April 7th has played host to two iconic UFC championship performances. One of those featured perhaps the greatest upset of all times. The other featured a legend of MMA and the UFC’s dark ages.
April 7, 2007: Matt Serra beats Georges St-Pierre at UFC 69
In 2006 Georges St-Pierre won the UFC’s welterweight title after a TKO victory over Matt Hughes. The win, against the only man to have beaten him, solidified St-Pierre’s promise as one of the most exciting and talented fighters the sport had ever known.
He received his title shot after a five fight winning streak over Dave Strasser, Jason Miller, Frank Trigg, Sean Sherk and B.J. Penn. With the pedigree of fighters on that list, and UFC gold around his waist, there were few doubting that ‘Rush’ was the fighter of the future.
To find the Quebecois’ next title challenger the UFC set-up one of the more memorable iterations of The Ultimate Fighter franchise. TUF 4: The Comeback featured a bevy of fighters who were well known to UFC obsessives, such as Shonie Carter, Din Thomas and Jorge Rivera.
The season included two tournaments, one at welterweight and one at middleweight, and it promised a title shot for the winner of each bracket. The middleweight winner, which was Travis Lutter, got to face off against then champ Anderson Silva. The welterweight winner got a crack at GSP.
Matt ‘The Terror’ Serra is the man who would come through that competition at 170 lbs. Before TUF he had a decent UFC tenure, with wins over Yves Edwards Jeff Curran and Ivan Manjivar. On the reality show Serra subbed Pete Spratt, got revenge against Shonie Carter and then beat Chris Lytle in the final.
UFC 69, at Houston’s Toyota Center, was chosen as the spot where he would try and convert his TUF plaque into a UFC belt.
You can see what happened in the video below:
Serra vs. GSP lasted under four minutes and ended with an amazing TKO victory for the Long Islander. For this era of MMA, the result was about the most shocking thing that could have happened. The super athlete GSP had been humbled. And the crafty veteran Serra had shocked the world, putting himself atop one of MMA’s most elite divisions.
If this happened today, GSP would get his rematch six months later. Things were different in 2007, though. Four months after being stunned by Serra, St-Pierre out-wrestled Josh Koschek (supposedly superior wrestler) in the co-main event of UFC 74. GSP was supposed to face Serra after this, but the new champion had to postpone the rematch due to a back injury.
Stepping in for Serra to face St-Pierre, for the interim welterweight title, was former champion Matt Hughes. In their third bout, St-Pierre showed again that he had evolved far beyond anything Hughes was able to handle. St-Pierre tapped Hughes with an armbar in the second.
The welterweight title unification fight then came at UFC 83 on April 19th, 2008 — we’ll talk about that next week...
April 7, 1995: Dan Severn wins UFC 5
Years before GSP ever stepped foot inside a cage, the UFC was grinding away in obscurity, championing men who looked less like gym-rats and more like bikers, loggers and mercenaries.
In 1995 those stereotypes were easily found among the field for UFC 5, which took place at the Independence Arena in Charlotte, NC. The event was headlined by a fight between frequent rivals Ken Shamrock and Royce Gracie. That match ended in a draw.
The actual tournament was won by Dan ‘The Beast’ Severn, a highly decorated wrestler and two time Olympic team alternate He won the competition after beating judoka Joe Charles, sambo stylists Oleg Taktarov and then fellow wrestler Dave Beneteau.
You can watch Severn vs. Beneteau below:
After UFC 5 Severn faced Shamrock at UFC 6. He lost via guillotine. That match-up would generate a bitter feud that would see the men fight again at UFC 9 (in a fight Severn won) and play opposite each other inside the rings of the then-WWF.
Severn’s MMA career rumbled on for another two decades after those early UFC appearances. Today his record stands at an incredible 101-19-7. His most recent bout came in 2012, where he beat Alex Rozman by decision.
In 2005 Severn was inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame’s pioneer wing.