Friday, June 4, 2010 | 4 p.m.
At the end of the first round of his heavyweight bout last Saturday with Todd Duffee at UFC 114, Mike Russow was dealing with some brutal physical ailments.
After Duffee landed seemingly endless shots during five minutes of one-sided, stand-up combat, Russow's face was swollen and red.
To boot, while blocking a head kick from Duffee with 15 seconds left in the round, Russow suffered a break in his left forearm.
What kept him moving forward? Well, there was a combination of pride and a lingering belief that he still could win.
It made sense that he didn't throw in the towel, as those five minutes really were nothing compared to what he had seen in his seven-plus years as a Chicago police officer.
His turf in the Windy City? The rough-and-tumble south side, with a side of action in the city's equally turbulent west side. He's kept there mainly as part of a specialized unit which roams between areas where crime happens to be fledgling.
"I've been in car chases, I've been shot at — in police work, you just never know when things are going to go wrong," Russow said. "You can go into a traffic stop which you think will be normal, then in a second, things get bad.
"It's a great place to be a cop, because there's all kinds of action here, you know?"
In mixed martial art terms, things were pretty bad for Russow at the end of the first round against Duffee. Despite that, he trucked on, landing a few shots but receiving plenty more until he found his spot midway through the third round.
Duffee continued to land shots in the latter portion of the fight just as he had early on, but with Russow unwilling to go down, he began to appear somewhere between fatigued and frustrated.
Still, as Duffee was en route to an impressive unanimous-decision victory, he was stunned by an overhand right from Russow, forcing his carved-from-stone 6-foot-3 frame to stiffen up and fall straight back to the canvas.
In an instant, Russow scored one of the most unexpected knockout victories anyone had ever seen.
"I saw his hands kind of drop a little bit and I just threw it," Russow said. "I haven't even watched it yet. I was kind of disgusted, and I'll probably watch it next week or something.
What disgusted Russow was his performance up to that point, as the lifelong wrestler who has created his MMA niche by winning fights on the ground couldn't find any way to get the fight into his comfort zone.
"For me, my game, every fight except this one, has been to get in there close and try to take him down, ground-and-pound and set up for a submission," he said. "I was just shooting sloppy shots, and Todd Duffee is a big, strong guy. I don't make excuses. I just couldn't execute."
While Duffee wasn't allowing Russow many clear openings for a takedown, Russow's broken left arm also didn't help.
He said he knew something was wrong when he went to his corner after the first round, but didn't know the extent.
"It was killing me," he said. "With all of that adrenaline going, it was still hurting."
It didn't stop Russow from loading up and trading with Duffee for another seven-plus minutes, including with a handful of lefts despite the pain.
After the fight, he was sent to the hospital and it was diagnosed as a clean break of the ulna, which did not require surgery, but will keep Russow out of the gym for six to eight weeks.
He was medically suspended until Nov. 26 because of the injury, but could return sooner if cleared by doctors.
The arm also led to a one-month medical leave from the police force when Russow returned home. But the blow of having to be out of the office for so long was eased not only by the $65,000 Knockout of the Night bonus he took home on top of his $24,000 earned in the victory, but the sort of legend that he created among the Chicago police with the fateful punch.
"A lot of guys are into MMA, they're all excited and happy for me," he said. "Almost everyone is saying 'I couldn't believe it.' People were in shock, I think.
"I'm the last person someone would think would get Knockout of the Night. I improved, but my game is just wrestling and pretty much jiu jitsu."
What it will do moving forward simply is create a bigger buzz for whenever Russow fights next.
He admits that the win looks more impressive because it was such an emphatic knockout as opposed to a submission or decision. If anyone would understand the hype that can come from a vicious end to a fight like that, it's Duffee, who in his debut with the organization at UFC 102 in August knocked out Tim Hague in just seven seconds — a UFC record.
That win earned Duffee, at just 24 years old, some steam as arguably the heavyweight division's top young prospect. On the same card, Russow also made his UFC debut, taking a less-heralded unanimous-decision victory over Justin McCully.
Russow is 33 — not nearly as young as Duffee — and admits he still needs plenty of development if he wants to make some waves in the division.
He said that will include plenty of work on his stand-up. Only two of his other 13 career fights have ended in knockouts — both victories. Eight of his wins have come via submission and two from the judges' scorecards.
But learning in a win that will be talked about for quite some time is never a bad thing.
"It was a great win, and I think the way it happened, talking to my manager and coaches, with the arm, I really couldn't grab anymore, so even if I did get him down, I don't know how much I really would have been able to do," he said. "Plus, I learned a lot about my chin. I've never really been punched before.
"I showed that I could take a hit, and it was exciting."