Monumental Moments In MMA

The idea behind the Ultimate Ultimate 1995—also referred to as UFC 7.5—was that an annual, one-night, eight-man tournament between the top fighters of the UFC would be a marquee event that would bolster the credibility and popularity of the now Gracie-less organization. But the first—of only an eventual two events—held Dec. 16,1995, in Denver, Colo., was won by Dan Severn, who had previously lost on two UFC cards by submissions to Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrock, neither of whom fought in that event.


The Ultimate Ultimate 2—or UFC 11.5—was held Dec.7, 1996, in Birmingham, Ala., a city that had the foresight to host numerous mixed martial arts cards while most others vowed to ban the sport forever. Devoted fans of the controversial sport hoped that the finals would feature a showdown between Ken Shamrock and Mark Coleman—a 1992 Olympic freestyle wrestler, 1991 world silver medalist, and 1988 NCAA Division 1 wrestling champion. Coleman had won the two previous tournaments at UFC 10 and 11, and his ground-and-pound style was the talk of no-holds-barred fighting.


But the old formulas, which seemed to work so well in the early UFC shows, were now backfiring. Coleman won the finals at UFC 11 by default against the corpulent Scott Ferrozzo, who could not continue due to fatigue and injury from his victory over Tank Abbott. Ferrozzo’s unanimous decision victory in the semifinals was one of the worst and ugliest fights in UFC history. There were no healthy or willing alternates to face Coleman in the finals, and again, the one-night, eight-man tournament began to break down.


Things continued to go awry when Coleman sat out for Ultimate Ultimate 2 with an injury. Ken Shamrock competed but withdrew from the tournament, complaining of a broken hand, after choking out Brian Johnston in the quarterfinals.


Making it to the finals amidst a sea of alternates and injured fighters were two men with the most outsized personalities in the sport: Tank Abbott, who beat Cal Worsham and clobbered alternate SteveNelmark, and Don Frye, who defeated Gary Goodridge and alternate Mark Hall. But both Abbott and Frye had lost in their previous appearances in the UFC, Tank in that UFC 11 semifinal and Frye in the UFC10 final to Coleman.


Despite an absence of historical popularity, the Don Frye-Tank Abbott Ultimate Ultimate 2 final remains memorable on its own merits. Frye was clearly tired from his quarter final fight with Goodridge, which lasted 11:19. Abbott’s fight with Worsham lasted just 2:51 and his fight with Nelmark lasted 1:03, so he had to be considered the fresher of the two.


Tank, as usual, came out swinging and opened with a jab, which surprisingly dropped Frye. The mustached warrior got up, but Tank landed several bombs that rocked Frye, all within the opening minute. After Frye tried to clinch, Tank fell to the mat due to what appeared to be a slip rather than a takedown. Both had wrestled in college, but Frye proved he was the better grappler of the two as he took Tank’s back to gain the advantage. With his face bleeding from Tank’s assault, Frye sank in a rear naked choke and forced the tap out.


This proved not only to be the last Ultimate Ultimate, but also the last eight-man, one-night tournament in UFC history. Eddie Goldman is the host and producer of the No Holds Barred radio show.

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