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A Layman’s Guide To The Sucker Punch In Combat Sports

Boxing, kickboxing, muay thai, karate – all noble art-forms that have been passed down from generation to generation. There’s one striking technique that proceeds them all however – one that you won’t get taught down the local boxing gym, and yet it’s amongst the most effective punches ever invented.

I am of course talking about the favored weapon in the arsenal of douchebags worldwide – the ‘Sucker Punch’.

Sucker Punch: to punch (a person) suddenly without warning and often without apparent provocation.”

It’s the oldest trick in the book, and though your most likely to see it used in drunken fist fights and school-yard scuffles, the sucker punch has also reared it’s ugly fist at MMA and boxing events over the years as well.

Paul Daley punching Josh Koscheck after the final bell at UFC 113 earlier this month is of course the most recent example of it. This moment of madness cost Daley his place on the UFC roster.

Daley’s blow was far from the first cheap-shot in an MMA bout though. Here’s another incident of post-fight fisticuffs as Chico Camus indulges in some smack talk after avenging a previous loss to Marco Daniels, and gets a smack on the nose for his troubles.

Despite those two incidents, your more likely to see a sucker punch occur before rather than after a fight.

Take Atilla Kubilay for instance at UK event Cage Rage 11 back in 2005. Apparently Atilla is a little hard of hearing because when the referee said “touch gloves and go back to your corners,” he thought he said, “this would be a good time to punch your unsuspecting opponent flush in the face.” Oops!

Kubilay, who apparently possesses as much self-control as Joe Pesci’ in Goodfellas, was somehow given the benefit of the doubt and allowed to continue fighting after a brief stoppage.

He then went on to illegally knee his downed opponent in the face and refused to stop fighting when asked, causing the referee Grant Waterman to administer some instant retribution by damn near choking that fool out. Mr Waterman, we salute you!

Once you start to delve into the murky world of the sucker punch you find some pretty peculiar things. For instance take the clip below.

As the two fighters step forward for the referee’s instructions they engage in an “intense staredown”. At least we think it’s a staredown. Truth be told it looks more like they are about to share their first kiss.

Note how uncomfortable the referee looks in the background, apparently unsure whether to break them up, tell them to get a room, slowly retreat out of the cage and switch out the lights, or delve into his CD collection and put on some appropriate mood music.

In the end he wisely decides to separate them, at which point the fighter on the right decides to blow his opponent a kiss. The recipient of said kiss is apparently not too fond of such Public Displays of Affection and promptly knocks him into next week with a vicious right hook. Ah, unrequited love!

So, in case you were in any doubt beforehand, the above clip taught fighters that it’s probably not a good idea to try to kiss your opponent before a fight.

Unfortunately the mischievous Yoshihiro Nakao didn’t get that memo, and at K-1 Dynamite!!! in 2005 he thought it would be a good laugh to pucker up and plant a smacker on Heath Herring during their staredown.  Herring returned the favor by planting a fist in Nakao’s face.

Even better, Herring then attempts to ensure that no one is in any doubt about his sexuality.  “He tried to kiss me like a homosexual – I’m not gay!” he says loudly enough that everybody in the arena, and possibly even the surrounding parking lot, can hear.

Sorry Heath – too late!  We saw your lips touching another man’s live on TV – that means your now officially banished from the kingdom of hetrosexuality forever.

Obviously these punches are pretty blatant and sure to end with an instant disqualification.  Some fighters are more sly though with their use of the sucker punch.

Take Chris Sheridan (or “cheap shot” as he’s now become known), for instance.  In an amateur MMA bout he decided to take sucker punch douchebaggery to the next level.

As the bell rung for the opening round Sheridan raised his hand to initiate the customary tap of the gloves as a sign of respect. His opponent Jose ‘Memo’ Vasquez does likewise, at which point “cheap shot” unexpectedly throws a right hand that floors him, and then proceeds to rain down blows until the ref stops the fight.

Technically it was a legitimate win, but it’s only a matter of time before karma catches up to you.  Sheridan turned pro in his next fight and promptly lost.  His record remains at 0-1.

Unfortunately the “cheap shot” moniker could apply to several other fighters who try to take advantage of their opponents in this way. Check out a couple of other examples below of fighters who apparently believe that ‘sportsmanship’ is a large boat that takes athletes to events overseas.

By now you should probably be realizing that when a referee says, “protect yourself at all times,” they ain’t kidding around son.

Surely that rule doesn’t apply when it’s two family members fighting in the cage though?  I mean c’mon, if you can’t trust your own flesh and blood to show a little respect then the whole world would go to hell in a handcart, right?

Well, If the two cousins below are anything to go by then the end of the world is nigh.  Give them some credit though, after one of them flattens the other with the customary sucker punch they briefly scrap, shake hands and then promptly exit back out the cage. Perhaps there’s still hope for the world yet.

It’s not just the sport of mixed martial arts that’s prone to seeing the occasional sucker punch though. The sweet science of boxing is also known to have it’s fair share of cheap-shots.

In the bout below the Asian fighter is knocked down, and then caught with an illegal blow as he tries to rise unsteadily to his feet. This guy is made of stern stuff though, and despite being on Queer Street he gets right back up to his feet and starts wobbling around the ring like it’s made of jelly in search of justice.

Sadly he doesn’t have much success, but he gets 10/10 for perseverance in my book.

The commotion in the ring after that last clip is nothing compared to the all-out brawl that takes place in the next video though.

The riot erupts after a disgruntled fighter decided to take the pain of defeat out on his celebrating opponent by going for the good-old-fashioned liver shot (Bas Rutten would be proud!).

In boxing it’s not just the two fighters who have to worry about being caught with an unexpected blow, the referee is in danger as well.

Now I’m no conspiracy theorist (I’m wearing this tin-foil hat purely as a fashion statement) but I suspect that one of the boxers in the clip below from a Cuba Vs Canada match-up might have it in for the officials.

Why, I hear you ask? Well the fact that he knocks one ref out, and then later on punches his replacement might have something to do with it.

Remember that plucky Asian fighter from a few clips ago that wanted to continue to fight even though he no longer had control over his legs? Well there must be something in the water over there because here’s an Asian referee who tried to do something similar.

In this video the unfortunate official gets in the way of the two fighters at the wrong moment and gets dropped to the canvas. After displaying what I can only describe as the quintessential “WTF?!?” expression, the referee remembers that he’s still got a job to do, and he’ll be damned if he’s going to let being knocked the f*!k out stop him from doing it.

Watch closely at the 13 second mark of the video below as he attempts to show everyone that he’s still OK by breaking out into an impromptu version of classic 80’s breakdancing move, “The Caterpillar”. Man’s got mad skills, yo!

This is supposed to be a light-hearted article, but at the same time it’s hard to ignore that Boxing is also home to the most sinister sucker punch of all time.

In November of 2001 James Butler snapped after losing a bout to Richard Grant. As Grant approached him to shake hands Butler threw a right hook that a medical report would later show broke Grant’s jaw and left him with a lacerated tongue that would require 26 stitches. Charged with aggravated assault Butler went on to serve 4 months in jail for the attack.

What he would do a few years later was far worse though. In 2004 Butler, who had been known as “The Harlem Hammer” murdered writer Sam Kellerman (brother of boxing analyst Max Kellerman) by attacking him with a hammer and later attempting to set his apartment on fire. He is currently serving a 29 year jail sentence for the crime.

We don’t want to finish the article on such an eerie note though, so instead let’s head back to MMA where Mark Coleman delivered a less telling blow to the jaw of pound-for-pound great Fedor Emelianenko after failing to land a single meaningful punch during regulation time in their fight at PRIDE 32 in October of 2006.

Article by RossC

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