Well it's been a while since my last MMA history post so I figured I better do an update before everybody decides I'm just another TUF Noob.
In the last two installments we covered 1995, a transitional year that saw the UFC struggle to find a dominant star to replace Royce Gracie. 1995 also saw the rise of the first Russian stars -- Oleg Taktarov, Igor Zinoviev, Mikhail Illioukhine and Igor Vovchanchyn -- as well as the continued dominance of BJJ fighters in the Brazilian scene and a couple of upstart American promotions trying to cash in on the UFC's pay per view success.
1995 ended with the disappointing borefest that was the first "Ultimate Ultimate" -- an event that saw Dan Severn perfect the lay and pray against Tank Abbott and Marco Ruas and Oleg Taktarov danced away from each other for an excruciating 20 minutes.
Fortunately the UFC turned things around dramatically with UFC VIII, the first major event of 1996. UFC VIII featured an exciting Super Fight between Ken Shamrock and Kimo plus the debuts of Jerry Bohlander, Gary Goodridge, Scott Ferrozzo and most importantly boxer/wrestler Don Frye. As 411MAnia's Matt McEwan wrote in his review of the event:
A few weeks later in the Ukraine, kickboxer Igor Vovchanchyn rebounded from his loss to Mikhail Illioukhine (by chin in eye submission) to win three eight man tournaments (he would win another three in 1997). Here's his beat down of UFC vet Paul Varelens from the Kombat in Kiev event. Igor is fighting around 200lbs here and looks great. His wikipedia article claims that he learned to fight watching Karate Kid.
1996 also saw the first installment of one of the great feuds of early MMA -- Chute Boxe's Jose "Pele" Landi-Jons against BJJ star Jorge "Macaco" Patino. Last time I talked about the tear Macaco had been on in 1995 and most of 1996. He was a much more aggressive and dominant fighter than the Gracies had typically been. While certainly not as skilled as Rickson, he used power and surprisingly good wrestling technique to overwhelm his opponents. Pele, the champion of the upstart muy thai based Chute Boxe camp, astonished the Brazilian scene with his refusal to be intimidated by the bully Macaco and beat the BJJ fighter down in two great fights. Heres some highlights:
1996 also saw the debut of a superstar who's still on top of the sport -- check the extended entry for his first fight.
Next time we'll talk about the Reign of the Wrestlers: Mark Coleman and Mark Kerr.
Wanderlei Silva makes his debut:
Previous installments of MMA History:
XXII: Catch Wrestling and Kazushi Sakuraba's Early PRIDE Run
XXI: The Amazing UFC Championship Run of Frank Shamrock
XX: Kazushi Sakuraba and Frank Shamrock Emerge at Ultimate Japan
XIX: The Humbled PRIDE of Nobuhiko Takada
XVIII: The Losses of Luta Livre
XVII: The Lion's Den Roars
XVI: Rico Chiapparelli and the RAW Team
XV: Pancrase, RINGS, and Shooto 1996
XIV: Boom and Bust in Brazil
XIII: Coleman Gets His Kicks
XII: End of the UFC Glory Days
XI: Carlson Gracie's Mighty Camp
X: The Reign of the Wrestlers
IX: Strikers Attack
VIII: From Russia With Leglocks
VII: A New Phase in the UFC
VI: A Dutch Detour
V: The Reign of Royce
IV: Rickson Brings Jiu Jitsu Back to Japan
III: Proto MMA Evolves Out of Worked Pro Wrestling in Japan
II: The Ur-Brazilian MMA Feud: BJJ vs Luta Livre and the Style They Never Saw Coming
I: UFC 1 Pancrase meets BJJ