Revisionist History Part 1: What if Severn beat Gracie at UFC 4?

It's a well known fact that Royce Gracie dominated the early days of the UFC with his never seen before Jiu Jitsu technique that changed the MMA landscape forever. As the Gracie's love to remind us, you have to know some form of BJJ to get by in the big leagues these days, and many people (including myself) attribute that evolution to Royce Gracie.

Along the way to fame in the early days, Royce choked his opponents one by one in very little time with what seemed to be little resistance. Going into his UFC 3 bout with Kimo, Royce was undefeated and it didn't appear that anyone had evolved their game enough to stop him. Kimo presented an interesting challenge to Royce. He was a huge guy with what a basic, but effective knowledge of wrestling. Royce was able to armbar Kimo, but he was exposed in that a bigger, stronger wrestler could be able to avoid his weak takedowns and smother him with strikes. That's where Dan Severn comes in. Much more after the jump (gifs included!)

Severn was a legit wrestler. He was a two time all american at ASU and took part in the US Olympic trials in both 1984 and 1988, but he couldn't find success at that level. In 1994, Dan made his debut at UFC 4, and was really the first elite wrestler to compete in the octagon. No one really knew what to make of The Beast, but it became clear very quickly.

In his first fight at UFC 4, Severn took on Anthony Macias, and right from the get go Dan went after takedowns. When he couldn't get the first one, he grabbed Macias from behind and did his best Chris Benoit impression. Needless to say, the fight was soon over, and Severn was successful



Severn summoning his inner Chris Benoit

Dan moved on to fight Marcus Bossett, a fight which lasted less then a minute, with Severn dominating Bossett on the ground. That moved him into the finals to face Royce Gracie.


After Royce's fight with Kimo at UFC 3, he was set to face Harold Howard, a man who can only be described by his famous saying from back home:

"If you're comin' on, come on!" With moves like front somersault kicks and open plam strikes, he was sure to be a real threat to Royce.



Harold Howard doing what Harold Howard does

Howard was excited to fight Gracie, but would never get the chance to do so as Royce pulled out from the tournament, suffering his first "loss" in the UFC.

UFC 4 proved to be tougher for Royce then his previous tournaments. While he went through Ron Van Clief with relative ease, but ran into a tough test with Keith Hackney in the 2nd round. While he eventually beat Hackney via armbar, Keith had Royce hurt and had trouble taking down Hackney throughout the fight.


In the main event of UFC 4, Severn did exactly what everyone thought he would do. Despite Royce throwing his version of Muay Thai front kicks, Dan took Royce down and was controlling him easily, as he had a 80 pound weight advantage. Instead of looking to do real damage, Severn seemed content to play defense and avoid giving himself up for a submission. Eventually, Royce was able to lock on a triangle choke, and ended the 16 minute affair.



Royce tapping Dan with the first triangle choke finish in the UFC


Dan set the tone for wrestlers in the UFC. Just 4 events later, Mark Coleman hit the UFC and showed what a wrestler with ground and pound could do, but by then Royce was out of the UFC.

What would have happened if Dan Severn beat Royce Gracie by utilizing an early form of ground of pound? Being such a strong man and elite wrestler, I am surprised that Severn didn't try and inflict more damage to Royce in their match. Royce was never known for his chin and as Hackney and Kimo showed, it wasn't difficult to hurt Royce if you pressured him a little bit, which was again reinforced in the later stages in Royce's career. If Severn had postured up and dropped 3-4 bombs on Royce, I believe he would have hurt him very badly and possibly handed Gracie his real loss in MMA. I, for one, am thankful he didn't.

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