(Skip to the 3:15 mark to hear Coleman's thoughts on the rule changes in MMA that forced him to "learn a lot of other skills.")
Those of you who became MMA fans somewhere between "Iron Ring" and “Bully Beatdown” might not realize this, but there was a time when Mark Coleman was a holy terror as a fighter. We know, he didn’t look like it against Randy Couture at UFC 109, but give the guy a break. He’s 45 years-old and has been using his body (and sometimes his head) as a weapon to hurt other men since 1996. That stuff is bound to take a toll on you, which is why Couture is the exception and not the rule.
After his loss on Saturday night it now seems like Coleman is done, or at least done in the UFC. At the very real risk of eulogizing Coleman’s career too soon, as we did with Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic’s – Christ, doesn’t anyone quit this sport when they should? – we’d like to pay tribute to the monster Coleman used to be by looking back at some of his finest MMA moments.
Coleman’s first foray into mixed martial arts came at UFC 10 in Birmingham, Alabama. He ran through Moti Horenstein in the first round, then made Gary Goodridge submit simply by taking his back, and then came the showdown of a lifetime against UFC 8 champ Don Frye. At the time, it was sort of like the MMA equivalent of John Wayne fighting Clint Eastwood. Coleman’s superior size, strength, and ability to look really tired without completely collapsing into a heap eventually ruled the day. The headbutt at the 5:22 mark puts a nice exclamation point on things.
Severn was an old hand at MMA by the time he met up-and-comer Mark Coleman in Dothan, Alabama. He’d only lost two fights in sixteen outings, both by submission against Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrock respectively. But against Coleman he faced someone with a wrestling ability to rival his own, which proved to be the difference even despite the noticeable lack of an awesome mustache. Coleman may not have known many submissions, but he was quickly becoming a master of the neck crank, a tool that would serve him well over the years.
As with most of Coleman’s victories, this one wasn’t pretty. It was more of a methodical, brutal grind than a work of art, but the end result was a victory in Pride’s memorable Open Weight Grand Prix, which would stand as one of Coleman’s greatest achievements in the sport. If you don’t believe that knee strikes on the ground make a profound difference in MMA, this is the fight that should tell you how wrong you are. It’s also the fight where we find out that too much adrenaline and not enough agility can lead to a post-fight celebration gone hilariously wrong.
Okay, so the fight itself is nothing special. Rua makes the grave mistake of putting his hands out to break his fall during a Coleman takedown, and the result is a grisly arm break that ends the bout prematurely. It’s what happens next that makes this an iconic moment. Coleman was initially so pumped up that he almost didn’t want to let Rua off so easily, and this incensed the Chute Boxe squad, and those guys were always on the verge of starting a riot at any given Pride event anyway. Coleman later apologized, though Phil Baroni remained mostly unrepentant, and fortunately a blood feud with Wanderlei Silva and his clan was avoided.
There are many paths to freedom....not all are peaceful.