Thursday, 28 April 2011

UFC 5: The Return of the Beast - Retro Review

It was a fight 18 months in the making as Ken Shamrock finally got his re-match against Royce Gracie, and also featured the return of the man who’d become the NWA World Heavyweight Champion, Dan Severn. It was April 7th, 1995, and Ultimate Fighting Championship 5: The Return of the Beast.

The show began with the first quarter final as Tae Kwon Do fighter Andy Anderson took on SAFTA stylist Jon Hess.

Hess came into this one with a huge size advantage, coming forward immediately with some wild blows and kicks. The fight went to the ground briefly but Hess soon returned to his feet, returning to his chose tactic.

Anderson soon went down, and a few stomps was enough for the referee “Big” John McCarthy as he stopped the fight, giving the win to Hess.

Quarter final #2 saw Jeet Kune Do fighter Todd Medina facing kickboxer Larry Cureton.

Although these two were known as strikers Medina quickly took the fight to the ground. From there he used ground and pound techniques, including head butts, to weaken his man, before getting the submission win using his left forearm to choke Cureton out.

Quarter final #3 saw Sambo man Oleg Taktarov tackling Kenpo Karate fighter Ernest Verdecia.

Surprisingly it was the striker who took the fight down as Verdecia scored with the early take down, and like Medina before him he connected with a couple of head butts.

But after that he hardly challenged Taktarov as the Russian bided his time before reversing the positions and getting the submission win with a neck crank.

Quarter final #4 saw UFC 4 finalist Dan Severn going up against Judo man Joe Charles.

The best fight of the round saw Severn take control early on with a take down, but unlike the previous tournament Severn had added a few strikes to his game. Charles briefly went for an arm bar but Severn quickly re-established control, taking Charles’ back and locking in a rear naked choke, with the referee stepping in to stop the fight.

Semi-final #1 saw alternate Dave Beneteau, a judo fighter and a wrestler, replacing the injured John Hess against Todd Medina.

Medina’s swollen left eye was a target as Beneteau took the fight to the ground early on, connecting with a series of head butts and strikes. As the fight neared the two minute mark Medina’s corner had seen enough, throwing in the towel.

Semi-final #2 saw Oleg Taktarov going up against Dan Severn.

The most intriguing fight  of the round saw Severn taking control early on the ground, once again using strikes allied to his already impressive wrestling skills.

Taktarov had his moments, but while he went for an arm bar Severn connected with a series of knees to the head, opening up a nasty gash on his forehead.

It wasn’t long before the referee stopped the action, and after checking Taktarov’s cut he called the fight off, giving the impressive win to Severn.

Then was saw a first as Ken Shamrock went up against Royce Gracie in the UFC’s first ever Superfight.

I’ve heard a lot about this one of the past few years, and most of it wasn’t exactly complimentary.

Personally I found it to be a very intriguing battle as they went to the ground after just thirty seconds, with Shamrock taking the guard and Gracie putting in some great defensive work, negating Shamrock’s attacking instincts.

It may not have been particularly explosive or attractive to some but it was certainly interesting.

After 31 minutes and 6 seconds (the time limit was meant to be 30 minutes) the referee stood the fighters up, officially starting the overtime period. Shamrock connected with a blow that swelled Gracie’s right eye before the inevitable return to the ground.

Shamrock suddenly upped his game, targeting Gracie’s eye with lefts and head butts, but once again Gracie went into defensive mode, and it was enough to negate Shamrock as the overtime period came to an end, with the fight being declared a draw.

A very intriguing and interesting fight, although if you used today’s judging criteria then Shamrock would probably have taken the win, mainly because of the damage he caused to Gracie’s eye in the overtime period.

Then it was on to the tournament final between Dave Beneteau and Dan Severn.

On paper, given the respective credentials of these two this looked like a pretty even fight. Both men grappled for position up against the cage until Severn managed to get the take down.

The Best immediately went to work, delivering a couple of rights to Beneteau’s head before synching in a key lock for the submission win.

In conclusion - when you go back to these old UFC shows you get to see just how the sport of mixed martial arts has progressed since those early days.

UFC 5 is a great example of this. Whereas in previous events the fighters stayed in their particular style in UFC 5 we saw the beginning of the progression, with strikers adopting grapping techniques and grapplers using strikes.

As for the fights themselves it was another great performance from Dan Severn. As the NWA World Champion it was interesting to see that he could go from professional wrestling to shoot fighting with relative ease.

It does seem a shame though that this was Royce Gracie’s final UFC appearance until his fight with Matt Hughes at UFC 60. Rumour has it that the clan were worried about the rising standard of competition, and while I don’t know if that’s the case if would have been interesting to see Gracie against the likes of Marco Ruas, Mark Coleman, Randy Couture, Tank Abbott and Don Frye, and perhaps a third outing against Ken Shamrock.

So in all UFC 5 gets the thumbs up here as another great lesson in the history of mixed martial arts.