implemented their ‘all main events are 5 rounds' policy earlier, he likely would have beaten Jake Shields and gotten his title shot. Hell, if the UFC built weight divisions in 10 pound increments instead of jumping 155-170 Kampmann may well have held a title not just fought for one. Even after dropping to welterweight Kampmann was often the smaller man in the cage. Fighting at 165 could have kept him from getting slept by Johnny Hendricks.
Martin Kampmann was an incredibly talented and durable fighter. He was well rounded, exciting, and a tough out for just about anyone he faced. He racked up a bunch of great wins and only lost to the best of the best. Ultimately though, he fell just short of fighting for a title which places him right at the front of the line for the Michael Bisping Hall of Almost Fame. Welcome Mr. Kampmann. We tip our cap to you.