We can’t talk about sparring wars before mentioning Wanderlei Silva. With a moniker like ‘The Axe Murderer’, it’s not surprising that Wanderlei was known to not back down from a scrap, whether he was getting paid for it or not. As a veteran of some of the biggest organizations in the world like the UFC, Pride, and Bellator, you can imagine that he has sparred some of the best to ever do it during his fight camps.
One of the best-documented occasions of ‘The Axe Murderer’ living up to his name, was a sparring session caught on camera against former UFC champ Fabricio Werdum. Despite being the smaller man by some margin, Wanderlei is seen backing up Werdum with some huge shots. After a few chin checks, Werdum tries to lock down the rampaging Wanderlei in the clinch but the two finish out the round biting down on their mouth-pieces and throwing a hail of shots at each other.
Old school, Brazilian Chute Boxe mentality on display. Highly entertaining yet absolutely terrifying.
Being a martial artist with a more traditional style, it may be a little surprising to see Hall on my list. After visibly scaring Dana White with some of the most jaw-dropping (breaking?) knockouts in TUF history, Hall quickly became a UFC staple and is still active in the rankings to this day. Known for his explosive spinning techniques, it’s no surprise that the Jamaican-American is deadly in the ring and on the mats.
There’s more than one video online of Hall retiring his sparring partners. In one video he eats a flush head kick as he slips backward out of range, which clearly gets his attention. Not a moment later, he throws a devastating turning back kick to his partner’s midsection who immediately folds like a deck chair.
Hall doesn’t look nearly as angry as ‘The Axe Murderer’ in his sparring, so the reasons for these training KO’s may simply be that spinning techniques are hard to drill at anything less than 100%.
Another UFC staple known for his knockout power, Micheal ‘The Menace’ Johnson has been in some memorable brawls over his career, both in the ring and in the gym. One of his most notable sparring wars was with now UFC Welterweight king Kamaru Usman. The two seem to ramp up the intensity of their sparring session until it reaches a boiling point, with them spending the last few seconds of the round throwing hooks with reckless abandon in the center of the mats. It leaves you thinking whether there was any bad blood or trash-talking going on in training that day, but the two seem to finish up on good terms.
Johnson trains under Henri Hooft, former striking coach at Blackzilians. Hooft is known for his Dutch Kickboxing style of training, known for unwillingness to retreat and constant, formidable power shots. It’s no surprise that sparring in a gym full of fighters with this kind of philosophy can lead to some absolute barn burners.
It’s important to note that these crazy sparring bouts are almost always conducted with both fighters wearing heavy boxing gloves, not the MMA gloves that they compete in. The smaller MMA Gloves would definitely lead to more knockouts and injuries to fighters before their scheduled bouts. It’s still important to train in MMA gloves though, even if you are just drilling combinations, to get used to the feeling of throwing punches in 4oz gloves. ROOMAIF’s Contending MMA Gloves are great for this as they have high-density padding to protect your knuckles, whilst providing strong wrist support too. Perfect for training and suitable for competition.
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Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone
Cowboy is a mixed martial arts legend, who very recently admitted to slowing down his sparring habits. He said that sparring hard was negatively impacting his performance and now chooses to spend more time drilling combos instead. The future UFC Hall of Famer has spoken openly about his fear of brain injury due to heavy sparring and reminisced about epic brawls that he had in his younger days.
A video of Cowboy knocking out his training partner with a head kick was floating around online but it looks like a total accident. The two had just started a round and barely looked like they were getting into second gear. Cerrone lands the textbook kick after a short combination but instantly rushes to the injured man’s side. A reminder to keep your hands up at all times when feet and fists are flying.