MMA Review: #50: UFC 1: The Beginning Jun06

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MMA Review: #50: UFC 1: The Beginning

UFC 1: The Beginning

11/12/93
Denver, Colorado

Yup, this one’s where it all began. I won’t go into much background on the show here as it’d likely give away the happenings of the show (which most all of you reading probably know anyway, but hey), but needless to say it’s the first ever Ultimate Fighting Championship, with the idea behind it supposedly being to find out which martial arts style was the superior one.

-We get a quick rundown of the fighters and their styles, which feature Sumo, Savate, Kickboxing, Karate, Jiu-Jitsu, Boxing, Shootfighting and Tae Kwon Do. The voice-over hypes that there’s no rules, no rounds, and no time limits.

-Your hosts are Bill Wallace (who starts things off by burping as he says ‘Denver’), Jim Brown, and Kathy Long. We head down to ringside to find Rod Machado (I’m guessing he’s one of *the* Machados) who pimps BJJ and Royce Gracie. Then over to Brian Kilmeade who pimps the structure of the Octagon. Wallace is an awful announcer for the most part, by the way.

-We get a quick look at the brackets for the tournament.

Quarter-Finals

Gerard Gordeau vs Teila Tuli

Savate vs. Sumo starts us off, with Gordeau representing the former, Tuli the latter. Gordeau is a Dutch fighter and he’s also done a bit of Muay Thai according to the announcers. He’s wearing long white pants, while Tuli’s wearing what looks like a tribal skirt. Tuli weighs in at about 400lbs.

They get underway and circle, before Tuli charges in and eats some strikes, and Gordeau uses his momentum to shove him down into the fence. They hesitate for a second before Gordeau nails him with a BIG ROUNDHOUSE KICK to the mouth, and follows with a hard right to the face. Referee comes in, and they call the fight there as Tuli’s missing a tooth and has a nasty cut over his eye. Quite the short, eventful opener for the first ever UFC fight.

Kevin Rosier vs Zane Frazier

Rosier is a former World Heavyweight Kickboxing Champion, Frazier is a top ranked Karate champion. Both men sporting plain white shorts here. Frazier’s slightly taller, but Rosier (mainly because he’s in poor shape) looks like the bigger man.

They circle and Rosier closes in with an overhand right, and follows with a knee and another right that put Frazier on the mat. Frazier turtles up and Rosier lands an elbow to the back, then they come up and Frazier comes back with a right into the clinch where they brawl. Frazier lands a nasty knee to the groin, and follows with some knees and punch combinations that seem to have Rosier hurt. Frazier lands some good uppercuts and they continue to brawl in the clinch, noticeably slowing down now. Back out, and Frazier lands a good right, then back to the clinch and Frazier gets him down into a front facelock and lands a knee. Back up, and they’re both badly gassed at this point, but Rosier closes in with some punches that put Frazier down against the fence, and follows with some downward punches and then a couple of stomps, and Frazier’s corner throw in the towel there.

Not much skill shown here, it was basically an out and out brawl, streetfight style. Rosier advances to the semis.

-The announcers discuss the perils of fatigue, and how both Rosier and Frazier tired pretty quickly in the fight, with the fatigue basically costing Frazier the match.

Royce Gracie vs Art Jimmerson

This is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu vs. Boxing. Rod Machado joins us on commentary now to basically pimp the hell out of Gracie’s grappling skill, pretty much giving away the fact that the whole show is about showcasing Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. Jimmerson comes out wearing one boxing glove, while Gracie’s sporting his classic white gi.

They begin and Gracie teases some front kicks to keep Jimmerson at bay, then uses a kick to set up a shot, and takes Jimmerson down into a side mount and then a full mount. Headbutt by Royce, and Jimmerson starts to look panicked, as Machado explains that it’s basically over now Royce has him down. A few more moments on the bottom, and Jimmerson taps out of panic and frustration before Royce can even apply a submission.

I’ve never personally heard of Jimmerson in boxing, but a quick check tells me his record was 30-5-0 going into this which isn’t bad, not that it mattered anyway as Machado was right – once Jimmerson was on his back, he was doomed.

Ken Shamrock vs Pat Smith

Shootfighting vs. Tae Kwon Do, as Ken was the #1 ranked fighter in the Japanese Pancrase organization at this point. The announcers are expecting this one to be the highlight of the Quarter-Finals. Shamrock comes out sporting his WWF look, with the red trunks, while Smith’s wearing Thai boxing shorts.

Ken gets a quick bodylock and throws Smith down to the mat, where he gets a full guard (not sure whether that’s intentional or not). Smith holds Shamrock as he tries to break for distance, but instead Ken falls back and goes for a leglock. Smith tries to block by clubbing Ken with his feet, but Ken hooks the leg up, and eventually gets a heel hook for the swift tapout.

Post-fight Ken says the fight was easy, because Smith had no knowledge of submissions.

-The announcers discuss the semi-final draw, noting that the Royce Gracie/Ken Shamrock fight is likely to be the best fight of the night due to both men having a lot of skill in the grappling department.

Semi-Finals

Gerard Gordeau vs Kevin Rosier

They get underway and Rosier stalks him, but Gordeau fires off some stiff leg kicks that buckle Rosier’s knee. Gordeau closes in and drops him with a combination, then backs off, but keeps closing back in and nailing him every time Rosier tries to get up. Rosier finally covers up, and Gordeau lands a nasty stomp, and the towel comes in there for the stoppage.

Post-fight Rosier congratulates Gordeau and wishes him luck, then says he’d like to compete in the next UFC.

Royce Gracie vs Ken Shamrock

It’s almost weird to see these two guys fighting here *before* they were the biggest stars in MMA – well, before ‘MMA’ as it’s now known even existed really.

Royce shoots in right away to begin, but Ken sprawls back and tries to manoeuvre himself on top. They get into a scramble and come back up, where Royce pulls guard and lands some heel strikes to the kidneys. Ken tries to grab the leg for a submission, but Royce reverses and gets on top. Ken blocks the full mount and tries to manoeuvre around for the leg, but Royce shifts his position into a side back mount, and wraps his arms around Ken’s neck with a gi choke, and Ken taps out there. Referee doesn’t notice the tap and looks to let the match continue, but Royce screams at him that Ken tapped out, and Ken doesn’t protest, so that’s that.

Post-fight Shamrock cuts a uber-humble promo, saying that Royce just caught him off guard when he failed to protect his neck, and he wasn’t going to try to continue just because the referee missed the submission. The interviewer asks him if he feels he was the 2nd best fighter in the tourney, and Ken says “No, I was the 3rd best”, before congratulating Royce. Decent fight here and probably the best of the night from a skill standpoint.

-Rorion Gracie and the rest of his family (not sure exactly who, but I’m sure I spotted Rickson there) present their father, and founder of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Helio Gracie with a plaque to honour his achievements. I bet Helio could’ve tapped most of the guys on show here, too.

Finals

Royce Gracie vs Gerard Gordeau

The announcers actually say Gordeau was the guy who worried Royce the most as he knew how to utilize leg kicks. They pretty much all think Royce is a lock to win, though.

They begin and Royce gets a quick bodylock and tries a tripping takedown, but Gordeau blocks nicely and they muscle along the fence with Royce looking for the takedown. He finally gets Gerard to the mat and mounts him, landing a quick headbutt for good measure. Gordeau rolls and gives his back, trying to block the choke attempt, but Royce quickly locks on a tight rear naked choke, and Gordeau taps out, with Royce holding the choke on a little longer for more emphasis.

Post-fight they present Royce with the cheque for $50,000 and proclaim him the first Ultimate Fighting Champion. Royce cuts a promo saying he was confident in his technique, and that he’s going to Disneyland. And we end there.

Final Thoughts…..

Well…..it’s pretty much a well-known fact at this point that the whole purpose of the first few UFCs was to establish Gracie Jiu-Jitsu as *the* dominant martial arts style. That was quite easy to tell given that you had Machado (and if he’s one of the Machado brothers, it’s even more obvious) pimping BJJ on commentary, everyone seemed to know more about Royce’s background than anyone else, and there was a segment dedicated to honouring Royce’s father. Hell, Rorion Gracie was actually the UFC matchmaker for the first few shows (I’m guessing up until UFC 5 when Shamrock and Severn started to emerge as stars). It’s been said that the brackets were set up to give Royce the best route to winning, too, but I don’t see that as he took out the two most skilled guys in Shamrock and Gordeau anyway, and I doubt any of the others would’ve given him any difficulty. The show might’ve been a vehicle for Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, but it’s not like they fixed anything and it proved them right – they did have the most dominant style. And, as they say, martial arts would never be the same again.

First things first then, it’s nothing like modern-day UFC would have you believe. Any packages on the current shows tend to portray it in a Jean Claude Van Damme-esque way, with Royce shocking the world to somehow take the tournament. In reality, it seems Royce was the favourite all along. None of the fights are anything special either, with most being either unskilled slugfests, or Royce tapping people easily. That said, it’s still an essential show for anyone who’s into MMA at all, just to see where it all began in the first place. It’s hard to believe how the sport’s evolved from this, with most fighters now being well-rounded at both ground and stand-up fighting, rather than the one-dimensional styles they were pigeon-holed into here. We’ll get into the evolution of MMA more as I move along with the early UFCs, but obviously the big thing to come from the Royce-dominated shows was that to win these fights, you needed some knowledge of submissions.
Overall then, UFC 1 is a must for historical reasons, but don’t expect any amazing fights from it.

Coming Soon….

Pride: 25, 26, and Bushido 4, 5 and 6.
UFC: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 52, and 53.
Cage Rage: 7, 8, 9 and 10.
IFC Global Domination: LHW tournament including Renato Babalu, Jeremy Horn, Mauricio Shogun and Forrest Griffin.
WEC 9: Cold Blooded: featuring Joe Riggs vs. Alex Stiebling, and Olaf Alfonso vs. John Polakowski.
Shooto 12/2002: featuring Vitor Ribeiro vs. Tatsuya Kawajiri, Takanori Gomi, and Joachim Hansen.
Best of Shooto 2003 vols. 1 & 2, featuring Takanori Gomi vs. Joachim Hansen, and Joachim Hansen vs. Vitor Ribeiro.

Until next time,

Scott Newman:
ScottNewman620@gmail.com