History of the UFC: UFC VIII - David vs Goliath
Posted by Matt McEwen on 05.28.2007
Who would win? A good big man or a good little man? It's an age old question, and in the face of mounting political pressures, the UFC headed to Puerto Rico to try and answer it. Would a giant stand tall, or would a slingshot lead a little man to victory?
Exactly two months after presenting the inspired but disappointing Ultimate Ultimate 1995, the UFC returned to PPV on February 16th 1996 to present another gimmick tournament, this time in the form of a "David vs Goliath" tournament. With one of their most famous fights being the 200 lb Keith Hackney KO'ing the 600 lb Emmanuel Yarborough at UFC III, and not having the constraints of weight divisions yet, they decided to put on a tournament of visual mismatches and see who would come out victorious. Today, this would be disastrous - picture Fedor pounding on Diego Sanchez.....OK.....stop smiling - but in 1996 with skill levels varying wildly from fighter to fighter, this was an intriguing idea.
Originally, this show was going to mark the UFC's return to New York state, but a last minute decision by the New York State Athletic Commission to ban "No Holds Barred" fighting caused a last minute relocation off shore to San Juan, Puerto Rico. This was the beginning of a devastating streak of setbacks for the UFC as this was only the first event to be effected by what would become a huge national movement against them led by Arizona Senator John McCain.
While political heat was just beginning to build, they also had an upset and increasingly disillusioned fan base to deal with as well. After building to a peak with the UFC V main event of Ken Shamrock vs Royce Gracie, a series of disappointing and boring fights - including Shamrock vs Gracie - culminating in the awful final two rounds of the Ultimate Ultimate had turned off a huge portion of the fan base. Heading into this event, the UFC brought in many new fighters hoping to present more exciting fights and energize their fans. Would the Davids and Goliaths provide the exciting show they desperately needed to start of the new year?
UFC VIII: David vs Goliath
We're welcomed to San Juan by the usual suspects in Bruce Beck, Jeff Blatnick and Don Wilson. Beck welcomes us in bad Spanish, Blatnick rambles about La Chupacabra before telling us to expect the unexpected tonight, and Wilson really adds nothing of much substance. We do find out that the entire tournament field is made up of UFC rookies except for Paul Varelans, and even the SuperFight presents some questions as Kimo returns for the first time in almost 2 years to take on Ken Shamrock. One of these unknowns is Brazilian Joe Marrera, who they pick as a favorite seemingly just because he is from Brazil.
New time limits have been introduced tonight, with there being 10 minute limits in the quarters and semis, with 15 minute limits in both the finals and SuperFight, with two additional 3 minute OT periods if needed. Other than that, no new changes to the rules. Hopefully, no one fights for the time limit tonight, as I just don't think I can take anymore after last time.
Before the main show, Sam Adkins (0-0) defeated Keith Mielke (0-0) but submission to strikes to be the main alternate for the tournament tonight.
Don Frye (0-0) vs Thomas Ramierez (0-0)
Don "The Predator" Frye is accompanied to the Octagon by Dan Severn, so you know his wrestling will be good, but he also was a pro boxer for a short time and is a black belt in judo as well, making him one the first cross trained fighters in the UFC's short history. He also looks like a shorter Tom Selleck and is in very good shape. His opponent, as announced by the "G-Man" Rich Goins , is the 41 year old, 410 lb Ramierez, who is in a nice black sweat pants/t-shirt combo. Despite a supposed 200-0 record in "bareknuckle Island fights", he is not a Tom Selleck look a like nor in any sort of shape resembling good. Frye gets booed by the crowd as Ramierez is the hometown Puerto Rico fighter, and he loves it.
They meet in the center of the Octagon, and each throw a quick jab. Frye surprises the big man by rushing forward and connects with a good right hand straight to the jaw. 8 second KO win as Ramierez is OUT.
David 1, Goliath 0
This must be the first unedited show they released, as I now get to listen to a lot of pointless filler. They do acknowledge some of the controversy surrounding this event as not only did New York not want the event, but a local Puerto Rico politician protested against the event as well. We also get a quick shot of Chris Penn - one of the stars of The Best of the Best - taking in the event.
Joe Morrera (0-0) vs Paul Varelans (3-3)
Despite having the nickname "Gorilla", Morrera is the David in this fight as he gives up nine inches and 95 lbs to the 6'8, 300lb "Polar Bear." He is led to the Octagon by Allan Goes, who is probably familiar to a lot of fans out there. He also wears a full gi out, but takes it off to fight in a pair of shorts. That's a good idea considering it is 100+ degrees under the lights in the Octagon. He does not look to be in the best of shape, but we have learned that is not necessarily a deciding factor in a fight. Varelans, for his part, is now listed as a "Freestyle" fighter who is going to be more of a thinker this time around.
They feel each other out a bit to start the fight, with Morrera throwing some leg kicks and trying to combo with punches. Varelans is being very patient as the is not rushing forward as he has in previous fights. Morrera initiates a clinch and catches the big man with a good clean right hand as they separate. This becomes a major theme in the fight as he lands this punch constantly. It is the only blow either fighter is able to land consistently. Varelans gets a few good counter shots here and there, but for the most part the fight is Varelans coming forward and Morrera landing the right coming out of the clinch. It is kind of fun and strategic to start, but gets kind of dull as the full 10 minutes are like this. We get a judges decision here, and it is unanimous for Varelans, which surprises me. While he was the aggressor, Morrera did way more damage. I guess some things never change, as even today the fighter moving forward often gets decisions they probably should not.
David 1, Goliath 1
Jerry Bohlander(0-0) vs Scott Ferrozzo (0-0)
Bohlander is the first Lion's Den product to fight in the UFC, and he is led out by Frank Shamrock. He is a lean 21 year old submission fighter, with 200lbs on a 5'10 frame, who will have his hands filled with the massive 5'11, 330lb Ferrozzo. "The Pitbull" has two chins on top of no neck and was a nose guard in football, which is exactly what he looks like. He also wrestled, and is wearing a singlet which will play a major factor in this fight. He is also wearing grappling gloves, but I am not sure why since he rarely throws a punch here.
They are both slow to start, but Ferrozzo eventually bull rushes Bohlander and gets the clinch up against the fence. He gest behind Bohlander and starts throwing him around with belly to back suplexes. He gets a cut above his right eye though when he catches the back of Bohlander's heard by accident. After he stops throwing him around like a rag doll, Ferrozzo has his back but seems unsure what to do with it, and transitions for a guillotine that is never all that dangerous. Bohlander is able to stand up, and other than having 330lbs leaning on him, he is not in any trouble here. He pulls his head free, lands a headbutt and knee and tries for a guillotine of his own. This is difficult since Ferrozzo doesn't have a neck to speak of. Ferrozzo eventually shrugs him off and throws him to the ground, where Bohlander quickly pulls guard. Lots of laying at this point as both guys look pretty tired out. McCarthy calls for a break to get a look at the cut over Ferrozzo's eye, but they let him continue. Repeat of the start of the fight, as the big man rushes Bohlander against the fence and holds him there. Bohlander grabs a strap of Ferrozzo's singlet and tries to choke him with it, but they get restated before anything comes of it. This time Bohlander grabs two handfuls of straps when he's rushed against the cage, and really starts choking him. Ferrozzo tries to throw him, but Bohlander uses the straps to stay on top and is able to sink in a standing guillotine of the tap out victory with less than a minute left.
David 2, Goliath 1
This was a pretty fun fight, with good restarts and good strategies. If Ferrozzo did anything other than wrestle, he would have won the fight, but Bohlander was able to wait him out and take advantage of the big man's mistake.
Paul Herrera (0-0) vs Gary Goodridge (0-0)
Herrera trains with Tank Abbott and was an All American in college four years before this, but that was at 142lbs. Let's just say that the 43 lbs he has added since to his 5'10 frame have not been all muscle.
Goodridge, if you don't know, is a big, muscled, bald, mean looking black guy from Canada. He comes out in a full gi, which has got to be a bit stifling in that heat.
This is not a long fight. Herrera tries for a shot off the bat, but Goodridge sprawls and is able to capture Herrera's right arm between his legs. He rolls and ends up in a crucifix position. From here, he lands eight VISCIOUS elbows to Herrera's jaw and temple area. He was out cold after the second one, but they were so fast Goodridge was able to get six more in before McCarthy could stop the fight. Second highlight reel KO out of four fights isn't too bad.
David 2, Goliath 2
Post fight, I love how Don Wilson refers to Herrera's potentially broken jaw as "superficial bone damage." OK.
Before the semis begin, Varelans is forced to pull out of the tournament with a broken bone in his foot, so Sam Adkins will take his place against Frye. This leads to quite the delay, as Adkins has to get taped and ready to fight. You would think they would have alternates ready to fight on short notice, but I guess not. As they kill time with crowd shot, Bruce Buffer is shown at ringside. If anyone knows why he was there if he was not announcing, I'd love to know.
Don Frye (1-0) vs Sam Adkins (1-0)
OH OH....return of the intro video. I'm going to sum them all up as this - wrestling/boxing on the beach followed by uncomfortable sounding promo. There, done.
Frye makes his way out, and then we wait for about five more minutes for Adkins to come out. He's a big, bald, hairy everywhere else white guy. At 6'3, 270, he definitely fits the Goliath bill, and is a former pro boxer. He also has bad taste in tights (full length orange tye-dyed) and tattoos (roses on his shoulder).
As would be expected from two former pro boxers, they box a bit to start. Frye gets an easy takedown and starts wailing away on the ground. It looks like Adkins taps right away, but McCarthy either didn't see it or didn't think it was a tap as he lets the fight go for a couple of more seconds before he steps in for the stoppage due to unanswered strikes. Adkins looks angry, though whether it's over the stoppage or McCarthy not seeing the tap, I don't know.
For the record, Frye is easily the most exciting fighter yet to appear in the Octagon, and is showing probably the best all around skills as well, though his submissions and ground defense haven't been displayed yet.
David 3, Goliath 2
Jerry Bohlander (1-0) vs Gary Goodridge (1-0)
I think this fight is about as opposite as it can get in the Octagon. Skinny submission fighter who seems to wait for a mistake to capitalize on going against a big, muscled striker who looks to finish quick.
Goodridge closes the distance immediately, lands a punch that Bohlander wants no part of and has to deal with the resulting double leg attempt. Goodridge goes for a guillotine, but Bohlander avoids and gets off the fence. Goodridge keeps a good hold on him though, and Bohlander drops to ground with Goodridge in full side control to avoid any possible throw attempts. Goodridge does not do too much in this position, and Bohlander is actually able to reverse into the mount. He throws a few punches and headbutts before Goodridge powers a reversal and is back to Bohlander's guard. Now, when I say power out, I mean. There was no skill involved, he just overpowered Bohlander and literally man handled him here. They end up against the fence, with Goodridge on his feet leaning over an extended Bohlander. The Lion's Den fighter tries for an ankle, but leaves his head exposed and eats two big right hands before McCarthy steps in to stop the fight. This was another pretty fun fight, probably the best of the night so far.
David 3, Goliath 3
So our finals are set as the biggest of the Davids, Don Frye, will take on the smallest of the Goliaths, Gary Goodridge. I wonder what, if anything, that says about size.
Dan Severn comes out to the broadcast booth to provide some commentary for the SuperFight as he will be facing the winner at UFC IX. Severn shockingly picks his man Frye to win the tournament tonight. This is followed by some pointless questions before Severn goes on a bit about how fighters are having to evolve in the Octagon to stay competitive.
They air a quick PPV commercial for the Japanese Pancrase promotion.
Ken Shamrock (4-1-2) vs Kimo (0-1)
This fight fits into the little man vs big man theme for the night, as the 270lb Kimo has 65 lbs on Shamrock. In his intro video, Kimo says his toughest opponent is himself, as he has to deal with his own mental attitude in the Octagon. What the hell does that mean?
Once the fight starts, Kimo tries to throw a kick and gets quickly taken down as Shamrock jumps into side control and eventually mounts. He decides to not throw any punches, and instead spin around and try to choke Kimo out. Kimo avoids and gains the reversal into Shamrock's 1/2 guard. Kimo is able to land one big left before Shamrock rolls for a leg. They struggle for a bit, but eventually Kimo turns the wrong way and gets caught in a kneebar and taps out in about four minutes. The best SuperFight of the four so far.
Post fight, Shamrock says he wanted to submit Kimo, and purposely avoided punching when he had the chance. Then, after already announcing that Severn would fight the winner, Blatnick asks Shamrock about the "rumor" he might fight Severn next. Gotta love consistency.
Severn says he looks forward to the rematch with Shamrock, and hints that he wasn't fully there for the previous fight, but doesn't elaborate. To his credit, Beck tries to dig for a juicier answer, but Severn says he lost and will not take anything away from Shamrock, but the rematch should be good. We'll see about that next time......
Before the finals, there is a commercial for the "Secrets of the Octagon" 5 VHS set, which could be purchased for just $200. If anyone has seen these, please let me know if they were as useless as they looked to be.
Don Frye (2-0) vs Gary Goodridge (2-0)
McCarthy and Gerry Harris are shown breaking up a brawl in the crowd. The fight actually involved Tank Abbott and would lead to him being suspended for a couple of events.
Goodridge comes out without the gi this time, as the harder fight he had in the second round made him feel the heat. Feeling out process to start, then Frye initiates the clinch. Goodridge actually gets his back and a couple of takedowns. He tries for a soccer kick, but misses and Frye clinches. Frye unveils his dirty boxing skills as he lands several nice short punches that rock the bigger man. Goodridge tries for a takedown and takes Frye's back again but gets rolled. Frye mounts and Goodridge has to tap after taking a few punches to the face. Your UFC VIII champ - Don Frye!
David 4, Goliath 3
Post fight, Goodridge says he lost to the better man, but his cardio - or lack there of - was a big factor. He will be back though. For his part, Frye says it went all according to plan.
The 411: Faced with political pressures and coming on the heels of a couple of lackluster events, this is easily the best UFC event yet. A couple of really good fights, highlight reel KO's and one of the rare non-boring SuperFights all come together to form a pretty compelling card. Also, I am not ashamed to admit that the David vs Goliath format was fun.
From an importance standpoint, this show can not be understated. Don Frye debuting as one of the first truly hybrid fighters and dominating his way to a tournament victory opened the eyes of a lot of people. It is no coincidence that Frye is one of the few people from this early era to have been putting on decent fights well into this decade. He is essentially the blueprint that a lot of fighters - consciously or not - would follow on their path to the Octagon.
Next up (in two weeks - I'll be honeymooning and unavailable next week) will be UFC IX: Motor City Madness as Ken Shamrock has a rematch with Dan Severn in probably the second most anticipated fight in UFC history. Will it live up to expectations, or will it be another flop for a promotion that really needs a home run to keep whatever momentum this event got going for them?