**This is the seventh 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 seven UFC events.**
Ken Shamrock and Oleg Taktarov are coming off of strong showings at UFC 6. Shamrock conquered "The Beast", as he was able to submit the very dangerous Dan Severn. Oleg Taktarov managed to win the UFC 6 tournament, with the most notable win over newcomer Tank Abbott. At UFC 7, these two men will meet in the third ever Superfight. Taktarov and Shamrock are both notable submission fighters, so we're likely to see someone tap out - but who will it be?
Though we have a pretty exciting Superfight, the tournament for UFC 7 is shaping up to be a real shit sandwich. Marco Ruas is a new exciting face, while we'll see a couple of returns to the octagon. Remco Pardoel and Paul Varelans are back, while a true UFC legend will be making his long awaited return. Ladies and gentlemen - it's UFC 7: The Return of Harold Howard!
UFC 7: The Brawl in Buffalo - September 8, 1995
Okay, so it's not called "The Return of Harold Howard", but it really should be. I don't know if the concept of unintentional comedy was well known in 1995, so Harold Howard didn't get the appreciation and adoration that he deserved. That's kinda sad, isn't it? It would be if Harold wasn't so damn goofy. And awful.
But right, we've got an event on our hands! Somehow, these pre-event montages haven't improved in about two years. Fight clips are shown while awful piano and synthesizer music is played in the background. Bruce Beck randomly calls the UFC "the house of dreams and pain", which is a catch phrase they really need to bring back. Beck is joined again by Jeff Blatnick, who stammers on about the danger involved in these fights.
Oh, and Blatnick reveals that he spoke with our man Harold Howard prior to the fights. Regarding the UFC, Howard is quoted as saying, "it's a great rush, eh? It makes your sphincter get real tight." Oh man, why don't they have tape of him saying that?? One of the greatest quotes in the history of man and it's not on tape. So far, not a good start to this event.
We now learn that Jim Brown is no longer doing commentary and he's been replaced by world champion kickboxer Don "The Dragon" Wilson. I think we all know Wilson best from the immortal Bloodfist series of movies, where he basically played a different role in each movie. Nonetheless, Wilson seems like a quality replacement, even though he looks like the lovechild of Yoko Ono and Ricky Steamboat.
We're given the results of the three preliminary fights: Joel Sutton defeated Geza Kalman, Onassis Parungao defeated Francesco Maturi, and Scott Bessac defeated David Hood. I've been able to find footage of Bessac and Hood, as it was included on a UFC highlights video. Basically, Scott Bessac played pro football, trained with Ken Shamrock, and had a mustache. David Hood looks like a young, tan Matt Serra with hair. Bessac is four inches taller and fifty pounds heavier than Hood and it doesn't take him long to dispose of his opponent. Then men briefly exchange shots, including low blows, but Bessac sinks in a quick guillotine for the win.
John McCarthy is still in place as the referee for the UFC, while Ron Van Clief is looking as old and bow-tied as ever while appearing as the commissioner of the "IFC". I'm not sure if that's just some fabled martial arts body made up to sound prestigious, but at least Van Clief looks the part. Meanwhile, we're shown the brackets for this event.
As I said earlier, shit sandwich. If Harold Howard doesn't win this, I'm not sure there will be enough to care about at this event. I'll be keeping my fingers crossed. I'll be interested to see Marco Ruas in action, while it's been quite a while since we've seen Remco Pardoel.
Hey, Michael Buffer is back! He's looking as swank as ever in a nice blue blazer and bow tie. Buffer continues to be the man, lending credence to these events with his dulcet tones. And what a treat, we're asked if whether or not we're ready to rumble right away! Man, Buffer has been giving out the good stuff to the UFC. They must have paid him at the high end of his wage scale.
Buffer introduces the first fight between Gerry Harris and Paul Varelans. Harris is new, while we remember Varelans from UFC 6 for being insane. Harris and Varelans are both 6'8", so there's no real size advantage here. Varelans quickly lunches at Harris and tries a weak takedown. Somehow, it's enough to bring Harris to the mat.
Varelans has side control and is throwing some weak shots. Harris gives up his back, and rather than going for a choke, Varelans decides to pound on Harris' head. After punches fail to stop his opponent, Varelans starts to throw some elbows, prompting Harris to tap out. This fight is pretty typical of how brutal and devoid of talent early UFC fights can be. I'm counting down the events until I get to some legitimate MMA action because I'm sick of watching these ugly, awful men beat each other up.
But now, it's time for what we've all been waiting for - Harold Howard's return to the octagon! Howard will be fighting Mark Hall in the second quarterfinal match. Howard has a new look, as he's cleaned up a bit since we've last seen him. I'm guessing that the halfway house he was staying at in 1995 required him to maintain his appearance. Howard's victory against Royce Gracie still isn't being recognized, which is a real shame. I don't think any other fighter has earned a forfeit victory more than Howard, so to not consider that fight is doing a disservice to Howard's legacy.
Harold Howard, the Niagara Falls native, gets a great hand from the Buffalo crowd and this fight is under way. Howard backs Hall against the cage and throws some wild punches to Hall's body. Howard attempts a one-handed choke as he takes his opponent down, but Hall quickly reverses positions and pulls guard. Hall is throwing some big punches and quickly bloodies Howard. Mark Hall is fighting like a jerk, pulling Howard's hair and grabbing the cage. Of all the no-rules fighters, Hall is the one I like the least. Harold Howard is forced to tap out due to strikes, ending what could have been a beautiful run through the UFC 7 tournament.
Actually, Howard makes the "X" sign with his arms instead of tapping out. I'm not sure why this was his desired method of submission, but it makes sense. Harold Howard has his own style, and part of that is not tapping out. After the fight, Howard beckons Hall and congratulates him, though he looks just as likely to gouge Hall's eyes. After the fight, Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly is shown in the crowd!
Great of you to come, Jim. It takes a real fan to come out to the fight and look so indifferent. He must just be deflated about the Harold Howard loss. I know how that feels.
In the third quarterfinal fight, Remco Pardoel will return to the octagon against newcomer Ryan Parker. Parker, a college student, looks super nervous. He just looks to be rocking back and forth in his corner. I can't blame him, since Michael Buffer just introduced his opponent as a world jiu-jitsu champion. Also, Pardoel is sponsored by Hartjie's Autos, and we all know that Hartjie's only sponsors winners. This doesn't bode well for Parker.
The fight starts and Pardoel quickly pulls Parker into the clinch. After a weak exchange, Pardoel lands a nice judo throw. He quickly ties up Parker's free arm and starts to throw some unprotected punches. They don't appear to do a lot of damage, but Parker is pretty much defenseless. Pardoel appears to lock in some kind of head and arm choke, but it doesn't go anywhere.
Pardoel then moves to full mount and throttles Parker with his forearm. Pardoel applies pressure against his opponent's throat for maybe a minute with no response from Parker. Pardoel slips his other arm behind Parker's head and secures the choke, forcing Parker to tap out. It was a pretty rudimentary choke, but it was more than enough to get Pardoel the victory. All Pardoel had to do was not fall asleep in order to win this fight - Parker seemed pretty lost.
This fourth quarterfinal is the most interesting, with Larry Cureton taking on the debuting Marco Ruas. I'm interested to see how Ruas will do in the UFC, though Larry Cureton is a little scary looking. To add some intrigue, Ruas is billed as "age unknown", similar to how the Ultimate Warrior was from Parts Unknown. Ruas, however, appears to be missing face paint and tassels.
Cureton quickly goes for a guillotine choke, but Ruas slams him down to the mat and pulls side control. Ruas doesn't really strike as he instead looks to advance position. Cureton somehow reverses position and ends up on top of Ruas. Ruas secures Cureton's head and left arm, pretty much immobilizing the bigger fighter.
Ruas tries for an armbar, but Cureton breaks that hold pretty quickly. Ruas mostly seems interested in defending until Cureton provides him with an opening. That comes when Cureton stands, attempting to gain leverage on his punches. Ruas grabs a hold of Cureton's left ankle and slowly works to a heel hook. Cureton struggles for a bit, but eventually taps out. I'm not sure that Cureton ever had a chance - he really had no idea how to stop Ruas on the ground.
We move onto the semifinals, where Paul Varelans will fight Mark Hall. Varelans is the much, much bigger man, outweighing Mark Hall by 110 lbs. Varelans is also eight inches taller than his opponent.
The fight starts and Hall throws a quick right hand, but Varelans responds by grabbing Hall and throwing him to the mat. Varelans pulls a headlock and doesn't do much with it before pulling full mount. Varelans considers throwing some elbows, but ends up sinking in a keylock for the submission victory.
The crowd doesn't seem to be very impressed by Varelans, as they respond with chants of "we want Tank!" I agree with this, as I'd love to see Tank get another chance to tickle Varelans' brain. I know Tank will be back at the next event, but time will tell if he'll get another shot at Varelans.
One thing I've noticed is the absence of prefight introductions and postfight videos. I'm not sure if they've been cut due to time, but this event has been moving pretty swiftly. Of course, the 1800 words I've written so far may not indicate that, so you'll just have to trust me.
Onto the second semifinal match between Marco Ruas and Remco Pardoel. Pardoel has a big size advantage and is pretty skilled, so he should be able to put up a great fight against Ruas. Ruas starts the fight with some leg kicks, but Pardoel wants no part of that and grabs Ruas' head. Pardoel seems interested in a guillotine choke, but the choke doesn't seem to be very deep.
Pardoel keeps hold of Ruas' head for a significant amount of time and he seems perfectly content to do nothing to advance position. Ruas isn't in any kind of danger and Pardoel holds his head for about three or four minutes. Pardoel throws some low knees, so Ruas responds with some foot stomps.
Pardoel decides to roll Ruas to the mat around the six minute mark, but Ruas easily reverse positions and escapes Remco's grasp. Once Ruas is in guard, he is inactive for about a minute before attempting a heel hook. Ruas spends quite a while holding onto Pardoel's ankle, but does little damage. Pardoel escapes and Ruas goes back to guard. Ruas throws an occasional punch, but we hit the ten minute mark with both fighters being very inactive.
Ruas takes some time to assess the situation and works to advance position. He eventually stands over his downed opponent and moves into side control. Ruas is keeping a firm grasp of Pardoel's gi, reaching his arm around Pardoel's throat and chin and into the collar of the gi. This allows Ruas to advance to full mount, which prompts Pardoel to tap out. Beck and Blatnick are confused by the tap, but anybody who remembers the Gracie/Jimmerson fight from UFC 1 knows all about submission due to position. That's exactly what we have here, and now Ruas moves on to the finals.
The UFC advertises their December 1995 show, which is called "The Ultimate Ultimate". This seems to be a second anniversary celebration of the UFC, featuring Dan Severn, Keith Hackney, Oleg Taktarov, and Tank Abbott. Bruce Beck calls this a tournament of champions, and now I'm already looking forward to the next show. And we've still got two fights to go tonight!
Jeff Blatnick conducts an interview with Tank Abbott, who claims that he lost to Oleg Taktarov because he wasn't prepared for the altitude at UFC 6. He says that the altitude won't affect him at the Ultimate Ultimate, even though it will take place in the Mile High City of Denver. Abbott says he wants to be victorious at the next event with bloody bodies all around him in the octagon. Tank says that people who are losers call you cocky and that he's a winner. I'm seriously looking forward to the Ultimate Ultimate - it's going to be tremendous.
But now, it's time for the Superfight between Oleg Taktarov and Ken Shamrock. Michael Buffer once against gets us ready to rumble, and I'm very much enjoying his liberal use of this catch phrase. Ken Shamrock is absolutely the fan favorite here, and as the defending Superfight champion, he's likely the odds on favorite to win this fight.
The fight begins with Shamrock trying to find his distance with strikes, while Taktarov is characteristically uncomfortable on his feet. Taktarov attempts some weak strikes, but Shamrock is not bothered. Shamrock's weak takedown attempt is enough to get Taktarov down, though Oleg seems to be a willing takedown recipient.
Shamrock and Taktarov spend a lot of the time on the mat throwing short strikes at one another, Shamrock with punches and headbutts and Taktarov almost exclusively with weak punches behind his opponent's ears. I'm really stunned how long this goes on without a restart. Six minutes in, this looks like a rerun of Shamrock/Gracie 2, just with a Russian instead of a Brazilian.
Shamrock is making some weak attempts at advancing position, keeping Taktarov off the cage and looking vaguely interesting in passing guard. Shamrock throws an occasional big strike, but is making no attempt to end this fight. Referee "Big" John McCarthy tells both fighters to keep active, but we're about 12 minutes in without a restart. I'm currently not confident in Big John's willingness to stand these fighters back up.
Shamrock manages to bloody Taktarov's right eye, but that's the only visible sign of damage and we're half way through the 30 minutes of regulation. Finally, Big John sees fit to restart the fight. I'm not sure what good restart rules are if you use them once every fifteen minutes, but I guess it's better than nothing.
But don't worry everyone, these two are back to the mat before we know it! Taktarov attempted a takedown, but Shamrock sprawled and drove forward, ending up in Oleg's guard yet again. The next five minutes are just like the first fifteen with little damage done. Big John stands them up yet again at the twenty minute mark.
The men lock up and Taktarov looks interested in throwing Shamrock, but doesn't go through with that idea. Rather than throwing strikes, both fighters are perfectly content circling each other. Shamrock grabs a side waistlock, but Taktarov rolls through and - get this - Shamrock ends up in guard. Oh boy. We get more ground inactivity until our third restart at 27 minutes.
Shamrock seems a little more determined to throw with Taktarov, landing some quick jabs, but Oleg responds with some wild punches of his own. This is brutal, these guys aren't even doing anything on their feet. Lots of feints from both men, but no real striking. At one point, Shamrock is warned not to kick since he's wearing wrestling shoes. The fight hits the 30 minute mark with little fanfare and the fighters briefly regroup before the overtime.
Shamrock is aggressive from the start in overtime, throwing some really big punches to Taktarov's head and body. Shamrock throws a lot of wild shots that miss the mark, but at least he's finally trying to end this fight. Taktarov is desperate to close the distance, but Shamrock does his best to keep Taktarov at bay with his strikes. Oleg is momentarily able to gain control, but Shamrock is generally able to escape.
Two minutes into overtime, Taktarov is finally able to drag Shamrock into his guard. Shamrock attempts some submissions in the last 15 seconds, but to no avail. Since there are no judges, this fight ends in a draw.
Someone in Taktarov's camp seems to have wasted perfectly good money on an inaccurate sign. This was another bad Superfight, though it's barely better than Shamrock vs. Gracie 2. At least we had a few stand-ups in this fight, but it was still really unpleasant.
Thank goodness the event didn't end like that, as we now have the tournament final between Paul Varelans and Marco Ruas. Michael Buffer tries his best to pump up the crowd, suggesting that we all prepare for the impending rumble. Varelans is a lot bigger than Ruas, but he also fights like a big dumb animal, so this could go either way.
Varelans starts the fight by pushing forward, but Ruas is the more aggressive fighter. The Brazilian throws some really good punches and low kicks to keep Varelans away. Eventually, Varelans is able to force Ruas against the cage with all of his 300 lbs. Ruas manages to break free and throws some more low kicks at his circling opponent. Ruas is very actively avoiding the bigger Varelans and is landing some nice blows in the process.
Varelans has continued his trend of looking sloppy. It doesn't look like he's doing any damage. Ruas even attempts a takedown, but Varelans uses that opportunity to try and decapitate Ruas with a guillotine choke.
This choke looks a lot worse than it actually is. Varelans quickly releases and Ruas manages to escape. Varelans' strategy appears to be force Ruas against the cage and wear him out, but Ruas doesn't have a very hard time trying to escape.
At one point, Ruas takes Varelans back and has him pressed against the cage. Varelans' defense consists of hugging the top of the octagon and grabbing the fence as tightly as he can. Ruas throws some knees to the back of Varelans' thighs, while Varelans throws some useless mule kicks and back foot stomps. Ruas is keeping very active and doing some consistent damage against Varelans. Jeff Blatnick is stunned by Varelans's nonsensical defense, but I'm not. This is how a bad fighter survives against a good fighter.
Blatnick also calls Ruas "a tiny man with a tiny little axe trying to chop down a redwood." That is the greatest description of any fighter in the history of mixed martial arts. Ruas is absolutely tenacious and he is not giving up here. There's not a lot a Ruas can do in this situation, but bless him for trying to make this a decent fight.
Big John restarts the fight after about nine minutes. Varelans spends a lot of time walking toward Ruas, but doesn't really follow it up with any strikes. Ruas keeps throwing those big low kicks, which have done serious damage to Varelans' right leg during the fight. His thigh is very red and bruised and Ruas knows it.
At 11:45 in the fight, Varelans starts to show how hurt he is. He begins limping around the cage and reacts to each successive kick thrown by Ruas. Varelans is still throwing strikes, but the big dummy keeps pushing forward despite having sustained serious damage.
Varelans starts to seriously buckle and Ruas pounces. He is finally able to chop Varelans down with those leg kicks, bringing the bigger fighter to the mat. Ruas mounts his downed opponent and throws some unanswered punches until Big John stops the fight. Marco Ruas somehow managed to thrill this crowd with an exciting display of striking against his much bigger opponent. Ruas is the seventh UFC tournament champion and he shares a very emotional celebration with his corner.
On paper, this card looked really bad. Through the Superfight, this card actually was really bad, save for the performance of Marco Ruas. Ruas' display in the finals was some of the best striking we've seen in the UFC so far. Ruas flashed his submission skills early in the tournament, but the constant barrage of kicks and punches added a whole new dynamic to his game. Ruas seemed primed to fill the gap left by Royce Gracie and then some.
UFC 7 ended with a bang and this looks to carry over into the Ultimate Ultimate. There will be no Superfight at that event, but 12 former UFC fighters, including four UFC tournament champions, will compete at this event. Some other big changes will be made at this event to ensure that the 30 minute draws are a thing of the past. In certain ways, UFC 7 is the end of some of the more archaic MMA ordinances. At the Ultimate Ultimate, the UFC will continue to morph into the sport we know today.
Greatest Fights of UFC 7
- Marco Ruas vs. Paul Varelans
- Marco Ruas vs. Remco Pardoel
- Marco Ruas vs. Larry Cureton
- Mark Hall vs. Harold Howard
- Paul Varelans vs. Mark Hall
- Remco Pardoel vs. Ryan Parker
- Ken Shamrock vs. Oleg Taktarov
- Scott Bessac vs. David Hood
- Paul Varelans vs. Gerry Harris
Top Ten Fights Through UFC 7
- 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 UFC 7
- Marco Ruas (3-0)
- Remco Pardoel (1-1)
- Paul Varelans (2-1)
- Scott Bessac (1-0)
- Ken Shamrock (0-0-1)
- Mark Hall (1-1)
- Oleg Taktarov (0-0-1)
- Onassis Parungao (1-0)
- Larry Cureton (0-1)
- Joel Sutton (1-0)
- Harold Howard (0-1)
- Francesco Maturi (0-1)
- Geza Kalman (0-1)
- Ryan Parker (0-1)
- Gerry Harris (0-1)
- David Hood (0-1)
Top Ten Fighters Through UFC 7
- Royce Gracie (11-1-1)
- Ken Shamrock (4-1-2)
- Dan Severn (5-2)
- Marco Ruas (3-0)
- Oleg Taktarov (4-1-1)
- Patrick Smith (4-2)
- Tank Abbott (2-1)
- Keith Hackney (2-1)
- Steve Jennum (2-0)
- Gerard Gordeau (2-1)