With Jon Jones recent return to the cage an unsettling vision clouded my thoughts prior to the fight; does the return of “Bones” mean we’ll see the return of the eye poke? Though considered by most to be one of the best to ever step in the cage, his liberal use of the eye poke is well documented. Some might even say it’s a weapon in his close-range arsenal.

Then I began to think about all of the other athletes who employ questionable tactics en route to victory. Maybe it had something to do with the recent passing of veteran actor George Kennedy – best known for his role as Dragline in Cool Hand Luke – but preparing a Dirty Dozen seemed appropriate.

And to be clear, we’re not talking about fighters who make the occasional dumb move or accidental foul like Matt Lindland, George St. Pierre or Gabriel Gonzaga. We’re also not talking about people who are just overall bad human beings such as Ricco Rodriguez, Jason Miller, Rob Emerson or War Machine. Those are topics for another time.

Here we’re listing athletes who are guilty of using blatantly illegal tactics as part of their strategy to gain an unfair advantage over their opponent. This can be in one particular match that stands out in their career or it can simply be the way they operate on a regular basis. We’re counting down to one so today we look at fighters twelve through nine.

12. Kazuo “Yoshiki” Takahashi

Takahashi doesn’t have a career-long reputation as a dirty fighter so it may surprise some readers to see his name on the list. He’s on the list due to his only UFC appearance. It was against IVC and PRIDE veteran Wallid Ismail at UFC 12 in 1997. Ismail – who beat several Gracies in jiu-jitsu and went on to establish the Jungle Fight promotion – didn’t fight a squeaky clean either with eye-gouging and fence grabbling violations, but one of Takahashi’s actions was one of the worst recorded in the octagon.

During their bout Takahashi did his share of fence grabbing and he kicked Ismail in the head while wearing shoes in the overtime period. However it was his actions concerning Ismail’s shorts that got him his spot on the list. Early on he was the shorts like a handle, disrupting Ismail’s balance, but shortly after the 6-minute mark of the opening round he began manipulating Ismail’s athletic supporter or “cup”.

It was pulled out of his shorts and Takahashi began punching and kneeing Ismail in the groin. Admittedly it was at a time when groin attacks were still legal and everyone talks about Keith Hackney pummeling the pills of Joe Son but for some reason this violations goes generally unnoticed.

11. Gary Goodridge

“Big Daddy” is another name that doesn’t regularly appear on this type of list and with good reason. He didn’t have a rep as a cheater and he’s a hell of a competitor and character. This listing is tied to one appearance: his bout at the International Vale Tudo Championships 1 in 1997 against “The Pedro” Otavio.

This match took place in the final of the night’s 8-man tournament. In the bout’s videotaped intro Goodridge can be seen stating “they took away two of my favorite things; biting and eye-gouging”. Lucky for him groin attacks were still legal. The fight was back and forth early on with Otavio controlling from top position on the mat while Goodridge landed the heavier strikes. It wasn’t until Goodridge tried to keep Otavio out of his guard using his feet that things got really rough. Goodridge got one of his feet “stuck” in Otavio’s shorts. His solution? Stick the other foot in there and give “The Pedro” a scrotum massage with his toes. Yes, it’s true. Later in the round a clinch turned into a mutual groin attack as both fighters grabbed for the gold. Goodridge came out on top again as Otavio audibly screamed in pain. But this is Vale Tudo and that means “anything goes” so the fight went on. Tactics of this type would later be known as “Pulling a Goodridge”. “Big Daddy” won the tournament moments later with a knee to the face but most in attendance will only remember how he got there.

10. Wes Sims

Known mostly for being one of the tallest fighters to compete in MMA, Sims has one fight on his record that qualify him as infamous. At UFC 43 in 2003, Sims was disqualified for stomping Frank Mir’s face. From the bell Mir dominated Sims on the ground, mounting him and working for an armbar. Sims’ defense to the submission was to slam Mir, grab the fence and land several kicks to his face. That’s a blatant rule infraction resulting in disqualification so the ref’s job was easy; fight over.

9. Renato Sobral

“Babalu” perpetrated a few questionable tactics over the years. In January of 2000, Sobral was facing powerhouse wrestler Brad Kohler at World Extreme Fighting 8: Goin’ Platinum. A Brazilian Wrestling Champion himself, Sobral controlled Kohler in the clinch early and displayed superior footwork, tiring out the muscular American. “Babalu” also landed a knee to the groin and was warned between rounds. Kohler looked spent going into the second round and Sobral’s coach – UFC 7 tournament champion Marco Ruas – seemed to be encouraging him to finish his opponent.

Sobral used leg kicks and movement to get Kohler to work. Once the wrestler shot in, Sobral stuffed his shot and rather than sink in a choke, he circled away and kicked an unsuspecting Kohler in the head. He was out cold. His actions were not illegal under the rules at the time. The following month – in a bout with PRIDE veteran Mikhail Illoukhine – he did break a rule. Sobral lifted the Russian fighter in the air and threw him over the ropes. Illoukhine’s corner was there to break his fall and the bout continued. Sobral would eventually win by submission but a pattern was developing. Few rule violations came into play for several years. Then in 2007 – in his 10th UFC fight – Sobral committed the act that got his banned from the organization.

At UFC 74, Sobral faced David Heath. He dominated the American fighter in the first round, using ground and pound to control the action. In the second round Sobral opened a cut on Heath’s head and he was a bloody mess. He finished Heath with an anaconda choke but even after a clear tap and referee intervention, Sobral would not release the choke. “Babalu” would say in the post-fight interview that his actions stemmed from comments made at the fighter weigh-in the day before.

We’ll pick up with number 8 in the next chapter of MMA’s Dirtiest Dozen circa 2016.

About The Author

James Hirth
Staff Writer

James Hirth has been covering combat sports in a variety of media formats (magazine, internet and radio) since the late 1990’s. He was first exposed to Mixed Martial Arts (then called No Holds Barred) when a training partner brought in a grainy VHS tape of an event called the Japan Open Vale Tudo ’94. James recalls “I’m the first person I‘m aware of who was familiar with Rickson Gracie’s fights before Royce. I saw a tape of UFC 1 a few weeks later and I was hooked”. Having done everything from in-house play-by-play and judging at live fights, ringside camera work and even cornering a fighter - in addition to previews and interviews - James has witnessed the growth of the sport. James has studied a variety of martial arts for more than 30 years. Growing up in Chicago and the youngest of 8 children, James’ oldest brother would take him Downtown to the theaters of The Loop on Saturday mornings in the late 1970’s to see martial arts films. Like many youth of that day, seeing Bruce Lee on the big screen changed his life. His brother would also introduce him to the arts of Tae Kwon Do and Hapkido where he spent 10 years training and teaching at the same academy. After receiving his Bachelors of Science in Business Operations he spent 5 years in the field of Marketing Research in The Loop. The 9-11 tragedy resulted in significant layoffs in the industry and he would return to teaching martial arts, this time for a non-for-profit organization. He spent more than a decade teaching and developing a variety of martial arts programming in multiple branches of the organization. He not only taught all ages and in more than a dozen Chicago Public Schools, but had the opportunity to train Cook County Juvenile Probation Officers and the children of local FBI agents. Now James is thrilled to bring his years of experience to The MMA Corner and Press Box Insider.