When “Break a Leg?” Goes Wrong: The Three Nastiest Leg Locks in MMA History

When “Break a Leg?” Goes Wrong: The Three Nastiest Leg Locks in MMA History

It’s been a few days now, but MMA fans near and far are still abuzz about the lifetime ban which Rudiamar Palhares received from the UFC. It seems leg locks and leg breaks are still on your minds.

As I described in my article after the fight, UFC Fight Night 29: Palhares Earned the Upset Victory… But Did He Earn a Suspension, Too?, I can see reason to punish Palhares, even if I’m surprised at the extent of it.

One item not mentioned in the article: some say Palhares should be held to a bit higher standard due to the nature of the hold he prefers. Palhares’ heel hook torques the ankle and knee rapidly.

How rapidly?

Let’s take a trip down memory lane and see an example. In fact, let’s look at three times someone may have said, “break a leg,” and taken it terribly wrong…

Here are my three worst ever leg-lock spectacles in MMA history.

Be cautioned, these videos are… not pleasant. This is how things look when they go very wrong.

1.  Sean Sullivan vs. Curtis McWatters (King of the Cage 3: Knockout Nightmare, April 15, 2000 at the Sobaba Casino in San Jacinto, CA)

Video is here.

King of the Cage 3 featured some big names of the day: Duane “Bang” Ludwig, who is now making waves as trainer for Team Alpha Male, was on the undercard, along with guys like jiu-jitsu standout Javier Vasquez. Joe Stephenson, who would later contend for the UFC Lightweight title, fought against Toby Imada, who went on to make some waves in Bellator.

In the co-main events, Chris Brennan fought Antonio McKee, and Vernon White fought Todd Media. All four of those guys had or would fight in the UFC.

I don’t remember any of those bouts as well as this. Watch it and you’ll know why.

Just 90 seconds in, Sullivan drops back for a heel hook and clamps on tight. You can hear Frank Shamrock on commentary scold McWatters for wearing shoes — providing an easier grip. Sullivan extends the leg, and after a sickening “crack,” McWatters’ leg is seemingly 180 degrees out of place. He taps and lies motionless.

Neither would ever fight again.

2. Ryushi Yanagisawa vs. John Lober (Pancrase: Alive 11, December 20, 1997 from Yokohama Cultural Gymnasium in Yokohama, Japan)

(Video isn’t available.)

This show featured a classic main event between Japanese legends Masa Funaki and Yuki Kondo, and an undercard with future stars like Bas Rutten and Guy Mezger.

They were upstaged by an ugly incident fifty-five seconds into the match between Ryushi Yanagisawa, a Japanese mainstay who somehow found himself in the ring with everyone from Mirko Cro Cop to Vitali Klitschko, and John Lober, an unpolished but rough character who handed future legend Frank Shamrock a beating earlier in 1997. Lober found himself locked up in a toe hold and POP! Lober’s foot would be torn to point the incorrect direction. The referee stopped the match, and Yanagisawa would exit the ring visibly shaken. For his part, Lober failed to react in any way.

In fact, he fought again the following June and continued his MMA career for another ten years. Crazy!

3. Ken Shamrock vs. Leon van Dijk (Pancase: Eyes of Beast, June 26, 1995 from Aichi Budokan in Nagoya, Japan)

Video is of the leg lock finish of this bout is here — props to “ProteinOverdrive” of the Underground Forum for posting and helping inspire this article.  The full match is also available here.

The legendary Ken Shamrock, pictured above, headlines another big Pancrase event — and it’s another ugly heel hook finish.

As you see, in a scramble, Shamrock reaches back to take an inverted heel hook, and just snaps down. His opponent, a Dutch kickboxer with limited ground skills, rolls the wrong direction to defend — and finds himself writhing in agony.

Reportedly, van Dijk would be sent to nine months of rehabilitation, but he’d return to Pancrase later that year — and go on to appear regularly for the promotion through the late 1990′s; even recording an upset victory over Evan Tanner in 1999.

Honorable mentions: well, just about every MMA win from Masakazu Imanari.

Did I miss any? Let us know in comments, and as always thanks for reading.

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