They may allegedly be welterweight brothers in arms, but when BJ Penn and Nate Marquardt began trading barbs on Twitter this week, it was hard not to envision a scenario where a much smaller Hawaiian was stuck under the sizeable mass of a light-heavyweight, the two pounding away at each other like cartoon characters on Saturday morning. And therein lies the heart of the matter: when two fighters of vastly different size clash, something about the disparity fascinates us, and images of the biblical warrior David felling the giant Goliath fill our minds. Sadly, the Unified Rules and its weight class requirements have more or less put the kibosh on such mismatches. But we’ll always have MMA’s rich history for fond looks back. It’s “trip down memory lane” time!
Keith Hackney vs. Emmanuel Yarborough, UFC 3, September, 1994 – It was such a young and innocent time back then, when the UFC was so new half of its viewers (karate men, faux kung fu masters and assorted lost traditionalists) assumed the competition was rigged. After all, how could a scrawny Brazilian so easily defeat muscle-bound shootfighters and the like? Well, things took a turn for the insane when 200-pound Kenpo stylist Hackney was greeted by sumo wrestler Yarborough, who was supposedly over 600 pounds. This time around about zero grappling was needed to make the bigger man submit – although victory did mean that Hackney was left with a shattered hand (shattered from bashing Yarborough’s skull!).
Anthony Macias vs. Dan Severn, UFC 4, December, 1994 – At UFC 4, the breaking news was that wrestling could actually work in a fight. Never mind that the man employing it, Severn, weighed 250 pounds to Macias’ 170. It worked, dammit! Anyway, Severn pulled off a pair of heretofore unseen back-suplexes, which opened the door to a fight-ending choke. Obviously, in this instance, Goliath won.
Marco Ruas vs. Paul Varelans, UFC 7, September, 2005 – Thai kicks – how do they work? At UFC 7, 210-pound Brazilian luta livra stud Ruas showed us, using about three hundred of them to chop down the 300-pound Varelans and score a TKO. Hey, at the time it was some pretty cutting-edge stuff.
Royce Gracie vs. Akebono Taro, K-1 Dynamite!!, December, 2004 – Gracie typically never crested 180 pounds, and when he did, it was when he stepped on the scale wearing a soaking-wet gi. But that didn’t stop him from taking on 500-pound sumo wrestler Taro in a fight intended to make Japanese fans everywhere scream with glee. Did the end result deliver? Meh. Maybe it was somewhat cool when Gracie tapped him with an omoplata after surviving on the bottom, but really, it was a lot more exciting when we didn’t know how such fights would play out.
Vitor Belfort vs. Scott Ferrozzo, UFC 12, February, 1997 – Belfort was just above 200 pounds when he debuted in the Octagon, and he was heralded as a jiu-jitsu black belt and adopted heir-apparent of the Gracie clan. Naturally, everyone heard that and expected him to grapple. Nope. In his first bout in UFC 12’s four-man heavyweight tournament, he overwhelmed Tra Telligman with fists, then did the same exact thing to 323-pound Ferrozzo. It. Was. So. Awesome.
Din Thomas vs. Amar Suloev, Inoki Bom-Ba-Ya, December, 2003 – The Japanese love their mismatches, so they orchestrated this one with particular sadistic relish. Thomas was a game lightweight who usually battled the likes of Jens Pulver and BJ Penn, while Suloev was a Russian striker who’d gone the distance with Chuck Liddell at light-heavyweight. Can you guess how this one ended? Well, let’s just say that when the doctors attended to the fallen David in the corner of the ring, they used stacks of US currency to treat his wounds and revive him. And he woke up smiling.
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Bob Sapp, Pride Shockwave, August, 2002 – The 350-pound Sapp was quite literally a superstar in Japan when this match-up went down, and when he hoisted the 230-pound “Big Nog” into the air and piledrived him on his head, everyone on the planet was sure they’d just witnessed a murder. But to the amazement of all, Nogueira survived, and when Sapp tired, the Brazilian armbarred him – proving once and for all that, no matter how massive and scary the giant, if you’ve got a black belt in jiu-jitsu, KO power in your hands, years of fighting experience and near-superhuman toughness, you can overcome anything.