This will be the first of many, many installments in the ranking the UFC series. I’ll be spending the next many months going over all UFC events, all the way back to the beginning. I’ll be watching every single fight back to the inception of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, ranking the fighters, the fights, and the events themselves.
The rankings will basically be determined by my own judgment. Choosing the best and the greatest in the history of the UFC is a totally subjective thing, so I’m sure not everyone will agree with my selections. But I’ll go fight by fight to determine which moments and which fighters stand out from the rest. In the end, I hope to have three lists detaling the the greatest shows, the greatest bouts, and the greatest combatants in the history of the UFC.
With that, I bring you the very first UFC event.
UFC 1: The Beginning – November 12, 1993
I can honestly say that this was the greatest event in UFC history – up until this point, at least. Brought to us from Denver, Colorado, we’re introduced to an odd mix of fighters with varied backgrounds. From sumo wrestlers to chubby kickboxers, it seems like we’ve got a bit of everything. A seemingly choked up Bill Wallace introduces us broadcast partner Jim Brown and the “Ultimate Fighting Challenge.” Bill Wallace then invites Jim Brown to climb “over the ropes” so he can join the action. Oh boy.
At least Kathy Long brings some combat sport credibility to the booth by explaining how fighters might be approaching these contests. Rod Machado, the illegitimate son of Mike Adamle and Joe Theismann, prattles on about nothing and stumbles over the name “Royce.” Brian Kilmeade (introduced by Bill Wallace as Brian Kilmore) proceeds to jump up and down on the mat of the octagon to demonstrate the softness of the fighting surface. This event is nothing short of thrilling thus far.
Basically, we have a one night tournament with fighters with backgrounds in various combat sports. The tournament is seeded as follows:
Jason DeLucia did defeat Trent Jenkins in an unaired preliminary fight which has never been included on commercial releases. Because of this, the fight cannot be included in the fight rankings. Both fighters will be included in the individual fighter rankings, since both men participate in future UFC fights. Their positions are based merely on the fight result compared to the remainder of the card.
I’m excited for some Art Jimmerson. I’ll explain more later. Anyway, the first televised bout in UFC history is going to be Gordeau vs. Tuli.
Teila Tuli looks all of 400 pounds, while Gerard Gordeau looks all of pale. I really shouldn’t say that since most Dutch people scare me. It’s too bad for Tuli that sumo rules don’t apply, since shoving Gordeau out of the cage seems to be his only means to succeed. Tuli charges Gordeau, who tries his best to punch at Tuli. Gordeau then proceeds to shove Tuli down against the cage and levels him with a kick to the face, effectively ending the fight. Wow, that was devastating. Tuli is bleeding from the eye as the commentators wonder whether or not the fighter is over. Thoughts, Jim Brown?
“I think it was…totally in the face. And I mean…awesome. Awesome. Tooth came out.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself. The second fight in this tournament is Kevin Rosier vs. Zane Frasier.
Ron Goins yells into the microphone for a little bit and we’re treated to some playful banter:
“Don’t you wish you could tape your whole body, Jim?”
“Bill, you would know more about that than me.”
How fun! Wallace also expresses indignation about the referee briefing the fighters about the rules. With that, fight number two is under way. Zane Frasier looks pretty fit, he seems ready to go. Kevin Rosier might be tough, but his body looks like my grandfather’s. It also doesn’t help that his shorts are pulled up over his belly button.
Rosier stalks Frasier like some kind of awkward hill monster. When Frasier is backed against the cage, Rosier strikes with some heavy punches and brings Frasier to the ground. Frasier throws some knees and punches with Rosier against the cage. We’re also treated to some blatant groin shots and hair pulling by Frasier.
About 90 seconds in, both fighters seems very, very gassed. That doesn’t keep them both from throwing punches from the “clinch.” I use the term clinch loosely, since what these two are doing barely resembles anything in modern MMA (except for maybe fat boys getting gassed – that will never change.)
Frasier lands another groin shot but he can’t seem to down Rosier with his punches. Rosier seems to gain a bit of a second wind and stalks after Frasier again, throwing wild punches and kicks. Rosier finally backs Frasier against the cage and knocks him to the ground. A series of punches and kicks prompts Frasier’s corner to throw in the towel. A winner is Kevin Rosier!
It certainly was a fun fight, but I can’t help but feel like I just watched a snuff film. If nothing else, this fight shows how different the early UFC events were from the Zuffa produced UFC. Bill Wallace discusses how being struck in the head “discombobarates” you. Rosier sucks wind through his post-fight interview while his team tries to rush him back into the dressing room to rest.
Now it’s time: the epic battle between Royce Gracie and Art Jimmerson. It’s not only epic because it’s the first UFC appearance for Gracie. We’re also treated to this:
Jimmerson sports the classic bare hand/boxing glove combo. Nothing says no holds barred combat sports like wearing a glove over your left hand. Sometimes, I wonder if this ever happened. Did this really happen? Did “King Arthur” and Royce really go toe-to-toe in the octagon or was this a dream? I guess it’s real since there are pictures, but it feels like a glorious dream.
And Jimmerson definitely wishes this was a dream. He mounts approximately no offense against the legendary BJJ practitioner. There’s not a whole lot to say about this fight. Gracie feigns some kicks and executes a successful takedown. He proceeds to mount Jimmerson, who looks to be struggling like a child to escape the position. Jimmerson eventually taps out…due to position? Well, I guess that’s fine. Great job by the referee to sit idly by while a confused Royce Gracie wonders if the fight should be stopped.
Moving on, the fourth and final quarterfinal match is Ken Shamrock vs. Patrick Smith. Shamrock makes his way to the cage looking half angry and half like he made in his trunks. Knowing what I do of Ken Shamrock, I’m guessing it’s the anger. Shamrock’s introduction video looks more like a video-dating entry than pre-fight comments. Smith is sporting the Carlos Newton curly afro and looks like a handsome young man. Nowadays, he’s not so handsome. Still, the local kid gets some love from the Denver audience.
Shamrock looks absolutely ready to kill and appears to be in great shape. He scores a very quick takedown as Smith hangs on for dear life. Smith actually keeps Shamrock in a decent guard and holds Shamrock’s head tightly. Shamrock gets free and goes in for a heel hook on Smith. After a bit of struggling by both fighters, Shamrock torques Smith’s ankle and gets the tap out.
The referee is nice enough to walk by and suggest that both men stop fighting. Smith apparently doesn’t get the message as he wants to keep going, but it’s to no avail. Shamrock gives an awesome interview with some great one word responses. That’s what’s missing from today’s UFC: monosyllabic post fight interviews that don’t consist solely of plugs for sponsors.
The UFC is also missing the great analysis of Bill Wallace, who explains that fans don’t understand why fighters on the ground are “just laying there.” The sad thing is that there are many fans like that in the year 2011. Today, Joe Rogan would just call the fans idiots for booing and move on. We’re now into the semi-finals of the tournament and a fight between Gerard Gordeau and Kevin Rosier.
Gordeau and Rosier is certainly a contender for palest fight in UFC history. These men both transcend whiteness and have entered an advanced stage of translucency. It appears that Jim Brown does not approve, but I can’t be certain if it’s because of skin color.
Rosier has so much vaseline on his face that it looks like his eye lid is falling off of his face. Gordeau lands some powerful leg kicks which drop Rosier. The Dutchman proceeds to punch and stomp the downed Rosier until the fight is stopped. Thus far, Gerard Gordeau has appeared to be a very dominant fighter, but I will only stop making pale comments if he wins in the finals.
Kathy Long comments on how surprised she is about the fights being so short. Every time she talks, I feel like I’m listening to Mike McGuirk, the old wrestling announcer. Some might call that sexist, since not all female combat sports broadcasters are the same – but let’s be honest, they’re similar enough.
The second semi-final match pits Royce Gracie against Ken Shamrock in a battle of two MMA legends. Gracie looks to be ready to go after his earlier domination of Art Jimmerson, while Ken Shamrock looks slightly less ready to kill after failing to actually kill Patrick Smith. He seems a bit disappointed. Bill Wallace hints at Shamrock being a bit of a jerk, but few know how prescient these statements really are. The first profound statements from Bill Wallace – better late than never, I guess.
Gracie goes for a takedown right away, which is defended fairly well by Shamrock. Gracie works back to his feet and pulls Ken into his guard. Gracie leverages himself to a top position and hits Shamrock with some palm strikes. Gracie pulls Shamrock close and works for a choke, which forces Shamrock to tap. The referee had to see Shamrock tap, despite claims by Bill Wallace to the contrary. I guess some excuse has to be made for the referee just standing around as a fighter is being choked out.
We cut to a ceremony held to honor Helio Gracie’s contributions to combat sports as his family looks on. Some drunken Coloradans (or more appropriately, just Coloradans) jeer the celebration and are lucky to escape this event with their limbs intact.
It’s finally time for the championship match between Gerard Gordeau and Royce Gracie. Gordeau has a broken hand, so it will be interesting to see how this fight goes. Gracie sits back and tries for a takedown that Gordeau blocks. Gracie has Gordeau pinned against the cage finally manages the takedown and pulls mount. Gracie takes Gordeau’s back and pulls off the rear naked choke for the victory. Gracie declares that he will use his $50,000 in winnings (presented on a novelty check) to go to Disneyland – hey, that’s a joke!
Royce Gracie manages to win three fights in about four minutes, showing how far he is ahead of the game. The first Ultimate Fighting Champion is the man who is considered a pioneer in mixed martial arts. It’s no surprise that he was the best fighter on this card, but there were greater things on the horizon for Gracie and Ken Shamrock, and to a lesser extent, Patrick Smith. The early UFC events feature the growth of these early MMA stars as the sport slowly works towards legitimacy.
The greatest fights and fighters of UFC 1 are as follows. These rankings are also reflected in the MMA lists tabs detailed above and will be updated as new entries are completed.
Greatest Fights of UFC 1
- Royce Gracie vs. Ken Shamrock
- Ken Shamrock vs. Patrick Smith
- Kevin Rosier vs. Zane Frasier
- Royce Gracie vs. Gerard Gordeau
- Gerard Gordeau vs. Kevin Rosier
- Royce Gracie vs. Art Jimmerson
- Gerard Gordeau vs. Telia Tuli
Greatest Fighters of UFC 1
- Royce Gracie (3-0)
- Gerard Gordeau (2-1)
- Ken Shamrock (1-1)
- Kevin Rosier (1-1)
- Patrick Smith (0-1)
- Jason Delucia (1-0)
- Zane Frasier (0-1)
- Art Jimmerson (0-1)
- Trent Jenkins (0-1)
- Telia Tuli (0-1)