With the backlash surrounding certain fighter corners following last week's UFC action, we take a look at the worst corner non-stoppages in UFC history
Referee stoppages in MMA, like in any combat sport, can be a very tricky thing - most people can quite easily tell that a fight is over when someone is laying out cold on the canvas, but when a fighter is still at least semi-conscious, determining whether a fight should be stopped or not can become a lot more difficult.
There are times however when a fighter is taking an absolute beating, but at the same time is showing enough to the referee to warrant the action to continue - in these cases, the corner is supposed to step in and save their fighter from taking unneccessary damage.
The term "unneccessary damage" refers to damage a fighter is receiving after it has become evident that they are no longer "in" the fight - whether they have mentally checked out, their opponent's abilities are simply so far above their own and show no signs of that changing, or physical damage has gotten to a point where the fighter simply can't muster any offense of their own or mitigate the incoming onslaught they're facing.
It is then the corner's duty to throw in the towel; just like a referee, the corner's primary responsibility is to take care of their fighter's safety.
During a high-stakes fight (when a title is on the line, for instance), slightly more leeway may be given, but at the end of the day, when it's clear a fighter is taking too much punishment and has little hope left of changing the outcome, the corner must step in to save their fighter and protect them from their own toughness.
One of the excuses many use to defend a corner that neglects this duty is that the fighter may fire their coach or cornerman if they throw in the towel - while it's a possibility (boxer Deontay Wilder promised exactly this when one of his corners threw in the towel in Wilder's rematch with Tyson Fury recently), at the end of the day the fighter's health is paramount. In the vast majority of cases, even if a fighter is angry initially, they quickly realize their coach/corner was only looking out for their health when they took such action.
When you're dealing with repeated head trauma especially, this becomes an even greater responsibility - failure to throw in the towel has caused many deaths over the years in boxing and who knows how many fighters have suffered serious health consequences and lost years of their lives just because they were too tough for their own good and their corners and/or the referees failed to step in when they should have.
Last week marked the triumphant return of the UFC after a two month fight-drought, and with it came plenty of great action and memorable moments, including Justin Gaethje's incredible win to capture the interim lightweight title and 40-year-old Glover Teixeira's highly impressive outing against a top contender.
On the flip side of those inspiring moments however, came controversy - both of their foes suffered incredible amounts of damage and the latter bout featured one of the most egregious corner non-stoppages in UFC history.
While Tony Ferguson certainly took a ton of punishment and the corner would have been easily justified in throwing in the towel at some point during his sustained beating from Justin Gaethje, he was still moving well and doing his best to change the situation - most of the critiques aimed at his corner instead came from his corner's rather unhelpful advice between rounds.
During Glover Teixeira's trouncing of Anthony Smith however, the corner was absolutely negligent in not stepping in to save their fighter as he suffered multiple 10-8 rounds and an hellacious beating (more on that later).
It was far from the only time that corners have let their fighters down inside the Octagon however - here are ten of the worst instances of this in UFC history.
Note: this list is specifically aimed at corners, where they had plenty of time and opportunity to throw in the towel yet continued to let their fighter take punishment - late stoppages where fighters took extra shots following a fight-ending blow are moreso on the referee and as such aren't neccessarily applicable to this list.
10. Sammy Morgan vs. Forest Petz
UFC Fight Night 6, 2006
Longtime fans may remember Sammy Morgan from his stint on the second season of The Ultimate Fighter. His eventual record of 19-12 featured not a single decision win and just two decision losses, with all of his other fights ending before the final bell, making Morgan an exciting kill-or-be-killed action fighter. He even had a few impressive victories on his resume such as a submission win over Aaron Riley and a knockout of Duane Ludwig; more than anything however, Morgan was known for his brutal losses.
On the show Morgan was knocked out from a vicious knee courtesy of the season's runner-up, Luke Cummo. On the season's finale card, Morgan was knocked out brutally by a slam and vicious elbows by fellow contestant Josh Burkman.
After winning two bouts on the regional scene, Morgan earned a shot back in the UFC opposite Forest Petz, a 14-2 prospect making his UFC debut.
The first round saw Petz largely control Morgan from the top position, landing solid elbows and ground and pound as well as big body shots on the feet. A slick body shot in the clinch managed to drop Morgan, who proceeded to lay on his back and do little other than take punches from Petz and hold him until the referee grew tired of the lull in action and stood them up.
With seconds remaining in the first, a frantic clinch saw Morgan land a few knees only to eat a flurry of body shots before a left hook on separation sent him down to the canvas and nearly out as the bell sounded. It would be far from the last time Morgan would be dropped in this fight.
The second round started off similar to the first, with Petz easily taking Morgan down and landing solid ground and pound while Morgan did very little off his back. Just over a minute into the round after the two had returned to their feet, a combination rocked Morgan and sent him to the canvas for the second time.
Petz let his victim stand up, only to drop him with a massive left hand just twenty seconds later. Rather than following up, Petz again let him return to his feet, ironically getting on top moments later after a failed takedown from Morgan saw the hurt fighter pull guard.
Late in the round, Morgan returned to his feet on wobbly legs and was rocked again at several points, though he managed to keep upright until a late takedown from Petz.
At this point, two things were keeping Morgan in the fight - his toughness, and his opponent thanks for his odd choice in opting to not go after Morgan with follow-up shots after the two knockdowns he scored that round, particularly the second one, which almost assuredly could have been an easy finish.
Morgan was simply outclassed everywhere the fight went and had no answer - his corner never should have allowed him to continue, but then again they wouldn't be on this list if they had done their job.
The third round saw nothing out of the ordinary - easy control and some ground and pound from Petz, then a vicious combination that flash KO'd Morgan, who was essentially finished yet because Petz opted to back away instead of putting in the finishing touches, referee Herb Dean allowed the fight to continue.
Morgan managed to survive to see the final bell largely thanks to Petz' odd choice not to follow-up on his knockdowns and from his corner's failure to throw in the towel and save him from continued brain trauma.
The lopsided beating saw Petz set a record for most knockdowns in a fight with five as well as for the most lopsided scorecard in a three round fight in UFC history, with one judge scoring an unheard-of 30-27, including the only official 10-7 score for a round in the promotion's history.
9. Priscila Cachoiera vs. Valentina Shevchenko
UFC Fight Night 125, 2018
Now this is an example of a fight that never should have been booked in the first place, let alone allowed to last more than a round.
Valentina Shevchenko had established herself as one of the best 135-pound fighters in the world despite fighting above her natural weight class of 125 pounds. The highly decorated kickboxing champion had only lost to one woman in the past seven years, bantamweight and future featherweight champion Amanda Nunes, and in their second meeting lost by a controversial split decision to the champion in what many felt should have been a victory for Shevchenko.
After the UFC had introduced the flyweight division, Shevchenko soon dropped down to compete in her proper weight class and found herself without many willing challengers in the rather shallow division - instead of finding a suitable opponent, the UFC threw in Priscila Cachoeira.
On paper, one might not notice the immense mismatch - Cachoeira was an 8-0 prospect after all compared with Shevchenko's 14-3 record - but looking at any of her prior fights and her level of competition, it became clear Cachoeira would need a miracle just to survive against someone like Shevchenko.
Cachoeira was making her UFC debut having fought exclusively in small Brazilian promotions against extremely weak opposition, against a decorated kickboxing champion who had bested many of the top fighters in the UFC; it was no surprise that oddsmakers favoured Shevchenko as a more than 10-to-1 favourite and those odds actually grew by the time the two stepped into the cage.
Shevchenko immediately made it clear why she was such a heavy favourite, stunning Cachoeira with the very first punch she threw and proceeding to land vicious combinations that put the Brazilian on wobbly legs before throwing her to the canvas.
From there, Shevchenko continued to slash away at Priscila's face with nasty elbows, opening multiple gashes on her victim's face which promptly painted the canvas underneath red. Cachoeira did enough to survive the round, but she certainly didn't hold her own.
The second round saw Priscila on her back again almost immediately, where Shevchenko would again dominate her, moving into a mounted crucifix and landing dozens of unanswered strikes. While the referee Mario Yamasaki (who is known for having some rather late stoppages) certainly bears the most blame here for not stopping the bout, after seeing the damage their fighter was taking and the referee standing idly by rather than stepping in, it was their duty to throw in the towel and protect their athlete.
Instead, her corner and Yamasaki continued watching as she was mounted and beaten on for several more minutes, showing no sign of being able to escape let alone mount her own offense. After eventually realizing she'd quite literally need to kill her opponent to score the TKO, Shevchenko instead snatched up Cachoeira's neck to secure a rear-naked choke submission late in the second frame.
It was clearly a fight that shouldn't have happened in the first place and one in which an outclassed fighter suffered unneccessary damage thanks to referee incompetence and a negligent corner. To make matters worse, Cachoeira also suffered a torn ACL early on in the bout.
The final statistics really show you everything you need to know - Shevchenko landed a total of 230 strikes in under ten minutes of action, while Cachoeira landed a total of...three.
8. Raquel Pennington vs. Amanda Nunes
UFC 224, 2018
Fans that tuned in to UFC 224's main event were expecting a beatdown - the women's bantamweight champion, Amanda Nunes, had slaughtered some of the best female champions in MMA history during her legendary title run and had made herself into one of the most feared strikers in the sport.
The challenger on the other hand, Raquel Pennington, had proven to be a solid top-10 fighter despite her rather unimpressive 9-5 record. Heading into the fight she was riding a four fight winning streak which included wins over a retiring Miesha Tate, a submission over the now-two-weight-classes-below Jessica Andrade, and a split decision victory over highly regarded title challenger...Bethe Correira.
To make matters worse, Pennington had been out of action for a year-and-a-half following a car accident in which she suffered a broken leg. To say that Pennington wasn't expected to do very well against a killer like Nunes would be an understatement.
The speed and power difference between the two became immediately apparent as Nunes repeatedly chopped away at Raquel's legs with powerful low kicks, backing Pennington against the fence at will and landing heavy shots in sporadic bursts.
Earlier in her career Nunes was known for being a devastating finisher in the opening frame who would quickly fade and gas out if she couldn't seal the deal, but in her championship form Nunes had become adept at pacing herself and extending her endurance across rounds. While she wasn't unloading the entire time, when she did attack, she was landing heavy and outside of a few solid counters and a surprise takedown in the second round, Nunes dominated her outmatched victim.
As rounds wore on, Pennington's leg became increasingly compromised and Nunes rocked her at multiple points - the fourth round saw an exhausted and battered Pennington eat several massive knees from the champion that opened up a bad cut on Pennington's forehead, who held on for dear life as the round came to an end.
It was clear Raquel was simply overmatched and at that point she needed a finish - considering she was not known to be a finisher (she had just four finishes in her career, with her lone knockout coming in her pro debut) and was not only exhausted but her leg was shot as well, the chances of Raquel pulling off an upset were slim to none.
Throwing in the towel was now a good option, but few would have faulted her corner for not throwing it in just yet - after all, it was a title fight, and she was doing a decent job of tying up when in danger, for the most part - that is until Raquel herself said "I'm done" to her corner.
Following the gruelling fourth round, Raquel had sat down on her stool, dripping blood from her forehead as her corner was trying to psych her up for the final round and her last chance at victory. Raquel then stood up and turned to her other teammate and stated simply "I'm done".
There are points in fights where you can see that a fighter is done - where they have mentally or physically broken and are only remaining in the fight by way of their toughness or pride - it's extremely rare however for a fighter to ever admit this. When one does, it's a corner's duty to throw in the towel and save them from any further punishment.
A great example of a corner looking out for their fighter would be Trevor Wittman, who threw in the towel for Nate Marquardt following a round in which the vet was battered by Kelvin Gastelum and told his corner he was done. As soon as he heard those words Wittman signalled to the ref the fight was over - while figuring out whether a fighter is truly "done" or not can be tricky, when the fighter themself states they are, it's no longer a question.
Instead of protecting the health of their fighter, Pennington's team instead talked her into going out for the fifth round. It was not a good decision.
The broken challenger proceeded to be absolutely mauled by the champion, who shattered Pennington's nose with an onslaught of ground and pound as Raquel turtled up en route to a fifth-round TKO stoppage loss.
It was a completely unneccessary finish and one in which a corner's failure to protect their fighter led to their athlete suffering excess damage for no good reason.
7. Thomas Gifford vs. Mike Davis
UFC on ESPN+ 19, 2019
It's hardly surprising that a member of the corner which inspired this list is featured more than once, but it becomes quite alarming when you consider that Anthony Smith's coach, Mark Montoya, found himself in hot water just seven months ago for failing another one of his fighters.
Last October, two 27-year-old lightweight prospects squared off inside the Octagon - knockout artist Mike Davis and grappling specialist Thomas Gifford. It didn't take long for one of the two to firmly establish their dominance.
Mike Davis clearly held a power, speed, and technical advantage on the feet and enjoyed every minute of it as he hammered the lumbering Gifford with heavy combinations and brutal knees. Gifford seemed content to take a beating rather than trying to move the fight to the floor, a failed rolling leg lock his most earnest attempt at taking Davis to the mat.
Late in the first, Davis rocked Gifford with several punishing combinations that left Gifford almost out on his feet against the cage, taking more unanswered blows as he attempted in vain to dodge and cover up to protect himself from the incoming onslaught. Gifford sloppily attempted to clinch, which led to Davis throwing him to the mat and hammering him with ground and pound.
The fight easily could have been stopped before the bell sounded, but Gifford did just enough to survive and scrape by to be saved by the bell.
The second round wasn't much different - Gifford failed to mount any offense of his own and whenever Davis threw, it was landing hard and hurting his victim.
The one time Gifford managed to get the fight to the canvas he was on his back, the result of a failed takedown attempt seeing him beaten on with ground and pound. The end of the round once again came with Gifford rocked and struggling to survive as he ate a vicious onslaught from his clearly superior opposition, barely hanging on to see the ten-minute mark.
In his corner, Montoya (with Gifford's own father being the other corner man) firmly told Gifford to pursue the takedown as he couldn't continue striking with Davis - he then asked Gifford if he could do that or if they should stop the fight, to which Gifford unsurprisingly responded "No sir".
Just that the corner was threatening to throw in the towel should be reason enough - a fighter that has managed to survive a beating is almost never going to call it quits themselves (they likely would have already been finished if so) thus asking him served little purpose other than to perhaps fire the fighter up in an attempt to turn things around.
But Gifford simply didn't have the tools to do so, and was so far outmatched and beaten up it was just plain stupid to send him back out there.
Into the third it went, and although Gifford had slightly more success early with his puttering punches as Davis appeared to be tired from the beating he was handing out, Gifford was still completely unable to get Davis to the mat and continued to get hurt by every shot Davis threw.
Davis proceeded to drop Gifford multiple times with leg kicks, battering every part of Gifford's body, yet his corner still refused to throw in the towel even as the fans booed in collective agreement that the fight should be stopped - it was never competitive and was now getting to the point of ridiculousness, with Gifford diving hopelessly at takedowns he had no hope of scoring and getting stunned by every strike he received.
Commentator and former middleweight champion Michael Bisping had been calling on the corner to stop the fight from the second round on, and given their refusal to do so, was then openly stating that the ref needed to step in and stop the contest.
With just 15 seconds remaining in the contest, Davis staggered Gifford once again with a combo before he faceplanted him with brutal right hand.
The savage beatdown was entirely one-way traffic and when it became clear that Gifford was taking a ridiculous amount of punishment and could not return with anything significant of his own, his corner needed to throw in the towel.
Their failure (as well as the referee's) to protect their fighter resulted in a vicious knockout and at least an extra round of punishment that was entirely unneccessary.
6. Gavin Tucker vs. Rick Glenn
UFC 215, 2017
At UFC 215 in Edmonton, 10-0 Canadian prospect Gavin Tucker took on an experienced finisher and fellow prospect in Rick Glenn.
The Canadian came out looking to make up for his 5-inch height and 4-inch reach disadvantage through sheer aggression and saw himself almost immediately in trouble after missing a spinning back kick and eating a heavy right hand from Glenn.
As the two began to settle into their respective rhythms, it became apparent that Tucker was having a problem with Glenn's length and defense as the undefeated slugger repeatedly whiffed on big shots and hit nothing but air and forearms as Glenn plodded forward and seemed content to let the less-seasoned fighter tire himself out.
After Tucker did manage to land a few solid shots against his largely defensive opponent, Glenn began to open up and walk down his prey, constantly moving forward and forcing Gavin to stay on his bicycle.
Late in the opening round, Glenn landed a sharp straight left that dropped Tucker. The Canadian recovered well even though he ate a few nice elbows and knees in the clinch that followed, clearly losing the opening frame but at that point it was still competitive.
And then came the second round.
Tucker came out looking to brawl and engaged in a short back-and-forth clinch battle after getting hit by a glancing head kick, expending a ton of energy to begin the second despite clearly having slowed down at the end of the first.
A takedown and some clinch work from Glenn completely sapped Tucker's second wind and from there, things went downhill fast for the Canadian slugger.
Glenn proceeded to maul Tucker both in the clinch with knees and elbows, and on the ground with brutal elbows and flurries of punches. By the end of the round, Tucker was absolutely exhausted and was simply getting dominated everywhere the fight went, barely managing to hold on.
At this point, the corner was still justified in sending him out for another round - while he was surely losing and prospects weren't exactly looking up, he still had a chance going for broke in the striking department and hadn't taken the kind of punishment that others on this list had.
A few minutes into the third round changed that entirely however.
After beating Tucker up some more on the feet and in the clinch, Glenn took his victim down and continued to rain down hell from above, landing vicious ground and pound and deadly elbows on his opponent, who had largely become a punching bag at that point.
Flurries from Glenn had commentators and fans alike believing the ref would step in to save the clearly outmatched and exhausted fighter, who although he was still moving and trying to defend himself, he was taking a cringe-inducing amount of punishment and seemed completely unable to adequately defend himself from the onslaught he faced.
Rookie referee Kyle Cardinal simply stood by as Glenn continued to pound away at his helpless victim, to the point where it became tough to watch and Tucker's face looked like like an extra's from The Walking Dead. At many points Glenn even looked to the referee as he wailed away with punches, practically begging the official to save him from having to continue to beat on a defenseless punching bag, but the referee simply stood by and watched.
While the referee certainly deserves the most blame here, the fact the corner never threw in the towel at any point in the third round as minutes of unanswered punishment went by and it became clear the official was not going to put a stop to it, is downright negligent.
When the referee is failing to protect the fighter, it's the corner's duty to step up and save them - instead, Tucker's corner let him continue to take a ridiculous amount of punishment for no reason.
The beatdown Tucker endured resulted in the Canadian suffering two broken orbital bones and two separate fractures in his jaw.
5. Dan Hooker vs. Edson Barboza
UFC on Fox 31, 2018
In a high stakes matchup between two top-10 lightweight strikers, New Zealand's Dan Hooker and Brazil's Edson Barboza were expected to put on a show when the pair met late in 2018, and they certainly lived up to fans' expectations.
One of the fiercest and most talented strikers in the UFC regardless of weight class, Edson Barboza was coming off of back-to-back lopsided beatdowns in which he was battered on the ground by superior wrestlers, both of which were nearly included in this list.
Facing off against a fellow striker for the first time in a while, Barboza looked much sharper - Hooker started off well however, implementing a high-pressure style to try to smother Barboza's kicks and sap Barboza's somewhat suspect gas tank.
The tactic relied heavily on Hooker's toughness and durability to carry him through the early exchanges, a price he likely expected to pay dividends as time went on.
All seemed to be going according to plan for "The Hangman" as he pressured the Brazilian, eating plenty of shots but landing some of his own in return and forcing Barboza to work at a very high pace as the round progressed.
The closing seconds of the round showed off Hooker's durability in spades as Barboza landed several heavy knees and followed up with a flush combination, only for Hooker to continue coming forward, popping Barboza with several jabs before a nasty leg kick from Barboza landed right before the bell.
The New Zealander had certainly sustained plenty of damage in the opening round courtesy of Barboza's fast hands and nasty body and leg kicks, but his strategy was also seeing Barboza breathing heavy and expending a ton of energy that would surely pay off in later rounds.
At least that was the theory.
The second round quickly seemed to dispel that notion as several heavy leg kicks buckled Hooker's leg. The damage just inspired Hooker to double down on his strategy however, charging forward relentlessly and throwing peppering strikes as Barboza continued landing heavy combinations and brutal knees in the clinch.
Barboza caught Hooker with a counter as Hooker was in the middle of throwing a kick, which prompted Hooker to get to his knees and quickly look for a takedown which he managed to secure. It looked again like Hooker's strategy might be paying off as he stayed in top position for a while, but Barboza methodically worked his way back to his feet at around the midway point of the fight.
From there Barboza got back to work, landing several gorgeous left hooks to the body before returning upstairs with a combo that stunned Hooker for a moment, but the tough Kiwi pressed on, forcing Barboza into a brawl. Unfortunately for Hooker, Barboza was excelling there as well, where he hammered home a massive combination that once again staggered Hooker.
The gameplan may have worked in tiring Barboza, but regardless of how tired he looked, he continued throwing powerful shots and landed at a staggering rate given Hooker's constant forward movement, whipping nasty kicks to the liver and landing massive combos that would have felled most men in the division.
He may have kept moving forward, but Hooker was exhausted himself at that point and unlike Barboza, did not appear to have any "pop" left in his strikes, lumbering forward into the woodchipper that was Barboza like a mindless zombie.
Edson continued pounding away at his victim, some flicking jabs the only thing coming back his way as he landed savage combinations and brutal liver kicks. Another combo had Hooker nearly double over on himself, but through sheer will he managed to remain upright.
The gameplan may have been sound in theory, but in practice Hooker was taking far too much punishment for it to be effective and after ten minutes, he had turned into a walking punching bag. The doctor took a good long look at Hooker in between rounds, asking him questions to make sure he was still alive and of course, Hooker was adamant he wanted to continue.
Here, his corner should have stepped up and thrown in the towel; he was getting lit up like a Christmas tree and clearly needed a finish to win, but had so little left after the beating he had already taken that it was a one in a billion proposition. His legs were gone, he had taken enough liver shots to kill most humans, and he had been stunned by countless combinations with only his heart and ridiculous chin keeping him standing. It was time to call it.
Instead, his corner sent him back out there for more.
Once again Hooker charged forward, eating jabs and leg kicks from Barboza as he chucked back ineffective punches in return. A failed takedown attempt would be his last sign of life.
A brutal spinning back kick to the liver followed which doubled Hooker over in pain, yet the New Zealander managed to block Edson's follow up body kicks with his forearms. Now would have been a good time for the corner to throw in the towel.
Shortly later, Edson landed another spinning back kick to the gut, which again doubled Hooker over in pain, only for him to stand back upright in defiance just in time to eat a massive right hand which he took flush on the chin and yet somehow remained standing.
The punches that Hooker threw back were so slow now they looked as if he was moving under water. His chances of winning the fight were completely gone. Now would have been another good time for the towel to come in.
Nasty knees followed as the commentary team pleaded for the fight to be called, and yet the referee let the action continue because Hooker was still throwing back, regardless of the fact he looked like a zombie getting chopped to pieces while being unable to touch his foe. Again, the towel never came in.
A final left hook to the liver finally caused Hooker to drop to the canvas in agony and the referee was forced to step in just before the midway mark of the third round.
It was an absolute beatdown that never should have lasted as long as it did, a fighter too tough for his own good betrayed by the negligence of his corner.
4. Renan Barao vs. TJ Dillashaw II
UFC on Fox 16, 2015
Frankly both of TJ Dillashaw's trouncings of Renan Barao could have made their way onto this list, but as the fights are almost identical, their rematch takes the spot on this ranking thanks to the fact the corner should have taken the hint after the first lopsided beatdown their fighter endured.
Heading into their first meeting at UFC 173, Renan Barao was considered one of the top pound-for-pound fighters on the planet - his incredible record sat at 32-1 and the Brazilian great had not been defeated since his pro debut early in 2005.
Team Alpha Male's TJ Dillashaw meanwhile was still most well-known for his quick knockout loss to flyweight John Dodson in the tournament final of The Ultimate Fighter's 14th season.
The standout wrestler had certainly improved since that loss however, particularly after Duane Ludwig joined Team Alpha Male as their head coach, prompting a drastic improvement in his striking. He had won five of his next six outings, with his lone loss coming in a highly controversial split decision to top contender Raphael Assuncao.
Although certainly considered a great prospect, when Dillashaw stepped up to face Renan Barao on short notice at UFC 173, he was understandably considered a massive underdog - few saw him standing much of a chance against the bantamweight king.
Dillashaw was undeterred however, and thanks to his unique brand of striking as well as superb wrestling which negated Barao's vaunted grappling entirely, Dillashaw executed a brilliant gameplan that enabled him to absolutely dominate the betting favourite.
TJ's Dominick Cruz-esque footwork allowed him to dance around at the edge of Barao's range, fainting and faking his way in on dominant angles before slick combinations pounded away at the more-stationary champion.
A massive right hand near the end of the first round sent Barao to the canvas and from there, the long-reigning champion was made to look utterly helpless.
Round after round, Dillashaw continued to beat down the champion in one of the most impressive performances in UFC history - Dillashaw's incredible output (perhaps aided by PEDs given Dillashaw has since become one of the most famous cheaters in MMA history), his sublime footwork and creation of offensive opportunities, his beautiful combinations and constant powerful switch-hitting all combining to absolutely bewilder and batter a man who was considered one of the top three most talented fighters on the planet.
It was an absolute clinic and although Barao did his best to fire back and look for some way to get back into the fight, it became extremely evident as the championship rounds came that Barao was running on fumes and had nothing left to offer his technically superior opponent.
In the fifth round, a savage combination stemming from a head kick dropped and finally finished Barao in one of the most thorough and systematic dismantlings of a champion in UFC history.
Insisting Dillashaw's win was a fluke, Barao was granted an immediate rematch just three months later despite the absolute drubbing he took. On the day of weigh-ins, Barao had to be hospitalized from his drastic weight cut which ultimately forced him out of the fight, making Dillashaw batter a lower-ranked bantamweight on the card and forcing Barao to win another fight (which he didn't look good doing) before the rematch would be booked again.
When the two stepped into the Octagon 14 months after their first meeting, almost nothing had changed and if anything, Barao just took an even more lopsided beating.
Dillashaw continued to dart in and out of Barao's range, hammering him with shots out of both stances and avoiding virtually all of the former champ's returns with impressive consistency.
It quickly became clear that Barao simply had nothing to offer Dillashaw - Dillashaw was exploiting every flaw in the former champ's game with ruthless efficiency and if there was a weakness to be found in TJ's approach, Barao either had no clue how to find it or didn't have the tools to exploit it.
By the end of the third round, Barao was once again battered and bewildered, the only thing keeping him in the fight being an iron chin and the heart of a warrior. At that point, title fight or not, the corner had an obligation to throw in the towel and protect Renan from further punishment.
To the fans a major sense of deja vu made the proceedings become tough to watch, and it just seemed silly for Barao's corner not to pull their fighter out of there when he was running on fumes and was once again being beaten senseless.
Of course, the corner sent him out there for another round, only for Dillashaw to unleash an onslaught of hellish combinations that led to a rare standing TKO, referee Herb Dean forced to protect Barao from his own toughness.
The loss(es) seemingly broke Barao and effectively ended his relevance at the top of the division - following his pair of brutal losses to Dillashaw, Barao lost six of his next seven bouts, his lone win over a fighter that wasn't even UFC-caliber.
The former champion would repeatedly miss weight and was forced up to featherweight, finally being cut late last year after his fifth straight loss.
The fall of Renan Barao was one of the steepest and most sudden declines from a champion in MMA history, and one can't help but wonder if perhaps it could have been lessened had his corner done their duty.
3. Anthony Smith vs. Glover Texeira
UFC on ESPN+ 29, 2020
The most recent entry and what inspired this list, Anthony Smith's corner allowed him to take a hellacious beating from the heavy-handed 40-year-old Glover Teixeira last week that was far beyond defensible.
The bout started off well for Smith as he landed crisp combos and enjoyed a speed advantage over the Brazilian vet, who still managed to land solid shots of his own (and even threw plenty of kicks low and body kicks, something we've never seen from Teixeira). The younger contender comfortably took the first round on the scorecards, but as the second round carried on, it was clear Smith was fading - fast.
A massive combination stunned Smith and saw him eating combinations; by the end of the round the momentum had clearly shifted in Glover's favour.
And then the third round commenced.
A fading Smith was no match for the fired-up slugger, who rocked Smith repeatedly with heavy combinations and savage uppercuts, dropping Smith to the canvas and pounding on him with an unanswered salvo of vicious ground and pound. Appearing to feel sorry for his foe (who is also his friend outside of the cage), Glover repeatedly stopped his ground and pound to look for a submission, but Smith refused to give up his neck and so Glover was forced to return to chipping away at his brain cells.
Each time the ref warned Smith to show him something, Smith did so, always doing just enough to survive even if it just prolonged his beating.
At one point Smith had a tooth knocked out, which he proceeded to pick up and hand to the referee while he was on his hands and knees getting hammered by Glover's lunchbox-sized fists.
After a clear 10-8 round in which Smith was utterly dominated and nearly finished multiple times, his corner had more than enough reason to throw in the towel and save Smith from another round of hell.
Instead, Mark Montoya and James Krause completely ignored Smith when he sat on his stool and mentioned "my teeth are falling out", telling him to breathe and proceeding to give him advice that was simply useless for their exhausted and battered athlete.
They sent him out for another round, which proceeded to go much the same way - Glover overwhelmed Smith on the feet with powerful barrages, then took him down and mauled him on the floor. It was clear at that point to everyone in the building and everyone watching at home that Smith was done - exhausted, his face a swollen mess, nothing but his heart and stubbornness keeping him in a fight that stopped being competitive two rounds ago.
He once again managed to survive the round by the skin of his remaining teeth, suffering another lopsided 10-8 round - under the new scoring criteria, a case could easily be made that both rounds should have been recorded as 10-7 rounds for Glover.
Smith's only chance of victory at that point was a hail mary knockout or submission, and given the amount of punishment he had endured and his level of exhaustion, not to mention that his opponent hadn't slowed down and was known for being incredibly tough to finish himself, it was evident that simply wasn't going to happen.
Anthony Smith was going to lose - the only question was whether his corner would finally do their job and stop Anthony from taking any more unneccessary punishment.
Once again, his corner failed him and sent him out for the final round; if this gif isn't the perfect example of a fighter's body language screaming "I'm done" I'm not sure what is. "Lionheart" simply had nothing left and it was borderline criminal that his corner still neglected to stop the fight.
After mounting Smith and firing off another salvo of ground and pound, Glover was finally awarded his much-deserved TKO victory as the referee stepped in to save Smith in a fight that should have never seen a fourth round let alone a fifth.
Following the beatdown, Smith later revealed he had suffered a broken orbital bone, a broken nose, and he lost two of his teeth.
Fighters like Anthony Smith are too tough for their own good - it's times like these when a fighter's corner needs to save them from themselves, and Smith's corner completely failed him last week.
It's hard to feel sorry for Smith however, as in the coming week Smith would call referee Jason Herzog a "coward" for taking responsibility for the late stoppage and stated repeatedly he would have fired his coaches had any of them thrown in the towel.
Men like Smith who refuse to admit that they were out of a fight even when their body language screamed otherwise and then state they'll fire the people that are supposed to be protecting them are a large part of why corners are so reluctant to protect their fighters.
2. Mauricio Shogun Rua vs. Jon Jones
UFC 128, 2011
There aren't a lot of people on earth that are as tough as Mauricio "Shogun" Rua - the man was a beloved figure in the sport thanks to his penchant for devastating knockouts and his participation in epic wars after all.
To see him tap out from the punishment he endured on March 19, 2011, was nothing short of heartbreaking.
Heading into his first title defense (arguably his second if you ignore terrible judging) after emphatically dethroning Lyoto Machida in their epic rematch, Shogun was an underdog (to the surprise of many) to a young talent named Jon Jones, who had stepped up to face Shogun on short notice just six weeks after scoring a finish over Ryan Bader.
While Jones may have been the favourite with bettors, no one however expected the one-sided mauling that the champion would endure once the cage door closed at UFC 128.
Jones stunned Rua right off the bat by landing a flying knee in the opening exchange.
Shortly after the quick start, Jones threw Shogun to the floor, where he would proceed to smash the PRIDE legend with elbows and ground and pound, smothering him on the floor and quite literally doing whatever he wanted to the reigning champion.
By the end of the first round, Shogun was already exhausted after having spent the majority of the round on the bottom against his much larger opponent, his punches already laboured and slow when he did find himself back on his feet near the end of the round, eating knees to the gut and side kicks to his famously damaged knees.
The second round saw Jones once again have his way with Shogun on the feet, Rua completely unable to close the distance on his longer opponent and at the mercy of the young challenger's diverse arsenal.
Being thrown to the canvas once again, Shogun was smothered, eating nasty ground and pound and having his mouth and nose covered in the old GSP-style of exhausting top control.
The Brazilian legend was on autopilot, just trying to survive a mauling at the hands of a hungry young challenger that showed no signs of slowing down or letting up.
There is no doubt the towel should have been thrown in by his corner when Shogun sat on his stool following the second round - Shogun was absolutely exhausted, had absolutely no answer to Jones on the ground and couldn't come even close to landing one of his fight-ending bombs every time he tried to put together something offensive on the feet.
Failing to see that Shogun's path to victory was virtually non-existent at that point, his corner sent him out for another round. Unable to land anything on the feet and unable to take Jones down, Shogun looked desperately for a leglock in order to wind up on top (which almost worked), only to find himself underneath Jones once more.
Jones opened up shortly after with barrages of ground and pound and his deadly elbows, hurting Shogun repeatedly. Rua managed to hold on as his corner stood by and let their defeated fighter continue to take unneccesary damage, somehow making it to his feet following a brutal onslaught of elbows, punches, and knees to his midsection.
A final body shot from Jones sent Shogun to the canvas, a knee grazing him on the way down as referee Herb Dean finally stepped in to save the fallen champion. Not realizing the ref had stepped in yet, Shogun tapped on the mat to signal his submission.
When a warrior the likes of Shogun is forced to tap to strikes, you know that a corner has utterly failed to protect their fighter.
The one-sided beatdown was downright depressing to watch - Jones landed a total of 102 strikes to Shogun's 11, scoring all three of his takedown attempts in the process. It was a fight that became increasingly clear that one fighter simply had nothing left, yet his corner failed to step in and save him from further punishment.
Simply put, Shogun deserved better.
1. Junior Dos Santos vs. Cain Velasquez III
UFC 166, 2013
From the time the two heavyweights debuted in the UFC in 2008 to the time they first met in the Octagon late in 2011, Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos proved they were in a league of their own.
Cain had run through the rankings on his path to a title, smashing the likes of, Cheick Kongo, Ben Rothwell and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira en route to a one-sided smackdown of heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar, employing his impressive wrestling pedigree combined with an outlandish pace and smothering dirty boxing/ground and pound game to overwhelm his larger and slower competition.
Junior on the other hand had burst onto the scene with a stunning knockout of top contender Fabricio Werdum, then proceeded to make a name for himself as the most feared striker in the division following demolitions of Stefan Struve, Mirko Cro Cop, Gilbert Yvel, Gabriel Gonzaga, Roy Nelson, and Shane Carwin before finally receiving his long-awaited title shot.
Headlining the massive first-ever UFC event to be broadcast on a major cable network, Velasquez and Dos Santos met for the first time in front of over 8.8 million viewers on Fox.
Expecting an instant-classic between the two best heavyweights in UFC history, the UFC banked heavily on the title matchup to promote their new partnership with Fox and as such put on a one-hour broadcast devoted entirely to the main event, the championship showdown being the only fight aired on the major network.
It ended up being a massive miscalculation from the UFC.
Rather than a back-and-forth war, Junior's patented overhand right dropping Cain in the first major exchange with follow-up shots sealing the deal in just 64 seconds. The quick finish and lack of preceeding action completely failed to live up to the hype and buildup surrounding the fight, ultimately failing to entice the masses to tune into further UFC events (ironically, the co-main event was a barnburner and would have surely saved the broadcast had it of been shown alongside the headline fight).
Cain's team insisted a knee injury was the reason for his loss, though Dos Santos revealed he had fought with a torn meniscus himself.
After his expected defense against top contender Alistair Overeem was derailed courtesy of a failed drug test (poor Alistair and his horse meat), Dos Santos instead faced Frank Mir and battered the UFC staple to a pulp to successfully defend his heavyweight crown.
Earlier on the same card, Velasquez demolished Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva to get back into the win column and set up a rematch against the man who dethroned him.
While Cain was expected to perform better than in their last encounter and make it into a competitive battle, few anticipated the sustained 25-minute beatdown that unfolded.
Constantly backing Dos Santos into the fence, Cain showed off his vaunted pressure game by swarming on the champion at every turn, crashing into the clinch behind volleys of strikes only to pepper Dos Santos against the cage and relentlessly pursue takedowns.
Junior landed plenty of his own hard shots, particularly when Cain charged in to close the distance and whenever he managed to create separation, but those moments of success were drowned out by the overwhelming onslaught the Brazilian was subjected to. Cain even managed to drop Dos Santos on the feet, catching the Brazilian with his hands down in fear of a takedown.
It was the most impressive performance of Velasquez's career to that point and by the end of the fight, Junior's face was a swollen and battered mess of bruising and blood. By the championship rounds it had become hard to watch, the loveable champion pinned to the cage and battered relentlessly as he seemed to have no answer to Cain's pressure and pace.
A towel easily could have been thrown in at many points during the bout, but when a man possesses as much power as Junior, it's hard to convince a corner or the fighter themself they don't still have a chance - after all, he had proven that he can end any fighter's night (including Cain's) with a single shot and was still landing punches despite the lopsided nature of the fight.
Ultimately though, the decision to keep him in there resulted in Junior just taking more of a beating - the final stats showed Cain nearly doubling Junior's 57 significant strikes with 111, more impressively outlanding him in total strikes 210-66. Junior managed to stuff an incredible 22 takedowns attempts, yet he was still grounded a whopping 11 times - if that doesn't show you the kind of ridiculous output Cain has for a heavyweight, nothing will.
The final scores favoured Cain 50-45, 50-44, and 50-43, earning Velasquez thorough revenge for his high-profile defeat a year prior.
Similarly to the first fight, Junior's camp used Cain's tactic of blaming injury/illness for his performance, in this case severe rhabdomyolysis as a result of overtraining, a sometimes fatal condition in which muscle fibre rapidly breaks down as a result of excess strenuous exercise or crush injuries.
Once again the two would rebound with victories on the same night to pave the way for another rematch - at UFC 160 Cain Velasquez once again demolished Bigfoot Silva (who had earned a title shot following two stunning underdog victories) after Junior Dos Santos engaged in a delightful striking match with Mark Hunt, battering the iron-jawed Samoan before scoring an unreal wheel kick knockout.
The rubber match to definitively determine the greatest heavyweight on the planet once and for all went down at UFC 166.
It was almost the same exact fight as their second meeting, except even more lopsided.
Rather than addressing the biggest problem with his game that had made their last fight so miserable for the Brazilian - his habit of circling into the cage (often with his hands down) and his lack of ability to get off of it - Dos Santos instead polished up his takedown defense and looked to land massive elbows when Cain rushed in.
The elbows were admittedly a nice touch and Junior did land quite a few of them that bloodied up Cain, and his already solid takedown defense did fare better than in their last meeting (Cain managed to take him down just twice out of 13 attempts), his lack of ringcraft and inability to get Velasquez off of him when against the cage served as his kryptonite.
Despite Junior's slight adjustments, Velasquez performed even better in their rubber match, outlanding Junior at an even higher rate and turning Junior's face into a purple balloon. The third round was particularly troubling - dropping Junior with an overhand right of his own, Cain proceeded to pummel the former champion for the rest of the round, coming ridiculously close to a stoppage at multiple points.
The heart of a warrior shone through and Dos Santos managed to somehow survive to see the end of a round he had no business surviving. It was an easy 10-8 and arguably could have been scored a 10-7 - Junior had managed to hang on by a thread but he was getting absolutely eviscerated and once again had no answer for the overwhelming force that he was presented with.
The amount of damage he had already endured, not to mention the damage he had taken in their previous fight less than a year prior, should have been more than a sufficient cause for his corner to throw in the towel and save him from further punishment.
Instead, they sent him out there for another round of needless punishment. He spent the majority of the fourth round pressed against the fence, eating heavy leather whenever Cain decided to throw hands, his swollen face more closely resembling Sloth from The Goonies with every passing minute, blood leaking from multiple lacerations and repeatedly getting into his eyes.
Dos Santos did still manage to land some solid elbows and punches of his own, but Cain was completely unphased and showed no signs of stopping his gruelling offense.
Once again returning to his stool a battered husk, Dos Santos was again let down by his corner as they sent him out for another round of punishment. For his part, the toughness and heart he put on display in both of the Cain rematches was truly inspirational - despite being beaten beyond recognition, he still came out firing and did everything in his power to try to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
It was simply an impossible task.
Just past midway through the fifth and final round, Junior locked up a desperate hail-mary guillotine on Cain from against the fence, his last chance at regaining his former crown. Cain dropped down to spin out of the choke, which in turn spiked Dos Santos on his own forehead as he refused to let go.
Dos Santos woozily sat up from the concussive landing before covering up on his hands and knees, his body finally admitting defeat as the ref rushed in to save him.
The beating, especially after having seen it already less than a year prior, was hard to watch and one that definitely should have been ended sooner - if not by the referee, then by Dos Santos' corner.
Instead, Junior took an unbelievable amount of punishment that likely shaved many years off of his life. Cain landed a ridiculous 278 total strikes to Junior's 62, outlanding Junior 123 to 46 in "significant" strikes when all was said and done.
While Cain certainly dominated two-thirds of their rivalry, he too sustained plenty of damage in his victories; neither man was ever the same following the trilogy.
Cain would famously struggle even more with injuries for the rest of his career, losing his title in his next outing to Fabricio Werdum. He would secure one last win against Travis Browne at UFC 200 before being sidelined for nearly three years, only to get knocked out in 26 seconds by Francis Ngannou in his return last year before ultimately retiring from the sport.
Dos Santos on the other hand would see mixed success, going 5-4 since his brutal beating at UFC 166 and being finished by TKO in all four of his losses.
As epic as their trilogy may have been, one can't help but think about what could have been had the two men not sustained so much damage over the course of their nearly 50-minutes locked in the cage together.
David Louiseau vs. Rich Franklin (UFC 58, 2006)
BJ Penn vs. Nick Diaz (UFC 137, 2011)
BJ Penn vs. Rory MacDonald (UFC on Fox 5, 2012)
Mark Hunt vs. Stipe Miocic (UFC Fight Night 65, 2015)
Jessica Penne vs. Joanna Jędrzejczyk (UFC Fight Night 69, 2015)
Edson Barboza vs. Kevin Lee (UFC Fight Night 128, 2018)