**This is the third in a lengthy series lifted from my new blog. Be sure to check Fight Rankings for more in this series, which includes cumulative fight and fighter rankings from the first three UFC events.**
It would be six months after UFC 2 that the Ultimate Fighting Championship would return to pay-per-view. Royce Gracie has won the first two openweight UFC tournaments, and really, there hasn't been a fighter that's looked like a peer of the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu legend. Gracie has torn through the competition, winning seven fights in these first two tournaments. Would Gracie continue his dominance in the octagon? Or would a new challenger step up and win the third UFC tournament?
UFC 3: The American Dream - September 9, 1994
For the first time in its history, the UFC would travel outside the Denver area. UFC 3 would take place in Charlotte, North Carolina - very appropriate for a card that would later be known as "The American Dream." Sadly, Dusty Rhodes and Ric Flair wouldn't make appearances in the octagon despite the event being in NWA country.
One thing I've failed to note is that parental advisory is suggested for these UFC events. I feel it's only fair that the same parental advisory apply to my descriptions. No child should be subjected to terrible jokes and excessive fight descriptions, so I advise you click away from this entry as soon as possible.
Brian Kilmeade is back and his hair is looking as bad as ever. Jim Brown is back and, really, I don't have a problem with the work he does. His work is about what you would expect from an NFL running back who presumably has brain damage. Ben Perry is back and...well, his hair is also bad. He's got a nice little pocket square, so that's something.
The first montage of this event is just as bad as all previous montages. Fighters are generically labeled as either "punchers" or "grapplers." We then see Kimo Leopoldo kicking a heavy bag while being called a "puncher". I fear that I might take my own life prior to reaching events where these fighting styles don't need to be simplified. I know that Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg aren't the best, but I'm praying that they'll rescue me from Brian Kilmeade and Ben Perry very, very soon.
The tournament bracket is presented and the following fighters are the participants in UFC 3:
There are only two familiar faces, with Shamrock and Gracie the only combatants to participate in either of the first two events. Kimo is also participating, which should be fun. Jim Brown is apparently afraid of Kimo's ponytail, but I'm not sure why. Though it would occur two years later, Kimo holds the distinction of being the only MMA opponent of professional wrestler Bam Bam Bigelow. Kimo was victorious only because the flying headbutt was not a legal maneuver.
Emmanuel Yarborough vs. Keith Hackney will be the first fight tonight. Emmanuel is apparently a sumo fighter, which doesn't surprise me. He's over 600 pounds, most of which appears to be in his breasts. Keith Hackney is a favorite of mine, as he's one of the first UFC fighters out of Illinois. Hackney's Combat Academy is currently located in Roselle, Illinois, so he's still keeping active in combat sports. I'm tempted to reach out to him and see how receptive he would be to an interview, but I'm scared he would reply by choking me through the phone. I'll keep you posted about that.
Ring announcer Rich Goins appears to have received a memo notifying him that he must wear a tuxedo, though he missed the memo about no longer yelling into the microphone. Yarborough is the heavier man by more than 400 pounds, which doesn't bode well for Hackney. Yarborough lurches forward with his fists up and doesn't look like he feels like swinging. Hackney catches Yarborough with a nice punch and knocks the bigger man to the mat. Hackney charges in, but Yarborough takes his back and swings wildly at Hackney's head. When Emmanuel kneels, both fighters appear to be the same size - that's pretty scary.
Hackney manages to pull away and gets shoved out of the octagon by Yarborough. I believe that this would constitute a no contest in modern MMA, but the fight continues at UFC 3. Hackney looks for an opening against the larger fighter and attempts multiple punches and kicks, which seem to have little effect. Yarborough grabs Hackney's leg during an attempted kick, but Hackney lands some nice punches that his massive opponent.
Hackney spends maybe the next thirty seconds pounding the face and head of Emmanuel Yarborough. "Big" John McCarthy checks on Yarborough, who appear to verbally tap out. Keith Hackney was significantly more skilled than his opponent, which was very evident during this fight. Hackney fought a six-hundred pound man about as well as anybody could, though I'm surprised that Hackney didn't try to kick his downed opponent.
A montage is shown of Ken Shamrock sparring in blue jeans, as the next fight will pit Shamrock vs. Christophe Leininger. Leininger is highlighted as a world class judo practitioner and this should make for a very interesting fight. Both men start by feeling each other out, with Leininger circling Shamrock. Leininger shoots in but is shoved to the ground by Shamrock.
Shamrock is in Leininger's guard and both men struggle to advance position. Leininger throws a number of short punches from his back and they appear to do little, if any damage. Leininger and Shamrock exchange headbutts, but there is very little action on the mat. Leininger stays active on defense and appears to attempt a submission, but Shamrock quickly escapes and manages to take Leininger's back. Leininger did a poor job maintaining position and allowed Shamrock to escape guard and take a dominant position.
Shamrock has a hook in and throws some elbows into Leininger's back and ribs. "Big" John angrily commands Leininger to work, despite having Shamrock draped on his back. Leininger tries to shrug Shamrock off, but ends up in Shamrock's mount and then his guard. Shamrock continues to pressure Leininger, striking the downed opponent until Leininger taps out due to strikes. Shamrock and Hackney will now face off in the semifinals.
Roland Payne will face Harold Howard in the third quarterfinal fight. Judging by his name, I thought that Roland Payne would be black. Is that unreasonable for me to think? I don't think it is. Instead, Roland Payne looks...well, very white. The North Carolina native vows to treat his opponent to some local "Payne".
Harold Howard, meanwhile, is a very different individual. If you're a fan of MMA and you don't know Harold Howard, then I'll just assume you have good taste in fighters. Harold may or may not be related to "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan, though Howard's Canadian ancestry makes that unlikely. Harold Howard wear sunglasses during his prefight statement, which is just too funny to be real.
Oh man, this is awesome. I hope Harold Howard never loses a fight so we can keep seeing videos like this. Harold Howard dons a wife-beater tank top in the cage, which is oddly appropriate since he's currently spending time in jail for domestic abuse. He didn't necessarily beat up his wife, but I guess attacking his sister and nephew with a claw hammer is close enough. Howard proceeded to drive his truck into a casino before being arrested and sentenced to five years in prison.
But the matter at hand is this third quarterfinal fight and this one doesn't last very long. Howard, who somehow looks like Roland Payne's uncle, aggressively charges Payne and attempts some quick punches. Harold attempts to takedown his opponent, but Payne manages to roll on top. Howard and Payne work back to their feet and Howard hits a takedown that looks more like a DDT.
Both men are back to their feet again, since it looks like both fighters have no interest keeping this fight on the mat. Payne pursues Howard and pushes him against the cage, but Harold Howard doesn't take kindly to being cornered. Howard swings wildly and appears to knock out Payne with a right cross. Harold Howard pulls off the victory in less than one minute, advancing to the semifinals.
Apparently, Gary Busey is in the corner of Roland Payne? How was this not announced until after the fight? I think that just adds to how over-the-top crazy this fight really was. This won't be the last we see of Harold Howard and I'm very grateful for that.
The final quarterfinal bout looks to be the toughest, pitting Royce Gracie and newcomer Kimo Leopoldo. Gracie's reputation truly precedes him as he gets a nice hand from the North Carolina crowd. In about one year, Gracie has become known as one of the most dangerous fighters in the world. The UFC has done a lot to expose Gracie to the American public, but Kimo looks to stop the BJJ master.
Kimo is declared to be a "warrior in the service of the lord", which is evident with "JESUS" tattooed on his stomach and a cross tattooed on his back. Kimo, a practicing minister, says his purpose is to expose the world to Jesus Christ, though I think he'd also like to pummel Royce Gracie into submission. Kimo decides that it's a good idea to carry a cross to the cage and this North Carolina crowd has no idea how to react. It's not quite "Jesus Didn't Tap", but Kimo has already done his part to combine MMA and Christianity.
Kimo stalks Gracie, who attempts a takedown and ends up shoving Kimo against the cage. Both men struggle and, for the second time tonight, the octagon door gives way to Royce and Kimo. "Big" John brings the men back into the cage and Royce maintains control against the cage wall. Gracie throws a headbutt and a knee to the groin, showing that his skills aren't exclusive to jiu-jitsu.
Gracie tries to bring Kimo down, but Kimo takes Gracie's back. Kimo stays in control by keeping a tight grasp on Gracie's gi. Royce reverses to a dominant position, and then Kimo reverses into Gracie's guard. Kimo continues to try and advance, but Gracie holds Kimo in his guard. Gracie grabs Kimo by his ponytail and throws punches at Kimo from his back. Kimo seems to stumble over Gracie, who attempts to stand but has his back taken by the Hawaiian.
Kimo attempts a takedown and goes into Gracie's guard, which is a big mistake. Immediately, Gracie works for an armbar which forces Kimo to tap. Gracie managed to weather the storm from Kimo and win the bout, though both men appear to be exhausted. Kimo's eye is bloodied and Gracie can barely stand on his own. Gracie advances to fight Harold Howard, but it doesn't look promising that he'll be able to continue.
We learn that Felix Lee Mitchell will be taking the place of the injured Keith Hackney in the semifinals. I imagine that Hackney hurt himself while throwing dozens of punches at Emmanuel Yarborough's spiral ham of a head. Mitchell will take on Ken Shamrock in the first semifinal fight. Mitchell is equal parts martial artist and corrections officer, so he would have made a great opponent for Harold Howard, but he'll have to settle on Ken Shamrock.
Shamrock has changed into a different color trunks, similar to "Macho Man" Randy Savage at Wrestlemania IV. Shamrock doesn't seem like much of a showman at this point, so I'm not sure what changing trunks accomplishes. Shamrock attempts to take Mitchell down, but Mitchell's takedown defense (grabbing the cage) forces Shamrock into the clinch. Shamrock works for a choke against the fence, but isn't able to get into position to pull that off.
Mitchell and Shamrock exchange position along the cage, both men throwing knees and punches. Mitchell appears to be hurt, but continues throwing punches at Shamrock's midsection. Shamrock appears to be extremely tired, which explains his inactivity aside from a few intermittent punches. Shamrock eventually manages a takedown and mounts Mitchell. Shamrock takes Mitchell's back and submits the alternate fighter. Shamrock, much like Royce Gracie, is having a lot of trouble walking and needs help to get out of the cage. Shamrock advances to the finals, but I'm becoming worried about the health of these fighters.
Brian Kilmeade reviews the tournament bracket and claims that Harold Howard and Roland Payne fought for five minutes. I guess watching Harold Howard is so mesmerizing that it impacts your conception of time, since that bout only lasted 46 seconds. That leads to the second semifinal fight between Howard and Royce Gracie. They cut to a clip of Howard discussing Royce Gracie, and the Canadian seems excited at the prospect of taking on the jiu-jitsu legend.
Howard makes his way to the cage and seems very amped up. I don't want to say it's because of methamphetamine usage, but Howard's teeth do looked a little jacked up. Based on the videos we've seen, Howard seems to operate on a natural high that few people are able to accomplish. This isn't a man who needs methamphetamine - just a hammer and a pickup truck.
Royce Gracie makes his way to the cage and appears to be having trouble standing. He enters the cage but looks absolutely exhausted. Royce's corner pulls "Big" John McCarthy aside and they end up throwing in the towel. Somehow, Howard seems to be terribly upset with this decision. The man wanted a legitimate chance to fight the best in the world, regardless of how the fight may have gone, but Harold Howard will have to settle for a forfeit victory.
Out of nowhere, Kimo and his hype man (Joe San) make their way to the cage. They're apparently celebrating Royce's forfeiture as if Kimo had defeated the man. I didn't see Kimo celebrating when he got tapped out by Gracie, so it's big of him to come out and gloat now. Something tells me that Jesus wouldn't approve of this, but this night isn't about Jesus: it's about Kimo! That's according to Kimo, at least.
Gary Busey is shown in the crowd yet again and has become the first celebrity appearance at a UFC event. From Gary Busey to Michael Clarke Duncan to Jude Law and The Rock, the level of celebrities at the UFC has vastly improved over time. I wonder if Gary Busey has attended each successive UFC event, except that he's not shown anymore. Busey is more famous today as a junkie who was in a motorcycle accident than an actor, so he's not really an impressive celebrity "get" anymore.
Highlights of the previous fights are shown prior to our finals match, which once looked like it would be the long-awaited rematch between Ken Shamrock and Royce Gracie. It then became Shamrock and Harold Howard, and now...Harold Howard and Steve Jennum? Apparently, Ken Shamrock is now out of the tournament due to injury and his place will be taken by Steve Jennum. These finals are shaping up to be something different.
Jennum, a police officer, says he's here to "bust" the Ultimate Fighting Champion. Ben Perry says that Harold Howard couldn't be interviewed prior to the fight, as he was too busy yelling backstage. That sounds about right to me. Harold is absolutely ready to go and seems primed to win UFC 3.
Despite this being his third event, Rich Goins announces the event as the "Ultimate Fight Fighting Championships". Can we get rid of this guy already? Howard feints a few kicks and punches and misses badly with a forward rolling kick. He hits Jennum with a clean punch and attempts a guillotine choke. Both men go to the ground, but Howard can't complete the choke as both men stand back up. Jennum lands a big punch against Howard, who wildly swings until being taken down.
Jennum lands some big shots in mount as "Big" John asks Howard's corner to protect their fighter. The towel is thrown and Howard taps, just as McCarthy stops the fight. Alternate Steve Jennum is the winner of this tournament and $60,000, despite having fought only once. During his postfight interview, Harold Howard declares, "Well...I told you, if it worked it worked. And it did and I didn't. So in the end it didn't." Absolutely brilliant.
So Jennum celebrates with the novelty check, which has become a part of UFC tradition. This event, later named "The American Dream", would have been more appropriately named "The Night of the Alternates". Not as sexy, but definitely a more accurate name. This night looked very promising, but a series of tough fights and injuries led to a somewhat disappointing final match. The bout between Kimo and Royce was truly a classic, but the later round alternates truly hurt the tournament format.
This event introduced a number of fighters that we'll see going forward. Shamrock and Gracie will surely be back and Kimo seems like a potential fighter on future cards. Will Harold Howard and Keith Hackney return? And what about now reigning champion Steve Jennum? There are a number of questions heading into UFC 4, which should be a very intriguing card. Jim Brown signs off with his signature "adios" (???) as this night comes to a close.
Greatest Fights of UFC 3
- Royce Gracie vs. Kimo Leopoldo
- Ken Shamrock vs. Christophe Leininger
- Ken Shamrock vs. Felix Lee Mitchell
- Harold Howard vs. Roland Payne
- Steve Jennum vs. Harold Howard
- Keith Hackney vs. Emmanuel Yarborough
- Harold Howard vs. Royce Gracie
Greatest Fighters of UFC 3
- Royce Gracie (1-1)
- Ken Shamrock (2-0)
- Steve Jennum (1-0)
- Harold Howard (2-1)
- Kimo Leopoldo (0-1)
- Keith Hackney (1-0)
- Christophe Leininger (0-1)
- Felix Lee Mitchell (0-1)
- Roland Payne (0-1)
- Emmanuel Yarborough (0-1)