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