It’s UFC 8—David v Goliath, and the age old question: does size really matter?
After the sleep-inducing UFC Ultimate Ultimate 1995, which saw both semi finals and the final go to judges' decisions, UFC decided upon a new formula.
UFC 8 sees a timely return to basics as they do away with lengthy technical grappling in favour of mad fat men and little skinny men punching each other in the head.
The theme for tonight’s tournament is David v Goliath, which boils down to morbidly obese men against small, malnourished opposition, as well as a superfight between reigning UFC superfight champion Ken Shamrock and UFC 3 god-botherer Kimo, who took Royce Gracie to the limit in their legendary fight.
UFC 8 was significant in being the first to draw criticism, which included local politician Calvin McCard’s on-site protests. These protests sparked a nationwide movement against MMA in 1996, led by Arizona Senator John McCain, which temporarily pushed the sport underground in 1997.
The event was originally scheduled to take place in New York, but a late decision by the NY State Athletic Commission saw it relocated to Puerto Rico.
The opening montage shows Dan Severn, Oleg Taktarov, Steve Jennum and Marco Ruas, despite none of them competing tonight and all of them, bar Severn, never competing again for the UFC.
Bruce Beck is our host, speaking in laughably bad Spanish, accompanied by Jeff Blatnick and the irritating Don Wilson.
We are told that we will not know who the fighters are until they compete, which is the complete opposite to the theme of the previous show. At UU95, audiences were familiar with all eight fighters, which developed an interesting dynamic as we could speculate on how fights would unfold.
On the other hand, with UU95 ending in such disappointing fashion, it’s easy to see why UFC might want to opt for a field of complete unknowns. We don’t know what to expect, so we can’t be disappointed, right?
Blatnick speaks of La Chupacabra, the Puerto Rican mystery monster, a blood-sucking creature who drains the blood from his victims. Disappointingly, this monster will not be competing tonight, as I am left with the realisation that the profusely sweating Blatnick has gone mad in the heat.
Joe Moreira is tipped as another potential Brazilian champion, following in the footsteps of Royce Gracie and Marco Ruas. The panel are obviously convinced that Moreira will emerge victorious tonight just by virtue of his nationality.
Don "the Dragon" Wilson is the third man, as Beck makes a horribly tenuous link to Wilson’s Hollywood “career”, sequels, returns and the return of Ken Shamrock. I never thought I’d want to see Mike Goldberg as much as I do right now.
Wilson again contributes nothing of interest to the entire broadcast, instead giving us examples of normal sentences falling down the stairs, such as: “You know, it’s a return of Ken Shamrock for six times”. Tool.
Beck tells us that Kimo is ultra-cool, and doesn’t even sweat. He appears to be repeatedly making references to sweat to draw attention to the 100 degree plus heat in the arena. We can tell, Bruce. You’re wetter than an otter’s pocket.
It’s worth noting that the three judges are all from striking backgrounds: the editor of a kickboxing magazine, a former boxing and kickboxing champion and the editor of a karate and kung-fu magazine. It begs the question as to how they are qualified to score decisions based on effective grappling, considering how prominent BJJ and wrestling were in the UFC at the time.
Quarter Final: Don Frye v Thomas Ramirez
Don “The Predator” Frye is a wrestler, boxer and judo black belt, which makes him the first true mixed martial artist.
Frye is sporting the customary wrestler’s moustache, and as he enters the arena alongside manager Dan Severn, it’s almost impossible to tell them apart. When did the stache become so popular?
Frye claims he won’t go for an early takedown. What with him being a wrestler, I initially called shenanigans on that promise, but it turns out I’m wrong and stupid. Beck points out that he is a Tom Sellick lookalike, which may or may not be a factor during the fight.
His opponent, Thomas Ramirez, is an enormous fat pig. At 41 years old and 410 lbs, I’m starting to suspect we might be seeing a drop in quality here.
Ramirez is apparently undefeated in 200 challenge matches on the islands. I am guessing that these are probably eating challenges.
His discipline is Pakua-Chan, which I’ve never heard of and I’m sure is of no consequence. Wilson points out that he has no ground experience and “questionable stamina.” Really, Don? You don’t say.
The G-Man, Rich Goins, returns as our announcer. The camera cuts to Ramirez, who looks like he is seriously considering eating Goins.
The bikini-clad ring girl realises she is holding her board the wrong way round, and proceeds to almost drop it. Who says you can’t have brains and beauty? As she turns her board to the correct side, it reads "Judo," which seems a slightly misleading label for Frye.
Goins is on top form tonight, continuing his habit of saying everything twice, and completely botching his ring intros. I am left to contemplate just how much better today’s production standards are, as the camera lingers on the gargantuan Ramirez when it’s obvious that it is Frye’s intro being read. For the record, the camera switches as soon as “200 lbs” is uttered.
Frye gets roundly booed by the partisan Puerto Rican crowd. Ramirez gets a huge pop, and looks a little like Cleveland from Family Guy. There is a 204 lb weight difference between the two fighters.
Both guys come out punching, Frye lands a couple of right jabs, hits Ramirez on the button, and he is down and out. McCarthy stops the fight after about three seconds. Ramirez is away with the fairies.
As Ramirez is receiving medical attention, the panel decides this is the right time to start questioning his 200-fight undefeated record. Hindsight is always 20/20, boys.
Someone in the crowd is holding up a sign that reads "Where is Gracie?" The cameraman is working very hard to pick out all the sexy Puerto Rican ladies in the crowd.
Wilson comments that it’s only a matter of time before MMA surpasses boxing in terms of popularity. Nearly there!
Quarter Final: Joe Moreira v Paul Varelans
An interesting fight on paper here, with a BJJ specialist against the towering Varelans. Last time Varelans fought a Brazilian, Marco Ruas in the UFC 7 final, he was taken down by a barrage of vicious leg kicks. Let’s see how much he’s learned.
Varelans is nine inches taller and 95 lbs heavier than Moreira.
Moreira’s main tactic in this fight is to circle, clinch, then strike on the way out. Varelans is lifting his right leg significantly as he circles, clearly aware of the threat of the leg kick.
Moreira appears to be the cleaner striker, as Wilson advises Varelans to take the fight to the ground. With the stupid words barely out of his stupid mouth, Varelans lands a heavy left hook. What started out as an interesting fight quickly turns dull, with Varelans stalking and circling Moreira, who rinses, lathers and repeats by locking up and landing strikes on the way out.
Varelans is growing in confidence, taunting the Brazilian into making a move. Wilson points out that Moreira’s tactics of clinching and striking on the break is actually illegal in kickboxing, due to the vulnerable state of your opponent.
Blatnick keeps saying "aggressiveness," which is not a real word. Goins states that one minute remains, which gives both fighters a kick up the arse. Varelans throws a late flurry of punches as the time limit expires.
Varelans wins the unanimous decision, which is a bit odd as Moreira was clearly the more effective striker. I guess Varelans' “aggressiveness” swayed the judges. Not much has changed over the last fifteen years, I suppose.
The panel put this over as a big upset. They also speculate as to whether the heat and humidity will be a factor tonight.
Quarter Final: Jerry Bohlander v Scott Ferrozzo
Bohlander is a shootfighter from Shamrock’s Lion’s Den camp, led out by Frank Shamrock. Ferrozzo is another fatty with no neck and is wearing a bright yellow tablecloth. He claims to be a pitfighter, which I guess would put him in the same style as Tank Abbott.
We have a classic grappler v striker matchup, and Ferrozzo outweighs Bohlander by 130 lbs.
Bohlander throws a couple of leg kicks before Ferrozzo locks up a clinch against the fence, landing some heavy left hands. Ferrozzo picks up his much smaller opponent and hits two belly-to-back suplexes, taking his back and throwing some solid strikes.
Ferrozzo is bleeding, having been caught on his right eye. He goes for a guillotine choke, but Bohlander hangs on and escapes. They clinch against the fence, and this time Bohlander attempts an unsuccessful guillotine. Ferrozzo throws him to the ground and falls into Bohlander’s guard.
Interestingly, Bohlander is grabbing hold of Ferrozzo’s singlet and using it for leverage. Not much going on, and eventually McCarthy stands them up, but in order to get Ferrozzo’s cut examined. The fight restarts.
Ferrozzo drives Bohlander up against the cage, and now Bohlander is attempting to choke out Ferrozzo with his own singlet. McCarthy restarts the fight again. Up to the fence again, with two minutes remaining.
Some late drama emerges, as Ferrozzo’s takedown leads to Bohlander displaying some wonderful wrestling skill as he sprawls and reverses the position, locking in another guillotine. This time, Ferrozzo taps.
Very impressive win by Bohlander in a very good fight.
Quarter Final: Paul Herrera v Gary Goodridge
Herrera is a disciple of Tank Abbott and simultaneously claims to be a takedown artist as well as preferring to stand and punch. He is also a relatively small 185 lbs.
"Big Daddy" Goodridge is a boxing champion in the Rampage mould who claims to have beaten 1000 men, in a row, in two hours, in an arm wrestling competition in Japan. When Bruce Beck is immediately questioning your boasts, perhaps you’ve overstepped the mark.
Then again, I wouldn’t question the achievements of a big scary muscled guy like Goodridge. He is wearing a full gi, which might be slightly mental in this heat.
So, two fighters who like to bang. Should be entertaining.
And it turns out Herrera does not prefer to stand and punch, at least not with a boxing champ. He immediately shoots and the takedown is stuffed by Goodridge, who counters and locks in a crucifix hold. He rains down hard elbows on the face of the defenceless Herrera, as McCarthy eventually stops the fight despite letting it continue for way longer than it should have.
It looks like Herrera was knocked out by the very first elbow, the first of eight in total. Ouch. Don Wilson brushes off Herrera’s shattered jaw as “superficial bone damage.”
An entertaining first round. So far, so good! Interestingly, we still have the David v Goliath format in the semi finals due to the results in the first round.
Paul Varelans will be replaced by Sam Adkins after suffering a broken bone in his foot.
Semi Final: Don Frye v Sam Adkins
We get one of those cheesy intro videos for Don Frye showing him rolling around with another man on a beach and looking very much like Tom Sellick.
At this point, I realise that Frye’s entire team has a moustache. I think all UFC fighters should have a moustache.
We’re still waiting for Sam Adkins, who sure is taking his sweet sweet time. You’d think an alternate would be ready to fight, considering that’s the whole point of an alternate. I hope Don smashes this guy for making me wait.
Adkins finally emerges, a big fat bald hairy guy wearing a pair of horrific orange tye-dyed tights. He is a boxer who has a 60 lb weight advantage.
Frye gets a single leg takedown, takes Adkins’ back and rains down with some hard punches. Blatnick and Beck both insist that Adkins tapped twice, as Frye lives up to his nickname of "The Predator" and really goes to town on Adkins' face, busting him open. McCarthy ends the fight soon after.
Wilson explains the referee stoppage, claiming that if a fighter is bleeding, they may be blinded and that we don’t want any blind fighters out there. Come on Don, that’s exactly what we want.
Semi Final: Jerry Bohlander v Gary Goodridge
Goodridge has arguably the best of the homoerotic beach promos, clad in a tight black vest, gold chain, beret and sunglasses, stating that “Big Daddy’s bringing home the bacon.”
Another intriguing matchup here, a small patient grappler v a big aggressive striker.
Blatnick points out that the current score is David 3-Goliath 3, which answers precisely zero questions.
Bohlander shoots and gets caught in a guillotine but manages to escape as the fighters clinch against the fence. Goodridge takes Bohlander’s back, who throws himself to the ground to avoid the suplex. Goodridge has side control, but not much action.
This is begging for a restart, but no such luck, as Goodridge rolls into Bohlander’s guard, who then sweeps and moves into half guard. Bohlander mounts and throws some punches, but Goodridge is able to use his pure strength to lift Bohlander and reverse his position.
Goodridge mounts and eventually stands, pressing one foot down on Bohlander, who is on his back, looking for a leg lock. Goodridge lands two brutal right hands and McCarthy stops the fight. Terrific match.
We are left with a David v Goliath final, with two powerful, aggressive fighters who like to stand and trade. Should be a good one. Interestingly enough, it is the heaviest of the Davids against the lightest of the Goliaths.
The pundits discuss the display of effective ground striking we’ve seen tonight, which I suppose is the first clear emergence of ground and pound.
Superfight: Ken Shamrock v Kimo
Dan Severn joins the panel on commentary and will fight the winner of this superfight at UFC 9. To the surprise of nobody, he picks Frye to win the final.
Kimo, in his pre-fight spiel, claims that his biggest opponent is himself, and he will have to combat his own mental attitude in the Octagon. I have no idea what he’s talking about.
Out he comes, to the inevitable grotesque religious imagery. We are told he is no longer associated with the “infamous” Joe Son. What did he ever do?
We can see Kimo’s Calvin Klein knickers poking up from his waistline. Not sure Jesus would approve of such blatant product placement. Shamrock is wearing some pretty cool red trainers.
The David v Goliath theme continues with Kimo outweighing Shamrock by 65 lbs.
Shamrock immediately gets a single leg takedown and moves into side control. Shamrock eventually mounts Kimo, but strangely doesn’t throw any punches, instead trying for a rear naked choke. This proves to be a mistake, with Kimo sweeping and reversing, with Kimo on top. The Hawaiian lands a few headbutts and big right hand, but Shamrock grabs his leg and rolls through for a kneebar. A minute later, Kimo taps.
Arguably, the best superfight so far. Post fight, Shamrock says he deliberately avoided throwing any punches and wanted to submit Kimo.
Blatnick then asks Shamrock about the “rumour” that he will face Severn at UFC 9, despite officially announcing the fight minutes ago.
Beck tries to goad Severn into saying something controversial about his previous fight with Shamrock, but Severn is gracious in defeat and says he is looking forward to the rematch. BORING.
An advert follows for a five volume VHS set of UFC instructional videos for only $200, from experts Shamrock, Severn, Taktarov and . . . Hackney? If anyone wants to know what to buy me for Christmas, right here folks.
Final: Don Frye v Gary Goodridge
Before the fight, we see footage of a brawl in the crowd being broken up by McCarthy and Gerry Harris, which apparently involved Tank Abbott who was subsequently suspended.
Frye has been fighting for a total of 58 seconds. Goodridge has ditched the gi in favour of some snazzy purple striped shorts.
Goodridge has a 50 lb weight advantage, which in the context of the evening, is relatively little.
Frye throws a few punches and clinches up against the fence, landing some knees. Goodridge takes Frye’s back and eats a few elbows before throwing Frye down to the mat and narrowly missing with a soccer kick. They tie up again, and Frye lands some big punches before being pushed up against the cage.
Goodridge takes down Frye and gets his back, but Frye rolls through to the mount. Frye starts raining punches down on Goodridge, whose corner throws in the towel to hand Frye the victory.
Your winner, and UFC 8 Champion: Don Frye.
David beats Goliath, and yet again a wrestler emerges victorious, although labelling Frye a wrestler would be belying his striking abilities, which proved decisive. As a comparison, Frye’s punching power is exactly what Dan Severn’s game is lacking.
Post fight, Goodridge acknowledges his lack of cardio and admits the better man won. Frye states that he knew he would win the tournament, beating a Goliath in every round.
Blatnick rightly points out that Frye is the first standup fighter to be successful in the UFC, and Frye was certainly the prototype mixed martial artist. Frye points out the power of the six-inch punch, a skill which is particularly topical at the moment following Georges St-Pierre’s UFC 124 jabbing masterclass.
Frye puts over Severn as the ultimate human being, very sweet and the kindest individual you will ever meet. Certainly not a ringing endorsement of a vicious bare-knuckle fighter.
All in all, UFC 8 was a terrific event that was arguably the most entertaining thus far. Coming off the back of the disappointing UU95, and a series of horrendous superfights, UFC 8 delivered in a big way. The David v Goliath format was great fun to watch and highly successful in producing a series of exciting and dramatic fights.
Next up, UFC 9: Shamrock v Severn II!
Event rating: 4 out of 5