I don’t think I’m alone in saying that as an MMA fan, I can be a little moody sometimes. The MMA news cycle tends to be just that: cyclical. Bad news tends to come in heaps, and when it does, it’s hard to not get cynical and jaded. But here’s my latest attempt to inject some positivity into both my writings and the scene at large: today I’ll be focusing on the 10 career-defining moments of my 10 favorite fighters.
But first, a quick word: This is pure fan service, and I’m the fan. If you don’t agree with my choices, feel free to submit your own. But I’m not taking some grand stand with this list: this is just the 10 moments I’ll never forget in the careers of my favorite fighters. These are the moments that when I think back on, not only do I think that this moment defines the fighter, I can’t help but recall the crazy emotions that ran through my head, some of which I physically acted out, and all of which I’ll share here openly and honestly. I should probably consider at least some of them embarrassing, but hey – it comes with the territory of being a true fan of a sport I love. So let’s begin.
Here are the top 10 defining moments of my 10 favorite fighter in MMA.
No.10 Wanderlei Silva: “I Don’t Have Fans, I Have Friends.”
The first entry on this list actually isn’t a fight moment at all. Rather, this occurred outside of the ring/cage at a fan expo. This perfectly exemplifies the amazing duality of Wanderlei Silva: for over a decade “The Axe Murderer” has been regarded as one of the most intimidating, “crap your pants scary” fighters on the planet.
Outside of the ring or cage, however, he is one of the most gentle, honest, appreciative, humble fighters I have ever seen.
In this video, a member of the expo tells Wanderlei Silva that his line has gotten too long, and that he can no longer take pictures or sign autographs with fans. He is told that if fans want to take pictures, they have to take them while they’re in line.
Silva immediately and loudly objects, and demands that his fans be allowed to take pictures with him. The best moment of the video occurs at the end, when the exasperated expo organizer caves and tells Wanderlei, “you do whatever you want…” and Silva immediately syas, “OK,” and then takes a picture with a fan.
That, my friends, is Wanderlei Silva. That’s why he’s always been and will always be one of my favorite fighters, and that’s why I always remember this moment when asked to define “The Axe Murderer.”
No.9 Lyoto Machida: “Welcome To The Machida Era”I’m going to pull a hipster moment on you guys: I was a fan of Lyoto Machida before it was cool to be a fan of Lyoto Machida. Back when the term “running” was mostly accepted as an accurate description of Machida’s fighting style, I was saying how Machida had all the tools to be a champion one day.
When Machida KTFO’d Rashad Evans, it was one of the most vindicating moments I had ever experienced as an MMA fan. That moment made it all worth it, and although our time in the sun proved to be all-too-brief, warmly ringing in “The Machida Era” as a Lyoto Machida super-fan remains my defining memory of “The Dragon.”
No.8 : The All-Knowing SmirkUsually when one of my favorite fighters scores an incredible victory, I shout out random things or pump my fists in the air or just generally do something that looks very foolish but feels very good in the moment.
For Alistair Overeem, all I did was smirk.
It happened after Overeem completely obliterated Brock Lesnar. It was the kind of smirk that said, “Well, what did you expect?” It was the kind of smirk that showed how I knew that “The Reem” had arrived in the and was about to take the promotion by storm.
Despite the recent scandals surrounding Overeem that have many questioning the validity of this win, I still remember that day when Overeem lived up to and even surpassed his hype. And I definitely remember the nonchalant smirk that spread across my face as most of my other friends sat in stunned silence.
No.7 : Shouting “209 MOTHERFUCKERS”Like I said before, I tend to act out when one of my favorite fighters wins. This is the first (but not the last) of those examples. To this day, I believe that Nick Diaz vs. Paul Daley was one of the best one-round fights in MMA history.
The back-and-forth was tremendous, Diaz rallying under pressure was tremendous, and after Diaz managed toDaley and give him the first true knockout loss of his career, I was jumping for joy and may have uttered the phrase “209 MOTHERFUCKERS!” to no one in particular and almost as loudly as I could.
No.6 Dan Henderson: The “OOH” and “AAH” MomentThe reason this moment stands out to me so clearly is not just because it was one of the greatest knockouts of all time, but because my reaction was right out of some stock film of people being shown something amazing and saying “ooh” and “aah.”
When Dan Henderson landed his epic hook square on the jaw of Michael Bisping, my jaw hit the floor and all I could say was “OOH!”
When he followed that up with an incredible diving shot that further knocked Bisping into unconsciousness, my jaw dropped even more and I let out a shocked “AAH!”
In a career filled with unforgettable moments, Dan Henderson’s total destruction of Michael Bisping still stands the test of time and stands out as my favorite moment from one of my favorite fighters.