THE TWO SHEDS REVIEW by Julian Radbourne
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With UFC 101 just a few days away, I thought it would be a good idea to once again delve into their past, following up my reviews of UFC 1 & 2 with UFC 3: The American Dream. Held in September 1994, this was the show that was meant to feature the re-match between Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrock, but things didn’t exactly go to plan.
For the third tournament the powers that be returned to their original format, an eight man single elimination tournament.
The quarter-finals began with sumo wrestler Emmanuel Yarbrough facing kempo karate fighter Keith Hackney. Yarbrough had a massive 416 pound weight advantage. This was actually better than I thought it would be. Hackney knocked the big man down early with a right hand, but Yarbrough quickly came back with some good strikes, and his attack soon sent Hackney crashing through the cage. When the fight re-started, Hackney began to stick and move, and it wasn’t long before Yarbrough was on the ground again, and as Hackney went in for the kill, Yarbrough gave up.
Then it was on to the returning Ken Shamrock, taking on judoka Christophe Leininger. As was expected, this one went to the ground early, and Leininger did a good job of controlling Shamrock from his back, but it wasn’t long before Shamrock exerted his control, taking Leininger’s back, before taking the mount, and after delivering a couple of blows, the judo man tapped out. The announcers said before hand that this was going to be good, and they were right.
Next up, muay thai kick boxer Roland Payne against karate fighter Harold Howard. The proverbial blink and you’ll miss it affair. A couple of shots were thrown, a brief bit of grappling on the ground, before Howard connected with a right, with Payne falling to the ground like a sack of spuds. The time, just forty six seconds, and it certainly was an action packed forty six seconds.
The final quarter-final saw defending champion Royce Gracie face tae kwon do fighter Kimo Leopoldo. Kimo’s entrance was extraordinary, as he came to the octagon carrying a giant crucifix. This was by far Gracie’s toughest UFC fight at the time, and the best fight of the quarter finals. Kimo took it to him from the start, using his power advantage to stop Gracie from using his skills, and he did a good job of it, but eventually Gracie began to win through, and near the five minute mark Gracie locked on an arm bar for the submission win, although after the fight it was Gracie who looked like the beaten man.
On to the semi-finals, beginning with Ken Shamrock against shao-lin kung fu fighter Felix Lee Mitchell, replacing the injured Keith Hackney. Given his credentials, Shamrock was expected to breeze through this one, and although he controlled the majority of the fight, he didn’t have it all his own way, because Mitchell had one thing on his mind – survival. But once it went down to the ground at the four minute mark, it wasn’t long before Shamrock took Mitchell’s back and synched in a rear naked choke, with Mitchell tapping out almost immediately. Unfortunately for Shamrock, like Royce Gracie before him, he didn’t look too healthy afterwards as he began limping badly straight away.
The second semi-final didn’t actually happen. Although both Harold Howard and Royce Gracie came to the octagon, Gracie looked like a beaten man already. The introductions were made, but Gracie’s corner quickly threw the towel in, and Howard was declared the winner. Then, in an extraordinary scene, Kimo came back out, and claimed victory after Gracie’s withdrawal.
So after the drama with Gracie, it was soon announced that Ken Shamrock was also withdrawing because of injury, meaning that the final would now be contested by Harold Howard and the second alternate, ninjitsu fighter Steve Jennum. This certainly gave the tournament an interesting ending. Howard almost got the submission with a guillotine choke, but Jennum managed to escape, and it wasn’t long before they were back on the ground, and after a couple of blows from the mount, Howard tapped, giving the win to the alternate.
In conclusion – boy, was this a crazy show. It was full of good fights, but the withdrawals of both Gracie and Shamrock, and to a lesser extent Keith Hackney certainly shook things up. So was Steve Jennum a deserving champion? My answer would have to be no, but if things had been better organised, then perhaps Harold Howard would have stood a better chance if Jennum had already fought earlier in the evening.