One of the greatest fighters to ever grace the sport of mixed martial arts. Mark Coleman burst on to the MMA scene at UFC 10, and he established wrestling as a dominant form of fighting that could compete and beat any other martial art if used properly. Born in Freemont, Ohio 45 years ago, Coleman is a modern Legend of Ohio athletics. He began wrestling as a teenager before attending Miami University in Ohio. He won two MAC Conference wrestling titles before transferring to The Ohio State University for his senior year, where he went on to win the Division 1 national wrestling title. After college, then nicknamed the Antidote, wrestled for America in the 1992 olympics and placed 7th. At that time MMA was only just getting started, and the UFC was barely alive, staging no weight class tournaments with basically no rules, and competitors would fight several times in a night.
In 1996, at UFC 10, a young wrestler burst on to the scene and The Hammer was born. At UFC 10 he absolutely dominated his opposition. He had 3 fights, on the same night, and won all three in under 12 minutes (there were no rounds then, just a 20 minute fight), one win by TKO, one submission and one KO. No one had ever seen a wrestler, especially of Coleman’s size and strength, 6’1” and 265 pounds then, be so quick and effective. In that first tournament, and again at UFC 11, he established the dominance of the American wrestler. His time in the UFC, Pride and back in the UFC led the way for current heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar and many others, who now saw wrestling as a legitimate fighting style. Georges St. Pierre, the best pound for pound fighter in the world, is a world class wrestler, so that just goes to show you the impact of Mark Coleman on the sport. At UFC 11 the next year, he had only 2 fights to win the UFC tournament, winning both fights in under 2:20. He became known as the creator of the ground and pound, one of the most dangerous and effective techniques in the MMA. He is the “Godfather of the Ground and Pound”. The next year at UFC 12, he won the first ever heavyweight championship match in the UFC becoming the first heavyweight champion. Coleman had cemented his status as one of the best fighters to ever step into the octagon.
What followed this early success for Coleman was a stretch of controversial and unsuccessful fights where his size and conditioning worked against him, and after losing 3 fights in a row he left the UFC. He turned his attention on the PRIDE fighting league. Fighting for PRIDE he kickstarted another immensely talented and famous fighting organization. He won the PRIDE Grand Prix tournament in 2000 easily, dominating all of his competition. He went on to have a successful tenure there with a 9-5 record with PRIDE, with his losses coming to the likes of Mirko Cro Cop and Fedor Emilianenko, which launched their careers and put them on the MMA map, as well as a loss to Antonio Rodrigo Noguiera. He gave Emilienko probably his toughest fight ever, and that was when Coleman was 39 years old. He lost again to Emilianenko in 2006, at 41 years old, in his last fight for PRIDE, and it also marked the end of Coleman’s career as a heavyweight. He dropped down to 205 to fight in the light heavyweight class back in the UFC in 2009 after a 3 year hiatus. He came back to the UFC to fight Maricio Shogun Rua, who he had beaten 3 years before and won when he snapped Rua’s arm in half in an armbar. The 44 year old Coleman would not fair as well this time as Rua won by TKO and went on to challenge Lyota Machida for the UFC Light Heavyweight championship title later in the year.
After a win against Stephan Bonnar at UFC 100, Coleman was looking for his next fight, as was another 45 year old UFC Hall of Famer, Randy Couture. These two legends of the Octagon will face off against one another at UFC 109 on Saturday February 6th. The first time two hall of famers will meet in a fight, and it marks the first time that the two fighters will have ever battled each other. Coleman and Couture have both done tremendous things for the sport of mixed martial arts, and at advanced ages are trying to re-establish themselves in the UFC and make one last title run. Couture recently lost his heavyweight title to Brock Lesnar which sparked his drop down to the 205 pound weight class, and it is at this weight that these to goliaths will take each other on. When Coleman first returned to the UFC it was to fight Brock Lesnar, however a knee injury forced him out of the match in the weeks leading up to the fight. So we never will get to see the man who has since mastered Coleman’s craft fight the originator of the ground and pound and the first huge wrestler to take over the MMA world.
The Hammer fights out of Columbus, Ohio, and really is a legendary figure in MMA and in Ohio sports history. Only time will tell if this Saturday’s fight will be his last hurrah, or if it will mark another legendary chapter in the story of The Hammer.