**This is the eighth post in a lengthy series lifted from my MMA blog. Be sure to check Fight Rankings for more in this series, which includes cumulative fight and fighter rankings from the first eight UFC events.**
The eighth Ultimate Fighting Championship event is upon us and is the first of many unnumbered UFC events. This is only the second most redundant event name in UFC history, as Ultimate Ultimate 1996 is the winner of that competition. Seriously, how can there be two Ultimate Ultimates? What sense does that make? The UFC labeled this 1995 event the Ultimate Ultimate and should really stand by the label.
That is, unless this event is really bad and there needed to be a second Ultimate Ultimate to make up for this one. Oh no, I hope that's not true. I've been looking forward to this event since we have twelve returning UFC fighters in competition. Both preliminary fights feature UFC veterans, while seven of the eight tournament participants are previous tournament finalists.
There will be no Superfight on this card, but who needs it? We've got the SUPERTOURNAMENT. Just wait until you see these first round fights, it's like you've died and gone to heaven (in the mid-1990's.) Four former champions will look to claim another tournament crown in what should be a very exciting night of fights!
UFC Ultimate Ultimate 1995 - December 16, 1995
This is one of the very few UFC events never released on DVD, so there are only 15+ year old VHS tapes of this event. Nonetheless, I couldn't be any more thrilled for this event. On paper, this is easily the best card for a UFC event to date.
The UFC is back in Colorado, where the promotion ran its very first pay-per-views. Before the event even begins, the crowd is chanting "Tank! Tank!" Or are they chanting "Beck! Beck!" Because they end up getting announcer Bruce Beck and they better damn well like it. Those chanting "Blat! Nick!" should also be pleased, as Jeff Blatnick is back on color commentary. Unfortunately for Don Wilson, nobody in the crowd was chanting for him. That just makes me sad.
Here's the bracket for tonight's tournament...well, most of the bracket. The damn tracking has cut off the most important (read: frightening) name of them all, David "Tank" Abbott. We're told that Patrick Smith was originally supposed to fight, be he was "medically disqualified" and Paul Varelans has taken his place. I dare not speculate about this medical suspension, but it sounds about as fishy as his "stomach cramps" from UFC 6.
The rules of the UFC are mostly the same, though the time limits have been altered. There are 15 minute limits in the quarterfinals, 18 minute limits in the semifinals, and a 27 minute limit with a three minute overtime in the finals.
Another very necessary change was made and that is the addition of judges. Fights will be scored, according to Bruce Beck, based on "aggressiveness, effectiveness of strikes, and effectiveness of ground techniques." Sounds reasonable enough to me. Adalaide Byrd and Cecil Peoples aren't judging yet, are they? Oh thank God, they're not.
No mention is initially made of the preliminary fights that take place, so I'll take care of that right away. Joe Charles defeated Scott Bessac and Mark Hall defeated Trent Jenkins, both victories coming by submission. As usual, I can't rank the fights due to lack of footage but will rank the fighters based on available information.
Onto the first televised fight between Tank Abbott and Steve Jennum. And dammit, Rich Goins is back. I thought we were rid of this dead weight announcer long ago, and they even replaced him with Michael Buffer! Now they go back to Goins?
Not only that, but he hasn't improved! He's still yelling at us! Does he not realize that he's holding a microphone? Oh no, he asks the crowd if they're "ready to rock and roll." Jesus, this is a nightmare. Ultimate Ultimate 1995, I am displeased. I will hope that Tank takes it upon himself to assault Goins sometime during the evening.
All that said, the crowd still goes nuts when Tank is introduced. They also boo Steve Jennum before he's even introduced, so it's easy to see where this crowd's bread is buttered. Abbott outweighs Jennum by 65 pounds and is also immeasurably more violent than Jennum. This is not going to be pretty.
Tank opens the fight looking to strike, but quickly takes Jennum down and pushes him into the cage. Tank is trying to land some blows from his opponent's guard, but he seems more intent on driving Jennum against the fence. He forcefully pushes Jennum into a clearly uncomfortable position, as seen in the low quality image below. Jennum is forced to tap due to this cage assisted neck crank submission.
I like to consider myself a fan of MMA history, but I'm disappointed in myself for how I've pigeonholed Abbott thus far. He's mostly known for violent knockouts, but he was more of a fighter than that. He was a smart, multi-talented fighter. His striking was dangerous and he had some pretty good wrestling, though most of his opponents haven't known how to defend against a wrestler.
Tanks wasn't as polished as a fighter like Marco Ruas, but he could definitely fight smart, even if he didn't have the cardio to push fights very far. The tournament format may not have been the best thing for Tank. When the UFC finally did away with the tournaments, Tank was fighting far superior competition and didn't have a ton of success.
I'd go as far as calling Tank an obvious pioneer of MMA, even if he never had the skills and the conditioning of the elite MMA fighters. He brought a ton of new eyes to the sport and that's never a bad thing. Even though Tank was the biggest attraction in the circus of early MMA, I hope that history remembers him a bit more fondly than that.
Back to the event, we now have our first semifinalist in Tank Abbott. He won this fight very quickly and with little effort, and that's exactly how Tank needs to win fights. He has to save every bit of energy he has, especially with well conditioned fighters like Oleg Taktarov and Marco Ruas waiting in the wings. For some reason, the UFC declines to interview the always entertaining Abbott. How disappointing.
The second quarterfinal match will pit the always sloppy Paul Varelans against Dan "The Beast" Severn. I am very glad to see Severn back in the octagon and he is still a crowd favorite. Rich Goins does his best to try and ruin the moment by once again asking us to "rock and roll." Dammit Rich Goins, I hate you so much.
This fight begins with Severn scoring a quick takedown. Varelans is absolutely clueless on how to defend Severn's obvious submission attempts and "The Beast" locks in an arm triangle. Just over a minute into this fight, Varelans taps much to the delight of the crowd. Varelans' only offense was a single weak kick before the takedown and this fight was all Dan Severn.
The third quarterfinal match looks to be another exciting one with Dave Beneteau facing Oleg Taktarov. The crowd isn't sure whether they want to cheer the Canadian or the Russian, but since 1995 isn't too far removed from the Cold War, Taktarov is greeted with mostly boos.
Taktarov quickly pulls Beneteau in close to avoid any strikes, but Beneteau manages to break away. Taktarov keeps going to the clinch and eventually rolls through and grabs a hold of Beneteau's right leg. Taktarov pulls Beneteau to the mat and sinks in a heel hook for the submission victory. Beneteau actually hit Taktarov with an illegal kick, since Beneteau is wearing shoes and is not allowed to throw any kicks, but that doesn't stop Taktarov from a submission win.
The fourth and final quarterfinal match features the returning Keith Hackney against reigning tournament champion Marco Ruas. It's nice to see Hackney, one of my favorites, back in the octagon. It's not nice to see that he's up against Marco Ruas, one of the hottest fighters in the world at this time.
Anything to add, Rich Goins? Well what else, "LETSROCKANDROLL" Somehow, his new catch phrase becomes more and more frantic with every utterance. It now sounds like a single word, which is probably the best way to get people to remember your signature phrase. Just say it as quickly and unintelligibly as possible, hoping that most of the thousands within earshot actually process what you've said. What a jackass.
The fight starts very tentatively, with both fighters exchanging intermittent kicks. The crowd seems to be in Hackney's corner, and against Ruas, he'll need all the help he can get. These fighters clearly respect one another, as neither man is willing to be the aggressor.
Hackney attempts wild right, but completely misses his opponent. Ruas uses this opportunity to push the pace, charging Hackney against the cage before taking his back. Marco Ruas eventually brings Hackney down and flattens him out, throwing some big left-handed punches against his vulnerable opponent. After not too long, Ruas sinks in a rear naked choke which forces Hackney to tap.
I like Keith Hackney, but he was very outmatched here. He was extremely tentative and didn't mount a lot of offense as he was more concerned about the damage Ruas could do given the opportunity. Ruas moves on to the semifinals, where he'll take on Oleg Taktarov. Tank Abbott and Dan Severn will be the other semifinal match and that should be a classic.
Oh joy, look who's here: it's Kimo, now looking like a cross between Road Warrior Animal and Marcus Alexander "Buff" Bagwell from the American Males. Kimo discusses his return to the UFC, saying he's been working on "techniques." Jeff Blatnick asks if he wants a rematch with Royce Gracie, which Kimo basically turns down. Count me in as unexcited for the return of Kimo, especially if that means more Joe Son.
The semifinals begin with the first ever fight between Tank Abbott and Dan Severn. The crowd is very pumped up for this fight and so am I. The crowd seems to be chanting "USA!" That's strange, considering that Abbott is from California and Severn is from Michigan. Maybe the fine people of Colorado haven't heard about America's expansion into the far western states?
Severn starts the fight with another quick takedown attempt, but Tank sprawls and works some shots to Severn's body. Severn works back to his feet and has Abbott pressed against the cage. Severn takes Abbott down and now he's striking at Tank's head and body. Severn throws some knees to the body and some punches to the side and back of Tank's head, but Tank continues to defend. As they work away from the cage, Severn throws some knees to Abbott's head, forcing Abbott back against the cage wall.
Severn tries for another arm triangle, but quickly abandons that idea. Severn has Tank's back, but doesn't make many efforts to end the fight opting to wear Abbott down instead. Severn works wrist control and sinks in an ugly crossface. Severn stays extremely busy throwing palm strikes to Tank's head, eventually flattening his opponent.
Severn briefly considers a rear naked choke but Tank isn't giving him an inch. "The Beast" seems perfectly content to throw knee and elbow strikes while making occasional efforts to advance position. Tank seems incapable of escaping this position, especially with all of Severn's 260 lbs. weighing down on him. I'm sure he's also worried about being submitted by a dangerous fighter like Dan Severn.
About eight minutes in, Tank attempts to escape but Severn is having none of that. Severn controls Abbott by grasping the fence, throwing some big knees at his downed opponent's head. Abbott looks to deflect most of the blows, but Severn is certainly winning the fight thus far on the scorecards.
The fight continues with little change for about fifteen minutes. Severn controls Abbott during this time, throwing an endless series of strikes that do little damage. Tank works back to his feet trying to break free of Severn's control, but Severn is holding on for dear life. Tank is grabbing onto the cage to keep Severn from wrestling him back to the mat, so Severn throws some knees to Abbott's thighs.
Tank is absolutely gassed with one minute left as he is totally unable to get away from Severn. At this point, Tank Abbott has an intimate relationship with the cage fence. Abbott breaks away with seconds remaining, but does nothing to cement the victory for Dan Severn. All three judges score the fight for Severn, who advances into the finals of the Ultimate Ultimate.
The three judges vote by holding up dry erase boards where Severn's name is written down. I have to say, I like this approach to judging. You choose the fighter who wins the fight as a whole, while offering immediate transparency to fight fans. Actually, I'd forget about this idea if some of these "judges" would make an effort to educate themselves about the sport instead of pretending to know anything about MMA.
This was not extremely entertaining, but at least Dan Severn made an effort to stay busy. This fight was better than 30 minutes of hugging, since it was only 18 minutes and involved a fair amount more action. That said, it was an extremely lopsided fight.
The second semifinal match is between Oleg Taktarov and Marco Ruas. I wonder if the crowd will chant "USA!" during this fight? I guess they would have to be cheering for "Big" John McCarthy, which may not be too far fetched. We get another "LETSROCKANDROLL" and this fight is under way!
This fight starts a lot like Ruas vs. Hackney did, with both fighters tentatively circling. Oleg tries for a takedown, but backs away when he realizes that he won't get it. Ruas initial strategy is be patient and throw leg kicks, though I disagree with this. Taktarov has shown discomfort with striking exchanges, so it might behoove Ruas to be a bit more aggressive.
About three minutes in, Taktarov clinches Ruas against the cage. Taktarov is holding the fence to maintain control, but then tries another roll through into a heel hook. Unfortunately for him, Ruas has a better time defending this than Dave Beneteau did. Ruas is able to briefly pull guard before Taktarov uses the cage to work back to his feet.
Both men are once again tentative, though Taktarov more aggressively attempts to take Ruas down. At one point, Taktarov attempts a diving leg sweep, but Ruas manages to escape and stay on his feet. Taktarov throws a nice left hand that stuns Ruas. Taktarov follows up with a flurry that does little damage, but he attempts a guillotine choke seven minutes into the fight. Ruas has an arm in, so it doesn't look like there's any chance of submission from this choke.
Taktarov holds onto the choke for about two minutes before Big John stands both men up. The doctors briefly look at a cut over one of Taktarov's eyes, but the cut looks okay and the fight is quickly restarted. I'm very surprised that Ruas is so hesitant to strike Taktarov. His leg kicks come very infrequently and he'd probably have more success if he pushed the pace and tried more strikes.
Two minutes into the restart, very little has happened. Both fighters are throwing strikes sparingly, doing little if any damage. Based on activity alone, you've got to say that Taktarov is ahead at this point. Ruas has done very little to try and thirteen minutes have elapsed. Don Wilson echoes my criticisms of Ruas' strategy, saying that he'd be better off being more aggressive with leg kicks. Thank you, Dragon, for making me seem like I know what I'm talking about.
I wonder how much of this tentativeness is due to both fighters knowing they have Dan Severn waiting in the finals? I can't think of any other reason for both fighters to do so little during the course of this bout. I understand Oleg not striking, since he doesn't tend to have any luck in that area, but Ruas has a distinct advantage on his feet.
Three minutes left and Taktarov is still trying to score with takedowns. Ruas does nothing but back away, failing to follow-up with any kind of offense. Taktarov will occasionally throw some punches which go unanswered by Ruas. The fight ends and is greeted with boos from the crowd. To nobody's surprise, all three judges declare Oleg Taktarov the winner. I'm surprised by the crowd's reaction, as they heartily cheer the Russian victor. I think the crowd is thankful for Oleg, as Ruas did nothing to make that fight interesting.
We now go to an interview with Ken Shamrock and we're told that he'll be fighting Kimo in the next Superfight. Shamrock doesn't say anything remarkable, discussing his approval of the Superfight format and the addition of judges. Bruce Beck reveals in this conversation that Marco Ruas didn't agree with his decision loss to Oleg Taktarov, which is stunning to me. But hey, at least the judges got it right. Shamrock will also be sitting in on commentary during the tournament finals.
Moving to the finals, we have Oleg Taktarov against Dan Severn. Both men just pulled off 18 minute decision victories, and I'd have to guess Severn expended more energy in his fight. He's also had longer to rest, so I'm not sure that cardio will be an issue in this fight. Severn gets a nice hand from the crowd, while the indifference for Taktarov is overwhelming.
Thankfully, this will be the last time for this fight that I have to bring up that jerk Rich Goins, who by the way, has been nicknamed "Go-Go" by Bruce Beck. Goins finishes his ring introductions with the most unintelligible, ridiculous utterance of "LETSROCKANDROLL." I had to play the tape back three times to even confirm that this is what he said, and even now I'm not too sure.
If Rich Goins is the announcer at UFC 8, I am going to be so pissed off. I hope for everyone's sake, though mostly my own, that we're not subjected to this doofus for another night of announcing. This has been a pretty decent night of fights, and yet, all I can do is seethe about having to listen to Rich Goins. Whatever, on with the fight.
The "USA!" chants are in full force, and this time, they're actually situation appropriate. Severn is initially working with palm strikes, and at one point, Taktarov slips. Severn sees this and pounces, trying to lock in a front facelock. Severn moves onto aggressive striking when he can't get a hold of Taktarov, but Oleg pulls Severn into clinch.
Shamrock warns that Taktarov will attempt the rolling knee bar, and like clockwork, he pulls off the move. Shamrock declares that the fight is over and that Severn will be submitted and you can see the pain on Severn's face. Severn manages to sit up, which allows him to alleviate pressure from his leg and grab a hold of the arm Taktarov is using to secure the submission. Severn tries to roll through the hold, but Taktarov keeps working. The rolling pays off as ends up on the dominant side of half-guard.
Severn's strikes from the half-guard have reopened the cut over Taktarov's right eye. Much like in his fight with Tank Abbott, Severn is staying very active. He's throwing headbutts and punches while trying to advance position. It looks like Severn is trying to impact Oleg's breathing by covering his nose and mouth. Don Wilson thinks this fight is going to be stopped shortly due to the significant blood coming from Taktarov's cut.
We're seven minutes in and Severn is still maintaining control, liberally punching and kneeing his Russian opponent. Shamrock is being a big homer while pulling for Taktarov, who he has spent time training with. He thinks that Taktarov will still manage to win, but he'll have to somehow finish this fight. Severn has been so dominant and so active that Taktarov would have a hard time taking a decision from the judges.
Ten minutes have elapsed and now Taktarov makes an effort to break free. After a headbutt attempt from Severn, Taktarov works back to his feet and is promptly grabbed by Severn. Taktarov is clinging to the cage wall, but Severn successfully drags him back down to the mat. Dan Severn is smothering Taktarov, completely eliminating his opponent's offense.
Taktarov works to his feet again, and this time, Severn agrees to stand and pushes his opponent away. The doctors take this time to look over Taktarov's cuts and the decision is made for the fight to continue. We're at the 13 minute mark of regulation with these fighters now on their feet.
Taktarov initially seems interested in striking, but is very off the mark. Taktarov attempts his rolling leglock, but Severn stuffs that attempt and ends up on top of Oleg yet again. This time, Severn is a little less active. That's completely understandable, considering Severn has been fighting for 35 minutes between his three tournament matches. He's mostly using his top position to put a lot of weight on Taktarov to impact his breathing.
With 11:14 to go in regulation, Big John stands the fighters up yet again. Both men seem absolutely exhausted and are doing very little on their feet, aside from the occasional half-hearted strike attempts. Severn has done enough to win thus far, so it's Taktarov who has to make the effort to end this fight. Taktarov tries that same rolling leglock yet again, but has absolutely no chance as the move is stuffed by Severn.
There are five minutes left in regulation for this fight and Severn is firmly in control. He's still less active than he was at the start of this fight, but he's moving around and throwing some punches and headbutts here and there. Dan Severn spends the final five minutes of this fight in Oleg Taktarov's guard and the horn sounds for overtime.
The fighters have little time to regroup before the overtime period begins. Oleg decides to exchange punches with Severn and lands some pretty clean punches, but Taktarov is clearly too tired to sustain any prolonged offense. Oleg drops to the mat trying to coax Severn into fighting on the ground, but "The Beast" wants no part of that.
Severn puts together a couple 1-2 combos in the last 30 seconds. Taktarov makes one last effort to bring the fight to the ground, but is unsuccessful as the fight comes to an end. Unsurprisingly, Dan Severn takes a unanimous decision victory, taking the $150,000 winner's prize.
Dan Severn celebrates his victory in the middle of the octagon with the American flag, much to the crowd's delight. Severn's performance at the inaugural Ultimate Ultimate was extremely impressive, defeating two previous tournament finalists and a tournament champion.
After this night, I feel like Severn is the second best fighter in UFC history behind only Royce Gracie. I know that Ken Shamrock has previously defeated Severn, but Shamrock hasn't done anything comparable to Severn's Ultimate Ultimate tournament win. This was a stellar performance against the best tournament field yet, even if the fights weren't the most fan friendly.
Overall, the Ultimate Ultimate was a night of solid, but unspectacular fights. I enjoyed this card, though there isn't a single fight that stands out. Severn's performance as a collective is perhaps the best single night performance in UFC history, but the fights were a little bit lacking.
Looking ahead to UFC 8, we know that Ken Shamrock will fight Kimo in the Superfight, while the ninth tournament will feature a number of new names. Going forward, there will be quite a few new faces in these UFC events, as the Ultimate Ultimate 1995 was the last UFC tournament for many of these participants. A lot of the new faces will go on to become all-time greats, but we'll have to wait until UFC 8 to see these fighters begin their MMA careers.
Greatest Fights of Ultimate Ultimate 1995
- Oleg Taktarov vs. Dave Beneteau
- Marco Ruas vs. Keith Hackney
- Dan Severn vs. Oleg Taktarov
- Oleg Taktarov vs. Marco Ruas
- Dan Severn vs. Tank Abbott
- Tank Abbott vs. Steve Jennum
- Dan Severn vs. Paul Varelans
Top Ten Fights Through Ultimate Ultimate 1995
- Royce Gracie vs. Kimo Leopoldo - UFC 3
- Royce Gracie vs. Dan Severn - UFC 4
- Royce Gracie vs. Keith Hackney - UFC 4
- Oleg Taktarov vs. Tank Abbott - UFC 6
- Royce Gracie vs. Ken Shamrock - UFC 1
- Ken Shamrock vs. Dan Severn - UFC 6
- Marco Ruas vs. Paul Varelans - UFC 7
- Ken Shamrock vs. Christophe Leininger - UFC 3
- Ken Shamrock vs. Patrick Smith - UFC 1
- Dan Severn vs. Oleg Taktarov - UFC 5
Greatest Fighters of Ultimate Ultimate 1995
- Dan Severn (3-0)
- Oleg Taktarov (2-1)
- Marco Ruas (1-1)
- Tank Abbott (1-1)
- Joe Charles (1-0)
- Mark Hall (1-0)
- Keith Hackney (0-1)
- Scott Bessac (0-1)
- Dave Beneteau (0-1)
- Trent Jenkins (0-1)
- Steve Jennum (0-1)
- Paul Varelans (0-1)
Top Ten Fighters Through Ultimate Ultimate 1995
- Royce Gracie (11-1-1)
- Dan Severn (8-2)
- Ken Shamrock (4-1-2)
- Oleg Taktarov (6-2-1)
- Marco Ruas (4-1)
- Patrick Smith (4-2)
- Tank Abbott (3-2)
- Gerard Gordeau (2-1)
- Remco Pardoel (3-2)
- Guy Mezger (2-0)