The History of the UFC: UFC V: Return of the Beast
Since January 2006, it has seemed like the UFC has been putting on the “biggest show in MMA history” nearly every month. Couture/Liddell III. Shamrock/Ortiz II. Liddell/Ortiz II. The list goes on and on as more well known fighters have resulted in more “Superfights.” Twelve years ago, as the UFC entered its third year of existence, the PPV world was a much smaller universe, with only half the penetration that it has today. Even still, in 1995 they were able to put together a fight that would stand as the most watched fight in history for 11 years.
When they fought at UFC I, Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrock were, like the event itself, complete unknowns. Afterwards however, as Royce became the first champion and Shamrock became the marketing face of the company, they became the first icons of the UFC. At UFC III, it seemed they were destined for a rematch in the finals, but it was not meant to be. Not wanting to leave anything to chance, the UFC would step outside of the tournament structure for the first time and present the original “SuperFight”.
Garnering the largest PPV audience they had seen yet – or would see again for a long time – the UFC had a chance to cement themselves into the sport psyche of North America, finally moving beyond mere spectacle once and for all, and moving into the void that boxing was slowly leaving as it’s decline began. With the opportunity in front of them, the question was would they make the most of it?
Five months removed from their best show yet, the UFC returned to the Independence Arena in Charlotte, NC in April 1995 for what would be their biggest show yet.
Bruce Beck returns in the play by play booth for the second time, and he quickly lets us know that we will be seeing the first ever SuperFight tonight. Jeff Blatnick is back as well, and is standing in the Octagon, He informs us that, in addition to Royce vs Shamrock, we will still be seeing the traditional eight man tournament tonight, featuring the return of Dan Severn. Severn has picked up a new nickname – “The Beast”. There is an X factor that could throw a wrench in Severn’s plan though, as Russian Sambo master Oleg Taktarov will make his Octagon debut tonight. The third man in the booth, as usual, is Jim Brown. He is impressed by the size of the field tonight, which at an average of 230lbs is the largest we have seen yet.
A few rule changes have been put in place tonight. Most importantly, there will be time limits for the first time. The quarter and semi finals will have twenty minute limits, while the finals and SuperFight will have a thirty minute limit. There are still no judges however. I smell a possible issue there. Also, they have given the referee back the ability to stop the fight, and the term “intelligently defending” is introduced for the first time.
Two alternate fights happened prior to the PPV broadcast, as Dave Benneteau (0-0 in UFC competition) made quick work of Asbel Cancio (0-0), while Guy Mezger (1-0) defeated John Dowdy (0-0). Mezger won the right to enter the tournament outright with his victory at UFC IV, but did not take the opportunity due to his close relationship with Taktarov. Also a result of that, Benneteau will be the first alternate tonight.
Before we get the fights, we see UFC IV veteran Ron Van Clief at ringside in a tuxedo, as he is the commissioner of the International Fight Council, which is the theoretical governing body of UFC V.
On to the fights…..
Andy Anderson (0-0) vs Jon Hess (0-0)
Anderson is a stocky competitor at 5’9, 238lbs. He is supposedly 86-0 in Tae Kwan Do bareknuckle challenges and claims to be at the UFC to “find someone bigger, badder and tougher” than he is. Blatnick tells us that Anderson has been working on his ground game for the past year, but he is still primarily a striker. They also tell us that Anderson is the owner of the “Totally Nude Steakhouse.” Sounds like a classy joint. Anderson also looks disturbingly like my high school chemistry teacher, so this should be odd to watch.
His opponent tonight is Jon Hess, who is the biggest competitor tonight at 6’7 and 295lbs. He holds black belts in jiu jitsu, karate and kung fu. He is also a fourth degree black belt in SAFTA (Scientific Aggressive Fighting Technology of America), which he co-founded. Well, at least it is better than “Joe Son-Do.” Hess tells us he is “here to break people” and submissions in the UFC are “silly.” Blatnick expresses some doubt about Hess’s claim that conditioning will be one of his greatest attributes tonight which, since he has a pot belly, I tend to agree with.
We have a new ring announcer tonight – Ron Jeremy. No….not that one.
This fight goes fast. Hess runs right at Anderson with a flying knee, which semi connects. He then starts wailing away with wild punches.. Anderson tries to weather the storm by going for a double leg, but takes elbows to the spine for his efforts. Hess gets a nice eye gouge in on the right eye, then throws him down. Hess then does a double knee drop, which is just odd looking. Anderson uses his momentum to reverse him on the ground and ends up in Hess’s guard, which Blatnick christens the “Gracie Guard.” Anderson is able to pass into side control, but Hess simply stands up. He knocks Anderson down and Hess ends it with soccer kicks to the head which force Big John to step in.
This was an ugly, ugly, ugly fight. Brown astutely points out that an experienced grappler would have had Hess in trouble very quickly.
Todd Medina (0-0) vs Larry Cureton (0-0)
Medina is the first competitor to represent Jeet Kune Do, which was the fighting system that Bruce Lee developed. Another stocky fighter at 5’10, 260lbs, Medina is friends with both Kimo and Joe Son, but does not bring the cross to the ring, though all his power does come from the lord.
Cureton is primarily a striker, who has the nickname of “Thunderfoot.” A fire fighter from Jersey City, NJ, he is looking to knock someone out.
While you would think this would be a stand up brawl, Medina goes for the takedown right off the bat. Cureton tries for a guillotine, but Medina pulls free and controls from Cureton’s guard with headbutts and rabbit punches. Medina passes to half guard and then to side control, getting in position to “pull a Hackney” and land two nasty uppercuts to Cureton’s groin. Those shots free up Medina’s head and he chokes Cureton out with a forearm across the throat.
Oleg Taktarov (0-0) vs Ernie Verdicia (0-0)
Taktarov would become one of the most recognized faces of the early UFC, but he was an enigma making his debut here. A European judo, Sambo and jiu jitsu champion, he has been living in Dallas and has not lost in ten years. Blatnick and Brown both hype him as a big deal and a major threat to win the tournament. He fights in a full blue gi – we will see if that works as well for him as it has for Gracie.
Verdicia is a fighting paramedic as well as being a three time Florida state karate champion. He comes to the Octagon in a lovely jogging pants/tank top combo.
On a side note, the UFC tradition of showing shots of women in between fights (or wherever they can squeeze them in) is in full swing at this point. Note that I did not say nice looking women, as I can not bring myself to say anything nice about 90’s hairstyles and bathing suits. Brown on the other hand is absolutely loving the Hooters ring girls.
As for the fight, Verdicia comes out throwing, forcing Taktarov to pull him to the ground in his guard. Beck and Blatnick believe that Verdicia is in control, but Taktarov has the fight pretty much exactly where he wants it at this point. He ties for an armbar but cannot quite get it, which frees up Verdicia to throw some strikes which do not connect. Taktarov adjust to the butterfly guard (which the announcer do not know how to call, and will not until Tsyoshi Kosaka debuts). Taktarov rolls and gets a quick submission with a head and arm side choke.
Brown points out that some strikers seem to be getting shots in from the guard. I agree, but just not in this fight as Taktarov avoided or blocked nearly everything that was thrown at him.
Dan Severn (2-1) vs Joe Charles (1-0)
Beck, Blatnick and Brown – what an alliterative trio – believe that Severn is the man to beat tonight, and judging from the ovation he receives, so does the crowd. He has the NWA world title with him, which kind of an odd visual. As he makes his way to the Octagon, they show a shot of a “Tyson vs Gracie” sign. I wonder how hard WOW and SEG were trying to make that happen?
Joe “Ghetto-Man” Charles is a black belt in both shotokahn and kempo karate, as well as a third degree black belt in judo. He is also dressed up as an African prince in his intro video, which is not what you expect the “Ghetto-Man” to be wearing. He even gets entrance music!. That is a first in the UFC.
Severn gets a quick takedown to start the fight, and quickly takes side control and pushes Charles up against the fence. He lands some big knees to the head, but Charles is able to pull guard. Severn throws some of his patented slapping slapping punches. Charles tries for an armbar but Severn avoids that by pulling up a bit. He is actually in perfect position for a triangle choke but Charles seems to not know that. It looks as if Charles was cut on the head by the knees. As he tries to get up, Charles gives his back to Severn, who finishes the fight with rear chinlock choke. I hesitate to call it a rear naked choke, as Severn locked his hands together, as opposed to grabbing his bicep and putting a hand behind Charles’ head. Either way, it is a victory for Severn and he is on to the semi finals to meet Taktarov in what could be quite a fight.
Before we get to the semi finals, Beck tells us that Hess is out with a “bruised hand” and that Benneteau will be taking his place in the first semi final. This would be Hess’ only UFC appearance, and he has complained about being blacklisted by management. He has since petitioned for another chance. His only other MMA fight came against a young Vitor Belfort making his MMA debut a year later. Belfort destroyed Hess with a twelve second KO at SuperBrawl 2, which Hess has since claimed was a result of Belfort being on steroids. He has petitioned for a rematch ever since, to no avail.
We are shown Benneteau 21 second destruction of his opponent earlier, and then it is on to the semi’s.
Dave Benneteau (1-0) vs Todd Medina (1-0)
Benneteau is Canadian, so I like him. He is also a member of the Ontario Public Workers Union, and helps negotiate labor contracts. Since his UFC days, he has also become a lawyer in Canada. Who says fighters are dumb? He has a background primarily in wrestling and judo, so look for takedowns here. Even his full length spandex pants cannot make me dislike the guy.
As Medina makes his way out for the second time tonight, we get a good look at his left eye, which is pretty swollen as a result of his use of headbutts earlier.
Benneteau gets a takedown to start the fight and starts to target Medina’s swollen eye with short shots. Benneteau tries to take his back, but ends up in mount. Not a bad deal. He sits up and starts landing punches, forcing Medina’s corner to throw in the towel. Absolutely dominant win, which incidentally makes God 1-3 in UFC competition as Kimo, Son and now Medina have all lost.
Dan Severn (3-1) vs Oleg Taktarov (1-0)
Not much of note in the introductions this time around, so straight to the fight.
Severn gets a quick takedown to start. Flurry of punches with not much landing on Taktarov. Severn ends up in half guard, not that the announcers know what call it. A lot of scrambling on the ground by both guys as Severn throws more weak punches. Taktarov is so calm in the ring, he is almost reminiscent of Fedor in a way. It must be a Russian trait. He rolls for an armbar, but ends up eating some knees to the head that open up a couple of ugly cuts on his head. Taktarov has a good grip on the arm, but can not extend as he is up against the fence. Big John actually stops the fight when he gets a good look at the blood pouring out of Taktarov’s head, and Severn is on to the finals even though Taktarov wants to keep going.
Brown thinks Severn has really worked on his punching and kicking, which makes me wonder if he has been drinking.
During the hype for the SuperFight, Shamrock appears to have picked up the nickname “One Punch”, which I have not heard before or since. Anyone know where that came from?
Ken Shamrock (3-1) vs Royce Gracie (11-1)
The biggest fight in UFC history is upon us, and Shamrock wants us all to know that he is here to win, plain and simple. Royce, on the other hand, says having to face only one man makes his job that much easier.
Beck wants us to believe that Royce is 11-0 with one No Contest in the Octagon, but that is revisionist history.
Gracie comes out kicking to initiate the action, but Shamrock grabs a leg and gets a takedown. Royce is able to land a decent punch and pull guard. Shamrock is up on the balls of his feet, expending a lot of energy, while Royce is content to land some kicks to Shamrock’s kidneys from the bottom. Royce starts to work for the reverse arm choke he tried on Severn in his last fight, which he is able to do as Shamrock has stopped all offensive motions. The fight going as slow as it is, Beck tells us that if it hits the thirty minute mark the fight will be a draw. Remember that.
Five minutes in and the crowd is starting to boo. Blatnick tries to explain the technical excellence that we are seeing, but the crowd is actually right in this case. Gracie throws a few punches, and Shamrock answers with a headbutt. Shamrock has the opportunity to stand up as Royce opens his guard, but instead falls right back into the guard and lands some knees to Royce’s ass, for lack of a better description.
Ten minutes in now, and they are still laying there. Royce has been reduced to boxing Shamrock’s ears. In the understatement of the night, Blatnick says they are fighting at a very measured pace. Beck says that McCarthy can restart the fight at any point he feels that they are not working enough, but I wonder if Big John knows that he can do that.
Royce uses his feet to steer his head away from the cage as the fight officially becomes the longest in the history of the UFC….it only felt that way up until this point. Blatnick and Brown wonder if Shamrock would feel as if a tie with Gracie would be a victory.
20 minutes in, gracie still looking for the choke and not getting it. At the 26 minute mark – yes, six minutes can elapse in this fight with nothing worth mentioning – Blatnick thinks Shamrock is starting to pick up the pace. I do not see it. Bob Shamrock – Ken’s father – is in his son’s corner screaming at him to “do something.” Man, when your dad thinks your fight sucks, that has got to hurt. Beck figures the crowd will cheer at the end of the fight, which might be possible if something happens to wake them up. We hit the thirty minute time limit and…………nothing happens. No bell, or announcement. The fight just keeps going. Beck tells us they have decided to have a five minute overtime. Great. At the thirty-one minute mark, Big John stops the fight and it looks like it is done, but they are just restarting them to begin the five minute overtime.
Beck thinks that Royce is happy as he’ll have a chance to work from the top now. Yeah, because that is the way he always fights. Shamrock catches Gracie under the right eye and gives him a mouse, but Gracie pulls guard, and we are right back where we just spent the last half hour. The crowd is NOT happy. At the three minute mark, the crowd really starts to boo. Finally, after thirty six minutes of snore inducing “action”, the “fight” is mercifully over. Beck can not believe the crowd is booing, while I can not believe they stuck around to watch the whole thing.
That was an absolutely AWFUL fight. No other way to put it really. Almost no striking, Shamrock did nothing in the top position and Royce did not try anything substantial form the bottom. Brown’s assessment is that Shamrock should have put a submission hold on Royce to avoid the draw. If only it were that easy.
Hopefully the finals of the tournament can redeem this debacle a bit…..
Dan Severn (4-1) vs Dave Benneteau (2-0)
As our first all wrestler final begins, Benneteau comes out throwing punches, only to get caught in the clinch. Benneteau does land a few short right hands and tires for a single leg takedown. A knee form Severn makes him let go, and we are back to the clinch. Severn gets the takedown and has side control. Hard to see from the camera angle, but he locks in a kimura or a key lock and gains the tap out victory at the three minute mark. Your UFC V champion, Dan “The Beast” Severn.
They had the biggest audience they had ever had – or would in the next decade – for the biggest match up they could possibly put on……and they blew it to put it nicely. It was bad enough that the huge Gracie vs Shamrock showdown was the longest borefest the UFC had seen, but there were not even judges to at least attempt to render a winner.
In a much smaller PPV universe, they achieved a milestone with nearly 260,000 buys. A blessing in one way, it was a curse in another. By introducing time limits but not judges, ties were an inevitability, and unfortunately our first one was the biggest fight they had ever put on. On top of that, having that fight be awful turned off a massive amount of those 260,000 people who paid to see the “fight of a lifetime.” The UFC had reached a zenith, and a slow downfall was about to begin.
On top of disenchanted fans, this was the final UFC that involved WOW, and by extension, they Gracie family. With new rules and time limits that moved the competition outside of their comfort zone, Rorion Gracie and Art Davie sold their interest to SEG, which became the sole owners and operators until they sold to Zuffa. With WOW out of the picture, Royce Gracie, the face of the UFC, left as well.
It was essentially a perfect storm of hurdles to try and get past: an angry fan base, new ownership trying to put their stamp on the product, and doing so with their biggest star.
Competition wise, the tournament this time around showed the dominance of the wrestlers was beginning. Dan Severn won, and did so fairly impressively, but even Dave Benneteau – again a lifelong but not elite wrestler – was able to advance out the preliminary ranks and make it to the finals. Strikers were still unable to deal with being taken down, and non-wrestling style grapplers did not seem to have an answer for the pure brute strength and speed a wrestler seemed able to put forth.
Up next, SEG would attempt to keep the momentum going (I think I already let you know if they would succeed or not) with UFC VI: The Clash Of the Titans. The debuts of Paul