It’s UFC 4, Revenge of the Warriors! Or at least revenge of the warriors who can fight for more than 180 seconds without withdrawing due to exhaustion!
I don’t know who they’re getting their revenge on, but if reigning champion Steve Jennum has any sense, he’ll have retired as the undefeated, undisputed UFC world champion with a sterling record of 1-0, and will be hiding in a safe place somewhere Ken Shamrock and Royce Gracie can’t find him.
The show opens with graphics straight out of a low-budget porno, accompanied by Tchaikovsky’s theme to the Russian dance from The Nutcracker. Try to imagine one of today’s opening montages set to classical ballet music.
The opening gambit: “This is the largest free-standing statue in the world!”
Will the statue be competing tonight? I don’t know, but if it does, it’ll certainly be more mobile than Emanuel Yarborough. ZING!
The main theme tonight is: who will remain standing? Or as it will turn out: who will remain standing after a record number of groinshots?
Our host tonight is Bruce Beck, the man with no neck or eyebrows, whose chin appears to have been fused directly onto his shoulders, and not in a Brock Lesnar muscley way, but more the look of a melting waxwork. Having said that, Beck is a noticeable improvement on Brian Kilmeade, and at this point I'm just glad it’s not Bill Wallace.
Jim Brown is back, hat and all, lending us golden nuggets of wisdom such as:
Beck: “How tough are these guys?”
Brown: “These guys are really tough. They’re much more . . . tougher than I am.”
Let’s hope they have a stronger grasp of comparative adjectives.
Ex-wrestler Jeff Blatnick completes the announce team with some spiel about the Octagon, which apparently "is the traditional shape of the martial arts venue," despite being exclusive to UFC, only having been used three times, and being totally absent in any other forms of martial arts competition. The locks have been enforced to prevent fat men from using their opponents to break down the door.
This year, the alternates have to compete in a mini-tournament, thereby avoiding last year’s insanity that led to a completely fresh fighter walking away with the prize money. Good move.
Returning this year are Royce Gracie, Keith Hackney and Steve Jennum, who I didn’t think would have the balls to come back and defend his crown, so fair play to him. The fool.
A certain Daniel Severn makes his UFC debut. Estwanik, Tabbs and Big John McCarthy are all back. Rules: no biting, no eye-gouging. Everything else is legal. No rounds, no time limit, no way out (copyright WWE).
Ron ‘the Black Dragon’ van Clief vs. Royce Gracie.
Van Clief is 51 years old, and has a perfect hi-top haircut. He’s been studying martial arts for 40 years, longer than any of the participants have been alive. I'm not sure if that means he's vastly superior or just really old.
He is also the first 'Master' to compete. I don't know what that means and can't be bothered to research it, but it sounds impressive and ergo must lend a degree of legitimacy to UFC. And out he comes, to my favourite generic UFC music, sporting some snazzy stars and stripes shorts.
You can pretty much guess the script here: takedown, and Royce is laying on top of van Clief, clearly trying to conserve his energy after wearing himself out last year against everyone's favourite god-botherer, Kimo. This fight illustrates Royce's simple yet effective tactics: lie on top, soften him up with punches, wait for him to turn on his stomach to avoid the punches, then lock in the choke. Textbook. Apparently, Royce’s father told him not to hurt anyone. Let's keep that in mind when he starts thumping people in the groin later on.
Joe Son vs. Keith Hackney
Kimo’s manager, Joe Son, creator of JoeSonDo, is next. Look out for JoelAbrahamDo, coming soon. This man is the spit of Oddjob, and funnily enough went on to play Random Task in Austin Powers. He’s borrowed Kimo's life-size crucifix from UFC 3 for his ring entrance, but being nearly a foot shorter than Kimo, he’s struggling to keep it up.
I’m not sure how he can be 5’4 and 235lbs, that has to be defying the laws of physics. Giant Killer Keith Hackney is his opponent, working on his weaknesses from last year - this year, he definitely won’t be breaking his hands over a morbidly obese man’s head. He looks totally jacked.
Rich Goins has the most ridiculous moustache I've ever seen, a bit like a teenage boy who's tried to grow one to look cool. Joe Son looks like a giant fat baby, and Hackney looks a bit like Flash Gordon on steroids. Actually, on second thought, he looks more like Stretch Armstrong.
Hackney’s main tactic seems to be punching his opponent square in the balls. I count at least ten separate nut shots in this fight, and Hackey is getting roundly booed for it. Poor Joe Son rightly taps out before his testicles are pounded into oblivion.
There have been the occasional sneaky low blow before, but Hackney is a one-man example of why this should’ve been outlawed from the start. There’s no skill or technique involved in socking someone in the groin. Son, to his eternal credit, actually embraces Hackney after the fight. (Insert joke about turning the other ball here.)
On a side note, the commentary has definitely stepped up a notch here, with Blatnick making some insightful comments about Son’s failure to finish Hackney on the ground.
Melton Bowen vs. Steve Jennum
Melton Bowen v defending champ Steve Jennum is up next. Bowen is hyped as the first “real” boxer in the UFC, whatever that means, but is notable for being the first man to wear gloves in the Octagon. Steve Jennum is booed on his way to the ring for having the audacity to win UFC 3.
The man suffers from a terrible birth defect that has left him without a personality. I’m pretty sure Lance Storm’s gimmick was based on this guy. Jennum eventually gets the submission victory with an armbar, but this fight only lasts five minutes and both guys are totally knackered. Most of the fighters seem to have critically underestimated the amount of conditioning needed for this competition, and are starting to get found out.
Dan Severn vs. Anthony Macias
Severn is the first decent wrestler to make a UFC appearance, and is accompanied to the ring by none other than Al Snow. There is a 70lb weight difference in this fight. Beck informs viewers that "both fighters are in black trunks, moustache goes to Severn". Excellent insight.
Severn is the human suplex machine, nearly suplexing local boy Macias out of his damn boots, but without really following them up. Severn eventually cinches in a choke for the finish. Brown summarises Severn as a big strong wrestler who lacks the finishing technique of a Royce Gracie. That's his career in a nutshell.
The final four looks good on paper. Royce seems to have expended the least amount of energy, whilst we are told that Jennum has pulled out due to exhaustion. Perhaps he didn’t realise there would be more than one fight.
Royce Gracie vs. Keith Hackney
Hackney vs. Royce is next, and turns out to be a classic. Hackney is the first person to really defend against Royce's takedowns, as we're four minutes in with both guys still on their feet. Royce’s striking looks poor, but he manages to get in a nutshot on Hackney, which he was totally asking for.
After a very compelling fight, Royce wins with an armbar. The matches are definitely getting more competitive, and Royce is getting pushed to the limit.
Marcus Bossett vs. Dan Severn
Marcus Bossett is the substitute here for Jennum to fight against Severn. Bossett is a “traditional karate man”. That does not bode well for him.
Blatnick and Brown continue their laser-sharp analysis by postulating that he will have a chance if he can punch Severn.
Bossett lands one delightful kick to the body before getting taken down and submitted with a head/arm choke after about a minute. Severn will be the fresher man for a final that looks very interesting on paper.
A rest period has been introduced before the final. Good work. There is an intermission fight for a place in UFC 5 between two guys with pony-tails, who have made a gentlemens’ agreement not to pull each others’ hair, which really annoys Brown, who calls them pretty boys.
The winner is the guy wearing horrific spandex pants, Guy Mezger. The fight is notable for both guys compensating for their lack of hair pulling by trying to knee the bejesus out of each other’s balls, which appears to be the running theme of the show.
Royce Gracie vs. Dan Severn
Onto the final, which will be fascinating in that both guys will want to take it to the mat. Brown questions the gi, which Royce apparently finds that people want to grab and hold him rather than punch him, so it gives him a good advantage. Severn grabs hold of it early on, and takes Royce down.
I think this is the first recorded example of ‘lay and pray’, and boy there is alot of it. Severn lays on top of Gracie for a full 15 minutes, with not alot else happening.
Blatnick think it’s amazing that the greatest martial artists in the world can’t keep themselves from getting to this position. "Wrestling is certainly showing a tremendous amount of prestige and respect that it was never given as a form of self defence", he whines. I can basically condense everything Jeff Blatnick says down to "BLAH BLAH BLAH WRESTLING IS AWESOME BLAH BLAH BLAH".
This is the first time Royce is fighting off his back, and he looks comfortable. Of the solid quarter of an hour Severn spends on top, he doesn’t seem to attempt any strikes, headbutts or submissions, and would’ve been stood up by the ref by today’s rules. But apparently in 1994 it’s acceptable, if not actually encouraged, to just lay there and do nothing.
The announcers seem to think Royce must be exhausted, but with Severn not attempting any offence whatsoever, Royce shows all the concern of a man having a medium-sized poo. He even tries a reverse arm choke from the bottom, which completely lowers his defense, knowing full well that Severn is either unwilling or unable to take advantage. Royce seems to be barely bothering to defend himself.
The crowd is getting restless. As Beck comments, it is not a riveting final, it is just a power play. Brown protests that it’s riveting to him because he thinks it’s unbelievable to have that kind of stamina. If stamina counts as the ability to lay on the floor doing absolutely nothing.
Ten minutes in, and bearing in mind there are no time limits, I am literally beginning to fall asleep. As Royce begins to lock in a triangle, Blatnick twice says that there is no way that Severn can be choked out from this position, as Royce doesn’t have the power in his legs to pull it off, and that he is actually just using it to try to get to his feet. Analysis fail.
However, Blatnick and Severn seem to be sharing some kind of telepathic rassler thinking, as Severn tries to block the escape, but in doing so lets Royce cinch in the triangle, with the announcers barely aware that it’s happening, as Severn taps out at 15:49.
Royce doesn’t even look tired. Beck tells us he has kept alive the Gracie family undefeated streak, despite continuously announcing Royce with an amateur record of 51-8 all night, and Royce actually forfeiting a fight last time round. They’re challenging Joe Son for the title of ultimate champion of making stuff up.
Brown is shouting triumphantly at Blatnick for erroneously praising grapplers. Blatnick is slightly perplexed and answers by pointing out that Royce is a grappler.
The announcers are telling us that it’s been Royce’s hardest match yet, but he didn’t seem to have much to do other than lie there and wait for Severn to make a mistake. The Hackney fight looked a much sterner test. Still, Royce spent 15 minutes on his back with a 260lb wrestler on top of him, and managed to make him submit, so fair play to the man.
Overall, this is probably the best card so far. Nobody looked completely out of place, and with only one alternate, it was much more stable than its predecessor.
Taking away the ref's ability to stop the match was strange, but fortunately we didn’t have as many ugly finishes as UFC 2, although I fear this event will remain memorable for me largely for the Hackney groin-pounding unpleasantness. It’s a shame for Hackney, because his semi against Royce was probably the best UFC fight yet.
Dan Severn was very interesting as the first proper wrestler to debut, and possibly set a benchmark for how wrestlers had a base to be successful in the UFC.
Although there is still the overwhelming feeling that everyone is playing catchup with Royce, and nobody knows enough about grappling to be able to seriously challenge him. The crown is back where it belongs.