On Saturday’s UFC broadcast, Kevin Randleman was announced as part of this year’s UFC Hall of Fame Class as part of the Pioneer Wing of fighters.
Randleman wrestled at Ohio State University becoming a two-time NCAA champion. He wrestled at 167 pounds in 1991 where he placed 2nd at the NCAA championships and won the championship at 177 pounds in 1992 and 1993.
He became synonymous with the Hammer House team when he made the move to Mixed Martial Arts after his collegiate career. It was Mark Coleman that opened the door for Randleman with the former serving as a coach of Randleman’s at Ohio State.
He began his career fighting in Vale Tudo as part of a one-night tournament in Brazil for the Universal Vale Tudo Fighting group on October 22, 1996. Randleman scored TKO victories over Luiz Carlos Macial, Canadian Geza Kalman, and Dan Bobish to win that night’s tournament.
He returned for another tournament on March 3, 1997, winning a 20-minute decision against Ebenezer Fontes Braga, a TKO over Mario Neto at 11:24 before he was submitted by Carlos Barreto with a triangle choke in the final. His total fight time that night over the three fights amounted to 53 minutes and 48 seconds.
He entered the UFC’s heavyweight division on March 5, 1999, at UFC 19 and earned a decision against former champion Maurice Smith. It earned Randleman a heavyweight shot for the vacant title against Bas Rutten in May 1999. Their fight at UFC 20 was one of the most controversial of its era when fights were scored as a whole and not the ten-point must-system.
Rutten won by split decision but would never defend the title as it was vacated.
At UFC 23, Randleman and Pete Williams fought for the vacant heavyweight title with Randleman becoming champion after earning a unanimous decision.
In one of the strangest fight cancellations in UFC history, Randleman’s title defense against Pedro Rizzo at UFC 24 on March 10, 2000, was called off after Randleman slipped backstage warming up and was taken to the hospital. It delayed the fight by several months with Randleman defeating Rizzo at UFC 26 in June 2000 by decision.
After losing the title to Randy Couture at UFC 28 in November 2000, he moved down to light heavyweight and was knocked out by Chuck Liddell at UFC 31. He would have one more fight in UFC defeating Renato ‘Babalu’ Sobral at UFC 35 and was his last fight with the promotion.
In 2002, he ventured into professional wrestling making his debut for All Japan Pro Wrestling in November 2002 teaming with Mark Coleman and losing to Hiroshi Hase & Satoshi Kojima.
Randleman was an outstanding athlete and was a natural at professional wrestling with many believing he could excel if he dedicated himself to it fully. He would continue with Zero-One and HUSTLE, the latter under the same ownership as Pride. While at HUSTLE, Randleman & Coleman once had a match with Shinya Hashimoto & Toshiaki Kawada in March 2004 at the Yokohama Arena.
He went to Pride and fought for the organization eleven times between 2002 and 2006.
The biggest win of his career came on April 25, 2004, during the Pride Heavyweight Grand Prix, when he knocked out Mirko Cro Cop at the Saitama Super Arena and featured one of the sport’s legendary calls when Mauro Ranallo proclaimed “Kevin Randleman has knocked out Mirko Cro Cop” at the top of his lungs. Ranallo later called it the most memorable call of his career.
He advanced to face Fedor Emelianenko in the second round where he slammed the Russian onto his head and Emelianenko, like cast doubt on his classification as a human with how he responded and came back to win the fight moments later with a kimura.
The bright spots were greatly overshadowed by the defeats he suffered during the final years of his career often showing signs of spectacular ability but ultimately coming up short and losing fights he would be favored to win.
After Pride went out of business in 2007, he fought for World Victory Road, and Strikeforce and had his final fight in Russia in May 2011 losing to Baga Agaev.
His career record was 17-16 and he joins Georges St-Pierre and the UFC 165 fight between Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson as part of the UFC’s Hall of Fame class this year.
Randleman died on February 11, 2016, after being admitted to the hospital with pneumonia and suffered heart failure.
He was 44 years old and left behind his widow Elizabeth and children Calvin, Jasmine, Madolyn, and Santino.