More than 12 years ago, the MMA world lost one of its greats. In a cruel and unfortunate turn of events, former UFC middleweight champion and hellbow pioneer Evan Tanner tragically perished in a desert excursion gone wrong.
Any fan of old school mixed martial arts will remember Tanner as a menace to deal with in the clinch and on the ground. As the opponent, your night is about 50% done once he closes the distance gets a hold of you.
Phil Baroni knew that coming into their fight at UFC 45 on November 21, 2003. “The New York Bad Ass” initiated the action with a short right hand that had Tanner wobbled and briefly compromised.
The fight continued in clinch range, exactly where Tanner wanted it to be. Baroni, however, was also doing damage with his dirty boxing, scoring two knockdowns in the process. This urged referee Larry Landless to call a halt to the action and check on the cut below Tanner’s left eye.
But with his unrelenting will to take the fight back in the clinch, Tanner tied up once again and threw knees to the body. After a few more exchanges on the feet, Tanner finally completed a takedown off the fence. He worked towards full mount from half-guard and went to work. A few elbows later, Landless calls a stop to the fight with 18 seconds left in round one, a stoppage met with vehement protests from Baroni.
More interestingly, it was a fight that sprouted off a previous gym war between the two men at the old Team Quest facility in Temecula, California, which the great Chael Sonnen has the backstory to.
Baroni vs. Tanner won Fight of the Night for that noteworthy performance, and very much deservingly so. And thanks to YouTube, we can all look back on those five minutes of fireworks.