Phil Baroni and Karo Parisyan recently clashed in a welterweight bout, at Bellator 122, that instantly brought me back to the infancy of my MMA mega fandom. In 2003, Baroni took the UFC by storm with his “New York Bad Ass” persona and brutal knockout power, and Parisyan made his UFC debut with an impressive display of Judo that shook the welterweight division. I was surprised I hadn’t heard about this fight until the morning of the event. Baroni and Parisyan are nowhere near the top ten today, but they are recognizable names from an era that ushered in the sport’s boom period.
Eleven years ago, Baroni was the favorite to capture the UFC’s vacant middleweight title, until a loss to Matt Lindland triggered a string of four consecutive defeats and subsequently released from the promotion. Baroni had a career resurgence in PRIDE where he knocked out Ryo Chonan, the consensus number one middleweight at the time. Parisyan went on to win four straight and earned a title shot against Matt Hughes. Unfortunately, a leg injury knocked him out of the bout. “The Heat” won his next fight, and then lost to Diego Sanchez, costing him his contender status, and never getting a shot at the championship. Since that time, Parisyan has battled an addiction to pain killers and issues with anxiety while Baroni toiled away on various shows trying to regain prime time status.
On fight night, the two veterans opened the show with unfamiliar names in the main event. There was no fanfare, no mention of their past exploits, just two former contenders looking for a return to glory. The broadcast began and Baroni danced his way to the cage wearing a sparkly robe with Parisyan already in the cage, stirring calmly back and forth. John McCarthy served as the referee, which was a nice touch of nostalgia since he surely would have refereed this bout if it has taken place back in the day. The fighters touched gloves and from there, it didn’t last long. Two minutes and six seconds to be precise. Both fighters came out swinging and clinched up against the cage. Parisyan created some separation and threw a left hook followed by a glancing right uppercut that stunned Baroni. Parisyan saw blood and stuck to him like white on rice, pounding him continuously until McCarthy rushed in to stop the fight. Karo Parisyan won via 1st round TKO.
While this fight was barely a blip on the radar, it brought me back to the MMA boom period where fighters like Chuck Liddell, Matt Hughes, BJ Penn, Mirko Cro Cop, Randy Couture, Rampage, Wanderlei Silva, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Fedor Emelianenko, and others engaged in amazing fights that made for some of the sport’s legendary nights. Today, these guys are either retired or on the backend of their careers and the lack of current stars makes me long for the MMA that I used to know. Even though Phil Baroni and Karo Parisyan are far, far away from divisional relevance, they are a product of the sport’s most prosperous and exciting era.