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History of the UFC: UFC III – The American Dream

April 16, 2007 | Posted by Matt McEwen

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.

Round 1

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

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.
Final Score:  6.0   [ Average ]  legend

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Matt McEwen
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