Throwback | Bobby Hoffman v. Maurice Smith
Frankly, an absurd amount of my time is spent watching old matches from the early days of Mixed Martial Arts and Jiu-Jitsu. While they do invoke feelings of nostalgia (old commercials, long defunct sponsors, janky rule sets, and an opportunity to see seasoned veterans early in their careers), I enjoy watching these historical matches because it is an opportunity to rediscover techniques, strategies, and individuals that have sculpted our sport as we know it today.
UFC 27: Ultimate Bad Boyz was held on September 22nd, 2000 in New Orleans, Lousiana. While Pedro Rizzo's brutal leg kick TKO over an aging Dan Severn seems to be all anyone seems to remember; the entire card was jam-packed with early-era MMA legends and competitive matches:
ADCC Legend Jeff Monson made his UFC debut against Tim Lajcik
Ian Freeman (a pillar within the early UK fighting community) dominated Ted Williams, who then went on to establish the long running Gladiator Challenge promotion.
Fabiano "The Armbar King" Iha avenged his loss to LaVerne Clark...via Armbar.
Jeremy Horn added his 43rd win to his record and Yuki Kondo his 29th with a well-timed knee strike followed up with strikes on the ground.
Bobby Hoffman (20-2) and Maurice Smith (10-11) met each other in the octagon at very different points in their respective careers. Bobby Hoffman was an incredible athlete (discovering MMA after being released by the Cleveland Browns), was the first KOTC Heavyweight Champion, and held notable wins over Alistair Overeem, Ricco Rodriguez, and Heath Herring. He was trained by the renowned Pat Miletich team and seemed destined for a standout career in Mixed Martial Arts.
Conversely, Maurice Smith entered the bout after a submission loss to Renzo Gracie and in the minds of many was on the tail-end of his MMA career (which he began after a long kickboxing career). Despite being the first African American UFC Champion and cross-training pioneer when he formed the "Alliance" with the Shamrocks, most early MMA experts felt his striking heavy style was a relic of the early days and could not stand against the wrestler-dominate style of that era.
Round 1: Hoffman dominated the clinch, scoring a takedown, side control, and landing big shots on Smith from the mount. Despite remaining composed throughout the duration of the round, Smith was unable to mount any sort of offense (landing almost no strikes) outside of using the cage wall to return back to his feet.
Round 2: Hoffman again opted to rush in on Smith to score the takedown. Frank Shamrock who was cornering Smith during the bout, remarked that Hoffman looked visibly fatigued from his initial first round surge to put Smith away. After a brief stoppage to replace Hoffman's mouth piece, the fatigued Hoffman resumed his takedown onslaught. This time however, Smith utilized the cage wall to return to his feet in short order and reversed Hoffman onto the cage. Smith's patience had paid off and he capitalized on that moment to deliver hard shots to the body of Hoffman. A fatigued and damaged Hoffman again spit out his mouth piece and the action was stopped to rinse and return it. Despite being the elder of the two, Smith was upright and looked relaxed while Hoffman was bent over at the waist heaving deep breaths. When the action resumed, Smith utilized the clinch to land some hard knees to the body and an uppercut to Hoffman's chin that sent his mouth piece sailing upwards (at this point, Smith really seemed to have regained his stride). A wild hook by Hoffman sent an unbalanced Smith back pedaling towards the cage wall. Hoffman capitalized on the moment to score a few strikes, a takedown, the mount, and nearly stopped Smith with vicious ground and pound from the mount. The round closed with Smith briefly escaping to side control and an exhausted Hoffman holding on to a much fresher looking opponent.
Round 3: This round was truly something special for Smith and I remember going absolutely nuts upon first seeing it. A rallied Smith immediately utilized the clinch to put the weathered Hoffman against the wall. What happened for the next 4.5 minutes was one of the most dominant displays of dirty-boxing that the UFC has ever seen from anyone that wasn't named Randy Couture. Smith hit Hoffman with devastating knees, dozens of hooks to the body, and ripping uppercuts to the head. The crowd (which was a fraction of the size it would be now) was roaring for the "Rocky Balboa" stylized onslaught that put Hoffman out on his feet. The only thing that kept Hoffman upright was Smith's head pinning his battered body to the cage wall. The horn blew and Smith raised his arms, retiring to his corner and a downtrodden Hoffman clearly not happy with his 3rd round performance.
Maurice Smith's split decision win over Bobby Hoffman made fools of all of us who had counted Smith out in MMA. Smith was in-fact a crafty veteran, who left his mark in our sport by demonstrating that defensive wrestling is critical to the success of striking reliant fighters and that the cage wall is a powerful tool for a fighter attempting to return to their feet (wall walking). Bobby Hoffman was an incredible athlete and toppled titans of his era, but would only be remembered by old-school fight fans as his career soon fizzled out due to the demons that plagued many of his time (substance abuse, incarceration, domestic violence, etc).
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