Zombie Prophet has favored us with a sweet collection of animated gifs from the pre-UFC career of the legendary Evan Tanner. Tanner passed away four years ago today and we wanted to commemorate the sad date and honor his memory by looking at what he did best -- fight.
Tanner, a former two-time Texas state high school wrestling champ, started out in MMA in the Amarillo, Texas shoot-fighting league USFW. Their rules were similar to Pancrase -- no punches, only palm strikes but knees were allowed.
Tanner wasn't the only future top fighter to start with the USFW, future UFC fighters Heath Herring (also a Pride star) and Paul Buentello both lost to Tanner and we'll see those moments after the jump.
We'll also see his 1998 Pancrase Neo-Blood tournament run, including his win over Minowaman.
EvanTanner Vs.Mike Kennedy Unified Shoot Wrestling Federation 4Tanner's first fight. We can see the BJJ he learned watching Gracies in Action video tapes at work. April 12, 1997
Evan's second pro fight that very same night against Gary Nabors at USFW 4 on April 12, 1997. The rule set only allowed palm strikes, no punches. Tanner uses a keylock to get the tap.
In the finals of the eight man tournament at USFW 4, Tanner meets and beats future UFC HW contender Paul Buentello and uses a nice rear naked choke to get the tap out. At this point Tanner's only submission training was some VHS Gracies in Action tapes. He had been a Texas state champion in wrestling in high school.
Here's future Pride star Heath Herring conceding due to exhaustion against Evan at USFW 7 on October 18, 1997. This was Herring's second pro fight and his first loss.
Here's Tanner vs. Rusty Totty at USFW 8 on March 28, 1998. We can see Tanner adding the arm triangle choke to his repertoire after setting it up with palm strikes from the mount.
Here's Tanner getting his first TKO win over Wade Kroeze at Gladiators 2 in Iowa on April 18, 1998. Note how Tanner lands a wicked knee to the face while he's got a body lock around Kroeze's waist. Tanner's use of knees and elbows in the clinch was a big innovation in MMA.
Here we have Tanner getting his first triangle choke submission over Dennis Reed at the same Gladiators 2 event.
Here he's defending his USFW heavyweight title against Tony Castillo at USFW 9 on June 20, 1998. Tanner's use of the Thai plum (double collar ties) and knees had rarely been seen in MMA before.
Here Tanner uses an arm triangle choke from mount to beat Ikuhisa Minowa in the opening round of the Pancrase Neo-Blood tournament on July 7, 1998. Minowa would grow up to become Minowaman.
Another Pancrase Neo-Blood tournament bout, another arm triangle from mount this time over Kosei Kubota again on July 7, 1998.
Here Tanner gets a kimura from side mount over Justin McCully in the second round of the Pancrase Neo-Blood tournament on July 26, 1998.