17th May 1996, Cobo Arena, Detroit, Michigan, USA
There’s a change of format for tonight’s event. For the first time ever, there is no tournament. It’s seven stand-alone bouts, including Ken Shamrock defending his Super Fight title for the third time in a rematch against Dan Severn. Following pressure from Senator John McCain, the rules have been adapted to ban head butts and closed hand strikes. Although that’s ignored in most of the fights, it certainly de-supers the Super Fight.
We open up with two returning fighters. Zane Frazier got his head pounded flat by Kevin Rosier all the way back in UFC 1, while Cal Worsham was holding his own Paul Varelans in UFC 6 until a huge elbow to the top of his head stopped him in his tracks. A few kicks are landed early, but the fighters are looking uncertain, pawing with open hands. Worsham drops for a double leg and takes Frazier to the mat. Rules or not, he lands some short head butts. Frazier looks to John McCarthy for some assistance, but he lets Worsham crack on. The punches start going in too, and John McCarthy remembers he’s supposed to be stopping these techniques so starts chastising Worsham, but with no effect. Frazier decides he’d like to stop eating Worsham’s forehead and taps.
The second fight of the night is 6’8” Brazilian Rafael Carino facing Matt Anderson, who’s a training partner of UFC 3 champion, Steve Jennum. Carino has Anderson on his back in short order, maintains control and gradually works his way to mount. There’s a flash of blood on the forehead of Anderson and John McCarthy stops the fight. A methodical but not particularly thrilling win for Carino.
The next fight should have been a battle of the big Canadians, with Dave Beneteau facing Gary Goodridge, but Beneteau has broken his hand while preparing. His training partner, highly decorated wrestler Mark Schultz is stepping in on a few hours’ notice to face Big Daddy. Schultz looks really uncomfortable on his feet in the opening few seconds, but as soon as he gets his hands on Goodridge, he explodes into action and takes him down with ease. Schultz has complete ground control and if he was working for the UFC at the time, Mike Goldberg would undoubtedly have uttered the phrase “embrace the grind” multiple times. Half way through the 12 minute regulation time, John McCarthy breaks them up and restarts them on their feet, but Schultz shoots in and puts Goodridge on his back again. Some Ground N Pound (not that the phrase has been coined yet) opens up a cut on Goodridge’s eye brow and Big John stops the fight for the doctor to take a look. It’s not a bad one so they are allowed to restart and it’s the same routine, Schultz gets his hands on Goodridge and slams him to the ground. The bleeding from Goodridge’s cut worsens and as regulation time ends, the doctor takes another look and stops the fight, rather than allow overtime.
Next we have UFC 7 & 7.5 veteran Mark Hall facing the Octagon’s third Sumo fighter, Koji Kitao who outweighs Hall by more than double. As they start, Hall throws a low kick and a punch to Kitao’s face before being taken down hard. The punch has broken Kitao’s nose and there’s a delayed reaction before the blood starts gushing from it. John McCarthy and the doctor take a look, and the fight is stopped. Good effort Mr Hall.
Our final ‘regular’ fight before moving on to the ironically named Super Fight is reigning tournament champion Don Frye returning to fight Amaury Bitetti who’s stepping in to replace Marco Ruas (what a fight that would have been). They clinch up early and Bitetti is initially hanging with Frye, but after a minute or so of dirty boxing, they break and Frye lands a couple of big punches that turn the tide firmly his way. Frye hands Bitetti one of the most savage one sided beat downs you’ll ever see. John McCarthy stops it a couple of times for the doctor to take a look at the cuts, but Bitetti wants to fight on each time. In the end McCarthy saves Bitetti from himself and stops the fight. Amongst his post-fight shout outs, Frye thanks his big brother for “beating him like a red-headed step child” and teaching him how to take a punch. A bit stomach turning in places, but a dominant performance by the Predator.
Which brings us onto the Super Fight. Instructions to not use the head or closed fist were largely ignored for the rest of the card, Dan Severn and Ken Shamrock fully took on board the rules. This has been described as one of the worst MMA fights in history, but in truth, using the word ‘fight’ at all is a bit of a stretch. The majority of the bout is both men circling barely making contact. The fans are booing and chanting “BULL SHIT” and “BORING”, the commentary team are struggling to find anything to talk about, and even John McCarthy is getting annoyed and screaming at them to engage. In the last 10 minutes Dan takes Ken to the ground but he isn’t able to hold him down. A second grappling exchange ends with Dan on his back, mounted by Ken. In the final minute there’s a flurry of action that sees Ken briefly take Dan’s back, but get reversed. In the last 2 minutes of regulation time, Dan finally unleashes the Beast and gives Ken a bit of a mauling. There’s no improvement in the two overtime periods, and Dan Severn picks up a split decision win. Horrible fight.
Even putting the terrible Super Fight to one side, this was not a great event. A couple of the referee/doctor’s stoppages were a bit early, but the Frye / Betetti fight should probably have been stopped much earlier. I personally prefer the stand-alone bouts, but the tournament format was brought back in the next event due to popular demand. The only real highlight was Don Frye being a complete savage.