It was December 16th, 1995. Over a two year period the Ultimate Fighting Championship had held seven events, events featuring some of the most brutal and the most impressive performances in the fledgling sport of mixed martial arts.
Then they wanted to find out who was the best by putting together former champions and runners-up in a one night tournament for the first Ultimate Ultimate.
The show began with the quarter-finals, with Tank Abbott taking on UFC 3 Champion Steve Jennum.
Abbott scored the early take down in this one, and showed some good skill by moving Jennum up against the fence. Jennum managed to get the big guy out of his guard, but it wasn’t long before Abbott was soon back in.
Seconds later, and with his neck looking cranked against the cage Jennum, his head squeezed up against the fence and realising there was nothing he could do, tapped out, giving Abbott the victory.
Quarter-final #2 saw Paul Varelans facing UFC 5 Champion Dan Severn.
Like Abbott before him Severn took his man early, dominating the fight by tying Varelans up like a pretzel before locking in an arm choke for the submission win.
Quarter-final #3 saw Dave Beneteau taking on UFC 6 Champion Oleg Taktarov.
Another fight that barely lasted past the minute mark saw both men grappling for position early on, but when Beneteau looked like he was getting the upper hand Taktarov countered by taking the Canadian’s leg and taking the fight to the ground, synching in an Achilles lock for the submission win.
Quarter-final #4 saw Keith Hackney going up against UFC 7 Champion Marco Ruas.
The longest fight of the round saw a lengthy feeling out period at the beginning, with both men testing the waters with kicks, but when Ruas took the fight to the ground it was all over bar the shouting. Ruas quickly took Hackney’s back and flattened him out before synching in the rear naked choke for the submission win.
Semi-final #1 saw Tank Abbott taking on Dan Severn.
Abbott began by defending Severn’s take down attempt, but from that moment on it was all Severn as the Beast dominated the fight on the ground. Severn overwhelmed Abbott on the ground, taking his back and delivering forearms, elbows, knees and punches while looking for that elusive finishing move.
With Abbott all but failing to defend himself this fight would have been stopped early under today’s unified rules, but with Severn failing to get that finisher and Abbott’s only other great moment being when he managed to get to his feet late on the fight went to the 18 minute time limit.
Which meant that for the first time in UFC history the newly-installed judges came into play, with all three giving the fight to Severn.
Semi-final #2 saw Oleg Taktarov facing Marco Ruas.
This looked a mouth watering prospect on paper, and was certainly a more even fight than the first semi-final.
Both men put in some good work on the ground, especially Taktarov, who went for a guillotine choke and had the hold on for what seemed like an age, with Ruas content just to stay in position.
But when referee John McCarthy stood the fighters up for inactivity the action kind of stalled as they spent the remainder of the fight circling each other and delivering the odd blow. It didn’t make for exciting viewing as both men seemed unwilling to commit to anything, and as the clock ran down to the 18 minute time limit the crowd began to chant “fight, fight”.
So the judges came into play again, with Taktarov taking the unanimous decision.
Then it was on to the final between Dan Severn and Oleg Taktarov.
This proved to be an intriguing battle. Severn began by slapping Taktarov’s forehead, hoping to open up the cuts and scar tissue before the fight went to the ground, and when it got there the Beast did a good job of controlling the fight in the guard, using the head butt to good effect and opening Taktarov up and swelling his forehead and cheek bones.
But it wasn’t all Severn here. Taktarov did a good job in the defensive department, holding onto Severn and stopping him from going for any sort of finishing move.
The only problem that both fighters had though was that they were both exhausted, and this came into play big time, with neither man able to put the other away before the 27 minute time limit or in the 3 minute overtime period.
So once again the judges came into play as all three gave their decision to Severn, and rightfully so, crowning him the first Ultimate Ultimate Champion.
In conclusion - this was a really enjoyable show. All the fights were pretty good, and it was interesting to watch the drama unfold as the show went on as the better fighters basically negated each other.
However, although this was a good tournament I couldn’t help but wonder how things would have played out if the UFC’s best tournament champion, Royce Gracie, had been a part of this event. But then again that’s something we as armchair fans can only speculate on.
So in all the first Ultimate Ultimate tournament gets the thumbs up from me as another interesting slice of mixed martial arts history.