Why is this titled "Gracie Era", and not "Royce Gracie Era"?
Because what Royce Gracie did in 1993-1995, that was the Gracie family effort.
Ever since Rorion Gracie moved to the America in the early 1980’s, he had a dream of bringing Vale Tudo fights to mainstream America in order to promote Gracie Jiu Jitsu.
In 1993, Royce wasn't even the best of the Gracies. He was just selected to represent family.
I don't want to repeat the story that was told so many times, so let me start with some rankings and numbers.
First I need to point out that this post is a continuation of my previous post
As I mentioned in that previous post, all fighters in the open-weight era (1993 - 1996) were divided into two weight categories:
- heavyweight (above 170)
- lightweight (below 170)
In the first quarter of 1994, Royce increased his win streak to 7 and was dominant at the top of P4P ranking.
At that time some people thought he has some kind of Brazilian magic, that made much bigger guys feeble.
Following graph shows how dominant Royce was in terms of Current Score points:
Masakatsu Funaki had two impressive wins (Bas Rutten and Vernon White) and that made him #2 P4P in 1994Q1. He kept that #2 spot for the next two quarters. In Q2 he added two more wins, but that was against much lower ranked opponents - so his score slightly decreased.
In 1994 Q1 Minoru Suzuki had a win over Ken Shamrock and that puts him at #3. And he stays there for Q2 as well.
Following is a P4P ranking at the end of Q3 of 1994:
- Kimo Leopoldo pushed Royce to his limits, but Royce still won.
- Funaki was submitted by Jason Delucia !? And then Funaki rebounded by submitting Ken Shamrock.
- Ken is constantly switching between UFC and Pancrase. he is probably the most active fighter at that time (13 fights in 1994).
- After 10 years Rickson Gracie has another official fight. He won Vale Tudo Japan 8-man/1 day tournament. Although, none of his opponents was worth mentioning.
- It is surprising to see Takaku Fuke ranked that high. But he just defeated Jason Delucia and Manabu Yamada.
Now let's go to the end of 1994 and see who was in the top 10 for heavyweight (above 170) and lightweight (below 170)
In HW we have standard #1 - #3.
- Royce won another UFC tournament, but was seriously tested by Dan Severn. We could consider this to be peak of his career.
- Pancrase has their first official championship tournament . We could probably say that this King of Pancrase Tournament was as strong, if not stronger, than any UFC tournament so far.
- The bracket featured sixteen fighters including the Shamrock bothers, Minoru Suzuki, Masaktasu Funaki, Bas Rutten, Maruice Smith and Jason DeLucia.
- Ken Shamrock become the first Pancrase Open Weight champion (the King on Pancrase).
- Another significance here is emergence of Frank Shamrock. In his professional debut he defeated Bas Rutten, but then was submitted by Yamada.
- Pancrease had a lot of high quality fighters from all over the world. And they were very active. That is why they have 8 fighters in top 10 HW.
In LW Shooto is still dominant and top 10 are all Japanese fighters.
- Top lightweights are slipping down on the P4P list and Shooto is not as significant as in previous years.
- For some reason, Shooto didn't have any championship fight for almost two years. They still had regular events.
- Noboru Asahi is on a big win streak, but most of his opponents have low rating.
Following graph shows how much stronger is HW division (fighters over 170 lb) than LW at the end of 1994.
Both divisions still have very few good fighters. In 1994 ScoreCardMMA has 48 ranked HW and 32 ranked LW . That is why Quantity index is so low. But Quality (TopFighters) is mostly in the HW division.
At this time we have several MMA Promotions and most of the top promotions are in Japan:
rnk. Promotion (Score) - [Event1Yr : Event1Qr] - UtlzFighters
1. Pancrase (529) - [10 : 3] - 23
2. UFC (387) - [3 : 1] - 16
3. Shooto (343) - [5 : 1] - 18
4. VTJ (133) - [1 :0 ] - 7
5. K-1 (106) - [1 : 1] - 2
6. Desafio (70) - [1 : 1] - 4
Pancrase had 10 events in 2014 and 3 in the last quarter. They used 23 different ranked fighters.
Royce Gracie was a dominant fighter in 1994/1995. At #2 P4P we had two fighters: Ken Shamrock and Masakatsu Funaki.
Here is how Current Score for those 3 was changing on a quarterly basis:
I included Bas Rutten because in this period he was ranked form #3 to #6. And he is a future #1.
Let's now review the second half of year 1995.
At the top of HW division we have same names as before. But Royce now look less dominant than in the previous quarters.
Ken Shamrock (after that Draw with Royce at UFC 5) is much closer (look at Current Score points). He would be even closer if he didn't have that loss to Minoru Suzuki. Many people think that was another Fake fight. Ken was no longer on good terms with Pancrase. But they required him to return to Japan to defend his title.
A month before that title fight (Ken - Suzuki in May 1995), Frank Shamrock submitted Suzuki. It is weird that someone gets a title fight after a loss. But then, Suzuki was a co-owner. Suzuki had that title for a very short time. In Sep 1995, he lost that Pancrease title after Bas Rutten put him into Guillotine Choke. If it wasn't for that dubious loss, Ken Shamrock would be on a huge win streak (11 wins and 2 draws).
Now we have 2 Russians in the top 10 HW: Oleg Taktarov and Mikhail Ilyukhin
Big changes in the Lightweights. For the first time we have non-Japanese on the top.
Wander Braga won 3 tournaments in a row and defeated Luiz Fraga. This was enough to dethrone Asahi from LW top spot.
Jorge Patino was also very successful in CDL (Circuito de Lutas) tournaments. Patino is still very active and is fighting in WSOF.
In 1995 we have increased number of MMA relevant countries. Here is the top 7 MMA Country ranking at the end of 1995:
Japan is no longer leading MMA country. America, Brazil and Japan are almost tied in 1995 Q3/Q4. Now America has the most active fighters and Brazil has top fighters.
Following graph shows how Country MMA Score was changing for the top 5 Countries:
At the end of 1995, we can sense that new MMA era is coming
- Royce Gracie is no longer invincible (draw with Ken). He had last fight in Apr 1995 and will not fight next 5 years.
- Complete domination of top 3 Promotions (Pancrase, UFC, Shooto) is coming to an end. They are still top promotions, but many new organizations are becoming competitive.
- Russia is now joining top MMA countries. They now have their own MMA stars and organize strong events.
- There is a huge jump in number of ranked fighters. In HW we have a jump from 88 fighters in Q3 1995 to 122 in Q4 1995.
This is a P4P ranking for the end of 1995:
- Royce will stay at the top for another quarter, but his point lead is now very narrow.
- Ricardo Morais just won maybe the toughest one day tournament ever (IAFC - Absolute Fighting Championship 1). He had 5 wins in one day. All finishes over very good fighters: Alex Andrade, Maxim Tarasov, Victor Yerohin, Mikhail Ilyukhin.
- Mikhail Ilyukhin was second finalist and he defeated Igor Vovchanchyn with Chin in the Eye Submission.
Let's now review the MMA Promotion rankings in this period.
At the end of 1994 we had just a few MMA promotions. Pancrase was at the top and they were closely followed by UFC and Shooto.
At the end of 1995 we have following situation:
- Pancrase is very active (10 events in 1 year) and has the most fighters in top 50 P4P (12 fighters).
- UFC has the P4P best fighter.
- IAFC has the best Event in this era and #2 fighter.
Following graph shows how promotion Score was changing for top MMA organizations in that period:
This is a top 10 list of Events from this period ( 1993 to end of 1995):
IAFC - Absolute Fighting Championship 1 is by far the best event from that period. It is interesting to see so many events with 100% finish rate.
So, why was "IAFC - Absolute Fighting Championship 1" so great?
- First of all, a tournament where you need to win 5 fights in one day - that is remarkable.
- And the quality of participants was very good, especially for that era.
- Then you have real no-holds-barred matches, no gloves, almost everything allowed.
- I didn't see any oversized/no skill fighters.