Breaking the MMA language barrier for those who don't know the difference between a wristlock and a wristwatch, this guide offers various perspectives and analysis of the sport. Presents a combination of facts, fundamentals, and fighters of this growing combat sport.
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About the Author
Jonathan Snowden is a former lawyer, a radio DJ, and a television producer. He is the author of Total MMA, has worked for the U.S. Army and the White House Communications Agency, is trained in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and the Army Combatives Program, and currently works for the Department of Defense. He lives in Vienna, Virginia. Kendall Shields teaches English at Saint Mary’s University and judo at the Dalhousie University Judo Club. He lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
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The MMA Encyclopedia
By Jonathan Snowden, Kendall Shields, Peter Lockley, Michael Holmes
ECW PRESSCopyright © 2010 Jonathan Snowden and Kendall Shields
All rights reserved.
Weight: 285 lbs
Debut: UFC 6 (7/14/95)
Career Record: 10–14
Notable Wins: Paul Varelans (UFC 6); Yoji Anjo (UFC 15.5); Wesley "Cabbage" Correira (ROTR 7)
Notable Losses: Oleg Taktarov (UFC 6); Dan Severn (Ultimate Ultimate 95); Don Frye (Ultimate Ultimate 96); Pedro Rizzo (UFC 17.5); Kevin "Kimbo Slice" Ferguson (EliteXC: Street Certified
It wasn't the brutal knockout of the 400-pound John Matua that made David "Tank" Abbott stand out in a crowded MMA landscape. It was the dance — just a little shimmy mimicking Matua's scary convulsions as he lay unconscious on the mat — that immediately made Abbott one of the UFC's biggest stars.
Before Abbott burst onto the scene in 1995 at UFC 6, the UFC was filled with respectful athletes, martial artists who conducted themselves with class and dignity. With his crass interviews, often mocking his opponents and making light of the trauma he had just inflicted on their brains with his hammering fists, Abbott was a breath of fresh air. He was the anti–martial artist, a welcoming and familiar figure for fans who still weren't sure what to make of Gracie Jiu-jitsu and the ground game. This was a fighter they could feel comfortable with: a bar fighter with a bald head, barrel chest, and long beard. This was what a fighter was supposed to look like.
"I just got out of jail for beating somebody up — in fact, a cop's son," Abbott said. His background gave UFC promoters reason to worry. But Abbott had a solid case for his inclusion in the event. "Isn't this supposed to be about fighting? And they said, 'Yeah, but you've got to have some kind of a black belt or something.' And I said, 'That's not what I'm about. I'm about fighting in the streets.' They called me a couple days later and said, 'We came up with this thing called Tank Abbott. It's from the Every Which Way But Loose movie from Clint Eastwood.' That's where the Tank came from."
It was a brilliant marketing ploy, not just by Semaphore Entertainment Group, but by Abbott himself. The Tank may have looked like an ignorant thug, but that was for show. He was a legitimately tough guy, but he was also a college graduate and a junior college wrestling star. This wasn't part of the UFC's pitch, though. Fans preferred to think of Abbott as a menacing street fighter and that was what SEG gave them.
Unfortunately for Abbott, the martial artists he professed to hate so much were more than a match for him. Abbott's career is filled with devastating knockouts of journeymen and tomato cans, but every time he stood in the cage with a legitimate martial artist, he lost and lost convincingly. Even in defeat, Tank was still able to convince fans he was the tougher guy. He was famous for heading to the bar while his conqueror headed to the hospital.
It was an act that seemed to age poorly. If tapping out to a sneering Frank Mir's toe hold didn't kill the Abbott myth, a first round knockout in just 43 seconds at the hands of street fighter Kimbo Slice surely did. Despite these convincing losses, Abbott will continue to fight on. As long as there are promoters who are willing to pay big bucks for the nostalgia of having Tank Abbott on their cards, the Tank will be there, lacing up his gloves and ready to fall down for old time's sake.
Tank Abbott: Wrestling Star
During his UFC run, Tank Abbott's biggest nemesis was the promotion's pretty boy Ken Shamrock. One SEG insider thought of Shamrock's Lion's Den and Abbott's crew as the Sharks and the Jets. Like the gangs in West Side Story, the two crews seemed destined to rumble. Instead, the fireworks were all verbal, especially after Shamrock left fighting for professional wrestling. Abbott mocked him mercilessly, but as the UFC paychecks got smaller, Abbott's opposition to pro wrestling shrank as well. In 1999, Abbott took the leap with Time Warner's World Championship Wrestling.
He joined the promotion in a tumultuous time. WCW had peaked with an evil Hulk Hogan leading his New World Order stable against aging good guys like Sting and Ric Flair. They were desperate for the next big thing and were tossing ideas against the wall with reckless abandon. Abbott was far from the only experiment; WCW also brought in KISS to help christen a KISS Demon character and signed the rapper Master P to headline a rap versus country music feud.
In this creative chasm, Abbott's wrestling persona changed by the day. He was a tough guy with one-punch-knockout power during a "Colors on a Pole" match with Big Al at one pay-per-view and the goofy dancing bodyguard for the boy-band knockoff "3 Count" at another show.
"The powers that be in WCW were changing every day; you never knew who was in charge. They just came up with new ideas and things for me to do. I think they were hoping it wouldn't go well for me," Abbott said. "I thought it was actually kind of funny to go out and dance with those guys. What the hell — let's go have some fun."
see Leg locks
The Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championship — more often referred to as ADCC, or simply Abu Dhabi — is the most prestigious competition in the world of no-gi submission grappling. Founded by MMA enthusiast Sheik Tahnoon Bin Zayed Al Nahyan and his Brazilian Jiu-jitsu instructor Nelson Monteiro in 1998, the ADCC's mandate is to bring grapplers from various disciplines together to compete under rules agreeable to competitors from all styles — though ADCC rules resemble those of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu more closely than those of any other art or sport. And indeed, Brazilian Jiu-jitsu practitioners have enjoyed far more success at ADCC than representatives of sambo, judo , or wrestling. Aside from Mark Kerr and Sanae Kikuta, representing wrestling and judo respectively, all ADCC champions have been top Brazilian Jiu-jitsu exponents. This is no doubt due to at least two factors: the undeniable, inherent quality of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu as the premier submission discipline of its era, and the fact that the ADCC is simply not on the radar of active elite wrestlers and judo players. Perhaps one day Sheik Tahnoon's dream of top athletes from every major grappling discipline competing under a common rule set will be fully realized. Until then, it is what it is: a slightly dry but intriguing tournament featuring many of the biggest names in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu and MMA.
In Their Own Words: Matt Hume on ADCC
"Sheik Tahnoon saw me defeat Kenny Monday in the first world submission wrestling championship called 'The Contenders.' At the time, he was training in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu with Nelson Montero. He had seen Gracie Jiu-jitsu defeat all comers in the early UFC s, but started to see wrestlers come in and have success over some of the good jiu-jitsu practitioners. Then he saw me defeat the most decorated wrestler in only 45 seconds! He had his assistant contact me and I went to Abu Dhabi to train him and his combat team. Shortly after I taught him, he decided to hold the first Abu Dhabi submission championships and the rest is history.
"Training Sheik Tahnoon and his combat team was a great experience. He is a true martial artist and always seeks to improve his technique and ability. Everyone that I met in Abu Dhabi was very nice and had a true interest in learning what I taught them. I went back on several occasions and it was always like a reunion with good friends and family. I feel very fortunate to have had that opportunity and to have them as friends today."
It might be best to think of the Affliction clothing company's foray into the world of mixed martial arts as a noble failure. Backed, at least nominally, by Donald Trump, and partnered with Oscar De La Hoya's powerhouse Golden Boy Promotions, Affliction Entertainment put together two stacked, genuinely entertaining shows before falling apart days before their much anticipated Trilogy event in the summer of 2009. The premise was simple, and almost irresistible: take the Affliction brand, which enjoyed enormous success among the demographic that underpinned the popularity of mixed martial arts, partner it with the best heavyweight fighter on the planet, Fedor Emelianenko , and watch the money pile up. It didn't quite work out that way, in part because of a lack of proven draws on the top of the card and in part because of the hefty salaries paid out to the likes of Tim Sylvia, Josh Barnett, Andrei Arlovski, Matt Lindland, and Vitor Belfort — all admirable and accomplished fighters, but none of them capable of pulling in the kind of pay-per-view numbers needed to keep things viable.
By the summer of 2009, there were rumors and rumblings that the end might be in sight, and once Barnett failed a pre-fight drug test — the third positive test for a banned steroid of his career — Affliction's third event collapsed, and the promotion itself followed suit not long thereafter. A partnership with Strikeforce was considered but never consolidated, forcing Affliction to turn to Dana White. The UFC, which had banned Affliction clothing when word first began to spread that the company was considering running its own events, absorbed several fighters' contracts and welcomed the clothing company back as a sponsor. In the end, the Affliction affair showed that while there are some intriguing synergies between mixed martial arts and elaborately goony sportswear, success in one doesn't necessarily guarantee success in the other.
Real Name: Chad Rowan
Weight: 500 lbs
Debut: Dynamite!! (12/31/04)
Career Record: 0–4
Notable Losses: Royce Gracie (Dynamite!! 2004); Don Frye (Hero's 5)
The Japanese sumo fans were more disappointed than angry when it turned out Chad Rowan just didn't get it. They had embraced Rowan as "Akebono," the first foreigner ever promoted to the exalted rank of yokozuna. He was among the most successful sumo of his era, winning 11 top division championships, and the notoriously xenophobic Japanese adopted him as one of their own. He even represented his new homeland at the 1998 Winter Olympics opening ceremonies in Nagano.
Then came retirement. Although he was given a job training the next generation of wrestlers, it wasn't easy navigating the extremely political world of the sumo. It seems strange to many foreigners, but in Japan, a long-term position of authority in sumo isn't earned — it's bought and paid for by the athletes and their wealthy fans and sponsors. Akebono was on that path, an apprentice stable-master vying for one of a very few positions as head of a stable. The cost of that position, because of its scarcity, could exceed $2 million and Akebono had lost all his financial backing. In Japan, sumo are held to higher standards than other athletes, and Akebono had disappointed his richest backers by dumping his long-time Japanese girlfriend and marrying a Japanese-American only after he had impregnated her.
Despite their status in the country, top sumo were more wealthy than rich. They did well, earning as much as $500,000 a year, but Akebono had expensive tastes and was struggling. He hadn't made enough to live comfortably in retirement and he had lost his opportunity to make a lifelong living in sumo. When the restaurant he purchased failed, he felt he had little choice but to go out on his own. Consequently, one of the top men in a very traditional sport joined the loud and flashy K-1 kickboxing show. He may have abandoned years of tradition, but he didn't come cheap: Akebono's salary for a K-1 fight was more than $1 million.
In the ring, whether it was kickboxing or MMA, watching Akebono fight was a little like watching Michael Jordan play baseball. It was sad to watch a true great struggle at a new game, every embarrassing loss destroying his legacy a little more. Although he never found success at this new sport, fans were more than happy to tune in and watch the spectacle. His 2003 fight with fellow giant Bob Sapp attracted more than 50 million television viewers in a country of just over 120 million people. Almost half the country tuned in to see the former giant become just a little smaller, if not in size then in stature.
Weight: 185 lbs
Debut: Dynamite!! 2004 (12/31/04)
Career Record: 13–2–2
Notable Wins: Melvin Manhoef (Hero's 7); Denis Kang (Hero's 2007)
Notable No Contests: Kazushi Sakuraba (Dynamite!! 2006); Kazuo Misaki (Yarennoka)
Notable Loss: Chris Leben (UFC 116)
Top middleweight Yoshihiro Akiyama's notoriety as a fighter is surpassed only by his reputation as a cheater.
Akiyama's reputation for foul play began during his international judo career, where his World Championship trials win in 2002 and fifth-place finish at the 2003 Osaka World Championships were clouded by credible allegations and formal protests over the slipperiness of his gi. The reputation was cemented when Akiyama was disqualified and a no contest was declared in his high-profile New Year's Eve bout against MMA legend Kazushi Sakuraba. Sakuraba, unable to secure a grip, complained vociferously to the referee throughout the brief, lopsided fight, but was ignored.
A subsequent investigation by K-1 officials revealed that Akiyama had entered the ring covered in a layer of Olay Body Quench lotion. He pleaded ignorance of the foul, and although it's possible that Akiyama was using the lotion to replenish moisture for naturally radiant skin, it seems far more likely that this was a deliberate if unnecessary act aimed at improving his already excellent chances against the fading Sakuraba.
Before the Sakuraba scandal, Akiyama was a Japanese crowd favorite. Afterward, he was a disgraced, hated villain — but also the Hero's/Dream organization's biggest television ratings draw. While the Japanese fans love to hate him, Koreans, it seems, simply love him. Though Japanese-born and naturalized, Akiyama (Choi Sung-Ho) is ethnically Korean and a mainstream celebrity in that country, where audiences focus less on his questionable sportsmanship and more on his dandyish fashion sense and smooth pop crooning.
Akiyama's last significant fight in Japan was his heated New Year's Eve 2007 contest against Kazuo Misaki in front of an uncommonly energized Saitama crowd. What looked like a decisive KO loss for Akiyama — the first since an early bout with heavyweight kickboxer Jerome LeBanner — was later ruled a no contest when Misaki's head kick was shown to have landed while Akiyama was on all fours. No longer content to play the villain at home, Akiyama made a solid American debut at UFC 100, taking Fight of the Night honors for his split decision win over Alan Belcher and becoming something of a cult hero as the irresistible "Sexiyama."
Weight: 145 lbs
Debut: EcoFight 1 (8/10/04)
Career Record: 17–1
Notable Wins: Alexandre Nogueira (WEC 34); Mike Brown (WEC 44); Urijah Faber (WEC 48)
Notable Loss: Luciano Azevedo (Jungle Fight 5)
WEC featherweight champion Jose Aldo exploded from obscurity to become, at just 23 years of age, one of the youngest men ever to win a major MMA championship.
The dynamic young striker looks up to boxer Mike Tyson and there is something Tyson-esque about the Amazonian warrior. Boxing fans in the '80s could never forget the young heavyweight from Queens who won his first 17 fights by knockout. Aldo has been on a similar streak since joining the WEC. Starting with former Shooto standout Alexandre Nogueira, he's dispatched of six consecutive opponents, the last being champion Mike Brown.
Excerpted from The MMA Encyclopedia by Jonathan Snowden, Kendall Shields, Peter Lockley, Michael Holmes. Copyright © 2010 Jonathan Snowden and Kendall Shields. Excerpted by permission of ECW PRESS.
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Snowden is undeniably a talented writer who has done his research, and the work here is impressive.
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