Welcome to a regular feature of MMA Monday, a guided tour of the Ghosts of UFC Past. Come along as I take you through every minute of every event from UFC 1 until UFC Whenever the Hell I Die, sharing the highs and lows of the action and the commentary. The latter will be mostly lows. Given I don’t hold any rights to UFC images, I’ve taken it upon myself to contract my six-year-old neighbor to faithfully recreate the most important scenes so you can more fully appreciate the drama that is unfolding before your eyes. Consider it a teaching aid, for the really slow aspiring MMA fan.
A Guided, Illustrated, Mildly Stupid Tour of UFC 1
We are live (well, were live) and in spectacularly 90’s television style. In addition to a Technicolor opening, we are treated to our noble warriors shadow-boxing, complete with motion-blurred hands. Also, a really fat guy in purple stretching, which we probably could have done without seeing.
Manning the broadcast boost for us today, we have Kathy Long, a five-time world kickboxing champion, Bill Wallace, a karate world champion, and Jim Brown, who was really good at carrying a football. Wallace manages to screw up the very first words to leave his mouth, and then calls it the Ultimate Fighting Challenge twice, a blow made more crushing when you realize the announcing team is outfitted to communicate with space, making it an error of galactic proportions.
Wallace takes this pre-fight time to question his co-hosts on if they would consider fighting themselves, reminding Brown that he always has the ability to “just climb over the ropes” if things got too rough, showing both a profound lack of understanding for how this whole cage-fighting thing works, as well as a staggering inability to look six feet in front of him. Seeing as this is the first time most of the viewers will be introduced to ground-fighting, otherwise known as “that queer shit where nobody’s punching nobody,” we are quickly informed that the man that controls the ground fighting will win, by showing “jiu jitsu at its best.” Rest assured this event was in no-way carefully crafted to show the superiority of Gracie Jiu Jitsu.
Now that we’re all good-and-learned on how this ground fighting business works, it’s time for the meat of things, the bracket, which has clearly been designed by the same guy that made school photo background’s in the 90’s. On the bottom of the bracket, we can look forward to a match featuring Royce Gracie, whose name is pronounced “Hoyce.” At least, by everybody but Wallace it is. In his defense, Gracie is only the guy this entire event is focused around showcasing, so knowing his name shouldn’t be a must as a broadcaster. Up against Gracie will be Art Jimmerson, the IBF’s #10 ranked boxer. With those credentials, big things are sure to come from Jimmerson, and there is certainly no chance at all he will do something that goes down in MMA infamy. You can take that to the bank.
Fight One: Gerard Gordeau vs. Teila Tuli
It would appear Tuli will be first to come to the ring, and wouldn’t you know it, it’s fat-and-purple! Tuli is strutting out to a synth beat which is one of two songs they cleared for the entire event, meaning it will be the first walk out song of each fight. What’s more, it’s about fifteen seconds long, so you get more than one play with each fighter! Super! Tuli tells us in his pre-fight video that his strongest body part is his heart, which is pretty believable given the cubic miles of body it has to pump blood through.
Gordeau is led to the ring by a suspiciously wolfman-like corner man, and promptly tosses off a few heils to the crowd. The announcer cracks that “Honolulu floats higher” as the match starts, which seems a bit dickish, and Wallace notes the danger of fighting without hand wraps, which will not be allowed in the tournament. Tuli offers his wrapped hands to the ref for inspection and is cleared to fight.
Tuli comes charging across the ring and is quickly dropped with a punch from Gordeau. Tuli is clearly lacking in the stand up department and may want to consider attempting some kind of a takedown once he gets back on his — HOLY SHIT! HE JUST KICKED THAT BIG MOTHERFUCKER’S TOOTH INTO THE FOURTH ROW!
A couple more punches from Gordeau wrap up the first fight in UFC history. “They should not be stopping it,” Wallace offers, sounding very much like a man who didn’t just get kicked in the face. Wallace goes to Brown for some analysis on the kick, and we are made aware that “it was totally in the face,” and that the part where the tooth came out was awesome. Take notes, Joe Rogan – that’s how you break down a fight.
Fight Two: Zane Frazier vs. Kevin Rosier
Kevin’s opponents will not be getting up after his overhand right because the fights will be “bare knuckles, bare rules – no rules,” he informs us, leaving viewers across the world to wonder if the production staff had ever heard of editing. Frazier tells us he is going to win because “God gives me the strength and the courage,” causing irate fans to bemoan the lack of an Underground Forum on which to comment sarcastically on God’s desire to see him punch a man in the face in an entirely original manner, and rant about the injustice of having to hear that somebody has faith in a religion and is proud of it.
Rosier’s sweat shorts are uncomfortably high, and do very little to hide the exact location and shape of little Kevin.
The announcing booth discusses the various wraps being worn, and ignores prior claims that such shit would totally not be tolerated, and seem to be having a good time of it until Wallace makes everyone really uncomfortable by letting his secret desire to wrap Jim Brown’s entire body in tape slip out.
Frazier proves to be a revolutionary for the sport, becoming the first fighter to ever employ the turtle defense, and Rosier hammers away on him with all the precision of a drunk taking a leak. They stand back up and Frazier makes Rosier pay for clearly delineating all weak points by hammering his testicles with a knee, which the ref sees no problem with. Wallace applauds Frazier’s strategy of hair pulling, letting out his obvious bias as a black belt in foxy boxing.
Both men are visibly exhausted as they hammer away in the clinch. Frazier drops to a knee, and Rosier takes the opportunity to stomp on his head until Frazier’s corner has seen enough and tosses in the towel. Blows like that can really “discomboburate you.” Brown mentions that often times in football the same things will happen, incredibly foreshadowing Albert Haynesworth by more than a decade.
Fight Three: Royce Gracie vs. Art Jimmerson
Wallace continues to stress the R as Royce comes to the cage as part of the first ever Gracie train, and we are told about the glories of his Gracie Jiu Jitsu, further driving home the point that the first UFC was in no way a glorified infomercial. Jimmerson comes to the ring second and… is he… no… he is! Jimmerson is wearing one solitary boxing glove. That makes sense.
Royce is announced as a “Jitsu” champion, and then Wallace mentions his judo top. An impressively poor job by the production crew of representing the guy the entire tournament is built around showcasing. The crowd boos after a brief feeling around period, a boorish act which surely will never be repeated at another UFC event. Royce takes Jimmerson down and quickly passes to mount with a lovely little headbutt. Terrified of what Gracie is likely to do to him, Jimmerson taps out to the dreaded sitting-on-your-chest hold, first made famous by your older brother.
Fight Four: Ken Shamrock vs. Pat Smith
Shamrock gives a deliciously stiff and awkward interview, whereas Smith touts himself as “the most strongest, most powerfulest, most craziest guy out of all the groups.” He thinks. He is also highly skilled in “the resisting of feeling of pain.”
Smith’s record is read off as 250-0. Backstage, a young Rickson Gracie realizes he’s going to have to step up his lying game if he wants to be the greatest of all time. Shamrock is donning a mankini, and quickly takes Smith to the ground, where he receives some heels to the kidney for his troubles. Smith employs a Gracie® guard. Shamrock drops back for a heel hook, and Smith answers by tugging ineffectually on Ken’s foot. Smith taps, and the crowd calls bullshit on the whole thing.
The commentary team is ready to set up our semi-finals, and Jim let’s us know that “[he] sees two guys that are going to end up fighting each other.” The intricacies of the ground game are discussed, and we see the first analogy to chess in UFC history.
Fight Five: Gerard Gordeau vs. Kevin Rosier
Rosier comes to the cage looking like a man entering the Octagon very much against his will, prompting the analysis that he seems much happier than before his first fight. Gordeau has suffered a broken hand in his first bout, and it’s fucking gross. Dude’s a little crazy to still be punching people with it unpadded.
Gordeau hammers Rosier against the cage, prompting Rosier to drop to his knees to avoid the assault. Apparently they didn’t have closed circuit TV set up to broadcast the earlier fights, because Gordeau is quick to offer the same introduction to his instep he offered Tuli. Rosier turtles and Gordeau stomps his ribs real good, earning the tapout win and letting us all stop feeling pretty uncomfortable about what’s happening on our TV.
“I thought strategy would come into play,” Wallace offers as what he is most surprised to find lacking, doing a fine job of building up the competitors as premier athletes. Brown speculates there is no strategy at all, because if you are good at take downs you’re going to take a guy down, and if you’re good at kicking, you’re going to kick. Not really sure what would classify as strategy by their standards.
Rosier uses his post-fight interview to attempt to get a kickboxing fight, and promises to get the weight down. He’s already shed 45 pounds, and he’d love to fight in the next UFC tournament if they’ll have him. This is getting depressing.
Fight Six: Royce Gracie vs. Ken Shamrock
Finally, we are told, we may actually see some strategy, as opposed to prior fights where the fighters simply performed whatever technique they happened to think of at the time, I guess.
Our faithful announcers speak with authority about aspects of jiu jitsu they know very little about, and our fight gets under way. Royce immediately shoots, then pulls guard, before continuing Pat Smith’s prior efforts to make Shamrock pee blood. Ken drops for a leg, which is a less-than-excellent choice given that it ends up with Royce taking the mount. Ken rolls over, and Royce chokes him out, which the ref doesn’t see even though Royce lets go, nearly leading to a restart of the match. Somewhere, Jason Delucia’s arm weeps.
We get a slow-motion breakdown of the choke, which is naturally entirely inaccurate, and then an interview with Ken in which he is remarkably humble, and avoids the urge to insist he was intelligently defending the choke with his neck.
Fight Seven: Royce Gracie vs. Gerard Gordeau
Before the fight, an announcement is made in honor of the legendary Helio Gracie. The crowd seems on the verge of booing, as nobody is currently making anybody else bleed. For a moment, the woman translating Helio’s speech for us recites it back to us still in Portuguese, confuses “price” and prize” and then translates his English “thank you,” which, as it turns out, means thank you in English.
Our attention is drawn to the bloody wrap on Gordeau’s feet, which it is speculated, is covering a cut from Tuli’s teeth. In actuality, it’s covering two of Tuli’s teeth. We did mention dude’s crazy, right? That’s enough to best the guy I’ve been telling you this entire night revolves around, right?
No, it is not.
Royce quickly shoots in and trips Gordeau, before hopping to the mount and taking Gerard’s back. With the rear naked choke locked in, Gordeau taps. And taps. And tap, tap, taps. Eventually the ref gets around to stopping the fight before Gordeau loses too many brain cells, and Royce is declared the UFC tournament champion.
Royce is now $50,000 dollars richer and going to Disneyland. He even gets a novelty check.
UFC 1 Awards
Breakout Performance: Jim Brown. Brown’s performance proved you don’t have to know anything at all about fighting to offer excellent analysis, paving the way for many in the future who had no business anywhere near an MMA announcing booth. You’re welcome, Bill Goldberg.
Most Disappointing Performance: Tuli’s teeth. Not only were they unsuccessful at staying in his mouth, once dislodged, two of them embedded in Gordeau’s foot, making them the only competitors to suffer defeat twice. That’s embarrassing.
The Tito Ortiz Let Me Tell You How You’re Feeling as One of the Greatest Announcers of the Night Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Broadcasting with Excellently: “When they see Ken enter the ring, some anticipation will rise fluently.” – Wallace. I’m not entirely convinced he even knows what half those words mean after hearing that sentence.
MMA Monday is a regular feature on Bobby Presents, with a new MMA-centric post going up every Monday at 12 Noon, US EST.