This Thursday, fight fans will be treated to a dream match over two decades in the making, as Shannon Ritch (57-85, 4 NC) locks horns with Travis Fulton (254-54-10, 1 NC) at M-1 Global’s Road to M-1: USA 2 in Winterhaven, California.
With over 450 attested and documented mixed martial arts bouts between the two -- and in Ritch’s case there are almost certainly many more we don’t know of -- this meeting of “The Cannon” and “The Ironman” is unsurpassed in that regard in the history of the sport. They make the man fighting directly after them, 75-22 Travis Wiuff, look like the prospect he is by comparison. Considering that both men’s records read like a who’s who of MMA -- with a healthy helping of “who’s that?” -- it’s frankly amazing this is the first time they will meet.
Here is a by-the-numbers look at the record of Shannon “The Cannon” Ritch. It isn’t always pretty, and the well-traveled 48-year-old may be a punchline to some, but for 21 years now, the man has traveled the world and taken on all comers. He has fought on dirt floors and he has fought under the brightest of lights at the pinnacle of the sport. Perhaps it’s time to, if not extol, at least recognize a mixed martial arts career the likes of which we will never see again.
2: wins to open his career. Before assuming his best-known role as an exemplar of MMA futility, Ritch actually got off to a solid start. He won his first two and three of his first four, and at one point was 11-6 with one no-contest. From there he went on a 0-7 run in which five of his seven opponents were past or future Ultimate Fighting Championship signees. Who knows if that was a turning point?
12: consecutive losses from June 2001 to June 2002, the longest such streak of Ritch’s career. He would “break” the streak with a foul-plagued no-contest against fellow journeyman and alleged horrifying criminal Cedric Marks before losing one more, running the winless streak to 14 fights total.
0: times Ritch has heard the final bell or horn. It is nearly unfathomable that in almost 150 career fights, Ritch has never once had a fight go to decision. In a case of a very movable object meeting a very resistible force, Antonio McKee -- often derided by fans as one of the most excruciating fighters to watch -- made his professional debut against Ritch. He won via submission to strikes, then went on to rack up 21 decisions in his other 28 career wins.
56: losses via submission, by far the most of any fighter on record. Of those, 54 were in the first round and eight were in less than a minute. He has tapped out most frequently to armbars (11), with heel hooks (7) coming in second.
44: victories by submission, which -- fair play -- makes him one of the most prolific submission artists in MMA history. In fact, if Ritch should happen to catch Fulton in something sassy and inescapable this Thursday, he would pull even with Alexey Oleynik’s mark of 45. Ritch’s 43 first-round submission wins may well be the most of any fighter. Apparently a fan of giving what he gets, Ritch has won 16 times by armbar, to go along with 10 rear-naked chokes and nine heel hooks.
2: appearances under the banner of Pride Fighting Championships, going 0-2. Ritch faced the legendary Kazushi Sakuraba at Pride 11, tapping to an Achilles lock in 68 seconds. He returned to Japan to face Daisuke Nakamura at Pride: The Best Vol. 2 a year and a half later, this time lasting 4 minutes, 28 seconds before tapping to a beautiful reverse armbar.
8: rematches in Ritch’s career. Unlike his counterpart Fulton, who hasn’t been shy about beating some of the same people seven or eight times, in nearly 150 career fights Ritch has only fought eight fighters more than once, and in each of those cases they fought only twice. Ritch went 5-2 with one no-contest in the first go-round with those eight, but went 2-6 in the rematches. This means that, incredible as it may sound, “The Cannon” actually gets easier to defeat as people figure his game out.
4: opponents in common with Fulton. Despite the huge number of fights accounted for by these two uber-journeymen, there are only four men who have fought both Ritch and Fulton: Brian Dunn, Dan Severn, Evan Tanner and Joe Riggs. Against the common opponents, Ritch is 0-5 while Fulton is 3-5-1.
33: current, former or future Ultimate Fighting Championship or Pride Fighting Championships fighters on Ritch’s record. Incredibly, that is two more than Ritch’s opponent Fulton can claim, in spite of having over twice as many total fights. Against those fighters, however, Ritch is a dismal 0-33 with two no-contests. It is an interesting thought exercise to note that without those fights, Ritch, one of the most derided fighters in the sport, actually has a winning record.