Four UFC champions!
Three UFC finalists!
Plus Keith Hackney!
It doesn't get much better than this. It's UFC 7.5, Ultimate Ultimate.
A star-studded lineup including such combat luminaries as Tank Abbott, Dan Severn, Marco Ruas and Oleg Taktarov . . . but seriously, who invited Steve Jennum? I know the guy "won" UFC 3, but he's clearly pants.
There is no superfight this time, instead a simple single elimination tournament featuring the biggest names, minus Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrock, but an exciting prospect nonetheless. Let's rock.
We are live from the Mammoth Gardens in Denver, Colarado, an intimate building, perfect for men to smash each others faces in!
The opening video is notable for Royce Gracie being almost totally absent, carefully erased from UFC history. This tournament will certainly miss his half hour dryhumping sessions.
Once again, Bruce Beck is our presenter, joined by Jeff Blatnick. He speaks of the 'preparedness' of the fighters, which is second only to Jeff's powers of making up nouns. The third man is Don Wilson, who looks so so odd.
Wilson has nothing of value to offer. His first contribution is to state that this is the most exciting martial arts competition that has ever happened . . . in modern times.
Pat Smith was originally scheduled to take part, but he has been medically disqualified. His replacement is Paul 'the Polar Bear' Varelans, last seen being kicked to death by Marco Ruas! Hooray!
We are introduced to our ringside officials, and the camera lingers on Dr. Richard Istrico for slightly too long. He looks visibly uncomfortable.
This UFC is also the very first to be streamed live online, through Compuserve. I find this surprising, considering that in 1995 I don't think I even knew what the internet was.
There is a groundbreaking new change of rules that will impact the UFC as we know it. This is the first UFC to have three judges who decide the winner in the event of the 15 minute time limit expiring. This is a huge step forward that brings the UFC closer to what we all know and love today.
Hindsight is always 20/20, but shouldn't they have done this sooner? The Shamrock v Gracie and Shamrock v Taktarov debacles might have been slightly less shit had a winner actually been declared.
The judges panel seems to be mostly comprised of magazine editors, which may or may not be an improvement on some of the clowns making decisions today.
Rich 'the G-man' Goins is back as our announcer, to everyone's crushing disappointment. Switching from Michael Buffer to the G-man is certainly a jarring drop in quality, but Goins has obviously brought his A-game to the table today as he tries to make his voice all gruff.
Quarter Final: Tank Abbott v Steve Jennum
The crowd pops for Tank and boos Jennum. Let's recap: Tank nearly killed a man in his last UFC outing and made fun of his convulsing foe, and he's the good guy here. Jennum is still getting stick for his smash-and-grab at UFC 3.
Tank is 55lbs heavier than Jennum, and it seems that the tournament draw has been seeded to get rid of the weaker fighters in the first round. And boy does it work!
Now, an examination of these two fighters' relative strengths and weaknesses would lead me to believe that Tank would stand up and bang, whilst Jennum would take the fight to the mat.
And lo, my complete lack of MMA nous is exposed as Tank shoots for a quick takedown. He mounts and crawls to the fence, but fails to land any decent punches due to Jennum's surprisingly sound defence.
Jennum eventually taps after Tank squashes his head up against the fence with his knee after just over a minute. This is a bizarre finish, and Jennum might actually deserve those boos for being a gutless coward. Tank has hardly spent any energy.
Quarter Final: Dan Severn v Paul Varelans
Rich Goins is now referred to as 'Go-Go Goins'. Someone please call Bruce Buffer.
Interesting looking fight, as Varelans is much bigger than Severn and also has decent ground skills.
Ah wait, no he hasn't. Severn lands a takedown and immediately looks for an arm triangle from side control. Again, Severn's ground offence has no punches. One minute later, Varelans taps.
Quarter Final: Dave Beneteau v Oleg Taktarov
The mention of Taktarov's home town of Gorky always makes me think of Porky Pig.
Beneteau has lost a lot of weight since his last appearance and is looking in good shape, whilst Taktarov has put on 20 lbs and doesn't really look any different.
Into the clinch, before Taktarov gets a single leg takedown. Another very quick fight, as Taktarov locks in a heel hook and Beneteau taps, not before booting Taktarov in the face with his wrestling shoes.
Quarter Final: Keith Hackney v Marco Ruas
Hackney was last seen punching Joe Son in the balls. Tonight, he is wearing tight black lycra shorts, and you can actually see his penis.
Ruas on the other hand looks disturbingly like my girlfriend's Dad, which I find deeply unsettling.
We learn that Brazilian men are a lot like American women, in as much as they don't like to tell their age. And thus, we have an ageless Marco Ruas, who apparently won UFC 7 with a broken finger.
Both guys spend the first minute standing, circling and throwing tentative kicks in a cautious feeling out process. Ruas clinches up against the fence, and eventually gets Hackney's back, working the choke. Hackney taps at 2:39.
So, four dramatic yet surprisingly short quarter finals, exposing the huge gulf in quality between tonight's fighters. At this point, the whole event takes a bit of a nosedive.
First up is an interview with UFC 3 nutcase Kimo, who will be taking on Ken Shamrock at UFC 8. Kimo claims he is no longer just a street brawler, despite previously stating he was a TaeKwonDo black belt at UFC 3. He also appears to have learned from Royce Gracie yanking on his ponytail, and now sports a sensible short haircut.
Semi Final: Tank Abbott v Dan Severn
Prior to this fight, Tank states that he is a world class wrestler. Dan Severn might be about to call shenanigans on that one.
Severn immediately shoots to the surprise of nobody, but the takedown is stuffed by Tank, who also lands a solid knee to the face. Interestingly, this is a move that is illegal by today's standards, but it seems pretty effective and non-dangerous to me. It might even stop cynical wrestlers from instigating tedious lay-and-pray tactics. Yes Gray Maynard, I am talking to you.
Eventually, Severn manages to land the takedown. And this is where my detailed play-by-play commentary ends.
The rest of this fight is essentially 18 minutes of Severn dominating but being completely incapable of finishing the fight, at points lying motionless on top of Tank and infuriatingly being allowed to do so by Big John.
Severn is given the unanimous decision, the first ever judges decision in the UFC, in a terrible fight that should definitely have been stood up on a handful of occasions. Yawn.
Semi Final: Marco Ruas v Oleg Taktarov
And it gets worse. I should have known really, with both men known for being patient fighters who sit back and wait for their opponents to make a mistake.
So what happens if neither fighter makes a mistake in the entirety of an 18 minute fight? You get this crapfest, where the only mistake being made is me for watching it.
There is some ineffective and cautious standup fighting, there is some ineffective and cautious clinching, there is some ineffective and cautious grappling, and I promise you this sentence isn't half as boring as the fight was.
It's hard to pick a clear winner, but Taktarov was definitely the more aggressive of the two, in spite of Ruas looking rather pristine at the end of the match.
Time is up, Taktarov is awarded the unanimous victory, Ruas looks pissed, and I am losing the will to live.
Ken Shamrock is interviewed after the fight, and offers a golden nugget of wisdom by stating that Taktarov could have easily finished the fight were it not for Ruas escaping the holds. Ken, just shut up.
Final: Oleg Taktarov v Dan Severn
May I substitute an hour's worth of play-by-play with the following image: FACEPALM
Guess what? This fight goes to the mat and is boring.
It's like a game of chess, says Blatnick. Yes, except chess is more exciting.
This fight was basically 30 minutes of Severn wiping his hands on Taktarov's face. Nothing else happens. Really.
With no finish, the decision goes to the judges, with Severn being awarded the unanimous decision as he becomes the Ultimate Ultimate Champion.
Man alive. That was bad.
The quality of this event can be highlighted by the fact that I stopped making notes entirely halfway through Severn v Tank, instead deciding that life was too short to be picking through the minutiae of 70 minutes of assorted men looking sternly at each other.
I'm trying to be open minded about this, I really am, but dear god. They're not making it easy. Give me Keith Hackney punching Random Task in the knackers over this crap any day.
More fool me for seeing the lineup and getting excited. I should've known better.
The first round proved to be a complete mismatch. Everything beyond that proved to be soul-destroyingly mundane.
In my opinion, UFC reached a crisis point here. The technically adept fighters such as Ruas and Taktarov could easily defeat their less-skilled opponents, but when put in the Octagon together, they managed to bore the piss out of everyone who had the misfortune of watching.
The introduction of judges went some way to remedying this, but it didn't stop the fights from being utterly unwatchable.
This would prove to be the swansong for Beneteau, Jennum, Ruas and Taktarov. You might think losing three former champions would be a cause for concern, but I applaud this fact. Call me a philistine, but I'd much rather watch an unskilled nutcase like Hackney, Varelans, Tank or even John goddamn Hess swinging like a maniac than watch two masters like Taktarov and Ruas circle each other for 15 minutes and then hug each other for another 15 minutes.
I just imagined a tournament containing Royce Gracie, Ken Shamrock, Dan Severn, Marco Ruas and Oleg Taktarov. I think I just glimpsed into the abyss. There are some things that are better left unseen.
Let's hope UFC 8 goes back to basics, with more punching and less of the fancy shit.
Four UFC champions!