MMA is no stranger to gruesome injuries. Broken limbs, torn ligament, facial lacerations, and busted teeth. All these things are regular occurrences in combat sports. And just that much more likely in an arena like mixed martial arts that allows for ground and clinch striking, and a variety of submission holds.
Every now and then though, we get an injury that feels rare even to MMA. This time around it’s a cauliflower ear explosion. The incident came via a fight card down in Tijuana, Mexico, where Ultimate Warrior Challenge Mexico held UWC 43 this past Friday. Headlining was UWCM featherweight champion Dorian Ramos, making the second defense of his title against José Peñaloza.
MMA fighter Jose Peñaloza’s ear explodes at UWC 43
Jose Peñaloza came into this fight with a nasty cauliflower ear—which unfortunately made for an easy target for Dorian Ramos. The UWCM champion punished Peñaloza with some ground-and-pound that led to his ear swelling up three times its size. One of the commentators noticed and gave us this gem: “Peñaloza’s ear is about to pop”—a call that would come true as the fight continued.
As Ramos and Peñaloza came out for the second round, referee Luis Cobian called for the cageside physician to check the ear. He allowed ‘Relámpago’ to continue, which meant, that Ramos got back to a dominating top control position to unleash some more ground-n-pound. This time, Peñaloza’s ear didn’t survive. The blood poured, and all Peñaloza could do was try and cover up from the onslaught of punches and elbows from Ramos until the referee waved off the fight.
You can watch the fight-ending sequence here, courtesy of UFC Fight Pass:
With the loss, Peñaloza fell to 3-2 as a professional.
Jose Peñaloza joins the Wounded Ear Club
As aforementioned, cauliflower ear explosions are rare, so I thought we could go over some more examples while I still have you here. Exciting, right?
Shigeyuki Uchiyama — 2010
This one is different because, unlike the other examples on this list, Shigeyuki Uchiyama’s ear explosion wasn’t due to a punch or elbow. No, this one happened when Uchiyama and Masaya Takita fell through the ropes during a takedown attempt in their fight at Pancrase: Passion Tour 5 in 2010. At some point, the top of Uchiyama’s ear was torn off and laid on the canvas until the Pancrase officials noticed it. The fight ended, and Uchiyama was transported to the hospital. He needed several surgeries, but his ear was reattached.
Check out Uchiyama’s ear, courtesy of Caposa:
Note: This is supposed to be a short list, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell everyone to also check out what happened to Kazushi Sakuraba’s ear at Dynamite!! 2010—six months after Uchiyama’s injury.
Leslie Smith — 2014
When we’re discussing ear explosions, we have to mention Leslie Smith. Her ear was slowly split open during her fight against Jessica Eye at UFC 180 in 2014. Toward the end of the first round, Smith’s left ear was pouring blood after getting hit with a few right hands from Eye. The ringside physician assessed the damage and determined Smith could continue—things didn’t last long beyond that.
Another right hand in the second round saw Smith’s ear completely split and this time, the ringside physician waved off the fight, to the chagrin of Smith, who was pleading in Spanish to continue. She may not have got the win, but she did get an invite from WWE legend Mick Foley to an exclusive club: the Wounded Ear Club.
Johnny Campbell and Ramiz Brahimaj — 2020
We had two (!) ear explosions within the span of a few weeks in 2020. The first one happened at Taura MMA 10, where Ary Farias destroyed Johnny Campbell’s ear in less than 30 seconds. After getting Campbell to the ground, the Brazilian unleashed one hell of an elbow that left his flesh dangling off his head.
Check it out, courtesy of Jason Hagholm:
A few weeks later at UFC Vegas 13, Ramiz Brahimaj saw his promotional debut come to an end after Max Griffin nearly tore his ear off with an elbow in the third round of their fight. As Dominick Cruz quipped, his ear was “literally falling off his head.” Ouch.
Here it is, courtesy of UFC president Dana White:
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