10 YEARS AGO TODAY – GRIFFIN VS BONNAR
Ten years ago today, April 9th 2005, the season one finale of The Ultimate Fighter aired on Spike TV which saw light heavyweights Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar fighting for a UFC contract. The two men made history. Putting on one of the greatest fights of all time and saving the company in the process.
I’ve talked at length about this fight before (I talk about it at pretty much every possible opportunity) back when last season of The Ultimate Fighter was about to begin, so I won’t go on about it too much now.
All I’ll say is, if you haven’t seen it you need to. Unfortunately I can’t post the whole fight, so I’ll pop this up instead.
For many people that was the moment they became fans for life.
In the spirit of that, and in honor of the fight’s anniversary, I’m going to have a quick think of the fights and moments that made me a fan.
My Favourite Submissions
Back when I was a neophyte I didn’t really like it when fighters went to the ground, and even more ridiculously I thought submissions were lame. They were only for fighters who didn’t have the strength to get a knock out. What an idiot I was.
My opinion started to change when I saw Matt Hughes tap out GSP and Frank Trigg. Frank Mir basically tear off Minotauro Nogueira’s arm and crank on Brock Lesnar’s ankle. Submissions are lethal weapons. As Joe Lauzon (another dude with some insane subs in his arsenal) is fond of saying, an opponent has no choice when they are knocked out, but when they are submitted they actually have to admit they are giving up. That they have been broken. To submit an opponent is to actually make them admit they’ve been beaten. And that’s bad ass.
As for my favourite sub, there are two that are my joint number one picks.
The first is Nate Diaz vs Kurt Pellegrino:
It’s not so much the sub itself but the fact Nate starts celebrating (and shooting no-one in particular two middle fingers) way before Pellegrino taps out. As soon as his legs are locked he knows it is done so he kinda just chills out until his opponent admits it’s over. It’s the kind of showboating the Diaz brothers are famous for and it cracks me up every time. A highlight reel finish.
My other favourite is Chan Sung Jung vs Leonard Garcia:
WHAT THE HELL IS THAT? A twister? That is bizarre. Nobody uses that move. Jung is still the only fighter to ever finish a fight with a twister in the UFC.
My Favourite Knockouts
Um… I decided to watch a few knock outs to remind myself of the best ones before I started writing this sentence. That was forty five minutes ago. There are so many crazy ones. Every time I found a classic I was like “This is my favourite, oh wait, this is my favourite… no, this is.”
So instead I’ll just talk about the first three that came to my head when I asked myself which was my all time favourite knockout.
Lyoto Machida vs Randy Couture
The kick that retired a legend. Most people prefer Anderson Silva’s front kick to Vitor Belfort but I’m a Machida fan so I’m going with this one.
Matt Hughes vs Carlos Newton
Annoyingly I can’t actually find a short clip of the knockout on youtube, but it’s a classic. Hughes gets caught in a triangle choke and the only way he can think to get out of it is to lift Newton up above his head and power bomb him. Yeah, power bomb, the old fake wrestling move from WWF. Hughes does it for real and as soon as Newton hits the ground he is out.
Edson Barboza vs Terry Etim
The first time I saw that fight I stood up and shouted “OH MY GOD HE’S DEAD”. Etim gets hit with that kick, goes stiff as a board and just falls. TIMBER!
My Favourite Fights
God dammit why did I start this? This is hard. Okay, don’t think about it. The three that instantly come to mind are Griffin and Bonnar (obviously, that’s why I’m writing this damn thing in the first place)…
Jon Jones vs Alexander Gustafsson
The problem with Jon Jones is he’s way too good. He beat (in a row!) shogun Rua, Rampage Jackson, Lyoto Machida, Rashad Evans, and Vitor Belfort. Every single one of those dudes was a former champ. And Jones walked through them. The only fighter to give Jones a challenge was Gustafsson. Jones had never been hurt. That changed with Gus. Jones had never been taken down. That changed with Gus. Jones had never been tested. That changed with Gus. A back and forth war of attrition that stands as one of the greatest title defences ever.
Mark Hunt vs Bigfoot Silva
Two huge monsters block each others punches with their faces for five incredible rounds. This is the fight I show people in an attempt to convert them. It has not failed me yet.
My Favourite Fighter
Easy. B.J. Penn.
The greatest lightweight of all time.
When talking about the greatest in any division they tend to have amazing records. Anderson Silva has 34 wins to 6 losses. Jon Jones is currently 21 and 1 (and the one loss shouldn’t count). Fedor Emelianenko is 34 and 4. GSP is 25 and 2.
B.J. has 16 wins, 10 losses, and 2 draws.
But B.J. is not like the other greats. Most great fighters find themselves dominant in a weightclass and stay there. B.J. took a different approach. He just did whatever he thought sounded cool. He fought at featherweight, lightweight, welterweight, and even took on a heavyweight Lyoto Machida. Because Penn was down for whatever.
B.J’s first professional fight was in the UFC. And he dominated. The lightweight division was at the time largely ignored by fans but Penn was so exciting that everyone took notice. His first three fights didn’t make it out of the first round. He earned himself a title shot against then champ Jens Pulver and kicked ass for the first two rounds. But then something B.J had managed to hide was exposed. He had no cardio. Once the fight got into the third round he was exhausted and Pulver took over. This became fairly typical throughout his career.
And yet Penn still managed to jump up a weightclass to fight one of the greatest welterweights of all time and beat him in one round. He gave GSP (The actual greatest welterweight of all time) his best fight in their first meeting. Then he went back down to lightweight and ruled it.
B.J. Penn is responsible for my favourite MMA moment ever. He is defending his lightweight title against a tough Sean Sherk and in the closing seconds of the third round he lands a flying knee that drops Sherk to the canvas. He lands some blows but before the Ref can intervene the bell goes. It seems Sherk has been saved. BJ takes one look at Sherk and tells the officials it is over. HE CALLS THE FIGHT HIMSELF. That’s how bad a dude he was. Balls to officials and referees, B.J. tells you when it’s over. He then proceeds to slap himself in the face and then licks Sherk’s blood off his gloves. Nutcase.
He built the lightweight division. He would fight anyone, anywhere, at any weight. He is one of two men to have held titles in two weightclasses. He is undoubtedly a future hall of famer. B.J. Penn will always be my favourite fighter.
I could ramble on about this crazy sport for ever, but I realise I’ve gone on too long as it is so I’ll leave you to actually go and watch it. And because today is the anniversary, start with Griffin and Bonnar.