The 10 Worst Game Plans in MMA History
In honor of the revelations this week that terrible strategist Art Jimmerson has once again obtained gainful employment with Zuffa, LLC., while notorious self-saboteur Gabe Gonzaga might be done with MMA entirely, we offer this retrospective on awful game-planning throughout the short history of our sport. Some guys – like Randy Couture – are considered master tacticians, poring over tape on their opponents in order to cook up just the right recipe for success. The guys on this list? Yeah, they’re not quite on that level.
Though there are clearly scads more examples, after the jump you’ll find our ideas for the most memorable strategic fails in MMA history. Some of these dudes? We’re not sure how they ever made it to the cage in the first place. Still others are respected veterans who just don’t seem to have a knack for planning their work and working their plans. Since we’re in a good mood, both Jimmerson and Gonzaga get a pass here, though Art’s one glove stunt surely deserves a place among the worst in-ring gambits of all time. What’s the No. 1 thing to take away from this list? Well, let's just say if you come to a fight against Couture with a crappy game plan, that old sumbitch will make you pay. Believe that, player.
10. Mark Coleman vs. Randy Couture
OK, so you’re Coleman or, for that matter, you’re world-renowned trainer Shawn Tompkins. You’re going to have a fight with Couture at UFC 109. If you win, it sort of revitalizes your career. If you lose, your career is essentially over. Knowing that your single tangible advantage in an MMA fight against the former multi-time, multi-divisional UFC champion is your amateur wrestling base, what do you do? Answer: You try to strike with the guy.
Next stop: Dana-mandated retirement. Coleman’s performance in this fight is even more abysmal when you consider what a big deal his people made about how this was one of the first times in his career that he’d left Ohio to have a real training camp with a real coach (Tompkins) before a fight. Maybe he was better off working out by himself in his living room at the Hammer House.
9. Jorge Gurgel vs. KJ Noons
There is probably no real need to throw more dirt on Gurgel’s grave at this point, but (like Gonzaga) he’s just one of those fighters who seems to have made it his mission in life to ignore his own strengths. For all we know, Gurgel could tap a one-dimensional pug like Noons in under a minute if he’d just take him to the ground. But no. As an alternative, Gurgel would rather lose by vicious knockout. This bout is also noteworthy for the god-awful refereeing job, as the in-ring official allows Gurgel to answer the bell to the second after he was basically KOed by an illegal blow at the end of the first. Yep, pretty much everyone fucks this one up, which makes it an easy pick for this list.
8. Tony Halme vs. Randy Couture
Couture’s MMA debut came at UFC 13 against one Tony Halme, a 300-pound former professional wrestler who is billed here as the “heavyweight boxing champion of Finland” which – you’re right -- sounds made up. Like Jimmerson, Halme couldn’t possibly know what he was getting into against the future Octagon hall of famer, but nonetheless went for broke while explaining his fight strategy to the UFC cameras. “First, I’m going to try to hit him as hard as I can,” Halme said. “If I miss that one, I’ll try to head butt him. If I miss that one, I’ll rip his arms out of their sockets or his legs out of their sockets … I’ve got balls of iron and I go in there to rip the head off or die trying.”
Halme doesn’t die, per se, but he does immediately sprint across the Octagon at the opening bell, assumedly looking to implement his punch-head-butt-rip-the-arms-off game plan. Instead, the big fella finds out why it’s such a bad idea to run full-tilt into the waiting arms of a former Greco-Roman national champ. The rest of the fight goes: Double leg, pass, choke, roll credits. Total time: 56 seconds. next thing you know, a UFC star was born. Spoiler alert: It wasn’t Halme.
7. Jeremy Bullock vs. Travis Fulton
Just prior to what becomes one of the most virally famous beatdowns in MMA history, tae kwon do stylist Bullock describes his chances against Fulton in a single sentence that I’m not even going to try to punctuate: “My name is Jeremy Bullock and my style is tae kwon do and what I have to do to win is just keep my butt in a bind right there,” he says. Me? I have no idea what that means. Neither did Bullock, apparently. He comes out to the cage with “Kick Start My Heart” blasting and does some wicked jumping kicks to warm up before the bell, as Fulton noticeably limps his way down the aisle. Unfortunately, that’s about as awesome as things get to get for JB on this night. His first and only offensive move is to run across the cage and flail through the air in the general direction of Fulton’s torso. Next, Fulton takes him down. Thirty seconds later, Bullock is nearly killed with a slam.
6. Greg Stott vs. Mark Kerr
Now, you can’t always tell who’s going to win a fight based solely on physical appearance, but in the case of Greg “Ranger” Stott vs. Mark Kerr at UFC 12 well … yeah, you totally could. When one guy is a gargantuan former Division I national wrestling champion and the other is fat little jarhead who comes to fight in his khaki, military-issue ballhuggers, you don’t have to be Joey Odessa to make a favorite. Stott rolled in repping a fighting style called the Ranger Intensive Program (RIP, get it?) and declared that when he got in the Octagon he’d prove why “RIP rules and all other styles rest in peace.”
Snappy, right? Didn’t help him in the fight, though. If what we saw against Kerr is any indication, RIP was mostly based on throwing weirdo, simultaneous jumping punch-kicks until your opponent grabs you around your tiny, balding head and knocks you stiff with a single knee. Highly entertaining. Watch the video evidence of RIP totally ruling the planet, right here.
5. James Toney vs. Randy Couture
Shit, what to even say about “Lights Out” at this point? Dude is speaking English in the above vid and still gets subtitles. The fact that Dark Gable was even allowed in the Octagon is fucking unfathomable fewer than six months later. Still, there he was ready to unleash what he describes here as “real punches, real fighting” against Couture at UFC 118. He never got the chance, nor the chance to show off his infamous side check kick after Couture shot a low, low ankle pick and took him down. After that it was pretty much academic.
Couture flat out admitted in the postfight that he wouldn’t even try that takedown against anybody who had any clue what they were doing in there. Against, Toney though, he wasn’t worried. Oh, did we mention Toney maybe did this for free? The IRS put a lien on his paycheck. That's a cold act, homie.
4. Aliev Makhmud vs. Kiyoshi Tamura
Though we have no idea exactly what he thinks he’s up to here, Makhmud puts on a tour de force of shitty strategy in this Pride 23 bout against Tamura. In the early-going he seems to want to shoot for a takedown, but really just succeeds in launching himself into a bunch of Tamura’s kicks. All the dancing quickly wears on him – and Bas Rutten and Mauro Ranallo, who are both at a total loss to describe the action – as Makhmud gets totally tuckered out after just a couple of minutes of utter foolishness. Luckily, he gets a good chance to rest after Tamura brutalizes his balls as both guys attempt simultaneous jumping knees a few moments later. Makhmud milks it for all it'sworth, at one point actually lying down with an ice pack behind his head in the middle of the ring.
Things don’t get really, really weird until after the eventual restart. Makhmud tries at least one flying kick before abruptly deciding he doesn’t want to fight anymore. Then he decides maybe he could fight a few more seconds. Then he changes his mind again says he’s done. For reals this time. And that, kids, is how you get a loss listed as "TKO (retirement)" on your record over at the Sherdog fight finder. We assume when they say that they simply mean he retired from this partiuclar fight, though it’s hard to tell because Makhmud never competed in MMA again.
3. David Gardner vs. Shinya Aoki
Coming into the bout at 16-10, you gotta think Gardner was already a pretty significant underdog to The Man in Tights during their Dream 7 bout. No need to go making the odds any longer with unnecessary grab-assing, right? Au contraire, motherfucker. It takes Aoki under a minute to get Gardner down and in deep trouble, though the scrappy American proves more difficult than expected to finish, lasting just over 5:30 before he looks up with Aoki on his back and suddenly realizes he’s on television. Gardner raises his right hand to wave and says, “Hello, Japan,” ... though the end of the word “Japan” is cut short as Aoki takes the opportunity to choke the shit out of him.
“Oh my God, this is so dumb,” says Bas as it happens. “So dumb.” And it is. My favorite part? The Japanese hipsters in the front row laughing their asses off as Aoki secures the tap out.
2. Koji Oishi vs. Nick Diaz
In one of the most bizarre one-and-done Octagon appearances of the modern era, Oishi renders Joe Rogan damn near dumbfounded during his UFC 53 bout with Diaz. The Japanese Pancrase vet comes out of his corner with the apparent strategy to try to block Diaz’s punches by … uh … punching them. Oishi takes a sort of Patriot Missile approach to striking with the Pride of Stockton, attempting to intercept his strikes by plucking them out of midair with strikes of his own. You can imagine how that works out for him. It takes Diaz all of 1:24 to finish things via knockout.
Weird part is, Oishi’s not a bad fighter. As of today, his professional record stands at 20-8-6 and he’s currently riding a three-fight win-streak in Japan. In the bout immediately following his KO loss to Nick, he defeated Nate Diaz via unanimous decision. No clue what sort of crazy pills he was taking on this night in Atlantic City.
1. James Thompson vs. Aleksander Emelianenko
Though he’s perhaps best known for having his ear explode on national television, here at the Potato we prefer to think of Thompson as the posterboy for Gong n’ Dash offense. The Colossus may not have originated the technique of tearing pell-mell across the cage to attack your opponent at the opening bell – clearly Tony Halme and Jeremy Bullock were hep to that style long before Thompson made his MMA debut – but he certainly perfected it. One problem: This game plan is rendered ineffective when your opponent is a dead-eyed, soulless Russian killing machine.
At Pride 28, Thompson took on Aleksander Emelianenko, a three-time winner of Pride’s prestigious “Fighter Most Likely to Wake Up Next to a Dead Hooker” Award (2003-05). At first, Thompson’s G n’ D attack takes Emelianenko by surprise, probably because motherfuckers this scary looking aren’t used to people running toward them. Once he gets his wit about him (yes, singular wit, that ain’t Einstein in there) Emelianenko realizes that the answer to the riddle of James Thompson is just to stand back up and punch him in the face. Which he does. And it works.