The Ultimate Fighting Championship IV
– Immediately the atmosphere is way different, with a smaller venue in Tulsa and a more redneck and bloodthirsty crowd than you’d see now. The hosts are Bruce Beck and Jim Brown (a former football player) and they REALLY make you long for Mike Goldberg. The soundbites from each fighter are also a far cry from the slicker production values presented today on Spike TV, to say the least. “Hi, I’m Steve Jennum, and I’m here to defend my title.” There’s no Tito Ortiz here, lemme tell you.
– Royce Gracie v. Ron Van Clief. Van Clief is a 51 YEAR OLD martial arts instructor who dresses like Apollo Creed. Gracie just schools the shit out of him, taking him down and riding him at will, then forcing him to give up his back with some expert shots to the head and then finishing with the choke at 3:27. Textbook. I really appreciate the incredibly smooth technical style of Gracie much more now that I actually watch MMA on a regular basis and understand him. Back when it used to be a freakshow to watch while we ate pizza and got drunk, I found him kind of boring.
– Joe Son v. Keith Hackney. Uh oh, Hackney is KENPO KARATE~! Son is the manager of Kimo (who missed his calling by not going into pro wrestling) and practices “Joesondo” (no, really) and looks like Oddjob minus 100 pounds. This is gonna be a trainwreck. And sure enough, although Son manages to take Hackney down, Keith fires back by PUNCHING JOE SON IN THE FUCKING NUTS A ZILLION TIMES and then choking him out until he taps. Wow, no rules indeed.
– Steve Jennum v. Melton Bowen. Bowen is a boxer, Jennum is the tool who stepped into the final match of UFC 3 as an alternate and won it, basically because Gracie was too injured to win it himself. The crowd boos him pretty heavily because really that was some serious bullshit. Back then, boxer v. ninjitsu was an intriguing matchup, but now we know that wrestlers and martial artists would dominate easily. Bowen of course wants to stand up and Jennum wants the takedown, and Bowen has NOTHING to defend with. He’s totally out of his league here, and Jennum throws strikes unopposed, passing whatever guard Bowen might be trying with ease. Amazingly, Bowen manages to escape, but Jennum throws him down again at will and Bowen is gassed. Stop the fucking fight, Big John. I should note that Jennum isn’t wearing gloves, and that’s gotta hurt both of them. Bowen’s got no defense left and Jennum toys with him a bit and then finishes with an armbar at 4:47. Jennum worked a style very close to the more modern MMA one, actually, and really made a good accounting for himself here as a worthy fighter. Unfortunately, he injured himself here and had to pull out of the tournament. Too bad, I was intrigued to see more from him.
– Anthony “Mad Dog” Macias v. Daniel Severn. Ha, Daniel. Nobody knew who the hell Severn was at this point, as he was a while away from being NWA World champion. Macias is Muay Thai boxing, and again you’d think all Severn would have to do is take him down. And indeed Dan shoots in and just manhandles him on the mat, then suplexes the shit out of Macias, hitting two back suplexes in succession. And you need some serious power to do that to someone who isn’t cooperating, so wow. Severn finishes with the rear naked choke at 1:45. Raw power! Bruce Beck calls the suplexes “backflips” until Jeff Blatnick is nice enough to correct him.
Open Weight tournament Semi-Finals
– Royce Gracie v. Keith Hackney. Hackney, looking like the bad guy from Karate Kid, tries some silly looking standup while waving his arms like a Kung Fu Grip GI Joe, and Gracie actually tries to trade kicks with him for some bizarre reason. Hackney gets backed up on the fence, however, and Gracie wraps him up in the gi and throws knees. Royce then brilliantly goes to the mat, making Hackney think he has control, but he wraps him up in the triangle and Hackney doesn’t know what he’s gotten himself into. He gets a couple of comebacks, but Gracie just doesn’t let go and calmly pounds away from the guard and then finishes at 5:34. Gracie is a monster, holy shit. The final armbar was SICK.
– Dan Severn v. Marcus Bossett. Bossett’s another karate guy, so look for Severn to squash him dead in short order. Bossett won the alternate fight earlier in the evening. And holy shit, I forgot that Severn’s corner man was AL SNOW. What’s he gonna teach him, how to lose in the opening match and get mocked by Mick Foley for 10 years straight? I kid, I kid. Bossett tries the fancy kicks, and Severn casually catches the leg and takes him down, getting full mount control and choking him out to advance to the finals within something like 30 seconds.
– UFC 5 Qualifier: Jason Fairn v. Guy Mezger. Well we obviously know who went on to be the bigger star here. Or maybe you don’t, I dunno, but the answer is Mezger. Both guys have Steven Seagal ponytails, so there’s actually a rule in place by mutual agreement not to pull hair. That’s like something out of the Rick Martel-Shawn Michaels match at Summerslam 92. Fairn gets a nice shot to put Mezger down, but he can’t sink the choke in, allowing Mezger to take him down. Guy gets full mount and throws punches, and Big John stops it at 2:13. Mezger needs to lose the too-revealing spandex tights, I’d say. This is an example of the brutal early nature of the beast, because Mezger had taped fists instead of gloves and did some serious damage to Fairn’s face before it was stopped.
Open Weight tournament finals
– Royce Gracie v. Dan Severn. Severn dives in with the takedown right away and Gracie immediately goes into the guard. It’s like chocolate meeting peanut butter for the first time. Severn tries for the choke because he has zero striking skills at this point. And that’s not gonna work on Gracie. Like seriously, if Severn had any kind of punching offense he would have HAD Royce here, but instead we get a guy with no finish going to the ground with no pound to follow up. Today they’d just get stood up by the ref, but with no rules at the time Severn is allowed to retain control with nothing going on while Gracie patiently works from the bottom and uses the fence for leverage. Gracie’s guard is amazing, as he gives Severn NOTHING to work with and no opening. And this one is LONG, as Gracie briefly tries a triangle at 10:00, but Severn powers him down again and retains control. Severn keeps trying the straight choke on the mat by sheer power, but Gracie is just amazingly calm and does an unbelievable maneuver into a triangle for the win at 15:49. That was an amazing performance from Gracie, but it showed without a doubt that the wrestlers were going to be the future of the sport, because if Severn had a killer instinct he would have taken that one easily.
What a great early UFC! The back of the box didn’t read all that exciting because it just listed the first round matches, but there were some killer fights in here by the standards of the time. Tremendously entertaining stuff.