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Fright of the Night III: Ranking October’s scariest combat sport injuries (again!)

How are we on the third instalment of this series?!

Cherneka Johnson at Haney vs. Kambosos Jr. 2
Cherneka Johnson at Haney vs. Kambosos Jr. 2
Photo by Kelly Defina/Getty Images

(WARNING: Graphic images and videos throughout this article)

Happy Halloween, everybody!

Welcome to the third instalment of Fright of the Night, the series I created to highlight the worst of the worst injuries in combat sports during the month of October. As usual, I rank these injuries from bad to worst and provide pictures and videos that are sure to elicit a variety of reactions. Awe? Dread? Disgust? All of these are valid, considering how much I have — and continue to — push your boundaries with this series. And whether you love or hate it, I’m just glad you’re here (again)!

Now before we get started, I wanted to remind you that injuries that did not happen in competition are excluded. For example, T.J. Dillashaw and his shoulder that was dislocated ‘a good 20 times’ during his camp for Aljamain Sterling at UFC 280 are out. Yes, he suffered an injury during the fight, but it was more like he exacerbated a pre-existing one, so he does not meet the criteria.

Ready. Set. Get gross!

No. 5: Aaron Pico’s dislocated shoulder at Bellator 286

Can you imagine going into a fight and getting injured within the first 30 seconds of it? That is precisely what happened to Aaron Pico.

Fighting Jeremy Kennedy at Bellator 286, Pico threw a hook and dislocated his shoulder, which was evidenced by his now protruding humerus. He tried (and failed) to pop his shoulder into place, so he passed the buck to his corner when the first round was over. Jackson-Wink MMA coach Brandon Gibson began pushing and pulling on his shoulder as though he was an excited kid in the 90s playing with the newly released Bop It! on Christmas morning. According to Brian Sutterer — the doctor on YouTube known for his injury explanations — Gibson had the right idea but the wrong approach. Instead of going the sudden, violent route, Sutterer explained that ‘slow, very deliberate, very intentional movements’ would’ve been better. Because Pico and Co. went the other way, it was no surprise to see the fight waved off.

In his first post-fight comments, Pico admitted that it was a good idea to stop him from continuing, especially after he found out he needed shoulder surgery and would be sidelined for the next couple of months.

We nearly had a similar situation over at WGP K1 in Brazil, where Lucas Peixoto dislocated his shoulder (video here, courtesy of Neo Vale Tudo on Twitter), but before his coach could go to town on it like Gibson, the ringside physicians stepped in and kept him from doing more damage. Thank goodness!

Aaron Pico’s dislocated shoulder at Bellator 286.
Aaron Pico’s dislocated shoulder at Bellator 286.
Photo by Hans Gutknecht/MediaNews Group/Los Angeles Daily News via Getty Images

No. 4: Cherneka Johnson’s forehead at Haney vs. Kambosos Jr. 2

It looked like she got hit with an axe.’

That was one of the comments about Cherneka Johnson and the gruesome gash she suffered in her fight against Susie Ramadan at Haney vs. Kambosos Jr. 2. And honestly? I can’t think of a better description.

An accidental clash of heads in the second round opened a cut above the left eye of Johnson, who began bleeding profusely. And as we know, that is one of the worst places to get a cut because the blood trickles down into the eye, impairing the fighter’s vision. When she returned to her corner, we got to see what it looked like without the blood, and it was bad. Like potentially fight-ending bad. And it didn’t help that by the time she was about to go out for the third round, Johnson was still gushing and trying to shake off the blood going into her eye. The ringside physician looked as though he was ready to put an end to things right then and there, but he didn’t!

Johnson continued, and fought with a crimson mask for the remaining rounds. Despite the impairment, she won by unanimous decision and defended the IBF super bantamweight world title.

BOX-WOMEN-SUPER-BANTAMWEIGHT-AUS-JOHNSON-RAMADAN
Cherneka Johnson with a nasty cut above her eye at Haney vs. Kambosos Jr. 2
Photo by WILLIAM WEST/AFP via Getty Images

No. 3: Richard Palencia’s leg at Bellator 286

Richard Palencia had to wait nearly a year for his Bellator debut. Unfortunately for him, the debut went as badly as you can imagine.

Opening the preliminary portion of Bellator 286, Palencia shared the cage with Cee Jay Hamilton. There was a bit of delay, as the commission waited for the paramedics to take their place by the cage. And as it turns out, they were needed. At the beginning of the second round, Palencia threw a leg kick that connected with Hamilton’s shin. Judging by his immediate grimace, Palencia knew something was wrong and that something was a broken leg. When he stepped back, Palencia’s leg zigged when it should’ve zagged, and he collapsed to the canvas in pain. A stunned Hamilton pointed it out to the referee before he rushed in and stopped the fight.

Palencia was taken out of the cage on a stretcher. It was later revealed that he suffered a broken tibia and fibula, which could keep him out of action for a year or so.

No. 2: George Kambosos Jr.’s head at Haney vs. Kambosos Jr. 2

You read correctly. There were two gruesome gashes at Haney vs. Kambosos Jr. 2 caused by accidental clashes of heads! So why was this one worse than Cherneka Johnson? Because George Kambosos Jr. had a chunk of skin hanging off the side of his head. Eww.

Haney and Kambosos Jr. collided during the eighth round of their rematch, leaving the champion with a cut above his eye and the challenger with a gash on the side of his head. Both men were opened up and bled, but it was clear Kambosos Jr. got the worst of the impact based on the now-dangling flap.

Kambosos Jr. fought on for four more rounds, doing some of his best work near the end of the fight. But was it enough to reclaim the undisputed lightweight titles? No, it wasn’t. The only thing ‘Ferocious’ left the ring with was a gnarly reminder of another 12 rounds against Haney.

No. 1: John Lineker’s eye at ONE on Prime Video 3

We have a double whammy here with John Lineker.

Ahead of his first defense of the ONE bantamweight championship against Fabricio Andrade, Lineker missed weight and was subsequently stripped. Losing your title on the scales certainly hurts, but that was not the only painful thing Lineker had to endure at ONE on Prime Video 3.

Though most are unwilling to stand and trade with a man with the fight moniker ‘Hands of Stone,’ Andrade was game. The Brazilian stung Lineker repeatedly with jabs and straights, which led to a severely swollen right eye. Surprisingly enough, the eye wasn’t what stopped the fight.

In the third round, Andrade hurt Lineker with a knee to the body, briefly folding the former champion. However, when he followed up with another knee, it was a little lower than intended and hit the groin. Not only did Lineker writhe around in excruciating pain for several minutes, but he also dry heaved to the point of needing a bucket to collect any potential vomit. Oh, and his protective cup? Completely shattered. That was, without a doubt, one of the worst groin strikes we’ve seen in MMA, right up there with Aorigele.

John Lineker’s eye at ONE on Prime 3.
John Lineker’s eye at ONE on Prime 3.
Screenshot of broadcast replay on YouTube.