July 12 1996, Fairgrounds Arena, Birmingham, Alabama, USA
After trying out single bouts in UFC 9, this event returns to the familiar tournament structure, though there’s not Super Fight. Bruce Beck and Jeff Blatnik return for commentary duties (Don Wilson is away shooting a movie), John McCarthy is the referee, and there’s a notable debut for ‘Voice of the Octagon’ Bruce Buffer.
We get underway with undefeated defending tournament champion Don Frye taking on Mark Hall, himself being 3-1 from his previous three events. Frye slams Hall to the ground and goes to work trying to punch his way through Hall’s rib cage. A few minutes in and Hall’s body is already starting to look like a well tenderised steak. There’s some head butts mixed in, but the punishment to Hall’s body is relentless. Hall’s corner is screaming at him to get up and he shouts at them to shut up. Then Don Frye starts pleading with him to quit, but he refuses. After a little over ten minutes, John McCarthy saves Hall from himself and stops the fight. He has a seemingly bottomless well of resilience and bravery, but it’s a one sided beating. Frye progresses.
Next up we have two new comers in Scotty Fiedler against Brian Johnston. Fiedler obviously didn’t enjoy the experience much as this was his first, last and only MMA fight. Johnston throws Fiedler a couple of times and after the second, almost secures a knee bar. Fiedler takes Johnston’s back and gets both hooks in but doesn’t seem to know what to do with it. Johnston sneaks out the back door and takes Fiedler’s back, flattens him out and pounds on the back of the head. John McCarthy pulls Johnston off and stops the fight.
The third fight is the UFC debut of Mark Coleman, who’s facing Israeli striker Moti Horenstein. Coleman takes the fight to the ground with ease and unleashes the as yet unchristened “Ground N Pound” he’d go on to be credited with inventing. It could be argued Frye and Severn both employed similar tactics in early tournaments, but there’s no argument that Coleman took it to a new level. After a savage couple of minutes, John McCarthy sees that Horenstein has had enough and he stops it.
The last quarter final is New York Beef Cake; John Campetella against Gary ‘Big Daddy’ Gary Goodridge. Campetella has some early success out grappling Goodridge and landing some heavy shots. A minute in, they’re on the ground with Campetella on top. Goodridge reverses positions and lands a few really big punches from the top. John McCarthy stops the fight and there’s some booing from the crowd who think it was a bit early. They may be right, but I doubt things were going to improve for Campetella with Big Daddy fully mounting him, dropping bombs.
The first semi-final is Don Frye against Brian Johnston. Bruce Beck and Jeff Blatik are joined in commentary by a suspended Tank Abbott. He got into a couple of dust ups at UFC 8 with Allan Goes and John McCarthy, but is itching to get back in the Octagon at the next event to show everyone how it should be done. The first couple of minutes are a fairly even ‘dirty boxing’ match, but 3 minutes in, the fight goes to the ground and Frye has a clear edge. When Frye gets side control and drops a couple of elbows, Brian Johnston decides to tap, rather than take any serious damage.
The second semi-final is Mark Coleman and Gary Goodridge, both of who had short but ferocious first round fights. Coleman has Goodridge on his back early and drops some short punches and head butts. Goodridge is able to scramble to his feet, but Coleman takes his back standing and has some success punching from behind. They’re right in front of Coleman’s corner and he’s receiving some direction, so Goodridge decides to scuttle sideways round the cage wall to his own corner instead. It doesn’t help much and Coleman continues to smash Goodridge up against the cage. They break and Big Daddy does look the fresher fighter, but before long, Coleman has it back to the ground and unloads everything he has on Goodridge. Coleman takes Goodridge’s back and flattens him out, getting a tap before any more punishment is taken.
As the final starts, Don Frye is able to sprawl to Mark Coleman’s takedown attempt and gets an arm round his neck. He hangs out there too long though and Coleman easily clears the headlock and takes Frye’s back. Coleman starts smashing Frye’s skull in until around 4 minutes in when they’re briefly back to their feet. Both men are exhausted, particularly Coleman, who has his hands on his knees, sucking air in through every available hole. After another spell on the ground with Coleman dominating, McCarthy separates them to have the doctor take a look at Frye’s cuts. As they re-engage, Frye still has a bit of a spring in his step when they’re striking. As soon as they clinch up though, Coleman’s just too big and strong. After one more Ground N Pound session, John McCarthy has seen enough and calls it for Coleman. It’s not pretty, but Frye loses for the first time and Coleman wins the tournament at the first attempt.
Incredible show of guts by Mark Hall and solid performances by legends Gary Goodrifdge, Don Frye and Mark Coleman.