mma / Columns

History of the UFC: UFC IX – Motor City Madness

June 11, 2007 | Posted by Matt McEwen

The Ultimate Fighting Championship returned to PPV on May 17th 1996 live from Detroit’s Cobo Arena. For the first time, they deviated from the tournament structure that had been one of the trademarks of the earlier events and instead would present a set card of one on one match ups, like a modern day event. Theoretically this could lead to a better overall card as fighters would not have to pace themselves planning to fight three times in one night. In practice though, other factors would have a bigger effect.

After being forced to move UFC VIII to Puerto Rico and deal with local protests there, the UFC met their biggest adversary yet in the form or Arizona Senator John McCain. This event would mark McCain’s first attempt to shut the UFC down, as he pressured local authorities to try and stopt the event before it could take place. Promoters were in court up to and including the day of the event trying to assure that the card would even take place. Eventually, they were given clearance to hold the event, but with some modified rules. Under threat of arrest, there was to be no closed fist striking to the face. Now, of all the possible issues people could have with MMA, wouldn’t punching to the face be the least damaging of all strikes? I guess common sense just did not come into play at the time.

So, under intense political heat, the UFC took to the airwaves to present their first non-tournament card headlined by a SuperFight rematch between champion Ken Shamrock and Ultimate Ultimate winner Dan Severn.

Bruce Beck welcomes us to the show as usual, and fills us in on all the pertinent details – except mentioning that no punch rule the courts put in place. Throughout the card, they make no mention of that, and actually suggest that open hand strikes are a planned tactic, so it is hard to tell if they really did not know about it or were just ignoring it purposely. He also lets us know that Marco Ruas, the original scheduled opponent for Don Frye in what would have been a very interesting fight, has pulled out of the event and has been replaced on short notice by world jiu-jitsu champion Amaury Betteti. Ruas would not return for quite sometime, reportedly out of irritation due to his decision loss to Oleg Taktarov at the Ultimate Ultimate 95.

Don Wilson and Jeff Blatnick are also back in the booth, and they have intro interviews with Ken Shamrock and Dan Severn, respectively, to hype up tonight’s main event. They keep mentioning it as the “Clash of the Titans II” which leads me to believe that was the original tag line to the event. I’ll leave it to you to guess why they changed the name. In an ominous bit of foreshadowing, Shamrock says the fight will be a chess match. Great……

No new rules tonight, except that they slip in that a disqualification can happen.

There was one prelim fight not shown on the PPV, as Steve Nelmark (0-0) defeated Tai Bowden (0-0) by ref stoppage due to cuts.

Zane Frasier (0-1) vs Cal Worsham (0-1)

Frasier is a veteran of UFC 1, where he was defeated by Kevin Rosier, reportedly due to suffering an asthma attack during the fight. Worsham, on the other hand, landed a few good shots to the face of Paul Varelans at UFC VI before suffering a KO loss. He is in much better shape this time, later saying that he spent the months between appearances training for his return.

They circle to begin the fight, using a lot of feinting and jabbing. Frasier is seven inches taller than the 5’10 Worsham, and is trying to use that reach to his advantage. Worsham negates that by taking the fight to the ground and working out of Frasier’s half guard, which Beck et al. still do not know how to call. Worsham’s offense from the top initially consists of headbutts, but he eventually lands a few punches, and Frasier taps. Odd finish as it did not look like very much was damage was being done by Worsham, but Frasier appeared incapable of getting out of the mount. All in all, a pretty boring fight. The most exciting aspect is Worsham calling out the SuperFight winner after the fight.

We get a promo video showing the history of Brazillians in the UFC, ranging from past champions Gracie and Ruas, to disappointments like Joe Marrera. There are two Brazillians fighting tonight.

Rafael Carino (0-0) vs Matt Anderson (0-0)

Two UFC newcomers here. Carino is fairly large BJJ competitor at 6’8 and 245lbs, though Blatnick suggests he might be smaller than listed. Anderson himself is a small looking 6’2, 225, and is a Warrior Training afficionado. Neither is particularly experienced, as Anderson is in his early 20’s and Carino is making his full contact debut, as they mention he has never been punched before.

Carino shows his BJJ experience by getting a quick takedown on Anderson. Anderson shows his overall inexperience by not having a clue what to do once he is down there. He tries an ugly looking rubber guard which, sadly, is the most exciting thing in the opening moments of this fight. Carino eventually gets the mount and lands a few punches, prompting McCarthy to stop and we are now two for two in less than exciting fights for the night.

Now on to the more interesting fights…..

Mark Schultz (0-0) vs Gary Goodridge (2-1)

Goodridge – he of the brutal elbows – was originally supposed to fight Dave Benneteau in a battle of Canadians, but Benneteau broke his hand in training prior to the fight and could not be medically cleared to compete. In his place, the ground game challenged Goodridge gets to fight the most accomplished amateur wrestler to compete yet in the UFC – arguably to EVER compete in the UFC – in 1984 Olympic freestyle gold medalist Mark Schultz.

Schultz had been training with Benneteau, and was going to corner him for the fight, but took the fight the day of the event as an emergency fill in. Besides being a former Olympic gold medalist, Schultz and his family were both in the news earlier in 1996 when the heir to the Du Pont chemical fortune murdered his older brother, former Olympic gold medalist Dave Schultz.

Blatnick – himself a gold medalist at the same Olympic games as Schultz – is concerned only about the wrestler’s chin, wondering how good a shot he can take. It’s telling that the 5’10, 203lb Schultz is giving up 40lbs to Goodridge and there is no concern about a strength disadvantage.

They circle to start, but once Schultz shoots the fight is pretty much over. He easily takes the big man down, but gets his head caught and has to spend some time pulling out. Once he gets free, he passes to side control and starts landing some shots. McCarthy restarts them at about the six minute mark, and Schultz scores another takedown at about 6:01. Goodridge gets a cut opened up while on the bottom and McCarthy stops the fight to have a look at it.

Another restart, another quick takedown by Schultz, who is dominating the fight. This time, he mounts, and throws a flurry of punches. They are not great looking, but are landing. The regulation 12 minutes ends in this position and we are staring 3 minutes of OT in the face until McCarthy waves it off and awards the fight to Schultz.

When asked by Blatnick post fight if he will be back, Schultz says he’ll have to see how much money SEG will put up. As an answer to that question, this is the only time you will see Schultz, which is a shame. He looked like he could have developed Matt Hughes-like dominance.

Mark Hall (2-1) vs Koji Kitao (0-0)

They continue to put Hall in the Octagon against absolute beasts, as he gives up eight inches and 201lbs to the former sumo wrestler Kitao.

During the pre-fight discussion, they mention that Kitao will be vulnerable if he gets mounted. Really? Ya think?

As for the fight, it is over almost before it begins. Hall circles, rushes in with a punch and gets back out of range. Kitao rushes and clinches against the cage to set up a takedown. As soon as they hit the ground though, McCarthy breaks it up as Kitao is an absolute bloody mess. It looks like Hall shattered his nose with a right hand on the way in, and the big man does not want to continue. The fight is over.

Since I have time to fill, I can tell you a bit about Kitao. They bill him as a former yokozuna (grand champion), and while technically true, it does not tell the whole story. He was promoted more on potential, as at the time, there was only one yokozuna and a spot in the ozeki (one level below) needed to be found for an up and comer. He proved to be a huge disappointment though, and retired as the only yokozuna to never win a top level tournament. He moved onto Japanese puroresu, where his most notable accomplishment was being double crossed by Nobuhiko Takada during a worked match and was legitimately knocked out by a kick. Gotta love that Takada. Takada must have felt some debt though, as Kitao fought on the initial PRIDE card, defeating future WWE wash out Nathan Jones.

Speaking of WWE, Kitao is also the first man to ever appear on a Wrestlemania card as well as a UFC event, and I believe the only man to do Wrestlemania first. He teamed with Genichiro Tenryu to take on Demolition in 1990 at Wrestlemania VI.

And now you know more about Kitao than you will ever need to.

Post fight, Mark Hall stutters through a proposal to his girlfriend. Seriously.

We get a bit of time killing now, as they flashback to Shamrock’s fight against Pat Smith at UFC 1, then have a question and answer session with the announcers. The only interesting thing is that when asked if he would have considered fighting in the Octagon, Don Wilson says he is actually currently in negotiations to compete and that Blatnick will be helping him to train. Too bad that never came to fruition.

Don Frye (3-0) vs Amaury Bitteti (0-0)

Bitteti may be a last minute fill in, but he comes to the fight in good shape. Fighting out of Carlson Gracie’s camp, he is announced as having a 150-1 BJJ record.

Frye looks like he means business, which he most likely does – literally. After winning UFC VIII, Frye was barred from training at the high school he had trained at for ten years, as well as losing his job as an Arizona fire fighter. Luckily, he was pretty good in the cage as this was now his full time job.

Bitteti starts out aggressive, as he charges Frye and lands a front kick before they clinch. They spend a couple of minutes grappling for an advantage, with neither guy coming out ahead.

Once they break the clinch though, Frye land two big punches – which you can clearly hear McCarthy react to by yelling “Open hands!” – that stun the Brazilian. He tries for a takedown but Frye sprawls and Bitteti attempts to pull guard. They get back to their feet where Frye gets the better of the exchanges and starts landing some big knees. Frye gets the takedown and starts working out of half guard. Bitteti is bleeding around his eye as Frey is starting to dominate.

McCarthy stops them to take a look at the cut, and then lets them go. Frye takes him back down and starts landing elbows and punches until McCarthy wants to have another look at the cut. Bitteti looks exhausted in the corner and barely aware of where he is. Given all the pressures at the time, I’m shocked they didn’t just stop it here. Even without the pressures, I’m shocked it isn’t stopped.

It does not last much longer though, as Frye gets a front face lock on the ground and starts landing brutal unanswered knees until they call the fight. Total domination by Frye once the opening grapple was done.

After the fight, Frye says he underestimated Bitteti and thought he would win in under a minute. He also very politely challenges any member of the Gracie family.

Throughout this fight, you could hear McCarthy repeatedly yell at Frye not to punch with a closed fist, yet the announcers made no mention of this at all.


Ken Shamrock (5-1-2) vs Dan Severn (8-2)

Ladies and gentlemen….your main event of the evening……the WORST fight in MMA history!

Seriously, this fight could be the cause of Rip Van Winkle. I watched it on fast forward and stopped for the short bursts of action. Let’s see… to get across the boredom this fight causes…..

The circle each other to start the fight. Severn lands the first strike of the fight – a slap – at about the three minute mark. Yup…..three full minutes of circling. The crowd is booing pretty heartily. McCarthy restarts them – there was no takedown, he just wanted to yell at them to do something.

Sixteen minutes in, Severn shoots and gets a takedown, but Shamrock gets back to his feet quickly.

Crowd is chanting for the Red Wings at this point.

Seven gets a single leg a minute later, but Shamrock rolls and gets on top. No strikes other than some weak looking elbows. That sums up about the next 5 minutes. At that point, Severn is able to reverse and we get the only real action of the fight. Severn starts pounding Shamrock with elbows and hammer fists and opens up a bad cut on Shamrock’s cheek. Regulation time ends like this.

The first 3 minute OT is all circling. No punches landed. No takedown attempts. Just circling.

The second OT goes about the same, except Shamrock shoots in with less than a minute left, only to get taken down by Severn as time expires.

Severn wins a split decision.

I don’t think I’ve done justice to how bad this was, but the crowd starts throwing garbage in the ring. The only interesting thing is that Severn’s camp has a sign challenging Royce Gracie to a SuperFight at UFC X. Do you think they are desperate to have the Gracie’s back in the fold?

The 411: Overall, there is not a whole lot good to say about the show, and any enjoyment there may have been gets pretty much washed away by the dreadful SuperFight. The only real highlight was Mark Schultz making his only MMA appearance and soundly defeating Gary Goodridge. Being the first truly elite wrestler to compete in the UFC, Schultz showed that at this point wrestler was THE key to success in the Octagon. Of course, the fact that Schultz never made another appearance - along with the inability to coax Gracie back as they obviously wanted to - shows the start of the financial problems that the political pressures were starting to create. Other than that, the only fight worth mentioning was Don Frye's continuing dominance in the Octagon as he remained undefeated. He was almost laying a rudimentary blueprint for Chuck Liddell's future style by using his wrestling to keep the fight on his feet most often and allowing his hands to lead him to victory. In the end though, if there is a UFC to be missed, this is it.
Final Score:  2.0   [ Very Bad ]  legend

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Matt McEwen
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