History of the UFC: UFC VI - Clash of the Titans
Posted by Matt McEwen on 05.07.2007
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. On the heels of their most succesful event yet, the UFC enters a brave new world without their biggest star and restructured ownership. Would they be able to keep to regain some momentum? And just who is this guy named Tank?
Four months after the biggest event in their two year history, a new chapter in began in the UFC on July 14, 1995 in Casper, Wyoming. UFC V, featuring the long awaited Shamrock/Gracie rematch, had been an unqualified business success, but also an artistic disaster. Would the many new fans who were caught up in the hype return to give the show another look, or had a 36 minute hug fest turned them off?
On top of that concern, this new chapter in UFC history would begin without the most dominant and popular fighter they had. With rule changes such as the introduction of time limits moving the UFC away from the original idea of Americanized Vale Tudo, the Gracie family sold their interest in the company to their partners at SEG. Unfortunately for SEG, no Gracie family participation on the promoting side of things meant no Gracie family participation on the fighting side of things as well. Three time champion Royce Gracie would be absent for UFC VI - and for the next ten years - leaving the door open for new competitors to win and new styles to dominate.
So, in the interesting position of coming off their biggest success and entering a period of uncertainty, the UFC came to Casper and drew a lack luster crowd of 2700 - to an arena with a capacity of 7500 - to see not only the traditional eight man tournament, but also the second SuperFight as Ken Shamrock would take on Dan Severn. Would new stars be born to help rebuild interest?
UFC VI: Clash of the Titans
Bruce Beck is back again, and welcomes us to what he feels is the deepest and heaviest field we have seen yet. Jeff Blatnick is, as usual, standing in the Octagon giving us its measurements and showing us the new bolts on the doors. The only man to appear at every UFC now that Royce Gracie is gone, Jim Brown is as excited as ever and still feels that size is irrelevant unless all else is equal. They give us a look at the tournament brackets, and it definitely looks interesting this time around.
As a side note that could certainly have an effect on the performances of the fighters tonight, Beck tells us that Casper is 5140 feet above sea level.
Prior to the PPV broadcast, there were two alternate fights which took place, and we get quick highlights of them. Joel Sutton (0-0 in UFC competition) pounded out a quick victory over Jack McLaughlin (0-0). Anthony Macias (0-1) used an elevator to reverse He-Man Gibson (0-0) and get a tap out victory by strikes. Brown is impressed that Macias learned striking to go along with his great grappling - the only problem is that Macias was listed as a pro Thai boxer who was a high school wrestler at his UFC IV appearance. Details, details. After the highlights, Beck informs us that Sutton injured his hand in his win and will not be able to fight tonight. Therefore, the ever present Guy Mezger will be second alternate if needed. Mezger was on hand at the event as a corner man for both Macias and Oleg Taktarov, as all three train together - along with Ken Shamrock - in Dallas.
As they run down the officials for the evening, you can see Marco Ruas over Blatnick's shoulder. If you do not who Mr. Ruas is, just wait until he shows up.
One major rule change this time around, as the referee - Big John McCarthy - will be allowed to restart the fighters in a standing position if he feels there is not enough action on the ground at any point. The announcers though he had that power at the last event, but McCarthy either did not or did not know, which explains the SuperFight. On to the fights......
Tank Abbott (0-0) vs John Matua (0-0)
Apparently, these two guys do not like each other at all. They make no mention of whether they knew each other before the fight, or if the dislike stems from the promotional week before the event. Either way, I can see Tank ruffling some feathers easy enough.
In his intro video, Tank makes it known that he is the most athletic competitor the UFC has seen yet. His discipline is listed as "pitfighting." I will go out on a limb and say that was fabricated just to avoid listing Tank as a plain old "fighter." He is also wearing grappling gloves.
In contrast to the brash Tank, Matua is rather soft spoken, but will be testing the ancient Hawaiian art of "bone-breaking."
Michael Buffer is our special guest announcer tonight. I don't know what it is, but every time he announces an event or a fight, it has a big fight feeling. Even if it goes away the second the fight starts, it's there for a minute, and that is not a bad thing at all.
The tale of the tape is pretty interesting just for the size of these two - Tank is 6' and 280 lbs, with a prodigious beer belly hanging over his shorts, while Matua is listed at 6'2 and 400 lbs, but looks anything but fat.
Big John tells them to get it on, and one of the most storied careers in the UFC gets under way as Tank comes out throwing big punches and Matua does not have a clue what to do. A big right hand drops the Hawaiian, but to his credit he gets back up. He is not on his feet for long though, as another huge right lands and Matua is OUT. Big John has to pull Tank off. Beck, Blatnick, McCarthy and everyone else are all very concerned for Matua's health as his arms are stuck straight out in front of him, while his legs are also straight but lifted off the mat at an angle. It is kind of hard to describe, but live it was one of those moments where you could only think "Holy shit, that guy is really messed up." On replay, you can see that Matua's head bounced violently off the mat as he went down, causing the nasty reaction. Matua would eventually leave the Octagon under his own power and from all accounts suffered no serious damage from the fight. So Tank begins his career with a highlight reel knockout of a monstrous opponent.
With Blatnick after the fight, Tanks says that he has "all sorts of skills you haven't seen. Punching is the weakest part of my game and I can't wait to show more skills."
Cal Worsham (0-0) vs Paul Varelans (0-0)
Worsham, an ex Marine and current Tae Kwan Do fighter, took the fight on just nine days notice. They appear to not know too much about him, as the only thing they seem certain about in the style rundown is that he is weak on the ground.
His opponent is known as the "Polar Bear." A "trap fighter" from Alaska, Varelans is huge at 6'8, 300 lbs. Things have gotten too "virtual" for Varelans, and he is here to fight for real. They describe "trap fighting" as an aggressive, true UFC style, which is to say it tries to involve all aspects of fighting. This one sounds a little more credible than "pitfighitng", but I still think I will call shenanigans.
Worsham, who is a bit stocky at 5'10 and 230lbs, meets Varelans in the center of the Octagon and the slug fest begins. The smaller Worsham actually seems to be getting the better of the t-shirt wearing Varelans, who quickly gets a bloody nose and a torn shirt. Worsham lands a nice knee in the clinch and follows up with a big right hand. About a minute in, they start to tire from all the wild punches and slow down. Varelans uses his height to land an elbow to the back of Worsham's head, but gets a right to the face for his troubles. That does not deter him too much though, as a second elbow puts Worsham out cold. We get the trifecta finish as Varelans tries to follow up - Worsham has enough presence of mind to tap, McCarthy flies in to get Varelans off and the towel comes flying in from Worsham's corner. Only time I've ever seen that.
Browns assessment of the fight is that no techniques were shown here at all. For the early events, Brown was entertaining as he seemed to be a real fan who's knowledge grew with that of the audience. However, between the last event and this event, he seems to have become fixated on submission fighting, and if someone could not fight like Royce Gracie, then they really were not skilled. He does show a touch of clairvoyance though, as he suggest that tournaments might be too much strain on the fighters and SuperFights might be the way to go from now on.
Rudyard Muncayo (0-0) vs Pat Smith (3-2)
From Ecuador, and managed by UFC V veteran Todd Medina, Muncayo is a kempo karate expert known as the "Pitbull." I wonder if that is the most common nickname in UFC history?
Pat Smith returns for the first time since loosing to Royce Gracie in the finals of UFC II. He feels that experience gives him an edge over the other competitors tonight.
The veteran Smith rushes Muncayo to start, and lands a very nice front kick to Muncayo's chest which puts him on his butt. He quickly gets back up but gets caught in a guillotine. Smith grabs a hold of the top of the fence to keep his balance as Muncayo tries to get out of the hold. Smith uses that balance to trip Muncayo up and takes him down and mounts him in one fluid motion. Muncayo gives his back and Smith finishes him off with an ugly but effective rear naked choke.
In his post fight interview, Smith seems quite winded and says that if you can not fight on the ground, then you just can not fight.
David Hasslehoff is in the crowd. This leads to a long talk about Baywatch. Brown is a fan.
Dave Benneteau (2-1) vs Oleg Taktarov (1-1)
Benneteau is the stereotypical Canuck in his intro - he thanks everyone possible. All he needed to do was say sorry for no good reason and be drinking some Timmy's and the stereotype would be complete.
Oleg is here to win. This time around, he will be trying to win without a gi, which hampered him somewhat last time.
There is a long delay at the start as they have to wait for the doctor to come back to ringside. Blatnick's assessment of the fight is that Taktarov will have an edge based on his submission abilities, despite being outweighed by almost fifty pounds.
Benneteau shoots immediately to start the fight and Taktarov is more than happen just to fall into guard. Benneteau works him up against the fence, which is where Severn finished him off last time, but Taktarov seems to have learned his lessons and scrambles to his feet. Benneteau with a few good punches, forcing Taktarov to try for the takedown. His shot attempt is met with a suplex though. Unfortunately for Benneteau, Taktarov is able to lock in a tight guillotine as they roll through the suplex and the fight is over.
Post fight, in response to what kind of fight he likes to have, Oleg says "I can do anything." We will see in the second round.
Now, just in case you think I am slacking off in my play by play here, the longest first round fight was Smith's victory, which came at 1:15 in. Even still, a pretty action packed first round.
Tank Abbott (1-0) vs Paul Varelans (1-0)
They make a quick mention that Tank things his "real world experience" is what gives him the edge in the fight. I wonder what he could possibly mean by that?
Just based on appearance, Varelans had a much harder first round than Tank did, as his shirt is torn, his eye is a bit puffy and his nose looks like it might have been broken.
Tank starts the fight off with a big right, then muscles the larger Varelans up against the fence and takes him down. Varelans with half guard, but Tank is in full control with big punches. After a few seconds of that, Tank sits up a bit and plants a knee into Varelans face - not a strike, he just kneels on his face and smiles at the crowd. He lands a couple of big lefts, and McCarthy stops the fight as Varelans can not defend himself at all. Varelans is - wrongly - upset with the stoppage, Tanks tells him to come on, but Big John puts a quick finish to that nonsense. Brown thinks Tanks has no respect and is from the street.
Post fight, Tank says he just wanted to tickle Varelans brain a bit, and then claims to be getting sexually aroused by the replay. Did not need to hear that at all really.
Before the next semi final, Pat Smith has to pull out with stomach cramps, which gives them more time to discuss Tank and his attitude. Beck and Blatnick are surprised he can back up the tough talk as that has not been the case in previous events, while Brown thinks Tank is flat out evil.
Oleg Taktarov (2-1) vs Anthony Macias (1-1)
Remember when I said these guys train together and that Guy Mezger was the cornerman for both? What could that possibly mean for the fight? Nothing good, I assure you.
Mezger comes out with Taktarov, while Macias is led in by UFC V vet Andy Anderson.
Right at the start of the fight, Macias - the pro Thai boxer - shoots for the takedown on Taktarov - the submission specialist. That makes sense. A quick guillotine later. and Taktarov has a ten second victory. Brown and Blatnick not so subtlety suggest that Macias threw the fight, and I can not disagree with them.
Oleg is a bit upset as well, but for a different reason. He had hoped to submit Pat Smith.
Next up is the SuperFight, and 55% of online fans think that Severn is going to take the victory over Shamrock. Before we get to that though, there is a quick interview with Marco Ruas, who they hope will be at UFC VII. Ruas believes that Brazilian fighters are superior to American fighters simply because fighting of this style has been going on for sixty years in Brazil.
Dan Severn (5-1) vs Ken Shamrock (3-1-1)
Shamrock thinks he will tame the beast tonight, and has little brother Frank in his corner tonight.
Unlike last time, there is a pre-ordained five minute overtime if the fight goes to the thirty minute limit.
Shamrock shoots to start the fight, and they end up clinched. Shamrock scores with a decent knee, and gets separated enough to land a few punches. Severn's turn to shoot, but Shamrock is able to stay on his feet surprisingly. He tries for a guillotine, but Severn is able to pull free. Shamrock slips it in again, and this time the fight is over in about two minutes. Easily the most impressive victory of Shamrock's UFC career so far.
Post match, Ken says his gameplan was to show how strong his wrestling skills are, and to see if Severn was strong enough to throw him. Since he was not strong enough, Shamrock was able to control the fight. He saw from previous fights how much Severn dips his head on his shots, and Shamrock knew the guillotine would be there to finish him off. With this win, Shamrock became the "SuperFight" champion, the fore-runner to the heavyweight title. The title would now be defended at each show against the winner of the previous tournament.
Sidenote - they are trying for the UFC trademark shots of random nice looking ladies in the crowd, but it seems as if that is difficult in mid-ninties Wyoming.
Tank Abbott (2-0) vs Oleg Taktarov (3-1)
Taktarov is surprisingly the aggressor to start the fight, as he initiates with punches, but Tank is able to take him down and force Oleg to pull half guard. By the way, they still do not know what call the half guard. Tank does not know what to do with it, and lets Oleg back up. Tank wants to get into a slug fest, but Taktarov is effectively using his jab to get in close and clinch. He shoots, but is unable to take Tank down. He pulls free and lands a nice uppercut on Tank. They end up against the fence as Taktarov tries for a guillotine and falls into guard for more leverage. Tank is able to pull his head free but looks very tired. Tank does not do much on top, and Big John warns them to work or he will stand them up. Weak punches from the bottom is pretty much the extent of Taktarov's offense from the bottom. Defensively though, he is doing a good job in neutralizing Tank by controlling his head and arms. Not the most exciting fight to this point, but strategically interesting on the ground in ways the Gracie fights never quite seemed to be. Five minutes in, and Tank is looking VERY tired. Oleg throws up a triangle attempt, but Tank avoids it. He has no energy to do much, but does manage to stand up. Back on their feet, Tank lands a right and works Taktarov up against the fence at about the seven and a half minute mark. Takatarov does not like how the fight is going on his feet and falls back into half guard, quickly transitioning to full guard. Lots of laying now as both guys look exhausted. Oleg tries for another triangle without success. Tank actually gets side control, but his too tired to do anything and Taktarov quickly gets him back into his guard. Blatnick's analysis is that if Tank would just mount, he could finish the fight off with punches. I'm sure he never though of that.
Big John warms them again to work at about the fourteen minute mark. Tank rises up and start landing rights until Taktarov closes his guard again. Big John decides to restart them on their feet as both guys are just plain exhausted. Tank lands a left and they clinch against the fence. Oleg tries for single leg, but stands up and lock in a guillotine. He gets it in deep, and falls back into half guard for leverage. Tank is able to get free, but Taktarov takes his back and sinks in a rear naked choke for the victory at 17:46. Both guys are totally exhausted. They even bring in oxygen for Oleg, while Tank is able to leave under his own power. Brown thinks that at a lower altitude, Tank would have won easily. I am not so sure that he is wrong about that.
Winner, and UFC VI champion - Oleg Takatarov.
The 411: In several ways, you have to look at UFC VI as a good show. Action packed fights, decisive finishes, the debut of a huge personality in Tank Abbott and the first long fight that was not a cure for insomnia. Overall, probably the second best show the UFC had put on and a great start to the SEG solo ownership era.
On the other hand, the dark times were nearing. The brutal knock out of Matua by Tank in the first round would be seen around the world - without the accompanying footage of Matua walking out of the ring on his own. The wolves had caught a whiff of something they did not like, and now they had some video to show everyone how violent the UFC could be. I am getting just a bit ahead of myself though.
Competition wise, yet another grappler won the tournament portion of the show. Taktarov, however, did put on hold the dominance of the pure wrestlers. In the SuperFight, Shamrock got his first big victory in the UFC and again showed that there were some weaknesses in the armor of the wrestler.
So, in the end, a bit of a hit and miss event. Some damage had already been done to the UFC's reputation at the last event, and more was to come at the hands of John McCain, but for one night, a good event was put on that showed a skilled competitor could handle the street fighters the promoters seemed to enjoy throwing in for flavor.
Up next is UFC VII: The Brawl in Buffalo, featuring the returns of Remco Pardell, Larry Cureton, Paul Varelans and Harold Howard, as well as the big debut of "The King of the Streets" Marco Ruas. Not only that, but Ken Shamrock defends the "SuperFight Championship" against Oleg Taktarov.......