16th December 1994, Expo Square Pavillion, Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA.
After the debacle that was UFC 3, this included three alternate bouts to make sure no one walked straight into the final without fighting. There were some returning fighters from earlier events and some great first timers. We also have a new commentary team of anchor Bruce Beck and color commentator Jeff Blatnick. They are joined by the ever-present Jim Brown.
The first fight of the night is the 51 year old Ron ‘The Black Dragon’ Van Clief who is drawn against Royce Gracie. Van Clief comes out in the now standard Gracie-esque human train. He looks in great shape, and that’s not even just “for his age.” Royce has Van Clief on the canvas in seconds, mounting with relative ease. After a couple of minutes of short strikes, Royce raises up and drops a few heavier ones. Van Clief rolls to his front, Royce works in a choke and gets the tap.
Next up is a returning Keith Hackney who fought and beat 6’8” 616lb behemoth Emanuel Yarborough in the previous tournament. This time he faces Joe Son, manager of UFC 3 competitor Kimo, who is a much more manageable 5’4” and 220lb. When you’ve watched this fight, it stays watched. After a couple of early exchanges, Joe Son gets a body lock and drops Hackney to the canvas. They stand, with Hackney trapped in a front headlock, he lands a big uppercut to Joe Son’s groin which is a taste of things to come. Son drives Hackney back to the cage and they crash to the mat with Hackney on top and Son on his back. Hackney lands half a dozen full power, eye watering punches to the groin which makes Son let go of the head lock he’s been attempting, and makes every man watching cross his legs and take a sharp intake of breath. Hackney presses down on Sons throat with one arm and appears to be attempting to relieve him of his bright red trunks with the other. Son taps and Hackney moves on. Don’t shed any tears for Joe Son and the brutal groin shots he took though. I won’t go into detail here, but take a look at his Wikipedia page and what he’s currently serving life for. Not a good guy. In fact, it’s a shame Keith Hackney didn’t get at him a decade early and permanently crush those stones.
Boxer Melton Bowen is next up, facing defending champion, Steve Jennum. Bowen is the first fighter to compete in open hand 4oz gloves and is what you might call ‘a specimen’. Jennum initially keeps the fight at kicking distance, and the first time Bowen gets close enough to wing a hook, Jennum ducks under and gets his hands on him. Jennum takes Bowen down, mounts, creates some distance and drops some bombs, including a really nasty looking head butt. Bowen manages to briefly find a way back to his feet but is hip-tossed back down and once again mounted. Jennum drops everything he has on Bowen’s head pausing briefly to attempt a key lock, before going back to raining down punches. Just when it looks like Jennum is running out of ideas and gas, Bowen offers up an arm, Jennum grab hold of it and finishes with an arm bar. Absolutely exhausted, our defending champion is forced to retire from the tournament following this win.
The last quarter final gives us our first look at Dan ‘The Beast’ Severn. At 6’2” and 260lbs he dwarfs his opponent Anthony ‘Mad Dog’ Marcias who allegedly has home field advantage. At 5’10 and 190lbs, he’s going to need more than having some friends in the crowd. As the fight starts, Marcias throws a few harmless leg kicks, and as Severn gets hold of him and drags him to the mat, a few elbows go in too. That just enrages Severn who starts throwing Marcias about like a rag doll, including a couple of sickening suplexes. Severn struggles to find an actual submission, and just resorts to trying to squeeze Marcias’ brains out of his ears. That has the desired result and gets the tap.
The first semi-final is Royce Gracie against Keith Hackney. It takes Royce a few attempts to get into grappling range, and takes some punishment on the way in. They clinch against the fence and Royce delivers several decent knees to Hackneys head. Royce gets a grip on a dazed Hackney, pulls guard, and after a couple of failed triangle attempts, switches to an arm bar resulting in Hackney tapping.
As Steve Jennum is out, Dan Severn needs a new opponent from one of the three winning alternates. I like to imagine that the decision on who got the dubious honour of facing The Beast was sorted out by someone standing in front of a lined up Joe Charles, Guy Mezger and Marcus Bossett and saying, “Right lads, I need a volunteer to fight Dan Severn.” Charles and Mezger catch each other’s eye and deftly take a step backwards. “Good man, Marcus, well volunteered.” *Gulp!* Actually, it was decided by a coin toss, but I like my mental picture better. Bossett is a traditional karate guy and is here to show the kids, if you set your mind to it, you can achieve anything. Bossett opens up with a solid kick to Severn’s body which momentarily stuns the big man. Emboldened by that, Bossett attempts a spinning kick and pays for it be being dumped unceremoniously on his back. Severn mounts and starts attempting to remove Bossett’s head from his shoulders, who decides the best example to set his young students is that sometimes a quick tap is preferable to decapitation.
So, the final is a real David and Goliath affair, with Royce Gracie facing Dan Severn, and truth be told, it’s a bit of a grind. Royce is on his back in under a minute and is trapped there for the rest of the fight. If Severn had any kind of a submission game, or even any striking, the fight could have been over early. Severn’s strategy is essentially to crush Royce into submission. After a grueling ten minute mauling, Royce throws his legs up for an attempted triangle choke. “Nothing there,” exclaims a clueless Jeff Blatnik who’s been relentlessly pimping wrestling from the off and doesn’t see any way Severn can be beat. Severn (nor Blatnik) doesn’t realise how much danger he’s in, or that stacking Royce has he’s doing is the only thing saving him from getting choked unconscious. Royce is forced to let it go and takes another few minutes of punishment. Quarter of an hour in and Royce throws a second triangle attempt up. “Nothing there, there’s nothing there,” again professes Blatnik. To everyone’s complete surprise, except Royce and his corner (who they’re right in front of), Severn taps before he passes out. Royce has worked so hard for this, that he REALLY doesn’t want to let it go. He squeezes with every remaining ounce of strength he has before John McCarthy peels him off. Incredible show of guts by Royce Gracie to survive and find the finish.
Keith Hackney mashing Joe Son’s taters, and Royce submitting The Beast.
Special anti-highlight mention for Jeff Blatnik. Every time I rewatch these early UFCs I remember how much I hate the sound of his voice, banging on about wrestling and missing any of the subtlety of what the non-wrestlers are doing.