Way back when, the future of MMA (and by proxy the UFC) looked to be determined by those fighters who were so masterful in their singular discipline that they could almost use it like a bulldozer to run over anyone in their path.
Such was the case with Kevin Jackson back in 1997.
Jackson was a gold medal winner in freestyle wrestling in the 1992 Olympics and managed to use that as a bridge to break into MMA, winning his first three bouts via stoppage, as if the competition wasn’t even there.
The UFC was beginning to open up a bit, moving from a “one man to rule them all” mindset into an appreciation for divisions, and Kevin Jackson was the heir apparent for the middleweight division. His mentor in MMA (but not wrestling!) was former UFC heavyweight champion Mark Coleman (who had ironically just lost his title to Maurice Smith, who was the striking coach for Frank Shamrock), so a middleweight division ruled by Jackson just seemed right.
Shamrock seemed to get his chance in the UFC thanks to the dominance of his older adopted big brother, Ken Shamrock. But would the little bother prove to be as capable as his elder sibling, who had warred with Royce Gracie and who had defeated Dan Severn for the Superfight title?
Most thought no.
Jackson simply looked unstoppable in the cage; his wrestling was just so fluid and precise that most thought Shamrock would take the role as an opponent only in name, meant only to give Jackson a fuller resume.
And within the first 10 seconds, it looked like that would be the case. Jackson came out poised and ready, backing Shamrock against the cage with a rush and then ripping the legs out from under him with a brutal double-leg grab.
Jackson went down to finish the job, and then, seconds later, Shamrock isolated his arm and exploded into an armbar that left him tapping in short order.
And just like that, it was over.
Sometimes, great beginnings happen in a single moment of advantage. When Jackson got that takedown, he employed great position for wrestling, but not for MMA. Thus, Shamrock seized the opportunity and finished the fight.
We got to see the birth of one of the greatest champions in UFC history on that night in Japan, not to mention the introduction of the prototypical fighter of the next century.
Frank Shamrock honestly stands as the first version of the next wave of MMA fighter. Men like Georges St-Pierre and others emerged from that point of genesis, fully confident that they, too, could see success in a sport that is not limited by the lesser points of one's nadir, but that strives to recognize fighters by their desire to see the greatest aspects of their ambitions born as a cohesive whole.