UFC 7.5 – The Ultimate Ultimate

16th December, 1995, Mammoth Gardens, Denver, Colorado, USA

UFC 7.5 has a great list of returning fighters, although there are a couple of notable absences. It’s a tournament of two halves, getting off to a cracking start but slowing down to a bit of an endurance event, for fighters and viewers alike. This tournament is the first to use judges in the event of a fight going to the time limit, and they get well used later in the night.

We get underway with UFC 6 runner up Tank Abbott against UFC 3 champion Steve Jennum. Tank takes Jennum to the matt early and scuttles him over to the cage. He pushes his head into Jennum’s face so hard it looks like he’s going to squirt through the gaps in the fence. Jennum is forced to tap.

Next is a battle of the big men, with Dan ‘The Beast’ Severn taking on Paul ‘The Polar Bear’ Varelans. This one’s on the mat even faster than Tank and Jennum were and Severn has side control and at the second attempt, secures an arm triangle choke. Varelans taps.

The third quarter final is the second meeting of Oleg Taktarov and Big Dave Beneteau. In UFC 6 Beneteau got himself caught in a Taktarov guillotine, which has been his go-to move in a lot of his previous fights. Tonight Taktarov has a new move that he’s going to attempt a LOT. He rolls from a standing clinch and grabs Beneteau’s leg. He does eat a kick from the shod Beneteau, but he holds on his leg lock and gets the tap.

19The last quarter final is reigning tournament champion, Marco Ruas against UFC 3 & 4 veteran, Keith Hackney, who for some reason has replaced his usual black gi pants with Lycra incontinence pants. They exchange leg kicks early, and after Hackney misses with a wild overhand right akin to the one that knocked 616lb Emmanuel Yarborough on his ass in UFC 3, Ruas rushes in, rips Hackney to the ground and back-mounts him. Some heavy shots to the back of Hackney’s head create an opening and a rear-naked choke goes on for the early submission.

The semi-finals get underway with Tank Abbott vs Dan Severn. Tank stuffs Severn’s first takedown attempt, but within a minute, he’s grounded and is being mauled by the Beast. Heavy punches, slaps, knees and elbows are relentlessly dropped and although Tank somehow survives, it’s 18 minutes of utter domination. The judges are called into action for the first time in UFC history, and it’s an easy decision for Severn.

miThe Second semi-final is Oleg Taktarov against Marco Ruas. It’s a cautious start from both fighters with Ruas getting the better of the early striking, having particular success with his patented legs kicks that chopped down Paul Varelans with in the previous event. Taktarov tries a front kick of his own but the knee of his standing leg seems to give way. That spurs Taktarov on to close the distance and clinch against the cage. He drops for his second leg lock attempt of the night, but Ruas is wiser to it that Beneteau was and he fights his way out of it. Ruas lands a few shots before Taktarov wall-walks and they’re back to their feet. Ruas is winning the fight so far, but the altitude is starting to take its toll. Both fighters have slowed right down and are breathing heavily. Ruas pauses to adjust his mouth piece Taktarov throws a punch which stuns him. They clinch and Taktarov reaches round Ruas’ neck for a guillotine and pulls guard. He’s not able to finish the choke and John McCarthy stands them back up. Although it’s slow and laboured, Ruas clearly has the edge in the striking. Bizarrely Don ‘The Dragon’ Wilson in commentary, and seemingly the judges too, consider Taktarov’s forward plodding is more ‘aggressive’ than Ruas’ counter striking. At only the second time of asking, the judges make a horrible decision and give a fight to Taktarov that for my money, Ruas clearly won.

photo___ID_155So the final is a high altitude battle between two big guys who have already endured 18 minute semi-finals. Strap in. Severn decides he’s had enough of smashing his knuckles up on opponents’ skulls and elects to bitch-slap Taktarov for the opening few minutes instead. For the third time of the night, Taktarov rolls for a knee bar/leg lock, and initially it’s close. Severn rolls out of it and mounts Taktarov. The variety of strikes he used to pound on Tank is replaced almost exclusively with head butts. 15 minutes in, Taktarov manages to find a way back to his feet, and John McCarthy takes the opportunity to have the doctors and cut man take a look at his face, which is starting to resemble a well tenderised steak. They restart, and Taktarov drops for the leg lock again. It goes badly and he finds himself back underneath Severn being savaged. John McCarthy stands them up, and after some ineffective striking, you guessed it, Taktarov drops for a leg lock, which puts him straight back under Severn for some more punishment for the rest of regulation time. Overtime contains a couple more failed leg lock attempt and some ineffective striking all round. Severn cruises to the finishing line for a decision win.

Event Highlight

Erm? Dan Severn utterly dominating I suppose, but it’s no thriller.

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UFC 4 – Revenge Of The Warriors

16th December 1994, Expo Square Pavillion, Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA.

Ufc4After 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. black dragonHe 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. HackneyJoeSonSon 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. severn_display_image_display_image_crop_northAs 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.

gracie severnSo, 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.severn

Event Highlights

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.

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UFC 3 – The American Dream

9th September 1994, Grady Cole Center, Charlotte, North Carolina, USA.

UFC3_LogoAfter the massive improvement from UFC 1 to UFC 2, UFC 3 was a bit of a step backwards in many ways. Styles are now broken down into just two broad and over simplified categories of punchers and grapplers. We’re back down to eight fighters from the sixteen of UFC 2, which means one less round of fights. The biggest issue with this event though was the injuries along the way that turned it into a it of a farce. One notable rules change is that as well as KO, submission and the towel coming in, John McCarthy now has the power to stop the fight.

First fight of the night is Sumo fighter Emanuel Yarborough against Kenpo Karate fighter Keith Hackney. Yarborough is 616lbs which even dwarfs UFC 1’s sumo fighter Teila Tuli, let alone the 200lb Hackney. As Yarborough approaches, Hackney throws a leg kick, which has no effect, followed by an over hand open palm strike which against all odds, drops Yarborough. Hackney pounces on him and tries to take advantage but after only one follow up strike slips and Yarborough crashes down on him. Kackney manages to drag himself free and back on UFC3_Hackneytheir feet, Yarborough throws Hackney against and through the cage door. Hackney is ushered back into the Octagon and they restart. As Yarborough plods forward Hackney does his best to stay out of range, throwing low sidekicks and open over-hands. When Yarborough does finally get hold of Hackney he eats a few punches to the head and goes down. Hackney throws a couple of dozen punches to Yarborough’s melon and he’s completely unable to get up. John McCarthy steps in and makes his first stoppage. Hackney’s hand is a mess but he moves on.

The second quarter final is Ken Shamrock facing Judoka Christophe Leininger. It goes to the ground predictably quickly and Leininger throws a series of punches to the top of Shamrock’s head from the guard, which looks like it sucks for both parties. They exchange head butts, then as Leininger goes for a triangle, Ken explodes out and takes his back. Leininger tries to find a way out but ends up on his back taking a lot of punishment from Ken and taps from a combination of strikes and exhaustion.

Next up is the wonderfully named local Thai Boxer Roland Payne against Canadian Karate/Jui Jitsu fighter Harold Howard. Payne’s not a bit guy but he certainly looks the business on the pads in the preamble. Howard is a lot bigger and looks like a complete psychopath in his video. After a brief exchange on their feet, Payne surprises us with a takedown but he can’t keep Howard on the mat. They’re up and down a couple more times and both land heavy strikes until Payne is on the receiving end of a big right hand to the temple that shuts him down. A frantic and ferocious 45 second fight ends with Howard winning by KO.

UFC3_KimoThe last quarter final is defending two time champion Royce Gracie facing lay preacher and alleged Tae Kwon Do master, Kimo Leopoldo. (alright mate). He’s dragging a massive cross behind him on his way to the give Royce ‘The Good News’ in the Octagon. Kimo charges out and Royce gets his hands on him straight away. There’s a little over a minute of Royce trying to drag the fight to the ground before a throw goes badly and he ends up underneath Kimo. They’re back and forth for a couple of minutes, reversal after reversal and Royce gets hold of Kimo’s ponytail/top knot, almost managing to drag him into a triangle choke with it. About four minutes in, Royce grabs hold of an arm bar from the bottom and gets the tap. Our defending champion wins but he’s utterly exhausted and limps out of the Octagon.

It’s confirmed that Keith Hackney has smashed his hand to pieces on Emmanuel Yarborough’s skull and has retired from the competition. He’s replaced by Felix Mitchell who will fight Ken Shamrock. Mitchell is slated as Shaolin Kung Fu, but he looks like a boxer on the heavy bag, and that’s confirmed in his ring intro. Mitchell initially steps into the Octagon wearing open hand gloves but decides to take them off at the last minute. The fight beings as a standing grappling match which Ken seems to have a slight edge in, although Mitchell does fire a couple of eye watering knees right between Ken’s legs that lift him clean off the ground. Ken doesn’t even wince. Mitchell attempts to wedgie Ken with his yellow budgie smugglers, but they collapse to the ground with Ken on top. Mitchell rolls onto his front, Ken sinks in a deep choke and gets the tap. Ken limps away with a damaged ankle and that’s the last we see of him tonight.

The next fight is supposed to be a semi-final between Harold Howard against Royce Gracie. Howard’s really been looking forward to this apparently, and he makes his way to the Octagon in a Gracie-esque train, looking all business. Royce’s approach to the Octagon much more laboured. The fighters are introduced, but before John McCarthy can get them started, Royce retires from the competition. Howard is furious, screaming and stamping his feet. He still turns and bows as he storms out of the Octagon though. Classy old school martial arts etiquette. That’s juxtaposed by a classless display of Kimo charging into the Octagon to celebrate his part Royce’s retirement.

With Ken Shamrock out, Harold Howard is left to fight the remaining alternate, Ninja cop Steve Jennum. As they start, Howard attempts a front scissor flip kick, which Jennum backs out of range of. Howard springs back to his feet and lands some heavy punches that stun Jennum. Howard gets hold of Jennums neck and cranks a guillotine, first standing, then from his back, but he doesn’t have full guard so Jennum is able toUFC3_Jennum step out of it. They exchange punches on their feet before Jennum trips and mounts Howard. Jennum is dropping punches but Howard seems to be blocking them all. John McCarthy stops the fight and the towel comes in at roughly the same time. Jennum earns $60,000 for his one and a half minute’s work.

What a mess. Three of the four winning quarter finalists retired, Hackney got a bye to the final, less than 20 minutes’ actual fight time across the whole event. Not a great display really.

Event Highlight

Keith Hackney dropping a 616lb Emmanuel Yarborough was pretty impressive.

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