Zuluzinho vs. Dumpling’s Slapping Duel: A (Retro) Review

In Honor of MMA Icon Zuluzinho's latest fight, a look back at his iconic slap competition.

Content warning for prison imagery in the piece.

This week, PRIDE alum “Zuluzinho” was back in the headlines after a somewhat peculiar display at an AMC Fight Nights event held in Russia. After knocking down his opponent and celebrating too soon, the 42-year-old veteran ended up losing a decision and snapping a three-fight winning streak in the process.

On this site, however, we don’t believe one mishap should dim the shine of  the endlessly charismatic “Zuluzinho.” So, rather than dwell on this recent loss, we’ve decided to revisit brighter times for the Brazilian — namely, his involvement in this *unique* form of athletic competition/performance art that dazzled/horrified us all last year.

If you’re wondering how exactly getting slapped in the face by a massive individual nicknamed Dumpling in what appears to be a Russian prison can be interpreted a “brighter time,” some context: Not only was Zuluzinho able to stay upright against a feared face-slapping champion — a feat not everyone is able to achieve — but he managed to walk away with a draw and half of the money reserved to the winner. Whereas we, as a people, got to walk away with the beautifully confounding piece of audiovisual artistry that we break down below.

P.S: I interviewed “Zuluzinho” a few weeks after the tournament, for a story that was never published. He explained at the time that the invite came from Russia’s Fight Nights Global, with whom he had a deal with for MMA fights, but that he wasn’t aware he was going to be facing a champion at the occasion. For his part, he said the only slap-specific training he did was slap punching bags, but he’d heard that others “put their hand in hot water, break watermelons” as part of their preparation. Zuluzinho wasn’t satisfied with a mere draw, but he said he came back “wanting more” and wanted another shot at the competition.

Iconic MMA fighter Zuluzinho's performance in a Russian slapping competition.


An iconic, heroic performance, in a very different sport than he's used to.

  • Intricate backstory with elements of surrealism
  • Extremely high production values
  • Clear set of rules, thoroughly explained and enforced by a referee
  • Charismatic host
  • Veiled criticism of the prison-industrial complex
  • Large men getting voluntarily slapped in the face
  • Immediate payments in hard cash
  • Existence of large face-slapping champion nicknamed “Dumpling”
  • Award-worthy costume design, editing & sound mixing
  • Mid-video ad of what appears to be a Russian dating service
  • Large men getting voluntarily slapped in the face
  • That one security guy in the background trying to keep his cool and failing
  • Zuluzinho’s commitment to the bit
  • Zuluzinho’s whole vibe, honestly
  • Ethics & sportsmanship
  • Several unanswered questions
  • Apparently a slap sent Dumpling into a “mini coma” once
  • Should I even ask about medicals?
  • Or doping control?
  • Prison storyline could use a more sensitive touch
  • No English subtitles in the ad for Russian dating service
  • Could use more slaps
  • It ends

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.