In the fourth edition of “This Week in MMA History” we examine the biggest win of one of the original pioneers of MMA – Bas “El Guapo” Rutten.
Back in the early days of MMA, Rutten was as famous for his ferocity inside of the ring as he was for his epic partying outside of it. When the UFC first started in 1993, it was Bas’ good friend and future fellow King of Pancrase, Ken Shamrock, that told him about the opportunities and exposure that the newly founded promotion could offer. Shamrock urged his friend to make the trip to the United States to compete, but Bas was very comfortable in Japan and had other plans. He went on to unify the King of Pancrase titles and become a living legend in the land of the rising sun. Rutten had fought in Pancrase since the promotion’s first event and found tremendous success with multiple wins over Frank Shamrock and the founders of the company, Masakatsu Funaki and Minoru Suzuki. In the early 90s, there was no assurance that fighting in the UFC would pay off or even if the promotion would survive. As we now know the UFC grew into the biggest powerhouse in all of MMA and by 1999 “El Guapo” was ready to take the trip to the states and make a statement.
With Rutten being a former King of Pancrase, the matchmakers at the UFC had been desperately trying to set up a fight between him and Heavyweight Champion Randy “The Natural” Couture since 1998. The bout never came to fruition as contract negotiations began to stall between the promotion and Couture. Without being able to come to an agreement, “The Natural” decided to sign with Vale Tudo Japan and later with Rings, causing him to was stripped of his title. Couture would not be back in the UFC for almost 2 years.
Upon Couture’s departure, UFC needed to crown a new heavyweight champion. They decided to hold a tournament over three events to determine who that would be. When Rutten signed with the UFC, he was on a 18-0-1 run and was being advertised as “the best mixed martial artist on the planet.” In January 1999, he first fought in the U.S. at UFC 18: “Road to the Heavyweight Title” against Tsuyoshi Kohsaka. That fight served to add to his legend as he told his corner he would knock out his opponent before going out for the final period. Referee “Big” John McCarthy overheard the comment and seemed to almost laugh at the perceived arrogance of the prediction. The fight had been close and for Rutten to think that he would finish Kohsaka was a very bold assumption. Bas would have the last laugh when he made good on his promise and won by TKO with only 45 seconds to go in the bout, securing his spot in the finals. At UFC 19: “Ultimate Young Guns”, NCAA All American wrestler Kevin “The Monster” Randleman won a unanimous decision over Bas’ old Pancrase rival, Maurice Smith, and the stage was set for the finals.
On 7 May 1999 at UFC 20: “Battle for the Gold”, Rutten faced Kevin Randleman for the vacant UFC Heavyweight Championship.
The fight did not start out positively for Rutten, as he was essentially beat bloody from his guard for the first four minutes by the 2 time NCAA Division I wrestling champion. “El Guapo” got a lucky break when the fight was briefly stopped in order for a doctor to check the cut under Bas’ eye. The doctor determined that most of the blood was actually coming from Rutten’s nose and the fight was resumed. When the fight was restarted, it was done so in a standing position. When they met in the center of the cage, Bas landed one of his famous liver kicks. Although Randleman easily got the takedown following the kick, the damage had been done. His aggressive, wrestling heavy attack now slowed down, and the momentum of the bout had swung in Rutten’s favor. Bas was now being the more active fighter as he attacked Randleman from inside his guard, and used elbow strikes to cut Randleman on top of his head. The fight had been close and it was now going into an overtime period.
The first overtime period saw more of Randleman controlling his position on the top, but Bas doing more striking from the bottom, including reopening the cut on top of “The Monster’s” head. The horn sounded and we were on to a final second overtime period. During the last overtime period, Rutten successfully defended a takedown for the first time before eventually being overpowered as he was bulldozed to the fence and taken down again, where both fighters landed short, less significant blows. At the time, judging was not on a ten point must system, but simply who the judges felt won the fight overall. When the decision was announced, two of the judges favored Rutten and he became the new UFC Heavyweight Champion. Many fans, and the announcers, felt that Randleman should have gotten the nod because he had been in top position for the majority of the contest, however, the judges favored Rutten’s busy work from the bottom.
Rutten would never defend his title. He vacated it later in the year so that he could move down to what was known at the time as the middleweight division (it was later changed to the light heavyweight division), where his old foe Frank Shamrock held the title. His middleweight debut was delayed by a series of injuries to his knee, biceps and neck, and Shamrock vacated the middleweight crown because of what he dubbed as a lack of competition. The injuries forced Rutten’s doctors to insist that he retire in 1999 at 34 years old. He followed their advice, although he did fight once more in 2006 at WFA: King of the Streets where he kicked Rueben “Warpath” Villareal’s legs to the point that he could no longer stand up, giving Bas his final win by TKO. He was originally supposed to face former UFC fighter Kimo Leopoldo in that bout, but two days before the event Kimo failed a drug test for having an anabolic steroid in his system. In the end, “El Guapo” posted a 28-4-1 record and in July 2015 he was inducted into the Pioneer wing of the UFC Hall of Fame. He will be remembered not only for being a UFC champion and hall of famer, but also for his devastating palm strikes, his liver kicks and most of all, for how to he fought with a street fight mentality and utilized multiple disciplines to control an opponent at a time when others did not.
Felice Herrig vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz in the works for UFC 223
UFC 223 looks to add a variety of intriguing bouts. With Paul Felder vs. Al Iaquinta reportedly set for the unannounced UFC 223 card, the promotion looks to add a high stakes female flyweight match-up. According to MMANYTT.com, sources confirmed a bout between Felice Herrig and Karolina Kowalkiewicz, is in the works for the pay-per-view card.
Assuming the match-up does come to be, both women have much to gain from a victory. For Herrig, she currently sits on a four-fight win streak. A streak in which the strawweight contender defeated Kailin Curran, Alexa Grasso, Justine Kish, and Cortney Casey. The MMA veteran, Herrig, began fighting professionally in 2009. As of late, her issues with the marketing machine that is the UFC have intensified.
After demonstrating her technical prowess over Justine Kish at UFC Fight Night 122: Chiesa vs. Lee, Herrig put her emotions on display. She stated at the post-fight media scrum, “Sometimes, I feel like, I’m not young and beautiful enough for the UFC to want to promote me. And it’s sad because I’ve really worked so hard to be here and it’s hard to see these people who’ve not been through what I’ve been through. Who just got into the UFC at the right time. They’re getting all these opportunities and I see how hard I work to get here and it’s just like, it doesn’t matter. I just feel like, ‘I’m not pretty enough and I’m not getting any younger'”.
A frustrated Felice Herrig then spoke to MMAJunkie.com in December. She claimed, “Aside from (former UFC women’s strawweight champ) Joanna (Jedrzejczyk), I’m the only strawweight who’s gone on a four-fight winning streak. That’s a fact. At this point, I want to fight someone in the top 10. It doesn’t really make sense for me to keep fighting girls that are ranked below me. That’s the whole point. If I want to keep working my way up. I fight the most dangerous girls outside the top 10”. The #9 ranked women’s flyweight has a point. In her UFC career, she recorded one loss in six appearances. Yet, she has one co-main event booking, while fighters like Michelle Waterson, booked the main event in her second UFC bout. In Waterson’s third bout, she received a co-main event scheduling. Understandably, Felice Herrig is upset with her situation.
Later in her interview, Herrig brought up Kowalkiewicz as a potential next opponent. “For whatever reason, I really want to fight Karolina. I just think that would be an exciting fight… Stylistically, I really like that fight. She’s ranked above (me), and it may be a good gauge for me,” she stated. Right now, it looks like Herrig is close to getting what she wants.
Kowalkiewicz last fought in her native country of Poland on the UFC Fight Pass card, UFC Fight Night 118: Cowboy vs. Till, in October. The Polish star defeated Jody Esquibel, after losing consecutive contests to former UFC female strawweight champion, Joanna Jedrzejcyk and Claudia Gadelha, respectively.
A win for either makes a good case for the next or an eventual title challenger. Kowalkiewicz holds a victory over current division champion, Rose Namajunas. While a win for Herrig would further establish her impressive win streak and undoubtedly give her the boost in the rankings she deserves.
Douglas Lima found out about change to co-main event at Bellator 192 from the internet
Bellator 192 fight card has gone through a shake-up over the past week. Bellator president Scott Coker revealed last week that the scheduled welterweight title fight between Rory MacDonald and champion Douglas Lima will now be serving as the co-main event and the heavyweight matchup between Chael Sonnen and Rampage Jackson would instead take top billing. At the time no explanation was made for the change. Monday Douglas Lima was a guest on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani to discuss this change.
“I was little bummed, but it is what it is, it’s business you know. I was pretty excited you know? Being the main event, having Rampage fight as the co-main event, I was happy there. Then I was bummed out that they changed it back to the co-main event. It’s not going to change a thing for me, I’m just focusing on the fight.”
Lima has been notoriously looked over in the eyes of fight fans. A longtime member of Bellator and a two-time champion has not gotten the notice he deserves and hopes to get.
“I found out through the internet, nobody tells me anything, I didn’t know. the same thing happened in New York, I thought my fight would be before the two main events there, but it ended up being the first fight of the night on Pay-Per-View. Hopefully, it doesn’t take anything away from the fight, you know spotlight and stuff.”
Lima is looking to make all the naysayers take notice at Bellator 192 that takes place at The Forum in Inglewood, Califonia on January 20th.
“This is the fight I’ve been waiting for for a long time. To get my name out there, to get people to know who I am. I’ve been delivering a lot of good fights, fights fans like to watch but no attention yet. I’m hoping though that after a win over Rory this week it will really put my name out there and show all these welterweights out there that I am for real.”
Al Iaquinta vs. Paul Felder rescheduled for UFC 223 in April
MMA fans around the world wept in deep sorrow when Al Iaquinta withdrew from a bout scheduled for UFC 218 against Paul Felder. Weep no more, for Paul Felder faces Al Iaquinta at UFC 223. Rumblings behind the match-up, first reported by FloCombat.com, came Sunday night before MMAFighting.com confirmed the bout scheduled for unannounced pay-per-view card, later in the evening.
The original bout fell through due to a severe knee injury to Iaquinta. He spoke to BJ Penn Radio about the injury nearly a week before the December 2nd, PPV event in Detriot. The Long Island real estate agent claimed, “I tore my PCL and my MCL maybe three or four months ago… for me to really put in a full training camp and do what I need to do, I would’ve had to just focus on fighting and physical therapy… it was the kind of thing where all roads led to me not kind of taking a risk and fighting on December 2nd”.
Iaquinta went on to say, “I kind of accepted the fight, but I never signed a bout agreement… I was kind of told I had to give them an answer pretty quick. It was a fight I thought I really wanted. I thought it was a good stylistic match-up for me, so I accepted the fight, and then thinking about it over the course of a day, we realized it probably wasn’t a smart decision for my health, for everything”.
An outspoken lightweight, he is not the first of his kind. Al Iaquinta is no stranger to idly waiting on the sideline for the UFC to make a move. Contract disputes and other bad strokes of luck left the Serra-Longo with three octagon appearances since 2015. The feud between Iaquinta and the promotion comes as a surprise when looking at the credentials of the aforementioned fighter. With an octagon record of 8-2, he earned notoriety as one of the best lightweights in the world. During his time in the UFC, he defeated Kevin Lee, Ross Pearson, Joe Lauzon, Jorge Masvidal, and most recently Diego Sanchez.
His opponent, “The Irish Dragon”, Paul Felder, holds an impressive UFC record of his own. At 7-3, Felder defeated tough competition as well. His record notes wins over Daron Cruickshank, Jason Saggo, Stevie Ray, and Charles Oliveira. Even more impressive than his record, his knockout ratio. At this stage of his career, Felder knockouts 55% of his opponents (10 knockouts in 18 career pro bouts).
Like his opponent Iaquinta, Paul Felder has a separate career outside of fighting. As many should notice, Felder found a role as a color commentator with the promotion he fights for. Following the footsteps in a long line of fighters before him, Felder announced multiple events alongside another new addition to the UFC broadcast team, Brendan Fitzgerald.
PPV card, UFC 223 and its location are not official yet. Despite a lack of an announcement, the event takes place in Brooklyn, New York at the Barclays Centre, according to multiple reports. Currently, the card features no official bouts. Reports state Felice Herrig vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz (per Jim Edwards), and Evan Dunham vs. Mairbek Taisumov (per Farah Hannoun) are both in the works for UFC 223.
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