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DVD Reviews
DVD Review: Ultimate Fighting Championship I
Oct 16, 2006 - 4:15:00 PM
DVD Review: Ultimate Fighting Championship I
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Mike Jarsulic
On November 12, 1993, WOW Promotions and Semaphore Entertainment Group held the first Ultimate Fighting Championship in Denver, Colorado at the McNichols Arena. The event promised to answer the question of which martial art would dominate in a tournament that pitted various styles against each other. However, the true purpose of the Ultimate Fighting Championship was to provide a stage for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and the Gracie family to prove their superiority against mainstream martial arts.

The announcers for the event were Bill “Superfoot” Wallace, Jim Brown, and Kathy Long. Bill Wallace was a professional kickerboxer and former Professional Karate Association middleweight champion. His record in kickboxing was 23-0 when he retired in 1980. After retiring, Wallace became the trainer and bodyguard of comedian John Belushi. In 1982, Bill Wallace made mainstream news when he discovered Belushi's body after an accidental overdose. Jim Brown was a fullback for the Cleveland Browns from 1957 through 1965 and is still considered one of the all-time great running backs to have played in the NFL. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971. Kathy Long was a 5-time World Kickboxing Champion and the dominant force in women's kickboxing in the 80s. She retired in the mid-90s with a record of 18-1 to focus on a career in acting.


Teila Tuli (6'2", 410 lbs, 0-0-0) vs Gerard Gordeau (6'5", 216 lbs, 0-0-0)

Teila Tuli is an amateur sumo wrestler fighting out of Honolulu, Hawaii.  In sumo, Tuli attained the status of Makushita (the third highest division), which is considered the first step of becoming a professional sumo wrestler. Sumo wrestling is not really a fighting style, but rather a sport.  The object of a match is to force an opponent out of the ring, or force him to touch the ground with any body part (other than the feet).

Gerard Gordeau is a practitioner of Savate from Holland and a Dutch Karate Champion from 1978-1985.  Savate is a French version of kickboxing that combines elements of western boxing with karate.  Savate is a more graceful version of kickboxing that allows only foot kicks (knees and shin kicks are illegal).

An interesting aspect of the early UFCs is the attire that the fighters wore into the octagon. Gordeau fought in a pair of gi pants, while Tuli wore a Samoan lava-lava. The match began aggressively with Tuli rushing Gordeau with a series of open handed sumo slaps. This technique proved to be rather unsuccessful as he fell to his knees, and Gordeau was able to finish him quickly with a roundhouse kick to the face followed by right hook. Replays showed Tuli's tooth flying out as he ate the kick. Officially, the fight was stopped due to a cut near Tuli's eye. Jim Brown commented that Tuli's downfall was due to not making it to his feet fast enough. He said, "I know a lot about getting up and I'm not going to stay there."  It's quite an ironic statement because Brown was known throughout his NFL career for getting up slowly after a play and taking his time in getting back to the huddle.

WINNER:  Gordeau via TKO at 0:26

STAR RATING (*+):  While historic for the fact that it was the first fight ever in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, it wasn't much of a fight.

RAMIFICATIONS:  Gordeau advances the semifinals of the tournament.  The fight would be Tuli's only appearance in MMA competition.


Kevin Rosier (6'4", 265 lbs, 0-0-0) vs. Zane Frazier (6'6", 230 lbs, 0-0-0)

Kevin Rosier is a kickboxer fighting out of Cheektowaga, New York. Rosier is a former WKA Super-Heavyweight Champion and ISKA North American Champion with a record of 66-8 with 66 KOs in professional kickboxing. Periodically, Rosier competes in pro boxing as a journeyman super-heavyweight and holds a record of 7-17 with 6 KOs. In his biggest fight, Rosier lost via KO in the first round to current WBA Heavyweight Champion Nicolay Valuev in 1997.

Zane Frazier is a practitioner of American Kenpo Karate from North Hollywood, CA. American Kenpo Karate was developed by Ed Parker Sr. in 1954. Parker derived American Kenpo from traditional Chinese martial arts, such as Hung Gar, and various styles practiced in Hawaii. The basis of American Kenpo is putting together combinations of strikes to throw an opponent off balance, as opposed to using single techniques to gain an advantage. Frazier, the WKF American Super Heavyweight Kickboxing Champion, is a 4th degree black belt in American Kenpo Karate.

Rosier was the aggressor coming out of his corner as he began to chase Frazier around the octagon. He was able to drop Frazier early with a punch and take his back, but was unable to maintain the position. Back on their feet, Frazier took over by shoving Rosier up against the cage. Frazier began to control his opponent by pulling his hair, as well as throwing knees to the groin and body. When they got away the fence, it was obvious that both fighters were gassed as Rosier was breathing heavy and Frazier's hands were down. Rosier ended up dropping him after a few punches and followed up with clubbing punches and stomps to the back of the head until the towel came in.

WINNER:  Rosier via TKO at 4:20

STAR RATING (**-):  A competitive fight. The action was fast-paced and exciting, although it was obvious that neither was a good fighter. They did nothing more than throw sloppy strikes at each other and were unable to maintain any positional advantages they obtained. Rosier was able to drop Frazier due to fatigue, rather than being able to skillfully work for an opening. The hair pulling and groin shots by Frazier take this one down a notch too. In the early UFC, the fighters were mostly representing the style that they practiced and Frazier showed the application of American Kenpo in a real-time fight was inferior by resorting to dirty tactics.

RAMIFICATIONS:  Rosier advances the semifinals of the tournament. Frazier would go on to return to the UFC in the future and has also appeared on a variety of smaller shows.


Royce Gracie (6'1", 180 lbs, 0-0-0) vs. Art Jimmerson (6'1", 196 lbs, 0-0-0)

Royce Gracie is a practitioner of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a derivation of Japanese Jujutsu and Judo. Jujutsu (or classical Jiu-Jitsu) is an ancient Japanese martial art that incorporates striking, grappling, and throws. In the 1880s, Jigoro Kano derived Judo from Jujutsu by removing the dangerous aspects of training in the style such as strikes, hair pulling, eye gouging, etc. His goal was to develop a martial art where students could train at 100% while resisting the technique of his opponent (who was training at 100%). In the 1920s, Mitsuyo Maeda, one of Kano's students, traveled to Brazil and began teaching Judo to Carlos Gracie. Maeda's style was different than Kano's vision as he used strikes to set up a takedown, followed by ground techniques to finish a fight, rather than the throws that Kano had incorporated heavily in Judo. As he was instructing Carlos Gracie, Maeda referred to the art as Jiu-Jitsu. Over the years, the Gracies have allowed the style to evolve through the addition or deletion of technique to make the application of Jiu-Jitsu better suited for a open-style fight. Royce Gracie, a 5th degree black belt, has competed in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu since the age of 8. In tournament competition, he amassed a amateur record of 51-3.

Art Jimmerson is a professional boxer fighting out of St. Louis, MO. In a professional career that spanned from 1985-2002, Jimmerson earned a record of 33-18 with 17 KOs. In 1991, Jimmerson won the IBC Americas Light Heavyweight Championship by defeating Paul McPeek via TKO.

In the early UFC events, Gracie was known to fight with a full gi. Jimmerson came into the fight wearing a boxing glove on his left hand. I assume his strategy was to jab with the left and use bareknuckle strikes for power. Gracie used a low front break kick to keep Jimmerson from getting within striking range and easily took him down with morote-gari. On the mat, Gracie quickly obtained full mount and was able to grapevine Jimmerson's legs. After all attempts to work his way off the bottom failed, Jimmerson tapped out.

WINNER:  Gracie via submission at 2:11

STAR RATING (*+):  The fight was historic since it was Gracie's first appearance in the UFC. However, Jimmerson was a scrub and did not put up much of a fight, tapping out due to a bad position.

RAMIFICATIONS:  Gracie advances the semifinals of the tournament. This fight was Art Jimmerson's only appearance in MMA competition. He returned to professional boxing a few months later. However, his boxing career went nowhere after his single MMA appearance as he was only able to put together a record of 4-13 after his return.


Ken Shamrock (6'0", 220 lbs, 3-0-0) vs. Patrick Smith (6'2", 217 lbs, 0-0-0)

Ken Shamrock, from Lockeford, CA, entered the first UFC as a representative of the sport of shootfighting. Shootfighting is a hybrid between catch wrestling and Muay Thai. While shootfighting is an early form of MMA, it has a different set of rules that include prohibit punches to the face. Also, to win a match in shootfighting competition a fighter must knock his opponent down for a 10 count, knock his opponent down 5 times, or make his opponent submit. If a fighter is caught in a submission, he can force a break by grabbing the ropes. However, a rope break counts as 1/3 of a knock down. Prior to his UFC debut, Shamrock had competed in the Pancrase promotion in Japan and held wins over Masakatsu Funaki, Yoshiki Takahashi, and Takaku Fuke. However, Shamrock's record should be taken with a grain of salt as some Pancrase fights were rumored to have been worked (specifically anything involving a combination of Shamrock, Funaki, or Minoru Suzuki).

Patrick Smith is a kickboxer fighting out of Denver, CO. He is a 3rd degree black belt in Tae Kwan Do and also holds a black belt in Hapkido, Kenpo Karate, and Tang Soo Do. In 1993, Smith was ranked #1 as a Super Heavyweight kickboxer in the United States and held a ranking of #5 internationally. He also won the Sabaki Challenge, an annual karate tournament held in Denver, twice in his division.

Shamrock was able to immediately lock up Smith with a double underhooks and ride him to ground. Smith went into a closed guard defense and attempted to wear Shamrock down with a series of short kicks to the kidneys. Shamrock was able to create some space from within Smith's guard with a few punches to the ribs.  As Smith opened his guard, Shamrock fell back for a leglock. Smith tried to fight out of it by manipulating Shamrock's toes and elbowing his legs, but eventually tapped out to a heel hook.

WINNER:  Shamrock via submission at 1:49

STAR RATING (**-):  Historic for the fact that it was Ken Shamrock's UFC debut. While the fight did not last long, it was more competitive than most of the early UFC matchups. It should be noted that Patrick Smith was the first fighter in the UFC to defend from his back with the guard, even though it did not really seem like he knew what he was doing.

RAMIFICATIONS:  Shamrock advances the semifinals of the tournament to face Royce Gracie, which would end up being the first rivalry in MMA. Patrick Smith's performance would guarantee him a spot at future UFC events.


Gerard Gordeau (6'5", 216 lbs, 1-0-0) vs. Kevin Rosier (6'4", 265 lbs, 1-0-0)

The second round opened up with a matchup between Savate and kickboxing. While Rosier obviously had a tougher match in the first round, Gordeau had suffered a broken hand in his previous bout. When the bell rang, Rosier was the aggressor as he was constantly moving forward. Gordeau used some leg kicks to set up a right straight to the jaw that floored Rosier. He finished him off with a series of punches and elbows, along with a stomp to the ribs as Rosier could not make it back to his feet.

WINNER:  Gordeau via TKO at 0:59

STAR RATING (*+):  One-sided beatdown. Rosier came into the match fatigued from his first contest and did not have the energy to mount a comeback.

RAMIFICATIONS:  Gordeau advances to the finals of the tournament. Kevin Rosier would return at UFC 4 to compete in an alternate bout. He has also fought Dan Severn twice in his career, coming up short on both occasions.


Royce Gracie (6'1", 180 lbs, 1-0-0) vs. Ken Shamrock (6'0", 220 lbs, 4-0-0)

The second semi-final matchup saw the beginning of the Royce Gracie/Ken Shamrock rivalry. The fight began with Gracie immediately shooting for a leg. Shamrock sprawled in defense, but Gracie was able to pull guard after a scramble for position. Gracie was working an open guard and baited Shamrock into standing up to attempt a leg submission. As Shamrock got to his feet, Gracie executed an ankle grab sweep to come up into Shamrock's half guard. Shamrock then made the mistake of bellying out while trying to pick an ankle, leaving his neck exposed for Gracie to finish him with Hadaka Jime.

WINNER:  Gracie via submission at 0:57

STAR RATING (**-):  Historic matchup between two of the pioneers of MMA in the United States. The fight was short and one-sided, but was a tremendous example of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in action against a tough opponent.

RAMIFICATIONS:  Gracie advances to the finals of the tournament. Shamrock would continue to compete in Pancrase in Japan as well as return to the UFC. After his loss, Shamrock began studying the art of grappling with the gi in order to be better prepared for Gracie in the future. They would fight for a second time at UFC 5 in the first Superfight.


Gerard Gordeau (6'5", 216 lbs, 2-0-0) vs. Royce Gracie (6'1", 180 lbs, 2-0-0)

The finals of the very first UFC consisted of the matchup between Gerard Gordeau and Royce Gracie. Gracie entered the match virtually unscathed from his previous bouts, while Gordeau suffered a broken hand and cut on his foot. As the bell rang, Gracie shot in for a leg immediately and came up into double underhooks for a clinch against the cage. Gordeau fought hard to stay on his feet, but was eventually taken down with an outside leg trip with Gracie mounted. On the mat, Gordeau made the mistake of giving up his back allowing Gracie to finish him off with Hidaka Jime.

WINNER:  Gracie via submission at 1:44

STAR RATING (**-):  While this was the first championship match in the UFC, the action was one-sided as Gordeau was unable to mount any offense at all. Gracie completely outclassed him standing and on the ground to pick up a quick submission victory and his first tournament win.

RAMIFICATIONS:  By winning the tournament with relative ease, Royce Gracie became the first big star in the UFC. His win helped to take a relatively obscure martial art in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and popularize it to the point where most fighters today have a background in the style. As MMA evolved, the training methods used in Jiu-Jitsu, specifically live sparring, would become the backbone of the martial arts training needed to succeed in MMA competition. Previously, traditional martial artists would be well-versed in kata, along with drilling moves with a cooperative opponent. As for Gerard Gordeau, he would make one more MMA appearance at Vale Tudo Japan before retiring in 1995.

OVERALL:  The first UFC was an historic show that featured the debut of both Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrock. However, none of the fights on the show were particularly good. Fans of uncontolled slugfests may enjoy Rosier vs. Frazier, even if the action seems primitive at time. For fans of a technical ground fight, there is nothing here of interest as Gracie was able to completely dominate when the fight went to the mat.

Note:  The Jason Delucia vs. Trent Jenkins prelim bout was not on the DVD. I know I have it somewhere so this review may be updated later.

To email me, Mike Jarsulic, click on my email link at our Contact Page



MMA TORCH STAR RATING SYSTEM (By Wade Keller)

We have created a star rating system for use at MMATorch.com as a courtesy for readers looking for a quick reference to decide which DVDs to rent or purchase, and as a subject for discussion among MMA followers.

Our star rating system is not judging the performance of fighters, whose job it is to win their match, not entertain. If a fighter can win in a few seconds, he's doing his job as he should, yet the match would not receive a high star rating because it wasn't substantial enough to be considered a "must see" or "go out of your way to see" match.

We have a basic five-star rating system, with no quarter or half stars, but instead a plus (+) or minus (-) to indicate whether it was a strong or weak version of two-star or four-star match, etc.

The criteria is based primarily on "drama" or "entertainment value" - the primary reason anybody watches any sport, but with a healthy dose of consideration (20 percent) on strong technique being shown by fighters and a final dose of consideration (10-20 percent) on whether the fight is "significant" in the sense of history (a dream match between known fighters, an upset by a newcomer over an established fighter), or changing the title picture. In other words, a **+ match might become a ***- because it has major ramifications or a surprising finish. A * match might move to **- because the technique of the submission or knockout was noteworthy.

ONE STAR: Every fight gets one star for merely taking place, so a *- would indicate the least entertaining fight possible (Severn-Shamrock draw debacle or a sloppy one minute submission). A *+ rating would go to a match that was forgettable and perhaps mostly boring, but with a redeeming quality, such as a few good punches, reversals, or a submission of note.

TWO STARS: This is your typical average MMA fight that you might forget about within minutes, if not for one or two decent rounds or a memorable knockout or submission or historical significance. (Sylvia vs. Arlovski III as an example might be considered **- because the title being at stake added drama, but otherwise it was a *+ propped up only by a solid first round; Liddell vs. Sobral would be probably ranked only two-stars because it was so short, but I'd add a plus because it was a Liddell title match and Sobral had a strong winning streak and a title was at stake, adding elements of drama to it going in and ramifications afterward.)

THREE STARS: This is good fight, where if there were three of them on an event, it'd make it an event worth seeing with some good technique, although not superior. (Hughes vs. Gracie might arguably reach three-stars because of the stature of the fight, the drama of the armbar, and historical significance, although I'd be tempted to have it **+ because it was so short.)

FOUR STARS: This is an elite fight, where it can carry a show on its own or come close to it, or a good match between two name fighters. If it's one dimensional with no ground fighting, or all ground fighting with no stand-up, that can work against it, unless the stand-up or ground fighting is compelling throughout.

FIVE STARS: This happens maybe twice a year, and would be up for MMA Fight of the Year. It could be an awesome undercard match between two up-and-comers, but more often will be a match with something at stake, high interest going into the fight to add drama, and a match that exceeds expectations and goes at least two rounds. (Griffin-Bonner I would be five-stars as it fits much of the criteria perfectly, only falling short in not being a showcase for any ground fighting - but that's a small factor. Another potential five-star level match this year was Diego Sanchez vs. Karo Parisyan from the Aug. 17 Ultimate Fight Night Live.)

We will track on MMATorch.com a list of four-star and five-star matches during the year, as graded by our official contributors reviewing live events, TV shows, and DVDs. We will also compile over time a list of top rated match from past years, as they are reviewed for MMATorch.com by our contributors, and a note of their availability on DVD.



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