The Top 5 David vs. Goliath Matchups

By Tim Leidecker Aug 1, 2008
While critics may rightfully argue that having a fighter take on an opponent twice his size is more of a spectacle than a sport, the notion of an ordinary mortal taking on a much bigger man goes back as far as living memory.

The most famous example took place around 1000 B.C. David, an acclaimed Israeli warrior, took on Philistine champion Goliath, who, according to some manuscripts, stood 9-foot-6. Most everyone knows the outcome, as the much smaller David dropped the giant using his slingshot and then finished him off with his sword.

While weapons are thankfully banned in rings and cages around the world, Davids have fought Goliaths on numerous occasions throughout the past 15 years in MMA. Sherdog.com has picked five of the most remarkable, bizarre and mind-boggling mismatches for a trip down memory lane.

5. Igor Vovchanchyn (Pictures) vs. Fred Floyd -- March 30, 1996
Weight difference: 133 pounds


When Vovchanchyn met Floyd at the inaugural IFC show in Kiev, Ukraine, the stocky local hero had already earned a reputation as one of the most dangerous strikers in the sport’s young history. Despite knocking out nine of his previous 10 opponents, however, the man who would later become known as “Ice Cold” had never faced a specimen like the 6-foot-4, 340-pound American.

Floyd, a kickboxer from California, came in with an even record and brought the fight to his much lighter opponent from the opening bell. Things soon changed, though, as Vovchanchyn’s superior striking came into play and prompted Floyd to take the fight to the mat. After getting mounted, Vovchanchyn turned the tables and poured it on while he stood toe-to-toe with “The Mangler.”

Following 13 minutes of Vovchanchyn’s vicious haymakers, Floyd tapped out due to punishment and exhaustion. Vovchanchyn would continue to take on and defeat some of the most feared fighters in the world, including Gary Goodridge (Pictures) (twice), Mark Kerr (Pictures) and Gilbert Yvel (Pictures).

4. Jason Miller (Pictures) vs. Stefan Gamlin (Pictures) -- May 26, 2006
Weight difference: 190 pounds


Jason “Mayhem” Miller had claimed to be a pro wrestler long before his run in this year’s Dream middleweight grand prix. The wacky middleweight had also prepared his jump to Japan by taking part in what many Japanese fans love most -- a huge mismatch.

The bout between Miller and former NFL Europe defensive tackle Stefan Gamlin (Pictures) took place in Miller’s adoptive state of Hawaii for the Icon Sport promotion. Gamlin, a pro wrestler of German origin, had already made a name for himself in Japan by taking on mega star Bob Sapp (Pictures) on short notice in September 2003. He lost that fight and also lost to “Mayhem” Miller, who weighed in at half of Gamlin’s 375 pounds.

In less than 30 seconds, Miller took the former football player to the ground and finished him using an arm-triangle choke.

3. Gerard Gordeau vs. Teila Tuli -- Nov. 12, 1993
Weight difference: 198 pounds


In the original and perhaps most famous mismatch in MMA history, Dutch savate fighter Gerard Gordeau squared off against 415-pound sumo wrestler Teila Tuli in the opening fight of the first UFC.

Anyone who watched the pay-per-view in November 1993 or rented the videotape can describe exactly what happened in that first UFC fight. The two competitors circled for a couple of seconds before Tuli switched stances and rushed Gordeau. The man from Amsterdam fended off the takedown and then proceeded to kick one of the big man’s teeth into the third row.

Even though Tuli got back to his feet and wanted to continue, the fight was eventually stopped because the sumo wrestler had a nasty cut under his right eye in addition to missing teeth. Thus, the UFC’s first fight was in the books.

2. Royce Gracie (Pictures) vs. Chad "Akebono" Rowan -- Dec. 31, 2004
Weight difference: 308 pounds


Promoters aiming at a weight difference of more than 300 pounds just can’t do without sumo wrestlers. For this prestigious clash on New Year’s Eve 2004, Japanese promotion Fighting & Entertainment Group didn’t just sign any sumo wrestler to compete. They got Chad Rowan (Pictures).

The 6-foot-8, 484-pound behemoth, better known as Akebono, was the first foreign-born wrestler to reach Yokozuna -- the highest rank in sumo. After a longstanding rivalry with fellow sumo grand masters Takanohana and Wakanohana, the Hawaiian by birth attempted to steamroll UFC legend Royce Gracie (Pictures).

An outstanding Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner, Gracie had ensured the breakthrough of his martial art by winning three of the first four UFC tournaments. Before his bout against Akebono, however, he had just turned 38 and had only fought three times in the previous eight years, going 1-1-1.

After being buried under the humongous measurements of the legendary sumotori for the majority of the match, Gracie seized perhaps his only chance of winning the fight by applying a shoulder lock. His shoulder trapped in the legs of the slight Brazilian and his left arm twisted backward, the giant Akebono was forced to submit.

While it wasn’t Gracie’s greatest victory, it certainly came against an opponent whose sheer size certainly would have caused most fighters literally huge problems.

1. Daiju Takase (Pictures) vs. Emmanuel Yarborough -- June 24, 1998
Weight difference: 417 pounds


If you thought 300 pounds is a mismatch that can’t be topped, think again. In the summer of 1998, Japanese middleweight Daiju Takase made his MMA debut against 600-pound sumo wrestler Emmanuel Yarborough in the biggest mismatch to date.

The enormous American also had the edge in experience, having fought twice before, even winning one of his bouts by smothering his opponent.

Takase did the obvious by circling the man more than three times his size for the whole first round and the majority of the second round. For his failure to engage in combat, the Japanese fighter earned a yellow card. Yet after most fans had already fallen asleep in their seats due to an obvious lack of action, it happened: Takase attempted a single-leg takedown and Yarborough dropped his huge frame onto his opponent.

He wasn’t able to control Takase, though. Takase first started raining punches from the bottom and then managed to escape Yarborough’s grip. Once free, the Wajyutsu Keisyukai fighter spun into side control and unloaded a series of six punches to the head that prompted the defenseless Yarborough to tap out.

Yarborough has since retired from active competition, while Takase has gone on to become a below-average fighter with a 7-12-1 record. Takase did have one more surprise in him, however, submitting eventual UFC champion Anderson Silva (Pictures) five years after his bout with the sumo wrestler.

Honorable mention: Keith Hackney (Pictures)’s win over Yarborough in September 1994, lightweight Genki Sudo (Pictures)’s battle with super heavyweight boxer Butterbean on New Year’s Eve 2003, the all-Hawaiian affair between featherweight Jay R. Palmer and 400-pounder Donald de la Cruz in April 1996, and the June 2002 fight between Kiyoshi Tamura (Pictures) and Bob “The Beast” Sapp -- one of the few times that Goliath got the win.
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