They may have lacked finesse and athleticism, but you can’t deny the heart and guts of UFC competitors in the earlier years. These strong-willed gentlemen will fight to the death in exchange for a meager payday, all for the sake of our entertainment.
When we talk about old-school UFC, the automatic word association would either be Royce Gracie, Ken Shamrock, Tank Abbott, or Dan Severn. Respectable list for sure, but I don’t think some of the other notable names of the era are getting enough credit.
Case in point: heavyweights Andre “The Chief” Roberts and Ron “H2O” Waterman. These two behemoths put on a show to remember when they fought each other at UFC 21 in ‘99.
Just by judging how the two men swung their first two punches, you can already see their palpable intent to take each other’s heads off. One of them will be lying flat on the canvas, staring at the arena lights from above. And in the first few exchanges, it looked like Roberts was going to be tonight’s casualty.
Waterman backed Roberts into the fence and inflicted visible damage. He put an onslaught of punches and knee strikes as Roberts shelled up.
Then the unthinkable happened. As he absorbed a barrage of fists, Roberts threw a squeaky-clean left hook and scored a knockdown. Waterman tried to panic wrassle his way out of his dazed state, to no avail.
He did get back up to his feet, only to eat another left hook that sent his keyster back down to the canvas. Baby-faced Big John had seen enough and intervened to stop the fight.
Both men have now been long retired with decent records and careers with relative successes. And, they will always have this fight to look back on and be proud of.