Five Memorable Moments from the Weekend

By Joe Hall Jan 2, 2008
The last week of 2007 offered a final onslaught of fights. Selecting from the four significant shows that closed out the year -- the IFL, the UFC, K-1 and Yarennoka -- here are five moments worth highlighting:

5. Ryan Schultz (Pictures) traps Chris Horodecki (Pictures)'s arm and pounds him out

Schultz's win was no surprise, but the brutality of his victory over Horodecki in the IFL Grand Prix Finals was certainly an eye-opener. He made it look easy, as if the 20-year-old Canadian was undefeated only because no one had ever bothered to pin his arm behind his back and pummel his face.

Like every mixed martial artist, Horodecki had to lose sooner or later. The defeat was sudden and violent, but the blemish it scratches onto his record is no bigger than the mark left by losing a decision.

A first loss can be a psychological hurdle, however. We'll see how Horodecki responds.

4. Fedor Emelianenko (Pictures) stares down Hong Man Choi (Pictures)'s sternum

I looked forward to this fight as much as you did.

The pre-fight staredown, which brought Fedor and his enormous opponent together in the center of the ring, better explained why this bout was made than 5,000 words on the topic could have done.

There were a few interesting moments -- seeing Fedor struggle initially to maneuver underneath Choi, seeing him wrestle his whole body against Choi's arm, seeing him try to trip 350 solid pounds.

Much more interesting, though, would have been a camera focused on M-1 Global officials after Fedor's first armbar attempt failed. Choi powered out of the hold and slammed his oversized fist into Fedor's head a few times. The fight returned to the feet, and a camera zoomed in on Fedor's face -- the face of M-1 Global -- which was missing two sizable swaths of skin.

In hindsight, Monte Cox and company had little to worry about. But in the moment, they couldn't have enjoyed such rough treatment of their multi-million-dollar investment.

3. Kazuo Misaki (Pictures) delivers a fight-finishing kick to the face of Yoshihiro Akiyama (Pictures)

Perhaps the most thrilling scenario in fighting is when a pugilist pushed to the edge of defeat rallies back to victory. The closer one comes to losing, the more exhilarating the comeback.

Kazuo Misaki (Pictures) was pretty close.

Six minutes into his New Year's Eve bout against Yoshihiro Akiyama (Pictures), Misaki fell asleep at the harmless sight of his opponent's feinting jab. Akiyama finally fired one the moment Misaki quit moving his head -- he pumped the real thing behind another feint -- and the jab measured Misaki exactly for the right hand that came next.

In mixed martial arts you can recognize a good one-two combination by its sound. Thrown perfectly, it goes off something like a shotgun, with two quick beats -- the punches landing, the gun pumping -- then a pause before the big conclusion. The gun gives a blast for its finale, but the one-two ends with a thump.

The thump, of course, is someone hitting the canvas. It's a sound that often ends fights, and Misaki looked finished when he collapsed with his right arm straightened awkwardly at his side. Yet he defended well while coming to, then clawed back into the bout.

Back on the feet, Misaki threw a left hook to the body that Akiyama blocked with his arm. Akiyama defended the next left hook the same way, his arm shielding his ribs.

The only problem was that Misaki had thrown the punch at his head.

The Japanese audience, which had uncharacteristically expressed its disdain for Akiyama with boos and then bitterly watched him nearly win, let out a collective roar when Misaki rushed after his fallen opponent. Akiyama struggled to his feet just in time to make legal the kick that smacked into his face.

A pair of punches followed, and the ref shoved Misaki off, giving him the win just two minutes after he had nearly taken the loss.

2. Chuck Liddell (Pictures) stalks in on Wanderlei Silva (Pictures)

Early in the first round, Silva caught a right hand on his ear and slowly reeled back into the cage. A second passed before Liddell realized he had apparently hurt his opponent, prompting him to hustle forward with another loaded right hand.

Silva was waiting, his back against the fence, his hands ready to swing. At that point there was just enough time to understand what was about to happen: the exchange we had waited years for.

The first strikes -- a left from Silva, a right from Liddell -- deflected each other. Silva then missed with a wild right, though the blow caused Liddell to stumble away.

As "The Iceman" moved back in, it was quite clear that Silva was grinning. We can only speculate on what exactly he was grinning at, be it Liddell or the joy of trying to take off another human's head while he tries to take off yours.

The grin was gone when they resumed throwing. Silva winged his left-right-left bombs, technically terrible but undeniably powerful, with no success. Liddell landed the best strike -- a left hook he dropped across Silva's chin -- but both men survived to engage in a thrilling exchange at the end of a memorable second round.

This time Liddell connected with an overhand right that backed an already bloody Silva into the cage yet again. Both tasted leather in the punishing trade that followed, but the Brazilian got the worst of it. In fact, he should have been knocked out. In that situation, with an opponent hurt and trapped against the cage, Liddell finishes just about anyone.

Silva was game. His heart matched Liddell's beat for beat, but his hands could not.

1. Matt Hughes (Pictures), with his eye closed and his arm bending in a bad way, verbally submits

It wasn't an undignified ending.

Rather, Hughes' verbal surrender at UFC 79 was a respectable admission. A gesture minutes earlier had said the same thing. On his way to his corner after a demoralizing first round, Hughes passed Georges St. Pierre (Pictures) and slapped him on the back as if to say, "Wow. Good one, man."

After the fight Hughes came right out with the words: "Georges is just a better fighter."

That much is certain, as is the reality that Hughes' domination at 170 pounds is done. He could do nothing against the Canadian.

At one point in the first round, St. Pierre literally leapt into a takedown for Hughes -- and still didn't end up on his back. He went airborne for a superman punch, which Hughes ducked, allowing him to catch St. Pierre in a deep double-leg.

This would have been a nice time for Hughes to do that old number when he hoists an opponent onto his shoulder, walks him around the cage, gives everyone a moment to meditate on what's about to happen and get a good angle to see it, and then slams the poor guy on his back if he's lucky or his head if he's not.

How did St. Pierre stay on his feet against an adversary who has made a career of taking takedowns and who had been given one here?

Beats me.

Within a second of coming down from his flying punch to land in Hughes' arms, St. Pierre had popped his hips free. A second more and he had clinched with Hughes and stuck a knee into his side.

Counseling Hughes between rounds was longtime friend and training partner Jeremy Horn (Pictures). Horn is the man who helped Hughes add a submission game to his arsenal, who cornered him for many of his 41 victories, who climbed the Octagon apron and threw Hughes a thumbs-up after he had armbarred St. Pierre in their first meeting.

Against this version of St. Pierre, however, there wasn't much Horn could say to help his friend deal with such an overwhelmingly athletic foe. He did tell Hughes he had to throw his punches with more intention if he wanted to set up takedowns.

"He's getting," Hughes said in the corner. "He's getting out of the …"

Horn extracted Hughes' mouthpiece and the sentence trailed off, but we can safely assume the missing word referred to takedowns.

"You're all right," Horn said.

"I know," Hughes replied quickly, though that didn't make the response any truer.

With a minute left in the second round, Hughes had his first success of the fight. He scrambled out from underneath St. Pierre and grabbed a deep single-leg against the cage. There was a call of support from the audience, a burst of excitement from Hughes' corner, a flash of hope.

The next flash was the white blur of Hughes' legs flying through the air as St. Pierre tossed him to the mat.

The end followed. St. Pierre dropped a right elbow that closed Hughes' eye, then isolated his arm and transitioned from a Kimura to an armbar.

Hughes' left hand was free to tap. But for whatever reason -- caught in the moment of having his arm locked out perhaps -- the hand stayed still, and the most accomplished fighter in UFC history spoke his submission aloud.
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