History of the UFC: UFC 7.5 - The Ultimate Ultimate '95
Posted by Matt McEwen on 05.21.2007
What do you get when you take four UFC tournament winners, three former finalists and a "Giant Killer"? The Ultimate Ultimate! The UFC marks the end of it's second full year of existence with a tournament of champions to decide who is the best of the best. The question is, would the show be the best of the best?
Keeping up with their more or less one per quarter schedule, the UFC returned to PPV with an early Christmas present for their fans on December 16, 1995. SEG brought the Octagon back to it's birthplace of Denver, Colorado to present their most ambitious event yet. After two hit or miss events, the UFC would present their biggest tournament yet - The Ultimate Ultimate. The event would feature all the previous tournament champions - with the notable exception of Royce Gracie - along with several notable challengers who had made impressive showings even in defeat. Also, perhaps realizing they had been the low-light in some previous outings, the UFC would put the SuperFight on hold for this event, focusing entirely on the tournament event alone.
So, with the by far the best field of competitors in their history, would they put on a can't miss event or come up a little short in the entertainment area?
UFC 7,5 - The Ultimate Ultimate
Yes, you read that right....this is officially UFC 7.5. Their next event would be UFC VIII, so in hindsight this one got labeled as a half. Now that you have your fill of fairly useless information, on to the show.
Notably, the only clip of Gracie shown during the intro video is of Keith Hackney landing several shots to his head. It's subtle, but it's also an attempt to re-write their past history a bit. Either way, Gracie is the only past champion not taking part tonight, as Bruce Beck lets us know that Steve Jennum, Oleg Taktarov, Dan Severn and Marco Ruas are all here tonight , along with three former finalists in Dave Benneteau, Tank Abbott and Paul Varelans and, finally, one "Giant Killer" in the form of Keith Hackney. A big factor in performance might be the reward tonight - $250,000 in total prize money, with the winner taking home $150,000 of that. This is easily the deepest and most talented field in a UFC yet, and I'm actually a bit excited in how this show is going to go as some of the potential match-ups are pretty intriguing.
Jeff Blatnick agrees that this is the best field he has seen, with every fighter tonight having Octagon experience, which seems to be his replacement intro comment now that he has put the measuring tape away. Don "The Dragon" Wilson has gotten a decent haircut in the last 3 months, and is excited about the event tonight. I wish I could say he had some expert analysis to offer, but he really did not.
They run down some quick notes of interest - Paul Varelans got into the main draw of the tournament the day before the event when Pat Smith was medically disqualified and that Art Davie, one the founders of the UFC, is back at ringside as the head of the IFC.
It's not mentioned on the broadcast, but there were two alternate fights which took place earlier. Joe Charles (1-1 in UFC competition) defeated Scott Bessac (1-0) by armbar about five minutes into their fight, while Mark Hall (1-1) took about five and a half minutes to dispose of Trent Jenkins (0-0) by guillotine. You can now wipe all that from your memory as for once no alternates enter the main draw.
There are no major rule changes tonight, but there have been two alterations, one which will have a massive effect on all future events. There are new time limits for the event - 15 minutes in the opening round, 18 minutes in the semi finals, and 27 minutes with a 3 minute overtime in the finals. The major change, however, is the presence of three ringside judges who will score the fight based on aggressiveness, effective striking and ground techniques in the event of a draw. You would think they might come up with this BEFORE the biggest fight in their history is ruled a draw and angers a huge portion of the fan base. At least they've finally come to their senses. On to the fights.....
Tank Abbott (2-1) vs Steve Jennum (2-0)
Rich "G-Man" Goins is back as our ring announcer. I really hope Bruce Buffer shows up soon as anyone nicknamed "G-Man" annoys me a lot.
As for the fighters, Tank is popular while Jennum gets roundly booed. I guess most people are still bitter over his cheap win at UFC III. I get the impression that the draws were not random for this event as they were previously, and Jennum was thrown to the much bigger (6'0, 250 vs 5'10, 195) Tank as way of getting him out of the tournament as quickly as possible. Conventional thinking would be that Tank would come out swinging while Jennum would want to take the fight to the ground, which is the only place he's shown any real ability at in his two previous fights, but even still, I can't see the light throwing Jennum doing anything at all to finish off Tank.
As soon as the fight starts, conventional wisdom gets thrown out the window as Abbott takes Jennum to the ground after throwing only one punch which didn't even land. They very quickly end up against the cage as Abbott easily maneuvers his smaller opponent wherever he wants to. He has a harder time getting punches in as Jennum shows a surprisingly good defensive guard. Tank puts all his weight down on Jennum, who quickly taps as his head was bent against the cage. That's just plain strange. I can't imagine someone tapping out to discomfort now - they'd be booed out of the cage and forced into retirement. Luckily, the retirement thing holds true as this is Jennum's last UFC appearance and really showed how much he did not belong in there really. As for Tank, I think this is the only time he has ever won a fight without landing a single decent punch.
Dan Severn (5-2) vs Paul Varelans (3-2)
Severn looks more relaxed than I have seen him previously, and this should be a pretty interesting contest as I'm curious how he'll be able to handle someone this much bigger than himself. As for Varelans, it should be interesting to see how he does against a skilled wrestler, as he has shown some ground ability previously.
It's not very interesting for long though as Severn gets a quick takedown, takes side control, controls Varelans head and cinches in a head an arm choke that makes "The Polar Bear" tap in about a minute. Either Severn has been training ground techniques like crazy or Varelans really isn't that good on the ground, because that was quick and dominant.
Dave Benneteau (2-2) vs Oleg Taktarov (4-1-1)
This is only the second rematch in UFC history, as Taktarov defeated the bigger Benneteau in the opening round of UFC VI. This time around, Benneteau has lost a lot of his size advantage as he is down to 235 lbs - and looks in great shape - while Taktarov has bulked up to 225 lbs - and doesn't look any different than he did at 205 really.
This one actually lasts less time than their first bout, as a quick clinch leads to Taktarov rolling for a leg, which grabs a hold of tightly and takes Benneteau down with. The Canadian lands one kick to Taktarov's face - which is illegal since he is wearing wrestling shoes - but can not break the Russian's grip and is forced to tap to the heel hook.
At this point, I'm pretty shocked at how quick all three bouts have gone as you would think this many experienced competitors would lead to competitive bouts. Let's see how the next one goes.
Marco Ruas (3-0) vs Keith Hackney (2-1)
Beck tells us that Ruas is the unofficial favorite in the tournament tonight, and I would have to agree since he is the most well rounded fighter who's graced the Octagon over the past two years. Hackney is no pushover though, and looks to be in better shape than ever, though getting rid of his wife beater might have something to do with that. He's still rocking the mullet though, so the white trash contingent still has a representative. Just for comparison's sake, Ruas is sporting the height of UFC fashion this evening, as he is the fourth competitor to wear all black gear - trunks, kneepads, etc.....
As for the fight, they trade hesitant front leg kicks as they feel each other out before Ruas initiates a clinch up against the fence. He tries for a takedown, but instead ends up spinning around and getting Hackney's back in a standing position. He pulls him down and pounds to the back of the head, which is lightly protected by the mullet. Ruas slowly works in an arm under Hackney's chin, who is forced to tap to the rear naked choke once it is in deep.
This was the longest fight of the first round at 2:39, but felt longer as all the action came in a flurry at the end after a long feeling out process. I had expected a bit more of a slugfest, but Ruas is proving adept at avoiding his opponents game plans.
Before we get to the semis, Blatnick is interviewing Kimo, who will be making his return to take on Ken Shamrock in the SuperFight at UFC VIII. He says he's learned some new techniques and is no longer just a street brawler (Hey....I thought they said he was a black belt in Tae Kwan Do at UFC III?). He also keeps his hair short now, which is probably a good idea.
Tank Abbott (3-1) vs Dan Severn (6-2)
Tank has claimed that he is a world class wrestler who can hold his own with anyone, and this will be the first time that claim gets tested in the Octagon. In a funny moment, Beck and Wilson make fun of Tank's supposed discipline of "Pitfighting", which I think was actually made up for him. And the blind shall lead the blind...
Severn shockingly goes for the takedown at the start, but Tank does a decent job or sprawling to avoid the takedown and actually lands a good knee to Severn. An illegal blow today, but this instance shows how non-brutal a technique this is, not to mention strategically effective. Being able to throw the knee in this position makes the wrestler think twice before shooting in, which will usually lead to a more interesting fight. OK, I'm off the Joe Rogan sponsored soap box now.
After the knee, Severn clinches against the fence and this time is successful with the takedown attempt. Tank ends up on his hands and knees with Severn holding him around the waist. Severn lands a few of his patented open hand slaps and few knees which Tank is able to block mostly. A few elbows to the back of the head get Tank's attention, but there's not a lot of big damage being done. He does use the elbows to set up for a rear naked choke, but to little success. After giving up that attempt, Severn transitions to a North/South position trying for a guillotine, but that does not go anywhere either. After several minutes of just holding Tank in position and me wondering why McCarthy is refusing to stand them up, Severn lands a couple of knees and then goes back to holding. Meanwhile, you get a good look at Don Frye - who will be debuting at UFC VIII - in Severn's corner. Looking at the Magnum PI worthy growth on his lip, then thinking of the thing that's growing on Severn's, and seeing two other guys in the corner with mustaches, I'm left wondering why the hell mustaches are so damned popular in Arizona, where their training camp is.
We're about half way through the fight, with Tank having shown zero offense, and Blatnick's expert commentary is that Severn is likely ahead on points. You think? With three minutes left, Tank is actually able to rise up to his feet to a roar from the crowd. Severn still has a hold around Tank's waist, while Tank is holding the cage to avoid being taken down again. Time expires as Tank finally gets free and has a chance to throw one punch which doesn't land.
Severn pulls out a unanimous decision in the first ever judge's decision in the UFC. This was an awful fight which would have benefitted from several re-starts. Say what you want about the stand up rules, but go back and watch this fight before you suggest we get rid of them.
Maybe the second semi will redeem this one.....
Marco Ruas (4-0) vs Oleg Taktarov (5-1-1)
About that redeeming thing.....Ruas has shown himself to be a very patient counter fighter, while Taktarov lays back and waits for mistakes to capitalize upon. This could be a slow one.
Taktarov tries to set up a shoot with a leg kick to start the fight, but can not quite close the deal. Ruas actually shakes his head at him. Hard to say if that annoyed Oleg, since he never changes his expression for anything. Both guys feinting a lot, and throwing some jabs out there, but the only strikes that are landing are front leg kicks by Ruas. Taktarov tries to answer with some kicks of his own, but he stumbles and looks like his knee almost goes out on him, but he recovers and shows no problems with it for the rest of the fight. They end up clinched against the fence, which allows Ruas to his some of his now famous heel stomps. While they're up against the fence, I notice that Taktarov has steps shaved into the side of his hair. If you don't know what steps are, count yourself lucky. If you do, stop laughing.
Taktarov goes for what seems to have become his only real offensive move now as he rolls for a leg, but Ruas falls on top of him as Taktarov pulls butterfly guard. Blatnick refers to it as a mount, but I assure you, it's a butterfly guard. Taktarov uses the cage to pull himself to his feet, and tries to take Ruas down himself. They struggle, but Taktarov is able to land a few good shots, grab a guillotine and pull guard. This is about seven minutes into the fight, and Taktarov holds onto Ruas' head even though he can not sink in the guillotine for about two minutes until McCarthy restarts them. So, yeah, I just watched two minutes of a weak front chin lock.
Now, once they're on their feet, the action does not pick up. In two whole minutes of facing each other, they each land a total of two leg kicks a piece. After that riveting exchange, we have five minutes to go in the fight as the crowd is as happy with this fight as I am.
Taktarov starts trying to make something happen, with a shoot attempt and an interesting looking leg tackle, but Ruas rebuffs his attempts and is unwilling to go back to the ground. Wilson comments that he thinks Taktarov will win a decision, as Ruas has done no damage, with even the cut on Taktarov's head being caused more by scar tissue than any real striking. I'll agree on that since I could not pick out a blow that opened the minor cut on Taktarov's face. The fight ends with a bit more of this on the feet stalemate with Taktarov coming forward and Ruas countering.
We get our second straight unanimous judges decision, as Taktarov moves on to the finals for a rematch against Dan Severn. Looking at the two after the fight, Taktarov looked like a beaten fighter, while Ruas looked untouched. Ruas was very upset about the result as he felt he should have won the fight, but he fell victim to Taktarov's aggressiveness in the decision.
Before we get to the finals, Beck does a quick interview with Ken Shamrock, who will be joining commentary for the finals. Shamrock feels that while no opponent is easy, he deserves the SuperFight title since he's earned it in the Octagon. As for the last fight, he feels that Taktarov could have finished the fight at anytime except that Ruas got out of the holds. Huh? Say what you will about Shamrock, but please don't call him well spoken.
Oleg Taktarov (6-1-1) vs Dan Severn (7-2)
Taktarov is coming into the fight with only fifteen minutes rest after the semis, so he's got to be feeling at least a bit tired. A bit sore too, apparently, since he has tape on the cut above his left eye. Now, the first fight between these two was pretty good and had a good pace, so I am hopeful about this one.
Once McCarthy gets them started, a vicious slap fight ensues. And yes, that's sarcasm. They finally get going as - shock of shocks - Taktarov rolls for a leg and actually grabs a good hold of Severn's knee. Since Taktarov's entire offense consists of this roll, Severn should be embarrassed to have gotten caught in it. He is able to pull his leg free though, so I won't pick on him too much. Severn ends up in Taktarov's half guard and the Russian is bleeding again. Wilson and Blatnick argue over whether or not McCarthy will stop the fight for the cut. I'm with Blatnick on this one - it is not bleeding that bad and it is not in his eyes, so I do not see it getting stopped at all. Severn is basically holding Taktarov on the ground, going from side control back to half guard while doing nothing else of substance. Taktarov is able to gain his feet for a moment, but Severn pulls him right back down. Taktarov shockingly rolls again, but he gets caught on his side with his back up against the cage. Severn could take his back if he wanted to, but instead allows Taktarov to gain his feet again. Once he is on his feet, McCarthy calls time to let the doctor take a look at the cuts, but the let the fight go no problem. Fifteen minutes to go in the fight as they restart.
Taktarov tries to roll again, and Severn once again takes control of him. More laying on the ground ensues. Shamrock makes UFC history as he actually calls the half guard by name. It will be interesting to see if Beck and Blatnick pick up on that and call it next time. Meanwhile, back on the ground, nothing is happening so McCarthy restarts them again with eleven minutes left.
Four minutes of nothing much follows the restart, until Taktarov tries for a leg again, with Severn falling on top into his guard. Three minutes later, we are still in the same position, with the only offensive move being some short headbutts by Severn. This how regulation ends, as we get a restart for the three minute OT.
I can guess how this will go. The first half of OT is just them looking at each other with their hands low. Taktarov tries for a knee again, but fails and gets caught with a short right hand as he gets up. That is the only notable part of the OT as for the third straight fight, we go to the judges.
Severn wins a unanimous decision to become the Ultimate Ultimate champion in possibly one of the worst fights in UFC history.
The 411: I'll give credit where credit is due and admit that the concept of the Ultimate Ultimate was great. It is also nice that, after eight competitions, there is starting to be back stories for most of the fighters as we learn more about their styles, strengths and weaknesses. Knowing the fighters helps to build anticipation for the fights, and having a field of eight veterans was really fun.
I will say, however, that the semi-finals and finals to the tournament were awful. It's great that they added judges to avoid draws, but having the final three fights all be fought with winning a decision in mind was aggravating to watch, to say the least.
The first round, while a bit quick, was at least kind of fun to watch. After that though, the fights were either mismatches (Tanks vs Severn) or borefests (the other two). Judges are a great addition, but it looks like some more tweaking is going to be necessary to avoid boring fights continuing to be the norm.
The wrestlers continued their general dominance again, as no one seemed to have an answer for how to deal with Severn's ability. If he had developed any real submission or striking game, Severn very well could have been the most exciting fighter the UFC had seen yet. Instead, with his inability to finish fights, he was quickly becoming a symbol for what was wrong with the UFC at this point. Fans were tuning in to see exciting fights, and wrestlers who could not punch were not delivering. Business was still good at this point, but three straight shows with boring main events were not engendering good will in the fan base.
Talent wise, this is a big transition event. After this event, veterans Benneteau, Jennum, Ruas and Taktarov would all be gone from the UFC. Several reasons would be behind the talent change over, but one them is definitely the desire to avoid boring fights.
To that end, the UFC would next present an event they hoped would avoid prolonged ground battles with UFC VIII: David vs Goliath from New York. Wait....what do you mean not from New York? There were protests? This could be interesting......