History of the UFC: UFC III - The American Dream
Posted by Matt McEwen on 04.16.2007
Royce Gracie returns as he goes for three tournament wins in a row, but he is up against the toughest field yet. Ken Shamrock makes his return, and he wants another shot at Gracie. Will the first UFC "dream match" happen, or will an unknown throw a wrench in the plans? Matt McEwen lets you know as he takes a look at UFC III: The American Dream.
UFC III: The American Dream
Six months after their last event, the UFC took their first road trip as, on September 9, 1994, Charlotte, North Carolina and the Grady Cole Convention Center played host to UFC III: The American Dream. It wasps the first time the UFC took place outside of Denver, an indicator of the popularity the UFC was enjoying at the time. The 9,000 seat auditorium was pretty much a sellout and the two previous events had been PPV successes as well as VHS best sellers. The financial security as well as the notoriety this provided allowed the UFC to field easily the toughest and deepest field yet.
Royce Gracie of course returned as the two-time defending "Ultimate Fighter". He asked for tougher competition at the end of UFC II, and it looked like he would be provided with it this time. Another familiar face made his return to the Octagon as Ken Shamrock came back, still looking to avenge his UFC I loss to Gracie. They are set up on opposite sides of the bracket, so the stage is partially set for the fight everyone wants to see - Shamrock/Gracie II. Six UFC newcomers were also in the tournament as we returned to the eight man format from the first event, and each of them will be looking to throw a wrench in the plans for the "dream final."
The show opened with a recap of Royce's seven straight victories. Oddly enough, they never mention an opponent's name, only disciplines. They really liked to beat us over the head with the fact that "Gracie Jiu Jitsu" destroys everything.
For the second straight event, our announce crew was made up of Bryan Kilmeade, Jim Brown and Ben Perry. Brown believes no one will beat Royce, as he has been working on new techniques to keep his unbeaten record intact. Perry lets us know that thanks to Roiron Gracie bringing Helio Gracie's dream of dominance to the US, Royce was becoming a true international superstar. We are hit over the head once again.
Next up we get a look at the "Laws of the Octagon", which have a much needed change this time around. There are still no rounds, no time limits and no judges, but this time the referee - Big John McCarthy back for his second straight show - has the power to stop the fight. There is still no doctor stoppage, but at least there will not be the brutal beatings we saw last time.
We get a quick video on the different styles, and this time they have broken them down into two camps - Punchers vs Grapplers. Punchers also include kicking and all other strikes, but calling them "Strikers" might have been confusing.
We are given a quick look at the brackets. Since we'll be going through each match individually, I won't bore you except for two things. First, Shamrock's match is picked to be the best of the first round, while Gracie's opponent is known only as Kimo. Kilmeade tells us he has no last name at all. Keep that in mind for later.
Before the first fight, we get a quick introduction to our ringside crew and officials. Leon Tabbs is on hand for the first of many times as the cut man, the fore mentioned Big John is back in the Octagon as the night's referee and finally, we have the US Boxing team's doctor on hand as the ringside physician.
Emmanuel Yarborough (0-0 in the UFC) vs Keith Hackney (0-0)
We start off, of course, with Yarborough's intro video, and he is a BIG guy. He is a 6'8, 616lb Sumo wrestler who finished second at the 1992 World Amateur Championships, and also has some judo credentials as well. Someone out there can correct me if I'm wrong, but I would imagine any judo success would be the result of his moving slowly and no one being able to throw him. Emmanuel believes the road to the championship goes through him. Long, wide road.
Hackney is considerably smaller than his opponent - nine inches shorter and 416lbs lighter. Gotta love no weight classes. He has been training in the martial arts for fifteen years, and will be looking to use a combination of leg kicks and open hand strikes.
"The G-Man" Rich Goins is back to do the honors once again. For those fashionistas out there, Yarborough is wearing a lovely pair of Abdullah pants (old time wrestling fans will know what I mean by that), while Hackney is in sweat pants and a tank top.
Big John tells them to "Get it on" and we are underway. Hackney tries to keep his distance and actually floors Yarborough with an open handed, over the top right. He tries to follow up quickly, but Yarborough recovers and quickly throws Hackney to the ground, takes his back and proceeds to slap the hell out of him. Hackney eventually scrambles back to his feet, but gets thrown through the gate of the Octagon when Yarborough bull rushes him, though to use the word rush in reference to anything Yarborough does is a misnomer. Big John restarts them, and Hackney looks like he should be on COPS, with half of his tank top torn off and his mullet getting all disheveled. Hackney uses a lot of little kicks trying to keep the big man away, but Yarborough eventually grabs his leg. This is the beginning of the end as Hackney tees of on his face and drops the big man. Once a 600lb guy is down, he has a hard time getting up as Hackney unleashes a barrage of strikes to Yarborough's head until McCarthy stops the fight at 1:59. Hackney instantly earns the nickname "The Giant Killer."
We're told Yarborough earned $1000 for losing, while Hackney made $5000 for winning and a chance for more in the semi finals. In his post fight interview, Yarborough tells us that no one ever hit him in the face before and that is why he lost. In an odd coincidence, Yarborough would show up a few years later at PRIDE 3, and be beaten by an even smaller opponent.
Ken Shamrock (1-1) vs Chris Leininger (0-0)
Shamrock is back, and despite working out in a pair of jeans and work boots in his video, tells us that he is here to "redeem his performance" and beat Royce. As Shamrock gets in the ring, Kilmeade and Perry tell us what a huge star Shamrock is in Japan. He's also wearing wrestling shoes, which they tell us means he can not kick. I guess that is a rule they did not tell us about. Ken is also announced as the number TWO ranked shoot fighter in Japan, which means he has dropped a notch.
Leninger is one the nation's top judoka, ranked second in his weight class on top of being a ten time Arizona state champ and ten year national team member. He makes his way out in a full blue gi, which Kilmeade acknowledges could be a factor in the fight.
Once the fight is underway, it takes about 45 seconds for there to be any contact at all. They immediately clinch and Shamrock gets the takedown. Leninger locks him in his guard as Shamrock tries to use the gi to control him. Leninger throws a lot of punches from the bottom which have essentially no affect on Shamrock, though they trade head butts which don't look like they tickle too much. They both slow down and under today's rules, the fight would be stood up. Eventually though, Leninger actually throws up a triangle attempt, which Shamrock avoids and he actually ends up taking Leninger's back. He works hard for the choke, but Leninger rolls into half guard, then full guard, but ends up with his head wedged against the cage. Leninger taps to avoid punishment at about 4:48 in. It seemed like a strange finish at first, but Leninger is so exhausted he can not even stand up. As they head back to the dressing room, you can actually get a quick glimpse at Frank Shamrock in Ken's entourage.
Roland Payne (0-0) vs Harold Howard (0-0)
Payne is the obligatory hometown boy, who they say is 27-0 in bareknuckle Muay Thai fights. He is the shortest man in the competition at 5'9, but is pretty stocky at 205lbs.
Howard is the original crazy Canuck in the UFC, so I immediately like the guy. He busts open a cement bag in his intro video, then cuts a third rate wrestling promo. Apparently, us Canadians have a saying: "If you're coming on, Come on!" I have been a Canadian my whole life, and I have honestly never heard that one. As Harold makes his way out, Kilmeade lets us know that Howard is also the the Canadian jiu jitsu champion, suggesting he might have a well rounded game. He is also wearing gi pants, a wife beater and has a mullet. Too many jokes are running through my head to make just one. Goins announces him as being from "Ontario, Canada." Why do Canadians never get a city? It would be like announcing Randy Couture as being from "Oregon, United States." Pet peeve of mine, I guess.
The fight itself is pretty quick, but action packed. They come out quick, both throwing a few and Payne actually goes for - and gets - the take down. Howard gets up and starts throwing down elbows while Payne is on his knees clinging to Howard's legs. Next up, we get an actual suplex from Howard, though Payne is quickly back up. They get into a clinch, and Howard surprisingly gets the best of the Muay Thai fighter and ends up knocking Payne out with a big right hand. All that in a bout 44 seconds or so.
For some strange reason, Howard has a pudgy, hairy guy wearing a red dinner jacket and no shirt in his corner. I'm going to guess manager, but it's still wrong.
Kilmeade sees Gary Busey somewhere in the crowd, but he's not noticeable if he is. As they analyze the next fight, you can see a pretty sizeable Japanese contingent in the crowd.
Royce Gracie (7-0) vs Kimo (0-0)
Royce is back to defend his title, and is easily the poster boy of the UFC at this point. His family running the show is only half the reason why, as he really was making quick work of the competition.
Kimo is making his debut in the UFC and MMA debut in this fight. We're told he's a second degree black belt in Tae Kwan Do, but that has been proven false in following years. Whether it was Kimo lying to get into the event, or the UFC trying to make him more impressive looking is a matter of debate. Kimo tells us that he is "Kimo Leopoldo" (hey....did they not say that Kimo had no last name just half an hour ago?) and that he is fighting to bring the word of God to the world. He also has the word of Jesus tattooed across his stomach, and a nice crucification scene on his back.
Royce makes his way to the ring with the usually suspects, while Kimo comes to the ring dressed in a hooded cape carrying a cross on his back. Nice flare for the dramatic there.
Kimo rushes Royce to start the fight, and Royce gets in position for a takedown and has to fight the 60lbs heavier Kimo for it. They actually fall through the gate that Yarborough broke earlier, and Big John has to restart them in the clinch against the cage. Royce fights HARD for the takedown, with lots of short knees and weak strikes from both fighters being thrown. Royce eventually tries a sweep and Kimo actually ends up taking his back on the ground. While Kimo tries for a choke, Perry tells us that Royce will have no problem getting out of the position. Really.....we'll see about that. It takes a while, but Royce does eventually reverse into the mount, but only for a few seconds as Kimo heaves himself into a reversal an ends up in Royce's guard. In order to control his larger opponent, Royce grabs Kimo's ponytail and holds on for dear life. Kimo actually stands his legs straight up, which results in the first haircut in UFC history as part of his ponytail is pulled out. OUCH. They get back to their feet and Kimo controls and gets a takedown. Royce quickly rolls for an arm bar and Kimo taps at the five minute mark. Both guys are absolutely exhausted.
As Royce is essentially carried to the back, Perry tells us how Royce injured his neck about three weeks prior to the event and his conditioning is off because of this. Now, I hate to accuse anyone of making excuses, but why bring that up now, as opposed to before the fight? To mention it after the most competitive fight Royce has been in yet really makes it seem like a ready made excuse.
Up until now, the show has been running pretty smoothly and is probably the best UFC yet. From this point on, it goes to hell in a hand basket.
The first injury of the night is announced, as Hackney is out due to breaking a hand on Yarborough's head during their fight. Felix Lee Mitchell will take his place in the semi finals against Shamrock. Just like last time, Mitchell has not fought yet, so a tired Shamrock has to fight a completely fresh opponent.
Ken Shamrock (2-1) vs Felix Lee Mitchell (0-0)
Mitchell is a Shaolin Kung Fu prison guard and really wants to fight Royce for the championship. He makes his way out and is the first guy to try wearing grappling gloves in a fight. I think they are really sparring gloves with the fingers cut off, but good thought nonetheless. Of course, he takes them off before the fight starts.
Shamrock comes out in a green robe instead of the red one he wore earlier - and he's changed his trunks too. That is the first wardrobe change I have seen.
Brown lets us know that it will be Shamrock in a cakewalk in this one.
Once they get under way, Mitchell has a really odd stance. He holds his arms out in front of him at about a 110 degree angle from the ground. Shamrock shoots right in and clinches. Mitchell fights off the attempted take down, and they spend the next few minutes up against the cage. Kilmeade takes the time to fill us in that there are no dq's in the event tonight. If someone bites or gouges an eye, they pay their victim $1000 per incident.
Shamrock eventually takes Mitchell's back and tries for a choke, but Mitchell fights it off and gets off the cage finally. Shamrock looks completely exhausted as this point. He tries for the takedown again, but still can't get Mitchell off his feet. He eventually gets the trip and mounts Mitchell, who rolls to his stomach and taps to a rear naked choke.
Shamrock gets up limping, but he advances to the finals and one half of the dream finals is set. Now, if only Royce can get through Harold Howard, we'll have the match up everyone wants to see.
Before the second semi-final, Kilmeade discusses how as more people watch the UFC, the competitors are cross training and evolving. Perry actually brings up something he said last time about Pat Smith being able to compete on the ground after only six months of training. He wants to make it clear he meant against anyone other than a Gracie. I think he might have got a scolding from his boss for that one.
Harold Howard (1-0) vs Royce Gracie (8-0)
Perry lets us know several times that this fight will be a test of both Gracie's will and warrior spirit due to his level of exhaustion after the Kimo fight. Kilmeade wants to know if Kimo took away the aura of invincibility that surrounded Royce. Penny responds by pointing out that the Gracie's are not unbeatable, it is just that no one has beat them in sixty years. But, was Royce not just announced with a record of 58-1? Ahhhhh.....inconsistencies - the hallmark of early UFC competitions.
In an previously taped interview, Howard tells everyone how he is looking forward to testing the new system of jiu jitsu he has been developing against a master like Royce.
Royce makes his way out, and looks tired but ready. Goins goes through the full fighter introductions, and Big John comes to Gracie's corner to ask him something. Royce shakes his head no, and his corner throws the towel in. Gracie forfeits! I wonder what Perry thinks of his warrior spirit now? Howard looks disappointed and excited at the same time if that's possible. Kimo rushes the Octagon to celebrate, but McCarthy physically picks him up and removes him.
Brown wonders if there will be a substitution for Royce as the fight never started. Now, this is where the show gets really messed up. Since he no longer has a shot a Royce, and because he was probably legitimately exhausted, Shamrock pulls out of the finals. This means that there is only one alternate left, and two fights to go. They decide to not put an alternate in for the semis, instead putting him into the finals. The way Royce went about pulling out of the competition led to some controversy, as all other competitors pulled out well before climbing into the Octagon. This led to not only a confusing situation, but an official loss on Gracie's UFC record.
So, our finals are Harold Howard, who has fought a total of 44 seconds, and Steve Jennum, a uniformed police officer from Nebraska who is also a ninja, who has not a fight all night.
Harold Howard (2-0) vs Steve Jennum (0-0)
Howard connects with an immediate right hand to start the fight, and opens up a cut on Jennum's face. Jennum tries for a takedown, but gets caught momentarily in a guillotine. They go down, but both get back up fairly quickly. Another takedown by Jennum, and he mounts and lets go with his fists and Howard's corner throws in the towel. Your winner, and UFC III champion, Steve Jennum. Brown opines that if Jennum comes back to defend, he will be in big trouble.
The 411: It started out so good, and ended so, so badly. Through the first round, this was easily the best UFC yet. We had the spectacle of Hackney beating Yarborough, a good technical grappling match with Leninger and Shamrock, a quick slug fest with Howard taking out Payne, and, finally, what instantly became the most famous fight thus far in the UFC when Kimo took Royce to the limit before getting submitted. Words cannot do justice to how huge an upset it was for Kimo just to stay with Royce that long, and to actually exhaust him to the point of removing himself from the competition. It was a moral victory to say the very least.
Competition wise, the fights are slowly starting to resemble modern day MMA more and more. Most fighters were working on the aspects of their game that their main disciplines were lacking, leading to more all around fighters, at least theoretically. As I mentioned before, the success of the two previous UFC's also seemed to be attracting a higher class of competitor than was initially stepping up. With the exception of Yarborough, no one looked entirely unqualified to be in there. Mind you, not a single guy on this show would belong in the Octagon today - Royce & Shamrock included - but it is a step up from the retired and/or out of shape boxers and kickboxers we had seen up to this point.
Next up, it is UFC IV as Royce Gracie tries to return to his former glory, and Dan Severn makes his UFC debut.