15 years ago today, April 19, 2008, from the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, UFC 83 took place. Though it has faded in the minds of many, at the time it was one of the most important events in the promotion’s history. It still holds a soft spot in the hearts of old school fans, however, but the reasons why are a little bit surprising. The simple truth is, UFC 83 featured one of the most comical moments in MMA history.
For those who on the younger end of the scale, or those whose interest in MMA is a recent adoption, UFC 83 is the event where Georges St-Pierre redeemed himself against Matt Serra and reclaimed the welterweight belt. There’s no doubt that was the most impactful contest on the card, but those who watched the event live walked away talking about something else entirely. They were discussing the birth of The Running Man….
In one of the most infamous fights in MMA history, Kalib Starnes spent the entirety of his fight with Nate Quarry literally on the run from the Team Quest representative. Don’t get me wrong, Quarry was a hard hitter in his heyday. All four of his UFC wins up to that point were stopped due to the power in his fists. But Starnes was a professional fighter in the premier MMA organization in the entirety of the world. It was an utterly embarrassing performance, so bad that one of the judges gave Quarry a 30-24 scorecard—10-8’s in every round. In the process, Starnes flushed his reputation down the toilet.
Starnes wasn’t ever going to be a star, but he’d proven himself to be a serviceable middleweight at the time. Had he lost a generic fight to Quarry, he probably could have hung around the Octagon for several more years. After all, he scored a decision win over Chris Leben that was awarded FOTN less than a year before UFC 83. That was a time when Leben was still being used by the UFC to draw eyeballs from his TUF fame. After his performance against Quarry, none of his accomplishments mattered. Starnes was cut from the organization and has never been able to shake ‘The Running Man’ label since.
It didn’t help him that Quarry mocked him with the Running Man motion and a post-fight interview that swung the last of the formerly pro-Starnes Canadian crowd over to his corner. In fact, I don’t think Quarry was ever more popular than just at that exact moment.
In other news on the UFC 83 card, GSP’s victory was the beginning of his 5-plus year reign as the welterweight champion that only ended when he relinquished the title. It spanned nine successive title defenses, the only fight remotely controversial being his final defense against Johny Hendricks. Serra was out of title contention immediately following the loss—moving on to settle his feud with Matt Hughes, but coming up short in an entertaining contest at UFC 98. After splitting two more contests, Serra was done fighting, focusing on his coaching career which has spawned multiple UFC champions.
It’s easy to overlook how prominent a fighter might become when they’re taking their first fight in the UFC. That wasn’t the case with Cain Velasquez. Everyone knew he was going to be a major player. His UFC debut was just the third professional fight of his career. It’s often heard from regional fighters with minimal experience that no one was willing to fight them. No one doubted that about Velasquez. The ease in which he destroyed Brad Morris only reinforced his reputation.
Aside from Velasquez’s opponent, the only other debuting fighter on the card was Jason Day. Readers wondering exactly who the heck that is are likely far from alone. The only reason his debut was notable was that he scored the biggest upset on the card, stepping in on short notice for Patrick Cote to blast Alan Belcher in the opening round. It was an impressive enough victory that it managed to get him on the poster of UFC 85. Day never secured another UFC win in his career, but did go on to become a successful Hollywood stuntman.
List of Champions
From a historical perspective, this was a stacked card with several past and—at the time—future champions. Aside from GSP and Serra, it also featured the aforementioned Velasquez, as well as Rich Franklin and Michael Bisping. Demian Maia was also early in his UFC run. He may not have won a title, but he did end his career in the top ten of all-time UFC wins. Plus, it featured what may have been the most violent finish of his career, putting Ed Herman to sleep.
Fights Worth Watching
The official FOTN was between Jonathan Goulet and Kuniyoshi Hironaka. It featured several near-finishes, including Goulet getting saved by the bell at the end of the first before the longtime GSP training partner put away his Japanese opponent for good about midway through the second. While it was a fun fight, it wasn’t my favorite.
That designation belongs to Mark Bocek and Mac Danzig. The choice may come as a surprise for some as most of the contest was spent on the mat, but that’s a big reason why I enjoyed it so much. The amount of fun grappling contests we get seems to have slowed to a trickle. The fight also featured an absolutely wicked knockdown in the second round, but it was the subtleties of the contest that drew me in. Heart and grit was on full display by both men. It was Danzig’s first fight after winning TUF 6, likely proving to be the high point of his UFC career as success proved fleeting.
Franklin’s fight with Travis Lutter was a fantastic comeback, probably the most notable of Franklin’s career. In fact, Franklin was able to turn the bout into the basis for a TED Talk, referring to it as his favorite fight. Franklin describes the peril he faced far better than I can, paying all the respect in the world to the abilities of Lutter in the process.
Though it has been broken several times over, UFC 83 was the highest attended UFC event at the time, with 21,390 fans packing the Bell Center in Montreal.
At a time when Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg weren’t just the go-to team—they were the only team—Rogan was absent from his usual color commentary duties. Instead, Kenny Florian got the call and performed admirably.
It was Bisping’s first UFC fight at 185 lbs, following his controversial loss to Rashad Evans at UFC 78. The way Bisping tore through Charles McCarthy, it was obvious why everyone was telling him up to that point he needed to move down. He did eventually become middleweight champ, so it’s safe to say the move paid off.
Originally, this event was titled UFC 84. However, the event originally scheduled to be title UFC 83 in England fell through. It did so early enough the UFC ultimately rebranded this event to what it has been known as ever since.
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