Resilience is such an underrated trait to have in the fight game. It helps fighters get through the toughest of situations. It’s one of the very first and most important lessons fighters learn from training in martial arts.
Resilience is the x-factor in a fighter’s arsenal. It’s responsible for a fighter recovering quickly or getting back up from a knockdown. It pushes fighters to soldier on despite being behind. It serves as a constant reminder to never give up.
For fighters, resilience is everything. It can spell the difference between victory and defeat, most especially in mixed martial arts, where resilience is so important at every juncture.
Throughout the years, there has been a myriad of displays of resilience inside the cage. There have been many moments when one man was seemingly out, only to dig deep and put together an incredible performance that showcases human willpower and tenacity.
These moments will live on forever in the pages of history, and we can go back to them as fans to appreciate what these amazing individuals have given us.
Today, Evolve Daily shares five times MMA fighters showed resilience in the cage.
1) Brock Lesnar vs Shane Carwin (UFC 116)
At UFC 116, wrestling superstar and UFC Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar took on the hard-hitting Shane Carwin. It was to be Lesnar’s toughest test to date, and coming into the matchup he was riding a three-fight winning streak, having beaten Heath Herring, the legendary Randy Couture, and exacted revenge on Frank Mir.
In the first round, Lesnar had difficulty imposing his will as Carwin mounted a rapid-fire assault. Lesnar showed incredible toughness in taking Carwin’s best shots, even as the former was retreating against the cage fence. Carwin battered Lesnar with punches and elbows, and it seemed as if the fight was terribly close to getting stopped.
Miraculously, Lesnar weathered the onslaught and found a way to keep his bearings and fight through his predicament. The champion got back to his feet and managed to pressure Carwin against the Octagon for the rest of the first round.
In the second round, Lesnar changed things up and finally stuck a takedown. Carwin looked absolutely exhausted. Moments later, Lesnar came away with an arm triangle choke which forced the tap and got him the victory.
Lesnar had powered through a hell of a first round, as many fans thought he was pretty much done. It will forever remain as one of the greatest displays of resilience in UFC heavyweight history.
2) Fedor Emelianenko vs Kazuyuki Fujita (Pride 26)
For all intents and purposes, Fedor Emelianenko will arguably be the greatest to ever do it. He is the Michael Jordan of MMA. Yet as dominant as Emelianenko was in his heyday, at the same time, he’s had his fair share of adversity.
At Pride 26, little-known Kazuyuki Fujita nearly scored the upset of the century when he connected on a freakish right hook early in the first round against Emelianenko. The shot landed square on Emelianenko’s temple, visibly hurting the Russian champion. Almost by instinct, Emelianenko was able to grab a hold on Fujita, taking the fight to the mat where the Russian would find time to recover.
After recovering a little bit of strength, Emelianenko had all he needed to turn the match around. The Russian was able to get back to his feet, despite still being wobbly, and knocked Fujita down and ended matters with a deep rear-naked choke.
It was a terrific treat for mixed martial arts fans in Japan and a tremendous example of resilience.
3) Matt Hughes vs Frank Trigg II (UFC 52)
There is a multitude of reasons why the Matt Hughes-Frank Trigg rematch ranks very high up as one of the most compelling bouts in UFC history, because it was just an amazing spectacle to watch and witness.
The bout was the first UFC Pay-Per-View event that followed the hit first season of The Ultimate Fighter, and the hype hit a fever pitch between the two warriors. Tensions were flaring between Hughes and Trigg leading up to the rematch, which consequently was for the UFC Welterweight Title.
Early in the first round, Trigg hit Hughes with an illegal low blow which got by the referee, hurting the champion. Trigg immediately jumped on Hughes and quickly took mount, and then transitioned to take his back. From back mount, Trigg threatened with a rear-naked choke, but the physically imposing Hughes would dig deep and fight his way out of adversity.
Hughes made it back up to his feet and, in a sequence that will forever live in the UFC highlight reel, Hughes picked Trigg up and ran him across the Octagon for an emphatic slam. On the matt, Hughes unloaded a plethora of powerful strikes from top and then quickly sourced another rear-naked choke, forcing the tap.
It was one of the greatest comebacks in UFC history.
4) Anderson Silva vs Chael Sonnen I (UFC 117)
When the great Anderson “The Spider” Silva first stepped into the Octagon with American wrestler Chael Sonnen, many fans predicted another easy night for the Brazilian. And you can’t blame them. Up to that point, Silva had been incredibly dominant and was riding a 12-fight winning streak which included victories over the best in his division.
Silva was an absolute god at this point and it seemed that no one was capable of derailing his rise.
What transpired at UFC 117 however was far from what fans expected. Silva got completely dominated from start to finish and had immense difficulty in dealing with Sonnen’s wrestling. Sonnen was able to take Silva down seemingly at will and keep him down, punishing him with ground-and-pound while grinding him out.
After four rounds of a one-sided beating, Sonnen seemed to be cruising to victory and the biggest upset in MMA history. But Silva, showing the resilience of a champion, saw an opportunity to latch onto a triangle midway through the fifth and final round.
After securing the triangle, Silva yanked on Sonnen’s arm and forced the tap, completing perhaps the greatest display of resilience in the Octagon ever.
5) Aung La N Sang vs Ken Hasegawa I (ONE: SPIRIT OF A WARRIOR)
The ONE Middleweight and Light Heavyweight World Champion Aung La N Sang had been a dominant force up to the point when he first stepped into the ONE Circle with Japan’s Ken Hasegawa in June 2018 at ONE: SPIRIT OF A WARRIOR.
“The Burmese Python” was riding a three-fight winning streak heading into the matchup and was fresh of a history-making performance that saw him capture a second World Title in as many divisions.
Defending his middleweight crown against Hasegawa, however, would prove to be his toughest outing to date.
For five rounds, Aung La and Hasegawa battered each other from fence to fence, putting together an incredible display of guts and willpower. They stood in the pocket, trading their best offense to the delight of a packed crowd in Myanmar. The two men were walking zombies by the final stanza.
When the fight was seemingly headed to the scorecards, Aung La delivered perhaps the most exciting finish in his career. With no fuel left in the tank, and Aung La running on fumes, the Burmese star unleashed a hellacious uppercut that came out of nowhere, connecting on Hasegawa’s jaw and instantly dropping the Japanese warrior.
Aung La retained his middleweight title in a tremendous display of resilience. The bout ultimately went down as ONE Championship’s ‘2018 Bout of the Year.’