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The Tap Out Wrap Up

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The Tap Out Wrap Up


2002 – The Year in MMA: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly


Hi there! It’s your old pal Dave Dymond, and welcome to The Tap Out Wrap Up.


Now, I know many of you are probably saying “You’re not my old pal. Who the hell are you, and what the hell is The Tap Out Wrap Up?” Well, back in June 2002 I was given the honor of being granted the job of Mixed Martial Arts Columnist for The Smart Marks. I submitted my first column, “The' target='_blank'>The" target="_blank">The" target="_blank">http://www.thesmartmarks.com/artman/publis...ml">The New Truth”, and then I promptly disappeared. Personal issues, such as work commitments, and a significant case of writer’s block combined to prevent me from following up on that column. I regret that. I feel badly that I let TSM down, and that I was unable to assume my duties as the Mixed Martial Arts columnist.


Flash forward to fall 2002. My work commitments have cleared up and my schedule is opening up a bit more. I start getting the itch to write again, but to be honest I was a bit ashamed to contact The Dames and ask him if I still had a job. One day I’m cruising 411Wrestling, and I see an ad for new writers there. I apply, and lo and behold, I get hired. I was pretty happy with this, as 411 is one of the biggest Pro Wrestling sites on the net. My 411 job was a Pro Wrestling column called “The Skeptic Tank.” That job is going great. The readers have been amazing in their response to my work, and the other guys who work at 411 have been incredibly nice to work with.


The problem?


I love Pro Wrestling, but I love Mixed Martial Arts MORE. I enjoy writing The Skeptic Tank, but I really want to write about MMA. So what to do? Swallow my pride, that’s what. I wrote The Dames and begged him for my MMA column job back, and he was kind and gracious enough to give me a second chance.


So here we are. Now maybe some of you aren’t all that familiar with The Mixed Martial Arts. If I may be so bold, I would like to recommend that you go back and check out my debut and intro to MMA column, “The' target='_blank'>The" target="_blank">The" target="_blank">http://www.thesmartmarks.com/artman/publis...ml">The New Truth.” That column is a fairly good intro to MMA, and should give you some insight into the history of the sport, and why I love it so much. Some other little tidbits that I’ve put together are a small piece on the Pride Fighting Championships called “What Is Pride?”, plus my friends and I over at World Domination Inc. and I put together a pretty good UFC 40 Prediction Thread, we looked at UFC 40 Results, and some Pride 23 Predictions too.


So enough with the history lesson. Let’s get on with the review of 2002, the year that was in MMA! When I look back at 2002, there can be no denying that it was a banner year for MMA. There were some great shows, some big fights, and everything capped off with what has probably been the biggest MMA card in history, UFC 40. I have divided the year into three sections…the GOOD, the BAD, and the UGLY.


2002: The Good


As it should be, the best thing about 2002 was the fights. So here my friends, are my picks for the TOP TEN MMA fights of 2002. Feel free to argue with me, this column is just my opinion.


You should also be aware that my report will only cover the “Big Two” in MMA, namely Ultimate Fighting Championships and Pride Fighting Championships. While I do follow King of the Cage, and I have an extensive collection of classic era PANCRASE and RINGS, I really don’t know enough about the other MMA organizations to report anything on them. Besides, it is pretty much acknowledged that UFC and PRIDE are the major leagues in MMA, and if a “Top Ten” fight took place in 2002, they were the companies to put them on.


10) Tito Ortiz vs. Ken Shamrock from UFC 40: “Vendetta” (November 22, 2002)


This wasn’t what I would consider a “great” fight, however I feel that any list of the best fights of 2002 would be amiss in not mentioning it, if for nothing else than it’s historical significance.


We had Tito Ortiz, the “poster boy” for the “new” UFC taking on Ken Shamrock, one of the marquee stars of the very first UFC. Add the real animosity and history between Shamrock and Ortiz to the mix, and the fact that the Light Heavyweight Championship was on the line, and you had one of the biggest fights in the history of the Mixed Martial Arts.


The results are well known by now. Ortiz pretty much man-handled The World’s Most Dangerous Man from the get go, although Shamrock impressed a lot of people with his ability to escape Tito’s groundwork, and he further impressed pretty much everybody with his heart. We saw Ortiz establish himself as a legitimate champion, and time catch up with Ken Shamrock, all under the banner of a fight card that got more mainstream publicity and hype than any MMA card in a long time.


9) Don Frye vs. Ken Shamrock from Pride 19: “Bad Blood” (February 24, 2002)


See above. Many of the factors that made the Ortiz vs. Shamrock fight a must see, also helped make this fight a keeper. There was marquee value in the two warriors, who were legends of the early era UFC. There was legitimate heat between Shamrock and Frye, and this fight had one added bonus in the fact that it lived up to it’s hype and turned out to be a total war.


For three rounds, Shamrock and Frye took turns beating the hell out of each other, and alternatively trying to break each other’s legs. In the end, Frye came out as the winner in a split decision, but the real winners were the fans who witnessed this battle. A match up that had every thing you could ever ask for: history, hype, and a great pay off.


8) Matt Hughes vs. Hayato “Mach” Sakurai from UFC 36: “Worlds Collide” (March 22, 2002)


Matt Hughes had a BIG cloud hanging over his head. When he beat Carlos Newton for the UFC Welterweight Championship, a lot of people called it a fluke. It was called the MMA “Rocky II finish”, in that both Hughes and Newton were both unconscious, and Hughes was just the first to stand up. In response, Matt Hughes claimed that true champions defend their titles at least once, so this fight with Sakurai was the most important one of his life.


Hayato “Mach” Sakurai is a MMA legend from Japan’s SHOOTO organization, and came into this match sporting an extremely impressive record and reputation. How did Hughes rise to the challenge? This match had what everyone has since come to expect from Matt Hughes: BRILLIANT takedowns. In the end, Sakurai was no match for Hughes' power and had trouble putting up offense against his opponent. At the start of Round 4, Hughes connected with a right hand and took down Sakurai. Hughes mounted Sakurai and unleashed a lethal barrage of punches, leading to a referee stoppage.


It was later revealed that Mach was fighting with broken ribs, which made his performance all the more impressive. This fight put both men on the map.



7) Jeremy Horn vs. Gilbert Yvel from Pride 21: “Demolition” (June 23, 2002)


Picking this fight as one of the best in 2002 is a bit of a “dark horse”, but I strongly feel it deserves to be here. This fight had a lot of great things going for it.


Firstly, there aren’t many hardcore MMA fans that don’t HATE Gilbert Yvel. He personifies almost everything that you DON’T want to see in a fighter. He’s a bragger. He’s an extremely poor sport. He cheats. He whines. (If you need ANY proof of any of these accusations, just go see him against Don Frye in his comeback fight.) On the other hand, we had Jeremy Horn, one of the nicest guys in the sport. Quiet, unassuming, and a student of the legendary Pat Militech, Horn usually gets overlooked when people list of their favorite fighters. He isn’t very flashy, but he has a wealth of experience and skills. This is the man who has handed Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell his only MMA loss…but people seem to forget that just like they forget him. But don’t overlook Jeremy Horn.


Just ask Gilbert.


Yvel was picked by many to knock Horn out. Gilbert’s stand up skills are pretty famous, and he is best known for his STUNNING knockout of Gary “Big Daddy” Goodrich at PRIDE 10. Poor Mr. Horn was going to get beaten up by “Hurricane” Yvel. Sherdog (the leading online authority in MMA) picked Horn to get knocked out in the second round.




Although Gilbert surprised a LOT of people with his improved ground work in this fight, in the end, it wasn’t enough, as Jeremy Horn put on a CLINIC en route to handing Yvel a big fat loss. Jeremy Horn got the win via a unanimous decision, one that even the chronic whiner Yvel couldn’t argue.


Sometimes the good guys DO win!


6) Carlos Newton vs. Jose "Pele" Landi-Jons from Pride 19: “Bad Blood” (February 24, 2002)


This fight wasn’t a LONG one, but HOT DAMN was it GOOD. These two top-level jiu-jitsu masters held the audience in the palm of their hands for eight minutes as they exchanged strikes, kicks, and submission attempts. In the end, “The Ronin” Carlos Newton walked away with the submission win, but not before “Pele” nearly knocked him into the middle of next year with a brilliant kick. Matches like this rarely do go the distance, simply because of the unreal amount of effort that the fighters put into getting a tap out. I have gone back and watched this match several times, and trust me, it holds up after repeated viewing as a classic.


5) Jens Pulver vs. BJ Penn from UFC 35: “Throwdown” (January 11, 2002)


B.J. Penn is god. B.J. Penn is “The Prodigy.” B.J. Penn is the second coming of Royce Gracie. B.J. Penn is going to run roughshod over the entire UFC Lightweight Division. That’s what UFC wanted us to believe.


Somebody forgot to tell the Jens Pulver that. (Remember him…the Lightweight Champion?)


The owners of UFC have a real bad habit of becoming “high” on a fighter and hyping him to the point where fans think that the guy can walk on water and raise the dead. Such was the case with B.J. Penn. Now there is NO denying that B.J. Penn is a great fighter, and might very well be the best UFC Lightweight, but everybody just overlooked the champion Jens “Little Evil” Pulver. Hell, the odds makers in Vegas had Penn favored to win the title by significant odds.


In what Pulver called the "hardest match in my life", this outstanding fight goes to a decision…and Pulver retains the UFC Lightweight title via majority decision. Pulver, the champion who was the underdog coming in, became the one who "shocked the world".



4) Murilo "Ninja" Rua vs. Mario Sperry from Pride 20: “Armed and Ready” (April 28, 2002)


It is a known fact that there is a rivalry between the two top MMA Training gyms in Brazil, a REAL feud between The Brazilian Top Team (home of the PRIDE Heavyweight Champion, Rodrigo Nogueira) and The Chute Box Academy (home of PRIDE Middleweight Champion Vanderlei Silva). These two teams HATE each other and both teams want to prove that THEY have the BEST fighters.


This fight was the first ever match between a Chute Boxe team member and the Top Team. Both men brawled and the fight was filled with a lot of standup exchanges, with "Ninja" always getting the upper hand, dropping Sperry a few times. Despite this, Sperry showed unbelievable heart and was standing until the end. Sperry even worked a few submissions, only to have Ninja power out. In the end, it went all the way, to a unanimous decision for the younger Rua.


This fight is a must see.


3) Ricardo Arona vs. Dan Henderson from Pride 20: “Armed and Ready” (April 28, 2002)


If I had to pick a fight to show people why I love the Mixed Martial Arts, it would probably be this one. This fight had everything that makes MMA great. A clash of styles, with an American Wrestler taking on a Brazilian jiu-jitsu Stylist. An amazing combination of standup brawling, and groundwork, capped off with endurance, as the fight went the distance.


When these two fighters were on their feet, they threw strikes. Went it went to the ground, the fighters stayed active, landing knees and strikes, and working for a submission. In the end it was Arona's fight, as the judges gave him the nod in a Split Decision, but that was almost secondary. There was no real loser in this war.


This was the best “all around” fight in Mixed Martial Arts in 2002.


2) Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Bob Sapp from Pride/K-1: “Shockwave” (August 28, 2002)


This would be the shocker of the year.


Bob “The Beast” Sapp exploded onto the MMA scene in 2002. This man stands 6 feet 3 inches tall, and weighs 350 freaking pound. He IS a Beast! At Pride 20, Bob Sapp made his MMA debut, by knocking out his opponent in 2 minutes and 44 seconds. He followed this up by DESTROYING Rings veteran Kiyoshi Tamura in ELEVEN SECONDS. Bob Sapp is so much bigger than every other fighter in MMA that he could demolish practically every heavyweight in the sport, with strikes alone.


Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira is the best fighter in MMA today. He is the PRIDE World Heavyweight Champion, and has been called “The Most Complete Fighter in MMA”.


Dreamstage entertainment decided to see what would happen if they put the BIGGEST and NEWEST Heavyweight in MMA in the ring with the BEST. What we got was inarguably one of the best MMA fights of all time.


The massive Bob Sapp clobbered the World Champion in the first round…including a MMA first for me, a POWERBOMB in which the champ landed on the back of his head in a sick looking display. Bob Sapp went on to pound the champion into the mat with massive strikes that would have beaten many lesser fighters.


But Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira is NOT a lesser fighter. He is the best. As the announcers pointed out during this war, Nogueira has the stamina to fight all night long, and actually likes fighting from his back. This worked out well, since Bob Sapp had no issue PUTTING Nogueira on his back…several times.


The end of this fight came down to two simple factors…experience and conditioning. Bob Sapp was gassed by the second round. (This is no major surprise, since his previous two fights lasted all of THREE MINUTES COMBINED.) Sapp’s exhaustion led him to make a rookie mistake, when he gave the champion his arm. You don’t give the PRIDE World Champion your arm…especially when you’re too tired to pull it back. The fight ended in Nogueira making the massive Beast tap out to an arm bar.


It was David vs. Goliath, it was a brawler against a grappler, it was power against technique. It was quite simply, an UNBELIEVABLE fight.



1) Robbie Lawler vs. Aaron Riley from UFC 37: “High Impact” (May 10, 2002)


There is probably nothing better in life than a GOOD surprise. Have you ever gone to a movie, thinking it was going to be nothing great, and then been blown away by it? Well that’s what happened to me on May 10th 2002.


It turned out that Lawler was the latest prize student from the legendary trainer Pat Militech and his famous “Militech Fighting System.” Aaron Riley is a veteran of the small “HOOKnSHOOT” promotion. Both men were making their UFC debut, and nobody really knew what to expect, nor were they expecting much.


The fight started with Lawler coming out swinging like mad. This man is a striker par excellence. Riley just tried to survive the onslaught. Riley is a grappler, and tried to take down Lawler, but failed, and Lawler punished him with amazing strikes.


After taking unreal amounts of punishment in the first round, Riley finally got to dish out some punishment of his own. At the beginning of round two, the fighters exchanged more massive blows, but this time it was Lawler who was taking the shots. Round one had gone to Lawler, but with a combination of guts, strikes, and knees, Riley took round two.


The third round was the same as the first two, a war. Riley was able to get Lawler's back and he tried to lock in the rear naked choke, but failed. Lawler then took the upper hand and proceeded to get the mount and unload on Riley. Riley would NOT go down, and showed the heart of a champion…hanging on to the bell. The fight would go to a decision.


Lawler got the decision, but both fighters put on the fight of the year.


“It was definitely the fight of the night, and possibly the fight of the year.” - Sherdog.com


“Without a doubt, a show stealer, the two men fought an action packed war. Robbie Lawler's punching skills made the fight a total brawl. Aaron Riley showed incredible heart by absorbing numerous shots from Lawler and still putting up a fight. Although Lawler came out of the fight a victor…both men left a huge mark in the octagon tonight.” - MMA Fighting.com


Before UFC 37, I had never heard of Aaron Riley or Robbie Lawler. After UFC 37, I’ll never forget them.



2002: The Bad


2002 was a great year for MMA, so rather than doing another Top Ten list, let’s take a quick look at FIVE of the things that didn’t go so great this past year.


Hey Vanderlei, there’s a Tomato Can in Aisle 6…


Everybody loves Vanderlei Silva. So they should. He’s probably one of the top five fighters in the world right now. So why isn’t his name in the list of the Top Ten Fights of 2002?


Good freaking question!


This past year, Vanderlei Silva fought and defeated Kiyoshi Tamura, Tatsuya Iwasaki and Hiromitsu Kanehara. Heard of those guys? Neither has anybody else. Silva spent the year fighting a succession of “never-will-be” fighters. It’s obvious that Pride is protecting their Middleweight Champion, and he has no control over that I suppose, but c’mon...please.


The one fight Silva DID have that could have been great, was against Mirko “Cro-Cop” Filipovic, and was marred by ridiculous K1 rules which ruined the fight. Let’s hope that “The Axe Murderer’s” name is all over the Top Ten List in 2003, where it belongs! Give the man some competition…he can handle it!


You ARE the World Champion…right?


Speaking of Pride’s little protection racket…let’s see how many times World Champion Antonio "Minotauro" Nogueira defended his title this year.




How about…NONE?


He WAS involved in one of the best fights of the year against Bob Sapp…but that was a NON Title fight. When you compare the title defense schedule of UFC fighters to PRIDE, it’s a JOKE.


The fighters, and the fans deserve better.


Nothing says BAD like BAD officiating…


Hidehiko Yoshida defeated Royce Gracie at Pride Shockwave when Gracie quite clearly DIDN’T Tap Out. Benji Radach beat Steve Berger at UFC 37, by referee stoppage while Berger was in the middle of trying to apply a leg lock. These are the two most glaring examples of “What The Hell” officiating from this past year. Ah well, it’s not anywhere NEAR as bad as boxing.


The “Brazilian Killa” gets…KILLED


So Alex Steibling wins the IVC Tournament in Brazil this year, then he beats the always tough Wallid Ismial. So he declares himself “The Brazilian Killa.” Then he fights Chute Boxe’s Anderson Silva at Pride 21 . Anderson wallops him so bad in the face that his forehead gets split wide open, in one of the WORST cuts I have ever seen. The fight gets stopped in a minute and twenty-three seconds.


Time for a new nickname, Alex.



Wrestling and Boxing do NOT have the market cornered on politics…


So UFC Lightweight Champion Jens Pulver beats their heavily favored golden boy B.J. Penn. All of the sudden, UFC doesn’t want to give Pulver anything better than a ONE FIGHT contract, for less money than most of his challengers would make. He has no choice, so he walks. Now the UFC has a Lightweight Tournament, the finals of which will be the aforementioned golden boy B.J. Penn against Caol Uno. Penn has fought Uno before. Penn knocked him out in 12 seconds.


Looks like UFC will get Penn as champion after all.


Meanwhile, Josh Barnett beats Randy Couture, but then gets stripped of the title for failing a drug test. UFC needed this kind of scandal like they need a hole in the head. Barnett gets suspended for six months…and challenges Pride Champion Antonio "Minotauro" Nogueira in the meantime. So we have a champion who was stripped of his belt for failing a drug test, challenging a champion who has had his belt for a year, but never actually defended it.


Not good.




2002: The Ugly






Need I say more? Damn!



Well, that wraps up my Wrap Up of 2002. I’ll see you soon with my preview of PRIDE: COLD FURY III.


Until then, feel free to drop me a line!


- Dave Dymond

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