I was out the other day and found a guy selling a bunch of old video store copies of early UFC events on VHS so I picked them up. Given that the only true way to watch the early UFCs is on a VHS that has been passed around and dinged up a little bit, I've decided to do some "retro recaps" of each tape I purchased over the coming weeks. And what better day to resurrect these old shows, than today on Easter.
We start with UFC 5: The Return of the Beast.
The Vidmark music just feels like 1995. And we get such great previews as Eye of the Wolf, Separate Lives (Linda Hamilton AND James Belushi?!) and Death Machine (The ultimate fighting unit! No mercy! No fear! HOW ARE YOU GONNA AVOID BEING EATEN ALIVE?!). I really don't understand you if you'd rather have a lame digital version of these shows instead of the honest, real man's VHS copies that feature gems like this:
It's the Queens' city and soon a magnificent football stadium will welcome the new Carolina Panthers.
"This event is not for the feint of heart. There may be some blood spilled, there may be some bones broken. It's real, it's live, it's brutal."
Jeff Blatnick is there, which is great, but Jim Brown is still there, which is bad. His insight into things is that "Royce Gracie is not a big man."
The tournament bouts are: Andy Anderson vs. Jon Hess, Todd Medina vs. Larry Cureton, Oleg Taktarov vs. Ernest Verdecia, Dan Severn vs. Joe Charles. Guy Mezger beat John Dowdy on the undercard but Dave Benetau is the #1 alternate should someone on the main draw have to withdraw. It's actually a bit of a shame that Mezger wasn't in the main draw, but he'd return at UFC 13 after getting plenty of experience in Japan.
Andy Anderson vs. Jon Hess
Andy Anderson was 86-0 in bare knuckle boxing and won all his fights by knockout. He's got an honest face, so I'm sure that's legit. He is planning to donate his earnings to a school for the blind if he wins, but don't worry about that.
Jon Hess has a whole host of black belts and created SAFTA (Scientific Aggressive Fighting Technology of America). Hess is more honest saying he has no sanctioned fight record. But don't worry, he's never lost a fight in his life. Blatnick takes a shot at Hess'..uh.."build." Hess is also "The Giant With An Attitude." 1995 was messed up, y'all.
Anderson wearing some sweet tight striped pants and a thinly striped tanktop that quickly rips under the flurry of punches from Hess. Anderson crumbles to the ground and Hess tries to do some sort of knee drop which results in Anderson reversing him. Hess pulls guard and eventually they're back to standing and Hess punches away until John McCarthy has to stop the fight. Jon Hess wins by TKO.
It's pretty amazing to watch a fight like this and then think about a fight like Jon Jones vs. Rashad Evans only taking place 17 years later.
Todd Medina vs. Larry Cureton
Todd Medina is the first fighter to bring Bruce Lee's Jeet Kune Do to the UFC. He fights for the lord having always stood up for the little guy in the neighborhood. His best strikes are headbutts and elbows, just like Bruce Lee.
Larry Cureton is a ranked fighter in all kinds of kickboxing (FFKA north american heavyweight champion!). He was also a runner up in the Golden Gloves, and given that winning a Gold Gloves title isn't that hard, he must not be all that great of a boxer. He is "Thunderfoot."
Average length of a UFC fight at this point was 2:22.
Medina is looking for a takedown and he gets it. Cureton is looking for a guillotine choke from the guard as Medina punches him in the body. It wasn't REALLY a guillotine though and Medina is headbutting away. Cureton throwing punches to the side of the head off his back, Medina throwing occasional headbutts. Cureton looks a bit like he wants to cry as Medina elbows and punches the leg. A few headbutts, a forearm choke and Cureton taps out. Todd Medina wins by submission.
Oleg Taktarov vs. Ernest Verdecia
Taktarov has all kinds of jiu jitsu world titles we're told and then he flashes a smile that will melt your heart. He thanks fans for his now living in America. Oleg is, of course, actually good.
Verdecia is shown hitting a heavybag. He shouldn't have allowed them to film that, it's bad. He's an EMT and so are his cornermen, he feels that his opponents will need them when he gets through with them.
Verdecia comes out moving awkwardly and misses a few punches. Verdecia is on top as they hit the ground. Taktarov tries for an armbar and Verdecia gets out and lands a wild punch and a headbutt. I did not remember Verdecia doing this "well" so I guess there's even more reason to rewatch these events. Oleg sweeps, locks up the choke and it's all over. Oleg Taktarov wins by submission.
Dan Severn vs. Joe Charles
Dan Severn is extremely strong and beat up dudes at UFC 4 until Royce submitted him. Dan is the favorite in the tournament. His moustache truly is maestic. He also was 36, in 1995. And he's still fighting now.
Joe Charles is also in the "I have a bunch of black belts" club. He "was raised in the streets" and is wearing some sort of bizarre outfit on his way to the cage. For what it's worth, Charles actually wasn't just full of crap like a lot of these guys, he actually knew a bit about the fight game.
Severn with the quick takedown and throws some knees to the head. Charles eats a lot of punches but does try to take an arm but ends up having his back taken as they stand up and the palm to palm finish on the rear naked choke gets Severn the submission win. Dan Severn wins by submission.
Semi-finals are now John Hess vs. Todd Medina and Oleg Taktarov vs. Dan Severn. But John Hess has to pull out due to a "bruised hand" and Dave Benetau steps in.
Dave Benetau vs. Todd Medina
In a bit of an ironic moment, they show Benetau actually doing a halfway decent job of hitting the speed bag while they talk about how he prefers to get the fight to the ground. Up to this point they kept showing "strikers" embarrassing themselves on the heavy bag.
Jim Brown is sort of disgusted that Hess isn't in there.
Medina is "good friends with Kimo and Joe Son." That means a totally different thing in 2012 than it did in 1995. He also has a badly swollen eye because he stupidly used tiny headbutts with the front of his face in the first round of an 8-man tournament.
Benetau with a quick takedown into side control. Headbutts by Benetau. Benetau with some punches now and he's just smothering away. Full mount now. Benetau tees off with strikes now and the fight is over. Dave Benetau wins by TKO.
Dan Severn vs. Oleg Taktarov
Dan Severn gets props for winning the NWA title (pro-wrestling). That's...somethin'. He won that belt off Chris Candido. Chris Candido was awesome. Severn actually held that belt until 1999.
Severn scores a quick takedown and lands a hard knee to the face and is throwing reckless punches. The crowd is chanting "USA!" and I'm glad this was before the days of all the MMA fans being weenies and crying that it's mean to chant for fighters from your own country. You know...unless it's fans in a different country.
Taktarov looking for the armbar as Severn punches away at his face. Big knees to the head by Severn. Those knees have Taktarov gushing blood. Severn headbutting and kneeing like a wildman. McCarthy actually steps in to end the fight as Severn was just busting Taktarov's face up. Dan Severn wins by TKO.
Ken Shamrock vs. Royce Gracie
Good sweet jesus, Ken was jacked out of his mind. Royce in the "Gracie Train" walking to the cage. The "Superfight" was a good idea and everything, but with these two in the tournament and Mezger and Benetau in the main draw, this could have actually have been a really great field for the era. And probably would have been better than either "Ultimate Ultimate" tournament.
I miss when every mention of Shamrock had to be "Ken Wayne Shamrock." Ken on top early landing a right hand and now Gracie holding guard. Gracie with those little heel strikes to the kidneys he loves so much. There's really not a lot to talk about here. A lot of Royce trying to find ways to sneak in some gi chokes and throwing the short kicks, Shamrock throwing a few short punches and mainly just trying to stay out of trouble.
Every now and then Ken tries to do something, but this is kind of boring. It's Royce daring Ken to try something and Ken not wanting to try something and get submitted. These are the kind of fights that probably killed my ability to ever get my dad to watch MMA. As 12 year old Brent would bring home the latest UFC rental from Phil's Video and force him to sit through 30 minutes of Ken Shamrock laying on top of Royce Gracie while being told that it's very subtle and you should pay attention. No, the fight is bad.
Blatnick spent a lot of time being worried about guys hurting their hands punching other guys in the head.
Thirty minutes go by and, as it is supposed to be a draw, there is suddenly a five minute overtime implemented. Now, for some reason the 30 minutes goes 31:03 before they're restarted on the feet for the fie minute overtime. Shamrock with a few right hands, one of which lands hard, Gracie with his stomp kicks and back to the ground they go. Gracie's eye is badly swollen and Shamrock with a few half hearted headbutts.
It ends in a draw after the 5 minute overtime, the crowd boos. Blatnick is upset with the crowd for booing, but it was lame. Sorry, Jeff.
Dave Benetau vs. Dan Severn
Severn pushes Benetau into the cage, Benetau with some nice short uppercuts. It's a dirty clinch fight and Benetau is in there to win, throwing some hard elbows but Severn is pushing him hard into the cage. Severn finally gets the takedown into side control and starts punching to the back of the head. Severn now locks up the keylock and there's the submission and that'll to it. Dan Severn wins the UFC 5 tournament by submission.
Well, this was fun, if not a little tedious at times. Still, I'm excited for the next Retro Recap. So stay tuned, and have a happy Easter!