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Missed Fists: Juscelino Pantoja scores wild knockout, immediately crumbles with shoulder injury

Juscelino Pantoja and Lincon Santos at a Shooto Brasil event in Rio de Janeiro on March 17, 2023
@ChillemDafoe, Twitter

Welcome to the latest edition of Missed Fists where we shine a light on fights from across the globe that may have been overlooked in these hectic times where it seems like there’s an MMA show every other day.

Now that Johnny Walker has strung a couple of fast finishes together and once again looks like a respectable light heavyweight contender, it’s easy to forget that it wasn’t long ago that the charismatic Brazilian was being (justifiably) lambasted for injuring himself while doing the worm to celebrate a victory.

I bring this up because another Brazilian fighter, Juscelino Pantoja, recently found himself in extraordinary pain moments after scoring a highlight-reel knockout, though the circumstances are a little different.

(Big thanks as always to @Barrelelapierna for their weekly lists of the best KOs and submissions, and to @Grabaka_Hitman for uploading many of the clips you see here. Give them a follow and chip in on Patreon if you can.)

Juscelino Pantoja vs. Lincon Santos

So there’s a lot to unpack here.

From Shooto Brasil 116 (replay available on UFC Fight Pass) in Rio de Janeiro, Pantoja and opponent Lincon Santos threw down in a wild one that lasted just over a minute, with Pantoja scoring multiple knockdowns of a flailing Santos before finally landing a piston right that broke Santos’ ragdoll physics.

Immediately after, Pantoja grabs his left shoulder and it’s clear something isn’t right. If you watch the clip again, you’ll notice his left side is kind of funny and whatever is going on with it only gets worse with every chaotic exchange. Amusingly, despite being injured, Pantoja raises his arms to the heavens in celebration… and immediately regrets it.

Pantoja later posted about the fight on Instagram and, unsurprisingly, he was at less than 100 percent heading into this one.

Translation via Guilherme Cruz:

Only those who have followed me know how hard and complicated this camp was. I suffered a shoulder injury and to avoid pulling out I had to train through pain and spent so many sleepless nights in pain to make sure I could train the next day. I also had a virus infection a week before the fight that had me in bed, but I stayed focused and determined that that would be the result. This win is for you.

Pantoja improved to 5-0 with the win and let’s hope he gets plenty of time to recover before his next fight.

Billy Brand vs. Eddie Bernal

Also on UFC Fight Pass, Urijah Faber’s A1 Combat promotion held its ninth show (they grow up so fast!) and it featured an amusing walk-off knockout by Billy Brand that didn’t quite go as smoothly as he probably saw it in his head.

First, Brand didn’t look like he’d done quite enough to force the stoppage and it didn’t help that he nearly bumped into referee Frank Trigg on his first talk-off attempt. Oof. The second attempt worked out much better, though he kind of hesitated, probably because of what happened earlier.

You could also argue that Bernal was out of the fight on multiple occasions there, but keep in mind that Trigg is a man who’s been on the receiving end of some gnarly KOs himself, so he was happy to let Bernal go out on his shield.

Kemal Salih vs. Muhammed Ali Baldede

You know what, as strong as an example as that was of going out on your shield, this finish from German MMA Championship is going out on your shield:

That’s scary, right?

As noted by Caposa, it’s possible that Muhammed Ali Baldede may have mistaken the 10-second clapper for the round ending, but it’s also possible that he was just so exhausted and beaten down that he let his arms drop because there was nothing left there. Either way, it’s rare that you see a fighter just stand straight and eat a shot like that completely unprotected. I’d be grateful if I never saw it again.

Keisuke Sasu vs. Tateo Iida
Shohei Nose vs. Takumi Arai

Perfectly-placed spinning elbows, however? More please.

Keisuke Sasu brought us our cleanest KO of the week from a Shooto event in Tokyo, reading Tateo Iida like a book and driving the point of his elbow right into the side of his skull. The follow-up shots were unnecessary, but I think Sasu was caught off-guard by the effectiveness of his technique. He gets a pass.

Much more sadistic was Shohei Nose slowly twisting Takumi Arai’s arm into a position that seems medically inadvisable.

Elbow me in the head any day over that, please.

Biekenuer Zhahaer vs. Zhu Wancai
Range Tedan vs. Tao Hu

And over this too.

From a Wu Lin Feng event in Hunan, China, Biekenuer Zhahaer won his fourth straight fight with a terrifying twister submission of Zhu Wancai.

Like Nose’s finish, you get the sense that this was no accident, that Zhahaer knew exactly how to set Wancai up for disaster. And that he enjoyed it.

Range Tedan definitely enjoyed his knockout of Tao Hu.

We talk a lot about spinning and winning (see Sasu, Keisuke), but we don’t show enough love to winning and spinning.

Alisalam Mamedov vs. Keivon Woods
Ibrahim Al-Faqih Hassan vs. Mohammad Basem

If you’d indulge me, please take a moment to take our survey of who had the best buggy choke this past weekend.

Was it Alisalam Mamedov’s from Cage Wars 57 in Schenectady, N.Y.?

Or Ibrahim Al-Faqih Hassan’s from one of three UAE Warriors events this past weekend?

Both finishes had a feeling of inevitability to them and in both instances, the losing fighter seemed to tap not out of panic, but acceptance.


Who Buggy’d It Better?

This poll is closed

  • 47%
    Alisalam Mamedov
    (45 votes)
  • 52%
    Ibrahim Al-Faqih Hassan
    (49 votes)
94 votes total Vote Now

Wilson Varela vs. Tapiwa Katikati
Mahmoud Atef vs. Fouad Al Shami

And while we’re comparing finishes, take a look at these two eerily similar counter left hook knockouts from UAE Warriors’ weekend.

Both finishes were lightning fast too, with Wilson Varela making it past the line at 20 seconds, and Mahmoud Atef doing him better at 15. Same promotion, same weekend. MMA is poetry, man.

You can catch up with all the UAE Warriors events on UFC Fight Pass and in case you missed it, make sure you read about the disoriented fighter who almost started an entirely new fight with a referee after being knocked out.

Gustavo Gabriel vs. Paul Marquez Moreno

Gustavo Gabriel didn’t have much luck in his Contender Series appearance over four years ago, but if there’s any justice in the world, this head kick from Supreme Fight Night 3 in Tuxtla Gutierrez, Mexico, will get him back on the UFC’s radar.

Head kick. Instant faceplant.

You can watch a free replay of Supreme Fight Night 3 on YouTube.

Andi Vrtacic vs. Mateusz Janur

From KSW 80, my personal favorite Humpty Dumpty Fall of the Week:

No, Andi Vrtacic’s knockout of Mateusz Janur didn’t produce the usual jumble of splayed limbs that usually win this award; rather, Janur is essentially in some form of falling for the duration of this clip and it’s only when his body realizes that it should actually go down that the bout is officially over.

Christopher Ewert vs. Luis Avila

Our Humpty Dumpty runner-up goes to Christopher Ewert and Luis Avila from Ragnarok Combate 5 in Chile (free replay available on YouTube).

You can see in the clip that Avila’s chin was just way out there and when Ewert got in range to line up an elbow, he didn’t miss. Avila was already on dream street when Ewert followed up by popping him in the jaw and then landing another left hand with Avila at a 45-degree angle to the mat.

Willian Rafael vs. Matheus Riquelme

Lastly, at Imortal Fighting Championship (free replay available on YouTube) in Curitiba, Brazil, we saw Willian Rafael pick up a win with a nasty body kick that was slightly marred by some lackadaisical officiating.

That kick completely froze Matheus Riquelme and maybe the referee as well because he took his team waddling in there before politely asking Rafael to please stop with the punching. Let’s pick up the pace next time, ref.

If you know of a recent fight or event that you think may have been overlooked, or a promotion that could use some attention, please let us know on Twitter — @AlexanderKLee — using the hashtag #MissedFists.

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