7th April 1995, Independence Arena, Charlotte, North Carolina, USA.
There’s a bit of a change of format for this event. In addition to the eight-man tournament, there’s a ‘Super Fight” which will crown the first UFC Champion-proper. The winner of the night’s tournament will be the next in line to challenge the Super Fight champion next time round. The commentary is provided by the now regular team of Bruce Beck, Jim Brown and Jeff Blatnik. There’s a new ring announcer for the night too, with Rich ‘Go Go’ Goins being replaced by Ron Jeremy (no, not that one).
The tournament gets underway with Andy “The Hammer” Anderson fighting Jon Hess. As well as his various Black Belts, Anderson boasts an 86-0 bare knuckle challenge match record, all won by KO. He’s also pledging to donate the $50,000 to children’s charities if he wins it. Long way to go yet Andy, but nice gesture. Jon Hess is 6’7” and 295lbs, to Anderson’s 5’9” and 238lbs. Despite being only 26, Hess is claiming to be a 4th degree master in his own fighting style of SAFTA (Scientifically Aggressive Fighting Technology of America). It doesn’t look very scientific as the fight begins. You remember at school when the big awkward fat kid got made to face the tough kid in a prearranged fight, but instead of taking a beating like he was supposed too, he charged the length of the school yard and crashed furiously into his opponent? It looks like that. Anderson tries to take Hess down but he’s just too big. He gives up on the grappling and collapses to the canvas when Hess rakes across his eyes with a clawed hand. Despite the ‘No Holds Barred’ headline, eye gouging is one of the few techniques prohibited, and this is a bad one. Hess drops down on Anderson, and although now blinded, Anderson manages to reverse Hess and end up on top. More eye gouging draws a scream of agony from Anderson and a warning from John McCarthy to pack it in. They stand and Hess unloads on Anderson until McCarthy pulls him off and stops the contest. Nasty fight!
The second quarter final matches Jeet Kun Do fighter Todd Medina against kickboxer Larry “Thunder Foot” Cureton who looks really tasty on the heavy bag in his VT. Although Cureton is four inches taller, he gives up 30lbs in weight to the stocky Medina. Cureton is unable to stop an immediate takedown by Medina and straight away, any advantage he may have had in striking is taken away. Initially, Cureton looks like he’s got a decent guillotine choke going, but Medina pops his head out, then brings in down into Cureton’s face a couple of dozen times. Medina passes to side control, leans the blade of his forearm on Cureton’s throat and drops a couple more head butts. Cureton has had enough and taps. After the fight, it looks like Medina has come off worse from the head butts than Cureton, despite winning the fight.
Next up is classic grappler v striker match up of Oleg “The Russian Bear” Taktarov against Ernie Verdecia. The fight goes a little clumsily to the ground immediately, with Verdecia on top. Taktarov keeps it tight from the bottom, then just over two minutes in, sweeps Verdecia and cranks a headlock from side mount. A relatively straight forward win for Taktarov.
The last quarter final is the eponymous Dan “The Beast” Severn facing Joe Charles, who was an alternate in UFC 4, and who missed out on fighting Severn that night by virtue of a coin toss. There’s some serious meat in the Octagon with Charles and Severn both weighing in at 260lbs, plus Big John McCarthy not far behind them. Severn catches a Charles kick and drives him hard into the fence and down to the canvas. After taking a bit of punishment, Charles attempts an arm bar from the bottom, but Severn pulls out of it. As Charles rolls away, Severn slams on a rear naked choke and it’s over.
Jon Hess is a no-show for his semi-final (broke all his fingernails on Andy Anderson’s cornea maybe). He’s replaced by Canadian grappler Dave Beneteau who beat Wing Chun practitioner Asbel Cancio in 21 seconds in his prelim. He’s up against Todd Medina, who’s face is a bit of a mess from using it as his primary weapon in his opening fight. Beneteau wastes no time putting Medina on his back and unloads some big punches. Medina quickly calls it a night and taps.
The Second Semi is The Russian Bear vs The Beast. As expected this goes to the ground quickly and Severn begins mauling Taktarov with a mixture of punches, open palm strikes and the odd head butt. Taktarov attempts an arm bar from the bottom, but it’s like trying to submit an angry bear. Severn drops several sickening knees on Taktarov’s skull which open him up. Some more head butts and knees go in. Eventually, John McCarthy has seen enough and steps in to save Taktarov.
Next up is the Super Fight between Ken Shamrock and Royce Gracie. A 30 minute time limit was instituted before the event, due to UFC 4 over-running it’s PPV slot well before the final. It’s a good job, because otherise, they might still be fighting today.
[EDIT: at the time of writing, bizarrely, they actually ARE fighting today!!.Bellator 149 is being held at the Toyota Center, Houston, Texas, headlined by Royce Gracie v Ken Shamrock. 21 years since UFC 5. Hopefully, the rematch is a bit more “Super.”]
[EDIT 2: It wasn’t.]
The fight is on the mat in under a minute and is a grind from the outset. There are bursts of energy and activity, but it’s basically a stalemate, with Ken stuck in Royce’s guard for 30 minutes. A 5 minute overtime is agreed, but other than Royce taking some facial damage in the opening exchange, it’s no different to the previous session. After 36 total minutes the first Super Fight is declared an anti-climactic draw.
The tournament final will have to save the night. Severn and Beneteau are both well rested and undamaged from their previous fights. They clinch up from the outset, and the two huge men fight for control. A couple of minutes in, Severn trips Beneteau, and instead of pounding on him, as he has with his previous opponents, he goes straight for a key-lock submission and gets a quick tap. Great performance by Severn to dominate the night.
Dan Severn was thoroughly deserving of the nick name “The Beast” and his performance was the highlight of the event.