MMA Review: #77: UFC 12: Judgement Day Jan20

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MMA Review: #77: UFC 12: Judgement Day

UFC 12: Judgement Day

02/07/97

Dothan, Alabama

-We begin with a video package hyping up the first ever UFC Heavyweight Title fight between Mark Coleman and Dan Severn, as well as the addition of weight classes, with a Lightweight tournament for fighters under 200lbs, and a separate Heavyweight tournament for those over 200lbs. The package ends by calling the UFC ‘the world’s best mixed-martial-arts tournament’, which is, I believe, the first time the actual phrase ‘MMA’ was used in UFC.

-Your hosts are Bruce Beck and Jeff Blatnick. They talk about the advent of weight classes and separate tournaments, and Blatnick explains that the reasoning is basically that now that most of the fighters who are entering are legitimately skilled, size can be a big factor and it’s not something that the fighters can change. He basically says that in a fight between two equally skilled fighters, if one’s a lot bigger, the bigger guy is always likely to win. Makes a lot of sense. Unless you’re a Japanese Pride executive in 2006 I guess…

-We go into the Octagon to meet the newest member of UFC’s broadcast team…2nd degree black belt in Tae-Kwon-Do…yep, it’s Joe Rogan. Ha, for all the UFC I’ve watched, I had NO idea that Rogan was involved back at UFC 12. Colour me shocked.

-They run down the rules of the Octagon, and then the format of the tournaments. It’s two separate four-man tourneys, with no rounds as usual. There’s a twelve-minute time limit (three minute overtime period) in the semis, and a fifteen-minute limit (three minute overtime period) in the finals, with the HW Title fight being fifteen minutes with two overtime periods if needed.

Lightweight Tournament: Semi-Finals

Jerry Bohlander vs Rainy Martinez

Ken Shamrock joins us on commentary, and he’ll be with us all night during the Lightweight tournament bracket. Naturally he’s slightly biased towards his Lion’s Den student Bohlander, who says he’s looking forward to fighting guys his size for once, and that he’s improved a ton over the past year or so. Martinez has kickboxing, boxing and wrestling credentials, showing that even guys who didn’t go on to big things at this point were still learning the benefits of cross training.

They begin, and Bohlander quickly works some leg kicks, before going for a takedown. Martinez tries to sprawl out, but Bohlander keeps charging in and eventually gets him down against the fence. He passes into a side mount, and then moves into half-guard, looking to get full mount. Martinez manages to bridge off and scrambles to his feet, but Bohlander quickly tackles him back into the fence, and gets a half-choke attempt, before Martinez rolls and gives his back, basically going right into Bohlander’s attempt, and Jerry quickly gets his hooks in and closes the rear naked choke off for the tapout.

Good performance from Bohlander but why Martinez rolled his way into a rear naked choke I don’t know.

Yoshiki Takahashi vs Wallid Ismail

This one should be interesting as both guys are still around fighting today. Ismail is probably best known for his OTT levels of intensity and one of the most intimidating stares in all of combat sports, but he’s also a BJJ black belt under Carlson Gracie and actually holds a win in BJJ competition over Royce Gracie. Takahashi was last seen being murdered by Igor Vovchanchyn and Heath Herring in Pride, and here he was known as a tough Pancrase veteran. Pre-fight Ismail stalls FOREVER with his entrance for some reason, before coming out with a HUGE entourage including Carlson Gracie himself and Mario Sperry.

They press to open and Takahashi lands some stiff punches, and muscles off a takedown attempt. They grapple for position standing, and Takahashi grabs Ismail’s shorts for leverage, basically giving him a ‘wedgie’. Ismail goes for a takedown, but Takahashi grabs the fence to prevent it, with Big John McCarthy yelling at him OVER AND OVER ‘Don’t grab the fence!’. Don’t think he understands English, John. He finally lets go as Ismail goes for a double leg, but Takahashi controls him with a front facelock, then releases and grabs hold of the fence again. Ismail gets a rear waistlock and tries to pull him down, but Takahashi hangs onto the fence for dear life at this point, and McCarthy is fuming, yelling at him over and over. Finally he takes action, physically removing Takahashi’s hand, and WOW, Ismail gets the takedown. Takahashi works back to his feet quickly though, and lands some punches inside a clinch before backing away.

Ismail presses forward, and Takahashi counters with a pair of right hooks that down the Brazilian, but instead of following up he starts yelling at McCarthy to administer a standing 8 count. Uh, dude, you REALLY should’ve read a UFC rulebook at least. Ismail comes back up and continues to press, but throws his punches with his chin sticking out, and Takahashi continues to tag him with some crisp counters as he comes forward. They circle and Ismail shoots in again, but Takahashi sprawls and uses the fence to stay up again. Ismail works for a single leg, but Takahashi grabs the fence for dear life once more, causing McCarthy to have fits of anger. Ismail keeps trying for the takedown, but Takahashi uses the fence to stay up, and actually pulls the cup out of Ismail’s shorts and lands some knees to the groin. Christ, is this guy dirty or what? McCarthy FINALLY pulls Takahashi’s hand off the fence, and Ismail looks for the single leg, but Takahashi counters with a nice ankle pick and gets on top in Ismail’s guard, where he lands a combination of hammer fists, and headbutts. He continues to end the regulation period, and Ismail’s face is looking marked up, and he looks GASSED heading into overtime.

McCarthy warns Takahashi about holding the fence as they prepare for the three extra minutes. They get underway and exchange punches, before Takahashi attempts to call time out, citing a poke to the eye. McCarthy takes no notice and orders them to continue, and Takahashi tags Ismail with some nice shots as he shoots in. Ismail goes down and Takahashi lands an illegal kick as he’s grounded (he’s wearing shoes, thus it’s illegal during this period of UFC history). McCarthy signals for the illegal move to be noted by the judges. They continue, and Ismail keeps pressing, but Takahashi tags him with punches as he comes forward, almost knocking him down with a combination as Ismail looks really wobbly, but the fight then comes to an end. We go to the judges, where Takahashi picks up the unanimous decision.

Really frustrating fight to watch, as Takahashi clearly hadn’t read anything into the rules of UFC. Calling for time outs and standing eight counts is pretty harmless, but the fence-holding (which I’m not sure was officially illegal, but McCarthy was definitely acting like it was) arguably cost Ismail the fight, as trying to pull Takahashi down clearly sapped his energy. And why he was doing stuff like pulling Wallid’s cup out, I have no idea. The sad part was that Takahashi seemed to have a decent level of skill in all areas, and really didn’t need to be using such tactics.

Heavyweight Tournament: Semi-Finals

Scott Ferrozzo vs Jim Mullen

Tank Abbott joins us on commentary for the Heavyweight tournament. Ferrozzo was of course coming off his big win over Tank at UFC 11, so Abbott picks him to win this fight handily. Mullen’s background is in kickboxing, so it’s expected that he’ll want to keep things standing, but he’s just over 200lbs and Ferrozzo is well over 300lbs, so there’s quite the size difference.

Ferrozzo bullies him into the fence early, using the size advantage, and uses a front facelock to work him over with some knees and short punches. Ferrozzo lands some heavy uppercuts, but none seem to do much damage, but he’s still got him stuck on the fence. He forces him down to his knees with a front facelock, and then lands some heavy knees, using a headlock to control him. Mullen deflects most of Ferrozzo’s shots, and then manages to stand, but Ferrozzo grabs him quickly and gets a slam down to guard. Ferrozzo passes into half-guard, and uses a forearm to the throat to keep Mullen from doing anything. Ferrozzo lands some short punches, but mainly just smothers him, so McCarthy calls for the stand-up, and they quickly check the swelling over Mullen’s left eye. They restart, and Mullen lands a good left hand, but then attempts a spinning elbow, and Ferrozzo bulls into him and sends him down into the fence, where he drops some heavy knees to the head for the stoppage.

Neither guy showed that much skill here, Mullen might’ve been decent standing, but if he was he didn’t get a chance to show it as the size advantage that Ferrozzo held basically smothered him.

-They show us a ‘UFC Flashback’, to UFC 3, and Royce Gracie vs. Kimo.

Vitor Belfort vs Tra Telligman

Pre-fight we get a highlight of Belfort KILLING Jon Hess in Superbrawl, and it immediately seems wrong that they’re hyping him as a BJJ-based fighter as he stops Hess with his now trademark machine-gun punches. It’s weird to think that everyone was expecting Vitor to take things to the ground right away, looking at it now. Telligman also has quite a bit of hype behind him being from the Lion’s Den, and unbeaten in MMA fights at this point. Like his teammate Ismail, Belfort has a HUGE entourage with him.

They get underway, and Tank seems worried about Telligman’s passive stance, and rightfully so as Belfort comes forward and TAGS him with a horrifyingly fast combination! Tra clinches quickly, but Belfort breaks off, and lands a MACHINE GUN COMBO!~! Punch after punch lands, and Telligman quickly tries a takedown, but Belfort decks him with a left and then drops down into a side mount, where he lands a series of lefts, and then some hard elbows to the side of the head for the stoppage.

Post-fight Abbott tries to play down Belfort’s striking skill, but come the fuck on – that kind of speed and skill had NEVER been seen in UFC at this point, and what’s more, it came from a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu champion. When you consider that this BJJ champion with the best strikes in UFC history was also 19 at the time…well, you know why they gave him the ‘Phenom’ nickname now.

-They show us a video package on Mark Coleman, highlighting his training and his thoughts on the Severn fight (he thinks he’s going to win, of course).

-We go backstage where Joe Rogan announces that Yoshiki Takahashi is out of the Lightweight finals, citing a broken hand, and alternate, Jiu-Jitsu fighter Nick Sanzo will be taking his place against Bohlander.

Lightweight Tournament: Finals

Jerry Bohlander vs Nick Sanzo

Ken Shamrock returns on guest commentary for the finals.

Sanzo opens with a quick attempt at a single leg, but Bohlander blocks it nicely and grabs him in a front facelock. He lands some knees to the head, and then snakes his arm across the back of Sanzo’s neck, before rolling through into a SWANK crucifix neck crank combination for the tapout! That was NICE, never seen that submission before at all. Ken says he taught it to him about three weeks ago.

Another nice performance from Bohlander making him the first UFC Lightweight Tournament champion, with a really interesting finish. To be fair, it didn’t look that difficult of a hold to escape, which is probably why it hasn’t been used since, but hey, it worked for Bohlander so who am I to knock it?

-They show the bloody fight between Dan Severn and Oleg Taktarov from UFC 5, and then go into a video package on Dan Severn, similar to the Coleman one from earlier in the show.

-Another UFC Flashback follows and this time it’s the historic debut of Mark Coleman at UFC 10, as he crushes Israeli fighter Moti Horenstein.

Heavyweight Tournament: Finals

Vitor Belfort vs Scott Ferrozzo

Tank rejoins us on commentary for this one. Big pop for Belfort this time out, I think it was a partisan crowd for him anyway, but even if it weren’t, the Telligman beating would’ve been enough to get him over with anyone anyway.

They begin, and Ferrozzo tells him to bring it on. Ferrozzo presses forward, but Belfort pops him with a quick left, snapping his head back, and then follows with a LIGHTNING FAST LEFT, dropping Ferrozzo onto his stomach!~! Belfort quickly spins over to a rear waistlock, and then reaches around, NAILING him with hard, unanswered rights, and McCarthy stops it there. Vitor begins to celebrate…but the dazed Ferrozzo, not knowing that the fight’s been stopped, tries a single leg, and McCarthy and another official have to pull him off.

Post-fight Vitor’s entourage put on a HUGE celebration, chanting ‘JIU-JITSU!’ despite Vitor never even bothering with his BJJ skills. Joe Rogan interviews Belfort and he says that the Carlson Gracie team are the best in the world (which even today isn’t far off as they eventually became the Brazilian Top Team), before Carlson says that he wants Vitor to become as famous as Tank, Severn and Coleman.

Wow, that was another sick performance from Belfort, and when you hear people talk about the ‘Old Vitor’ today, this is what they meant – the man with the fastest hands in UFC history, but also with a background so well-versed in BJJ that nobody would want to go to ground with him either. When you consider that he was 19 and seemed to have the potential to rule the sport for another decade or so, it’s really sad that he never truly lived up to the reputation he built in his early days. Some people claim today that Vitor only looked good against low-level opponents, but c’mon – he has the skill to take out anyone in the world – and it’s only the psychological side of his game that lets him down. Given that he’s still only 29 though, a return to domination isn’t beyond him yet, I don’t think. Whatever the case, this was probably the most mesmerising debut from a guy in UFC since Royce Gracie.

-Tank Abbott calls Ken Shamrock a fraud and a sham. He says Ken should actually reach the finals of a tournament before he talks about other fighters, then says *he* calls the shots and Ken isn’t really in his sights right now.

-Another UFC Flashback follows, this time it’s Don Frye vs. Mark Hall. Dunno why they showed that as it wasn’t Don’s best performance. Frye then joins us, and they explain that he was originally set to fight Severn for the Heavyweight Title in a clash of the two Ultimate Ultimate winners, but he got suspended by the athletic commission due to a broken hand. Frye thinks it’ll be a close fight, but he’s leaning towards Severn.

UFC Heavyweight Title: Mark Coleman vs Dan Severn

Even nine years on, I don’t think UFC’s put on as major a fight in terms of fighters with huge wrestling credentials like this since. Off the top of my head, the closest would probably be Randy Couture vs. Mike Van Arsdale from UFC 54. Anyhow, this is for the UFC Heavyweight Title, the first fight for that belt, as UFC did away with their old ‘Superfight’ title (held by Severn at this point) and decided to go with a legitimate title from this point onwards. Big pop for both guys upon introduction.

They press to open and Severn shoots in looking for the takedown, but Coleman sprawls back, grabbing a front facelock and coming up to standing. Back out, and Coleman avoids another takedown, landing a nice right hand as Severn comes in. Severn shoots in again, but Coleman blocks and gets on top. He gets a full mount, but Severn rolls so Coleman takes a rear waistlock instead. Coleman controls him and prevents an escape, landing a couple of punches, and when Dan rolls, Coleman slides right into a full mount. He moves into side mount, and then gets a side headlock, squeezing ala his fight with Julian Sanchez and looking for the submission. Severn tries to break, landing some weak punches to the top of Coleman’s head, but Coleman keeps squeezing and wrenching on it, and finally Severn taps there, making Coleman the first UFC Heavyweight Champion.

Not the most exciting fight in itself, but it was somewhat of a ‘passing of the torch’ moment as Severn – UFC’s original dominant wrestler – was defeated by the man who took the dominance that Severn had shown with his wrestling, and took it a step further with the advent of his vicious ground-and-pound in Coleman. I think everyone was expecting it to be a more even fight than this, but Coleman’s grappling turned out to be a level above Severn’s, and he got steamrolled, for all intents and purposes.

Post-fight they present Coleman with the title belt, and we end with a highlight reel of the show’s action.

Final Thoughts…

Really good show here. The double-tournament format worked nicely as it not only prevented a UFC 11-like farce, but it gave the smaller fighters a chance, and Bohlander took the chance with both hands and won his first title. On the Heavyweight bracket, Belfort was a revelation and immediately wrote himself into the UFC canon with two frighteningly efficient performances. It’s Belfort’s debut that makes this show such a high recommendation, as anyone who’s only seen modern Belfort and doesn’t understand why his reputation’s so huge and why people talk about the ‘Old Vitor’ constantly needs to see his debut like, now. *Then* you’ll understand, and probably pray for the ‘Old Vitor’ to show up next time you see him fight, too. The main event isn’t hugely exciting, but it’s still a very historical moment for UFC in terms of crowning their first Heavyweight Champion, and coupled with the debut of the Phenom, that makes this a must-see show.

Coming Soon…

Pride: 27 and 28.

UFC: 13, 14, 15, 16, 55 and 56.

Cage Rage: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14.

WFA: 1, 2 and 3.

King of the Cage: 18, 23, 30 and 32.

IFC: Shogun

Best of Shooto 2003 vols. 1 & 2.

Until next time,

Scott Newman:

OratoryNewman@gmail.com