Warning: Some images are extremely graphic.
Alistair Overeem stands over a downed Dzevad Poturak at the K-1 World Grand Prix 2010 in Yokohama.
The Strikeforce, DREAM and K-1 2010 world GP champion channels Cassius Clay. This was the first fight of Overeem’s incredible 2010 campaign. Overeem provides a lot of fantastic photo opportunities, but unfortunately his fights don’t last very long generally.
Ikuhisa Minowa chokes out Imani Lee at DREAM 14.
The fan favorite and Super Hulk champion “Minowaman” slays another beast, this time in DREAM’s white cage. In reality, Minowa’s fights are just the side attraction. The real fun is the ten minutes of fist pumping that follows a win.
Rumina Sato knocks out Ryota Matsune at The Way of Shooto 3: Like a Tiger, Like a Dragon
There is something tragic but beautiful about the stories of Rumina “The Shooto Charisma” Sato and Ryota “The Shooto Junkie” Matsune.
Sato refuses to fight outside of Shooto until he wins a world title. He has been fighting in the promotion since 1994 and has not reached his goal yet. Matsune, a former featherweight champion, was forced to give up his Shooto title due to knee injuries. He finally returned in 2010 only to be knocked out by Sato, bringing an end to a 12-fight unbeaten streak.
Riki Fukida eats leather en route to defeating Ryuta Sakurai to defend his middleweight strap at Deep 49.
The most brutal fight I have ever shot. Just watch it. The win over Sakurai led to Fukuda getting signed by the UFC.
Bonus: Ryuta Sakurai unconcious on the floor of Korakuen Hall.
Sakurai took the fight-ending knee while leaning against the ropes. His body crumpled and he fell backwards and out of the ring, landing head first on the hardwood floor. I was almost directly under Sakurai and jumped out of the way, expecting an official to catch him but there was no one there. His head probably fell at least 10 feet to smash on to the floor.
A really shockingly violent fight. One of the worst moments I have ever seen in (and out) of the ring.
Kazuo Misaki in his corner before going out for the fifth round against Jorge Santiago at Sengoku 14.
Misaki’s fight of the year with Jorge Santiago nearly killed him he claims. Before the last round, he sat almost unconscious in his corner and his seconds poured bottles of water on him and put ice on his neck to try and wake him up.
In between the rounds is the only time a fighter drops his guard in the ring. It’s not uncommon to hear a fighter come back and quietly say to his corner how strong his opponent is. Misaki never said anything like that and even as he was semi-conscious in his corner here, you could feel that he was intent on going out to finish Santiago. I suppose this is what made it such a great fight.
Shigeyuki Uchiyama loses his ear at Pancrase Passion Tour 5.
Believe it or not, Kazushi Sakuraba’s ear getting half torn off at Dynamite!! was not the worst ear injury of the year.
Not a picture I would really call a favorite of mine or even one I enjoy looking at, but Uchiyama’s horrific ear injury was probably my most viewed photo of 2010.
Bonus: The severed piece of ear sits on the Pancrase canvas.
A crowd of officials and photographers gathered around it, trying to figure out what it was. Uchiyama kept fighting as though nothing happened but you could tell that he was aware of the injury as he was circling away from the referee to hide his ear. As soon as it was noticed the bout was of course stopped.
Fortunately Uchiyama’s ear was successfully reattached using veins from his thigh and doesn’t actually look that bad considering what happened. He is back in the gym but has not fought since. He was trying to keep his fighting career a secret from his employer.
Bonus: A piece of tooth that landed on my arm during a bout between Vahid Rosyani and Yasuhiro Kido.
When people find out that I shoot fights, I often get asked if I get sprayed with blood all the time. People think I’m exaggerating when I say I was once hit with a tooth.
I was near Kido’s corner so I asked if the tooth belonged to their fighter. Kido’s second picked it up and threw it under the ring. I guess it wasn’t his.
Jason “Mayhem” Miller shows his respect after submitting Kazushi Sakuraba at DREAM.16.
He had talked a lot about he how he would like to be the first man to submit his idol, Sakuraba leading up to this fight and no one expected it to come this easily.
Like many people, my interest in Japanese MMA started when I first saw Kazushi Sakuraba fight. That interest grew into an obsession and I now find that I have been in Japan for almost five years now.
Tatsuya Mizuno screams in celebration over a defeated Melvin Manhoef at DREAM.15
Mizuno was massive underdog going into this bout and his win was not just seen as a victory for him, but a victory for Japan. Japanese MMA has been on the decline for some time now and Mizuno staging the comeback to conquer the foreign threat made him a star.
With this win, Mizuno moved on to face Gegard Mousasi for the DREAM light heavyweight belt but the “salary man” turned champion fighter Cinderella story was spoiled by the Dutch-Armenian fighter.
Hidehiko Yoshida stands in the light for a ten count during his retirement ceremony at Astra.
The most well known mixed martial artist in Japan’s retirement marked the end of an era for Japanese MMA.
The Barcelona gold medalist managed to hold back the tears during his ten count but following this his mother and father climbed into the ring. Yoshida and the rest of the Nippon Budokan, then faltered.