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Bloody Sambo vs. Taekwondo fight from early days of MMA ends unexpectedly

It's Russian sambo vs. Korean taekwondo in this early mixed rules bout from 1995.

"The hardest part about marrying a Russian chick is fighting her dad."

Please note, the strikes to the back of the heads, the soccer kicks, the lack of gloves were all legal - this was from the earliest days of modern MMA, long before the Unified Rules were formalized.

This fight is from one the most epic events in the history of MMA, the Absolute Fighting Championship 1, held on September 25, 1995, at Luzhniki Sports Arena, in Moscow, Russia. Modern MMA was born with an 8 man tournament, but they have fallen from favor for being too brutal. This was a 32-man tournament. The eventual winner had to fight five times, but that's another story.

This is one amazing fight from the tournament. The video is woefully mistitled, as it is not Judo vs. Kyokushin karate, but instead Sambo vs. Taekwondo. Among those who really know, the Sambo representative is a legend in Swedish MMA.

If you ask Scandinavian mixed martial arts enthusiasts who the Father of MMA in Sweden is, they would probably guess August Wallen or perhaps Omar Bouiche. However, that honor goes not to Wallen or Bouiche, but to the man who taught both of them, Bulgarian-born, Sweden-based Sambo master Nikolay Malmqvist.

Sambo is in fact a form of mixed martial arts, in some important regards. The definition of MMA is a sport that recognizes as a means to win both a knockout from standing, and a submission on the ground. That is Combat Sambo, and it was practiced in the former USSR at least as far back as the 1970s, long before modern MMA began in 1993.

This fight features Malmqvist vs. Rustam Talibov, a Dagestani fighter in WTF (Olympic Taekwondo) gi pants, who employs some of the techniques characteristic of that style. The Taekwondo stylist, in addition to being in relentless shape, is also familiar enough with ground fighting to last. MMA is now its own sport, but in those days, it was style vs. style, and these two offered very opposing styles.

Malmqvist looks like he's wandering through Walmart trying to find fudge-striped cookies, for a jolly day at the beach. His opponent, some 16 years younger, is chiseled.

Malmqvist had gone to the event to corner a student against the Taekwondo representative, but when his student withdrew, Malmqvist stepped up, despite being nearly 40, and not being in condition. He put on an excellent demonstration of Combat Sambo.


The official record says the bout ended at 4:21 of Round 1, via TKO in favor of Talibov, due to exhaustion. Talibov then fell face first into the mat with delight. 

The Takeaways

Malmqvist's student say their coach looked at all the blood pouring from the back of his opponent's head and called it a day. And of course anyone not mindful for the great Karl Gotch's maxim - "Conditioning is your best hold" - doesn't understand MMA. 

Setting conditioning aside, Malmqvist won most of that fight, for a number of reasons, including that a good grappler will usually beat a good striker. Please note, this is not an absolute rule, it is instead like the less controversial boxing adage - "A good big ban beats a good little man." So This is not to say a blue belt in jiu-jitsu can beat Mike Tyson. 

Ironically, when both people can grapple, the fight is typically decided by strikes. Further, it far easier to learn how to strike, and how to stop a takedown, then it is to learn how to defend against strikes, and how to execute a takedown. So the issue is a complex one.

And today, we don't have to study either a grappling art or a striking art, we can do both, in MMA. 

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