All-American Moments in MMA

By Brian Knapp and Trevor Gustafson Jul 4, 2009
“The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it.” -- Thucydides

In the 233 years that have come and gone since its birth, America has served as a beacon for ingenuity, hope, courage, democracy and blue-collar toughness. The men and women who represent the nation in the sport of mixed martial arts embody those traits as well as anyone. To that end, compiled a list of the most memorable All-American moments in MMA.

Dan Henderson vs. Wanderlei Silva
Pride 33 “Second Coming,” Feb. 24, 2007, Las Vegas

It anchored arguably the greatest top-to-bottom MMA card ever put together. When Henderson, a two-time Olympian, flattened Silva in the third round of their Pride 33 main event, he made history by becoming the first man to hold major titles in two different weight classes simultaneously. Two years later, he remains the only fighter to do so. The image of an emotional Henderson being lifted by longtime Team Quest teammate and fellow Olympian Matt Lindland was timeless.

Randy Couture vs. Tim Sylvia
UFC 68 “Uprising,” March 3, 2007, Columbus, Ohio

The old man had a few tricks up his sleeve. A few months shy of his 44th birthday, Couture stepped into the cage against Sylvia, then the UFC heavyweight champion, as a decided underdog. Few gave the UFC hall of famer a chance. Within seconds of the opening bell, Couture had mouths ajar, as he rocked Sylvia with a blistering overhand right that sent the 6-foot-8 Miletich Fighting Systems behemoth reeling into the cage. Couture controlled the rest of a surprisingly one-sided affair, as he took down Sylvia at will, pummeled him with ground-and-pound and regained the UFC heavyweight championship with a unanimous decision.

Matt Hughes vs. Frank Trigg
UFC 52 “Couture vs. Liddell 2,” April 16, 2005, Las Vegas

Lesser men might have succumbed to the onslaught after being struck below the belt. Popped in the coconuts by a Trigg knee from the clinch early in round one, an incapacitated Hughes was at his opponent’s mercy for several harrowing moments, the illegal blow obscured from the referee’s view. Trigg threatened to finish it with a stream of punches from the top and a rear-naked choke before Hughes inexplicably rose from the grave, hoisted him into the air, carried him across the cage and slammed him to the canvas, the crown erupting in a mixture of shock and respect. Soon after, “Twinkle Toes,” submitted to a rear-naked choke.

Jeff Sherwood/

Randy Couture
Don Frye vs. Yoshihiro Takayama
Pride 21 “Demolition,” June 23, 2002, Saitama, Japan

Decked out in his trademark red, white and blue trunks, Frye threw caution to the wind against the winless 6-foot-5 Takayama. The two heavyweights fired more than 50 point-blank punches at one another before the pace slowed, Frye sending shockwaves through Takayama’s blonde locks. That it lasted 6:10 seems like a minor miracle considering the amount of punishment they absorbed. By the time the fight was over, Frye’s hand was raised and Takayama’s face was a swollen mass of battered, indiscernible flesh.

Erik Paulson vs. Kenji Kawaguchi
Shooto “Vale Tudo Junction 3,” May 7, 1996, Tokyo

Paulson, the founder of Combat Submission Wrestling, became the first American to win a Shooto world championship when he submitted Kawaguchi with a toe hold and captured the promotion’s 183-pound belt. He successfully defended the title for the next five years before he retired in April 2000. Having helped oversee the development of current MMA stars like Sean Sherk, Josh Barnett and Brock Lesnar, Paulson returned to the competitive scene in October 2007, when he took out Jeff Ford at the HDNet Fights premiere.

Brian Stann vs. Doug Marshall
WEC 33 “Back to Vegas,” March 26, 2008, Las Vegas

A captain in the United States Marine Corps, Stann was awarded the Silver Star for his service in Iraq in 2005. He reached the peak of the World Extreme Cagefighting light heavyweight division with his knockout victory against Marshall in only his sixth professional bout. The win brought the 6-foot-1 “All American” to tears. He has since moved on to the UFC.

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Honorable Mentions: Ken Shamrock defeated Alex Cook, Maurice Smith, Masakatsu Funaki and Manabu Yamada in a two-day span in December 1994 to become the first King of Pancrase … Eric Smith, Tom Erikson, Kevin Randleman and Henderson reached the finals in two Brazilian Open ’97 tournaments in June 1997. Brazilian veteran Jose “Pele” Landi-Jons was expected to dominate the competition, but the Americans opted for a full takeover instead … 2000 Olympic gold medalist Rulon Gardner -- the man who dethroned amateur wrestling legend Alexander Karelin -- defeated Hidehiko Yoshida in his only MMA appearance at Pride “Shockwave 2004” on New Year’s Eve … Just 13 days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington D.C., Frye led a contingent of Americans into Pride 16 at the Osaka Castle Hall in Osaka, Japan. Frye won his match by disqualification after the volatile and unpredictable Gilbert Yvel decided to give him an impromptu eye examination … Former UFC heavyweight champion Mark Coleman carved through Akira Shoji, Kazuyuki Fujita and Igor Vovchanchyn on May 1, 2000 to win the Pride open weight grand prix in Tokyo.
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