People who think they could have won the first UFCs

Discussion in 'MMA Forum' started by cross_trainer, Sep 15, 2021.

  1. cross_trainer

    cross_trainer Bergeron Avatar Club Full Member

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    One runs across discussions online from time to time where people claim that they could have won the early UFCs if they were allowed to use what they know today. In the best cases, such people have a black belt in BJJ. Or maybe they've even had an MMA fight. Most people, however, don't even have that level of experience.

    I think some of this Walter Mittyism owes its existence to the Gracies' conjuring trick with Royce. The Gracies sold so effectively the idea of this gangly, dorky looking guy beating huge opponents that people overlook some important facts about his run.

    Additional distortions appear because of the reflexive "new beats old" / "evolution" stuff.

    So I might as well write this quick list of considerations for those who harbor ambitions of hopping into a Tardis and time warping back to beat up those primitive screwheads in 1993 to 1995, or thereabouts.

    For simplicity's sake, I'll stick to the first few UFCs -- the ones that had Royce.

    How's your grappling?

    Royce had a black belt in BJJ. He'd trained with other really, really good BJJ people in his family since he was a kid. Now, there are arguments back and forth in these kinds of fantasy debates about whether BJJ has improved technically over time ("Royce would be a modern blue belt!") or, conversely, whether BJJ has departed from its combative roots. But we will leave the details of that debate aside; the point is that Gracie was a very experienced submission grappler compared to almost every hobbyist on the internet today.

    And don't even try to tell me that you'd be striking rather than grappling. The old guys understood striking pretty darn well, and the early UFCs contained a good smattering of competent ones. Orlando Wiet was a MT and kickboxing champion at a reasonably high level. Gordeau was also pretty good. There were also at least 2 boxers at a highish-journeyman level who competed in the first four events. Melton Bowen, the second one, was close to outpunching his adversary from his back. You ain't outslugging the best strikers in this competition.

    Mind you, even a grappling background is no guarantee of success. Leininger was a recent US Judo Olympic team alternate who entered an early UFC. He just got ground down and eliminated by Shamrock in the first bracket round. Remco Pardoel also had legit credentials in judo and jiujitsu (of some sort) in Holland. Again, he was less than successful.

    Have a blackbelt, or close to it, in BJJ? Great. We aren't done yet. Read on.

    Do you have enough size and strength?

    Royce wasn't a small man. He was smaller and ganglier than most of the other competitors, but the guy was still well north of 170 pounds, and reasonably tall.

    Remember how BJJ didn't help Wallid Ismail get very far in the earlier UFCs? Again, in part because he was a small little guy. He beat Royce later in a grappling match, but he was no great shakes in old school MMA.

    You need to be able to grapple in sustained fights for a long time with huge guys who know how to fight reasonably well. Your opponents, incidentally, will not be tested for steroids. Even if you have a BJJ black belt, watch Royce's fight with Kimo and honestly ask yourself whether you could win that fight and match Kimo's strength and athleticism for long enough to submit him.

    And then remember that even though Royce won, he was too exhausted to continue. Which leads me to my next point.

    Can you fight multiple marathons in one night?

    So you're at least as big as Royce, and you have legit grappling credentials. How is your stamina and willingness to fight while injured? There are no time limits in some of the early UFCs. And you'll be expected to fight multiple times per night. And if, by some stroke of luck, one of your opponents has to bow out? Lucky you! Now you get to fight a fresh alternate instead. Again, Royce had to bow out of at least one competition due to exhaustion. There were others.

    Oh, and you'll probably be injured yourself, even if you're winning. By the end of UFC 1, Gerard Gordeau seems to have broken his hand, and also had sliced his foot on Teila Tuli's teeth (after smashing the latter's tooth out.) And Gordeau still fought in the finals against Royce. Every injury you get will stick with you.

    Do you mind being maimed to win?

    This is not an idle question. Pat Smith only stopped elbowing an unconscious Scott Morris because Smith CHOSE TO stop after noticing Morris was in bad shape. The ref technically had not been allowed to stop the fight. Smith could've kept going until Morris suffered brain damage or death, since Morris's corner wouldn't throw in the towel.

    Not to mention, you might get bitten or eye gouged. Gerard Gordeau, whom you would have faced if you'd competed in UFC 1, later eye gouged Yuki Nakai into half-blindness in a vale tudo match only a short time later.

    So. Are you willing to be permanently crippled to win? If so, let's keep going!

    How's your mental toughness and durability to strikes?

    Suffice it to say that you are going to end up getting punched hard, bareknuckled. Royce didn't manage to avoid it.

    Hackney and Gordeau had good enough primitive takedown defense that they can land on you when you're trying to take them down.

    And then there are guys whom you absolutely WILL NOT take down, period, who also would be happy to punch you standing. Ken Shamrock wasn't taken down by Leininger or Severn, and his preferred sport involved barehanded slaps, knees, and kicks with boots. Severn himself is also impossible to take down unless you're an elite wrestler yourself. He will also likely hit you if he chooses to keep it standing.

    And of course, everybody can try to punch you on the ground.

    So. You're going to get hit. Have you had striking bouts before, or is this your first exposure to getting punched/kicked? (If it's your first time, how do you know that you won't freeze up?)

    Take a look at the amount of grueling unpleasantness that Royce had to fight through in those early UFCs, and ask yourself whether you'd be willing to do that.

    But I'm well-rounded!

    Congrats. So were Macias, Minoki Ichihara, Roland Payne, Shamrock himself, and a few other guys who competed. Several of them were former HS wrestlers with training (and sometimes pro fights) in a striking combat sport like kickboxing. None of them won in the first four UFCs.

    How do you deal with fear and the unpredictable?

    Even knowing what happened back then, you're still going up against guys with styles you likely have never sparred against before. And the fighters' match brackets -- at least in UFC 1-- moved around in confusing ways.

    You're also going onto a huge stage, and getting locked into a cage with a roided up guy who's crazy enough to enter a competition like this. It would not be totally unexpected to choke in a situation like this if you haven't experienced it before. (Ettish certainly did.)

    How many quasi-streetfight NHB bouts with competent opponents have you had?

    Royce actually fought Gracie Challenge matches before UFC 1. Several other guys (Shamrock, Ichihara, and I believe others) fought proto MMA competitions. Many had had streetfights.

    And I do mean streetfights, because that's basically what the early UFCs were. At least in some of the early UFCs, they couldn't even DQ a guy for eye gouging you, or biting. They just fined the offender. Other nasty stuff (chin in eye, grabbing and crushing the testicles, widening an adversary's cuts during grappling by pulling them open, etc.) was arguably legal. Oh, and they could land striking combos to the testicles. See also the section on getting maimed.

    No problem! I'm a sociopathic, 200 pound BJJ blackbelt and ultramarathoner who could trick Shamrock and Severn into my guard. I've had numerous streetfights against other martial artists. I don't value my eyesight. Is there anything else I should consider before hopping into the time machine?

    Probably. But I'm getting kind of tired now, and nothing is immediately coming to mind. Give me time and I'll probably update this post.

    In the meantime, have a nice trip. And don't say I didn't warn you.
     
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2021
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  2. TMLT87

    TMLT87 Member Full Member

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    There was some decent fighters in those early UFCs. Obviously guys like Royce, Ken, Severn and even outside of them Pat Smith, Gordeau, Pardoel, Kimo etc were no joke, and then not much later than that you're getting guys like Coleman, Taktarov, Goodridge, Tank, Frye, Ruas etc. Of course the overall skill level in modern MMA is much better but even so I dont buy the idea that literally everyone in the UFC right now at any weight class could go back and win those tournaments.
     
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  3. neverheardofher

    neverheardofher Active Member Full Member

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    TL;DR
    Pretty sure I could have won the early UFC's to be honest.
     
  4. cross_trainer

    cross_trainer Bergeron Avatar Club Full Member

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    Ah. I was wondering when the ultra-violent, street-fighting, eyesight-indifferent BJJ black belt mentioned in the post would show up. Pleased to meet you at last.
     
  5. BCS8

    BCS8 Obsessed with Boxing Full Member

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    TLDR

    I wouldn't even dream of it.

    I did manage to beat up a shirtless father and son duo from around the block though. :deal:
     
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  6. BCS8

    BCS8 Obsessed with Boxing Full Member

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    Actually looking back at some highlights, guys like Severn and Shamrock were not bad at all. Their wrestling / grappling base was solid and they were strong AF.
     
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  7. cross_trainer

    cross_trainer Bergeron Avatar Club Full Member

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    :lol:

    One of the problems with trying to compile an exhaustive list of reasons why winning UFC 1-4 wasn't a cakewalk is that there are a lot of reasons.

    CliffNotes version is as follows:

    Your minimum standards for being able to win the early UFCs are surprisingly high:

    * Royce was a BJJ black belt.

    * He was also reasonably large, and had had NHB experience in the Gracie challenges. Even so, he had trouble controlling monster guys like Kimo who had less experience.

    * You need enough stamina to fight multiple, untimed matches per night.

    * There's a very real risk of serious injury. Refs have almost no control over stopping fights, and you're up against known eye-gougers, testicle-punchers, etc.

    * You need to be tough enough to eat strikes from large guys with good takedown defense, some of whom you won't be able to take down unless they choose to follow you to the ground.

    * Being a well rounded amateur (e.g., HS wrestling + kickboxing, or judo + kyokushin) isn't enough to win these. It's been tried.

    * Mental toughness, physical toughness, and adaptability are necessary. You'll be beaten on, you'll fight people from styles you've never sparred before, you'll be exhausted, you'll be injured, and you might be outright intimidated like Ettish was. (And like all the fighters in the dressing room were in UFC 1 by the dead silence after Teila Tuli got his mouth rearranged by Gordeau.)
     
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  8. BCS8

    BCS8 Obsessed with Boxing Full Member

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    Oh man I feel bad now. I actually did read it, I was mocking the previous guy that said he'd win the early UFCs by saying TLDR.

    I tick some of those boxes but Imma short on the skills. Royce would have tied me up like a shoelace. In fact, I'd rather have faced Royce in the first round than some guy like Hackney who would have tenderised the family jewels before winning ;)
     
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  9. cross_trainer

    cross_trainer Bergeron Avatar Club Full Member

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    Ha! Well, at least now the people who don't want to read the longer post have a shorter version.

    This is a good point. It's also interesting that even later on, being well rounded wasn't really a panacea against guys who were just big and tough. With the amount of time it took Ruas to beat Varelans -- whose martial art was basically being larger than the other guy, plus some wrestling -- being a good example.

    There's a real amateurish streak running through the first UFCs that make them fun, IMO, since it gives the impression that a do-it-yourselfer working in his basement gym could do it. But really, the best competitors were well funded, and even the less skilled people were self-selected to be tough street fighters who were kind of nuts. Even the "ninjas" like Jennum came from a pretty large and committed organization. Ken in his first UFC run had the whole Pancrase organization behind him, and still lost.

    EDIT: Gordeau apparently was plugged into the pro wrestling world via RINGS, and seems to have had judo and wrestling experience. I think his coach/cornerman had a SAMBO shirt on, come to think of it.
     
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2021
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  10. Joe.Boxer

    Joe.Boxer Chinchecker Full Member

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    Some internet noobs actually believe this? A new level of online delusion.

    Anyways forget the dry humping and legbars; Hoyce was an illusion - he was a helluva lot tougher than he looked :naughty2:.
     
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  11. cross_trainer

    cross_trainer Bergeron Avatar Club Full Member

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    Several threads on multiple other forums are dedicated to it, in fact.
     
  12. cross_trainer

    cross_trainer Bergeron Avatar Club Full Member

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    Depending on which boxes you tick, you might have a chance to steal one as an alternate like Jennum.

    Although even with Jennum, beating Howard in UFC 3 (IIRC) and then Melton Bowen -- a heavyweight journeyman with a big punch -- probably wasn't a cakewalk.
     
  13. BCS8

    BCS8 Obsessed with Boxing Full Member

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    I'm strong and can take a beating. They'd probably feed me to Tank Abbott for the lols.
     
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  14. cross_trainer

    cross_trainer Bergeron Avatar Club Full Member

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    When he starts talking about "tickling your brain," tap.
     
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  15. cross_trainer

    cross_trainer Bergeron Avatar Club Full Member

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    I was rewatching UFC 1 last night, and noticed a couple other things:

    * Gordeau knocked Rosier down with a broken fist. Tough fella, Gordeau, despite being an eye gouging lunatic. He also switched almost immediately to stomping and kicking downed opponents; his streetfighting experience probably helped a lot here.

    * Gordeau avoided getting taken down by Tuli, who actually should have had decent takedown skills from Sumo. And he seemed to know what he was doing standing up against Royce, although he was lost on the ground. I don't know how much damage his punches did, but it was enough to break his fist, and he threw them reaaal quick while back pedaling. It isn't going to be easy taking him down.

    * Pat Smith knew something about grappling even in UFC 1. Ken said Pat didn't know any subs, which may be true, but Pat kept a closed guard pretty well. He only occasionally broke it to kick Shamrock on the side with his heel. (Something Gracie had not yet demonstrated in the Octagon.)

    * The fight was stopped against Tuli (despite the rules not allowing it) because of the bloody mess he'd been turned into. Unless you're a Gordeau caliber striker who can knock teeth out and redirect the charge of a 400 pound man, you're probably not getting a similar stoppage.

    It's not just Royce and Shamrock who pose threats. Gordeau, Smith, Royce, and Shamrock are all going to be serious problems, and that's not even factoring in Gordeau eye gouging you. Even Tuli is gonna be difficult to win, since he won't be easy to take down, and has the practice to slap you pretty hard standing. Things probably get worse in UFC 2, which maybe I'll review for this purpose eventually.