Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Royal Rumble 89: Beware of Snakes

Big John Studd (Photo: pinterest,com)

Royal Rumble 89 – Houston, Texas  - The Summit – Jan. 15, 1989

The Royal Rumble graduated to pay-per-view status in 1989, and the Rumble match itself grew from 20 to 30 participants.

1. Best of three falls: Hart Foundation & Hacksaw Jim Duggan vs. Rougeau Brothers & Dino Bravo (with Jimmy Hart and Frenchy Martin)

Bret Hart lost the first fall after the heels hit their finishers on him. Duggan pinned Reymond in the second fall after a double splash into the ring by the Harts.

In the decisive fall, Duggan blasted Bravo with a 2x4 to give Bret the win. The crowd exploded, condoning the good guys' blatant cheating.

UFC 32: First Bite of the Big Apple

An unexpectedly ominous poster (Photo: sherdog,com)

UFC 32: Showdown at the Meadowlands – June 29, 2001 – E. Rutherford, N.J. - Continental Airlines Arena

UFC invaded the New York area with UFC 32. The promo poster featured Tito Ortiz and Elvis Sinosic in front of the Twin Towers, which were destroyed less than four months later.

Ortiz remained one of the company’s top stars, as he beat Sinosic to retain the light heavyweight title.

The champ used a series of punches and elbows to earn the TKO over “The King of Rock & Rumble” in 3 minutes, 32 seconds.

“The Prodigy” B.J. Penn improved to 2-0 in the UFC with a TKO win over the debuting Din Thomas.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Survivor Series 88: Who Needs Partners?

Bad News Brown doesn't play well with others 
(Photo: wwe.com)

Survivor Series 88 – Richfield (Ohio) Coliseum – Nov. 24, 1988

I was there again! I was very spoiled to live near the Richfield Coliseum. I remember being disappointed in 1989: "You mean we don't get Survivor Series every year?" At least it came back one more time in 1992.

1. Intercontinental champion The Ultimate Warrior and Brutus Beefcake (co-captains), Blue Blazer, Jim Brunzell & Sam Houston vs. The Honky Tonk Man and Outlaw Ron Bass (co-captains), Greg Valentine, Danny Davis and Bad News Brown

Bad News Brown is the MVP of this show. He eliminated Jim Brunzell, got into an altercation with his partner Greg Valentine and walked out on his team, establishing his loner character. 

Later, he cut a great promo on WWF President Jack Tunney demanding to be the top contender to Randy Savage's title. 

UFC 31: Heavyweight Slugfest

Randy Couture (Photo: mmafighting.com)


UFC 31: Locked and Loaded – Atlantic City, N.J. - Trump Taj Mahal - May 4, 2001

Randy Couture hung onto his UFC heavyweight title with a unanimous decision win over Pedro Rizzo at UFC 31.

Couture bloodied Rizzo in the first round, and the challenger came back to bust Couture open in the second round.  Couture rallied in the fourth and fifth rounds to retain his title.

Carlos Newton captured the UFC welterweight title, forcing longtime champion Pat Miletich to submit to a bulldog choke in Round 3.

SummerSlam 88: Megapowers vs. Megabucks

Ted DiBiase, Andre the Giant and Virgil
(Photo: clintachilles.wordpress.com)


SummerSlam 88 – New York City – Madison Square Garden – Aug. 29, 1988

SummerSlam didn’t introduce a new concept like Royal Rumble and Survivor Series, but it completed the “Big Four” pay-per-view group that endures today.

Some of the matchups were strange in that they didn’t feature wrestlers that were feuding with each other. That’s because the WWF wanted fans to go the live events to see grudge matches like Jake Roberts vs. Rick Rude.

1. British Bulldogs vs. Rougeau Brothers

This was the match of the night, as the Rougeaus were so much better as jerk heels than as bland babyfaces. All this match needed was a finish, as it ended in a 20-minute draw.

2. Ken Patera vs. Bad News Brown

Patera ran himself into the post and Brown finished him with the Ghetto Blaster. Bad News went on to challenge Randy Savage for the WWF title at several arena shows.

UFC 30: The Era of Zuffa Begins

Lorenzo & Frank Fertitta bought UFC in early 2001
(Photo: mmajunkie.com)


UFC 30: Battle on the Boardwalk – Trump Taj Mahal – Atlantic City, N.J. – Feb. 23, 2001

New UFC owners Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta presented the “All-New” UFC 30, with Dana White running the show for the brothers’ Zuffa LLC.

The first show under new ownership didn’t present a dramatic change, but the company was now free from the threat of bankruptcy.

Check out this video of White (with hair!) talking about his vision for the company on the UFC 30 broadcast.

Tito Ortiz retained his UFC middleweight title in the main event. He knocked Evan Tanner out with a huge slam in just 30 seconds.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

WrestleMania IV: Madness Takes Control

Randy Savage and Elizabeth (Photo: lylesmoviefiles.com)


WrestleMania IV – Trump Plaza – Atlantic City, N.J. – March 27, 1988

The WWF crowned a new champion at WrestleMania IV after Andre the Giant’s bizarre title win over Hulk Hogan on NBC’s live Main Event.

WWF President Jack Tunney did not allow Andre to sell the championship to DiBiase, so the belt was vacated. A 14-man tournament took place at WrestleMania IV to crown a new champion.

Hogan and Andre received first-round byes and faced each other in the second round.

1. 20-Man Battle Royale
Today, this battle royale is a WrestleMania tradition named after Andre. Bret Hart and Bad News Brown were the last two men in the ring after dumping out Junkyard Dog. 

The heels congratulated each other, but then Bad News hit the Ghetto Blaster on Bret and threw him out.

An enraged “Hit Man” returned to destroy Bad News’ trophy. This kicked off Bret Hart’s run as a singles babyface, although he did return to his tag team with Jim Neidhart at times.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

UFC 29: Out With The Old Owners

Matt Lindland (Photo: sherdog.com)


UFC 29: Defense of the Belts – Tokyo, Japan – Differ Ariake Arena – Dec. 16, 2000

Tito Ortiz and Pat Miletich successfully defended their titles in Japan at UFC 29, the final show under the ownership of Semaphore Entertainment Group.

Ortiz retained the light heavyweight belt by defeating Yuki Kondo with a neck crank at the 1:52 mark. Kondo was no slouch, as he racked up 59 wins in his career.

Pat Miletich continued to dominate as lightweight champion. He beat Kenichi Yamamoto with a guillotine choke in Round 2 for his fourth title defense.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Royal Rumble 88: Every Man For Himself

The Islanders and Bobby Heenan
(Photo: community.allhiphop.com)


The Royal Rumble – Hamilton, Ontario – Copps Coliseum – Jan. 24, 1988

Royal Rumble, like Survivor Series, was another great new concept that would last for decades.

The first Royal Rumble had 20 men (not 30), and it aired on USA Network (not pay-per-view). Vince McMahon used the first Rumble as counter-programming to the NWA Bunkhouse Stampede PPV.

This poor crowd had to suffer through a long, boring Dino Bravo weightlifting segment and a long, largely uneventful Hogan-Andre contract signing. However, all of the wrestling was entertaining.

1. Ricky Steamboat vs. Rick Rude
Bobby Heenan was not at ringside, as he was on vacation in Barbados. Steamboat came off the top rope, but Rude pulled referee Dave Hebner into the line of fire for the disqualification.

UFC 28: Return to Greatness

Randy Couture (Photo: 411mania.com)


UFC 28: High Stakes – Atlantic City, N.J. - Trump Taj Mahal – Nov. 17, 2000

Randy “The Natural” Couture recaptured the UFC heavyweight title, beating Kevin Randleman at UFC 28.

Couture had relinquished the title in 1998 during a contract dispute, but he used knees and punches to score a TKO late in Round 3 to repeat as champion.

Renato “Babalu” Sobral brought a 16-2 record into the UFC, and he immediately made a splash by defeating former UFC heavyweight champion Maurice Smith by unanimous decision.

Survivor Series: A New Tradition Begins

Andre the Giant's team
(Photo: elwrestlingsegunyo.es)


Survivor Series 87 – Richfield (Ohio) Coliseum – Nov. 26, 1987

The WWF presented a night full of elimination tag team matches, as the second of the “Big Four” pay-per-views was born.

My brother and I were in the crowd for the first Survivor Series, and it was a fun and unpredictable show. The Richfield Coliseum was torn down in the mid-1990s and is now an empty field.

1. Randy Savage (captain), Ricky Steamboat, Jake Roberts, Brutus Beefcake & Hacksaw Jim Duggan vs. Intercontinental champion The Honky Tonk Man (captain), Ron Bass, Danny Davis, Hercules & King Harley Race

Hercules not only failed to save Bass from being pinned, but he also accidentally dropped an elbow on him. That was pretty funny.

UFC 27: Unwelcome Home

Dan Severn (Photo: wrestlezone.com)


UFC 27: Ultimate Bad Boyz – New Orleans, La. – Lakefront Arena – Sept. 22, 2000

Dan Severn had a rough return to the Octagon at UFC 27, as he lost to Pedro “The Rock” Rizzo in 93 seconds.

Rizzo softened up the 42-year-old former UFC Superfight champion with two crushing leg kicks, and Severn was unable to continue.

Rizzo was reinvigorated by the win, bouncing back from a loss to Kevin Randleman three months earlier at UFC 26.

“The old Pedro Rizzo is back,” he said. “I come to knock everybody out.”

Monday, May 8, 2017

WrestleMania III: The Practically Perfect Pay-Per-View

Hulk Hogan slams Andre the Giant
(Photo: rottenink.wordpress.com)


WrestleMania III – Pontiac (Mich.) Silverdome – March 27, 1987

Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant packed the Dome for a WWF title match that Gorilla Monsoon perfectly described as “the irresistible force against the immovable object.”

Randy Savage and Ricky Steamboat battled for the Intercontinental championship in an amazing match that is still considered one of the best ever.

Add a record-breaking crowd of 93,000 fans (okay, some say it was only 78,000) and you have the perfect pay-per-view.

1. Can-Am Connection vs. Magnificent Muraco & Cowboy Bob Orton (with Mr. Fuji)
Gorilla Monsoon said Cowboy Bob Orton had "excellence of execution" before using the same phrase to describe Bret Hart later in the show. The Can-Ams were well on their way to the tag team titles as Rick Martel pinned Muraco with a cross-body block. However, Tom Zenk left the team and was later replaced by Tito Santana.

UFC 26: The Crowd Goes Mild

Jens Pulver (Photo mma-core.com)

UFC 26: Ultimate Field of Dreams – June 9, 2000 – Cedar Rapids, Iowa – Five Seasons Events Center

Kevin Randleman and Pedro Rizzo battled for the heavyweight title at UFC 26 to make up for the “Backstage Knockout” incident at UFC 24.

The fans booed the fighters out of the building, after they presented a boring, tentative fight. Randleman retained the title by unanimous decision.

“I understand the boos and I definitely deserve it,” Randleman said. “I think Pedro and I just respected each other too much.”

Pat Miletich made Iowa proud by retaining his UFC welterweight title against John Alessio at UFC 26.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Big Event: A Wonderful Crowd in Toronto

The Machines & Capt. Lou Albano
(Photo: pinterest.com)

The Big Event – Toronto, Ontario – CNE Stadium – Aug. 28, 1986

Hulk Hogan’s war with Paul Orndorff drew a sellout crowd of 64,000 fans to Toronto for this end-of-summer stadium show.

While the show wasn’t televised, it was released on Coliseum Video and is available now in the pay-per-view section of the WWE Network.

1. Killer Bees vs. Funk Brothers
Terry Funk was gone, so Jimmy Jack Funk teamed with Dory (Hoss) Funk Jr.  The Bees put on their masks and pulled the ol’ switcheroo to get the pin on Jimmy Jack.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

UFC 25: Bad Boy For Life

Tito Ortiz wins UFC light heavyweight title
Photo: (news.independent-card.com)

UFC 25: Ultimate Japan 3 – Tokyo, Japan – Yoyogi National Gymnasium – April 14, 2000

Tito Ortiz captured the UFC light heavyweight title at UFC 25 with a unanimous decision win over Wanderlei Silva.

Six months earlier, Ortiz had come up short in his quest to win the title from Frank Shamrock. However, Shamrock’s retirement gave him another chance.

Silva was coming off three straight wins in PRIDE and he would go on to star for that promotion.

Monday, May 1, 2017

WrestleMania 2: The Three-Ring Circus

William "Refrigerator" Perry
(Photo: SI.com)

WrestleMania 2 – April 7, 1986

WrestleMania was such as success that the sequel was expanded to three locations: New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. Bigger isn’t always better.

The three mini-shows provided a choppy flow, with a main event level bout followed by a preliminary bout in the next location.

The show was also bloated with three times the celebrity guests and guest commentators, although the NFL players provided a lot of star power in the battle royale.

Long Island, N.Y. – Nassau Coliseum

1. Paul Orndorff vs. Magnificent Muraco (with Mr. Fuji)

Orndorff goes from main-eventing the first WrestleMania to jerking the curtain at the second. I guess turning babyface doesn’t pay. The match ends in a double-countout, so we’re not off to a good start.

UFC 24: Backstage Knockout

Pedro Rizzo: Where's my opponent?
(Photo: Pinterest)


UFC 24: First Defense – Lake Charles (La.) Civic Center – March 10, 2000

Kevin Randleman knocked himself out backstage, scuttling his main event title defense against Pedro Rizzo at UFC 24.

The show was subtitled “First Defense” but it turned into “No Defense” due to Randleman’s slip, which landed him in the hospital with a concussion.

The non-main event typified the UFC as the new millennium began: nothing was going right. UFC was still exiled from many PPV carriers, and the company’s invasion of Japan wasn’t bearing much fruit.

The Randleman-Rizzo title fight was rescheduled for UFC 26.

The Wrestling Classic: The First WWF Pay-Per-View



Dynamite Kid (photo: writeups.org)

WWF Wrestling Classic – Rosemont (Ill.) Horizon - Nov. 7, 1985

Vince McMahon called this show “The First Annual Wrestling Classic,” but alas, it was the only one. It was the first real WWF pay-per-view, as WrestleMania was largely seen on closed-circuit TV.

The 16-man tournament also included a WWF title defense by Hulk Hogan against Rowdy Roddy Piper.

1. Cpl. Kirchner vs. Adrian Adonis (with Jimmy Hart)
Adonis was still a New York tough guy and hadn’t received his effeminate makeover, although Hart did call him “Adorable” in an interview. Adonis won with a DDT, which was called a “reverse bulldog.” Jake Roberts hadn’t shown up yet in the WWF to popularize the DDT.

UFC 23: Return to the Rising Sun

UFC Heavyweight Champion Kevin Randleman
(Photo: sports.inquirer.net)


UFC 23 – Ultimate Japan 2 – Tokyo Bay NK Hall – Nov. 19, 1999

Kevin Randleman made the most of his second chance to become UFC heavyweight champion at UFC 23: Ultimate Japan 2.

Although Randleman lost to Bas Rutten in a title fight at UFC 20, Rutten vacated the title in order to drop to middleweight and challenge for Frank Shamrock’s title. That never happened, as Rutten was forced into retirement by injuries.

Randleman battled for five rounds with Pete “El Duro” Williams, who had posted a 3-1 record in UFC. Williams clobbered Randleman late in the first round, but "The Monster" rallied to control the rest of the fight and win by unanimous decision.


Thursday, April 27, 2017

WrestleMania: It All Starts Here

WrestleMania star power
(Photo: vintag.es)

WrestleMania – March 31, 1985 - New York City - Madison Square Garden

The WWF gambled big – and won – with the first WrestleMania, which was shown around the country on closed-circuit TV and a few pay-per-view outlets.

Vince McMahon put a ton of money and hype into the first Mania, and its success made it the biggest date on the wrestling calendar each year.

Hulk Hogan and Mr. T appeared on Saturday Night Live on the eve of the show, leading into their main event battle with Rowdy Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff.

Cyndi Lauper brought a lot of eyes onto the show as well, with her management of Wendi Richter and the WWF’s appearances on MTV.

Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura called the action, with Howard Finkel serving as ring announcer. Mean Gene Okerlund kicked off the show by singing the national anthem.

UFC 22: No Worlds Left to Conquer

Frank Shamrock
(Photo: poptower.com)


UFC 22: Only One Can Be Champion
Sept. 24, 1999 – Lake Charles (La.) Civic Center

Frank Shamrock walked away from the UFC and his light heavyweight title after a scintillating title defense over Tito Ortiz.

The brash, young Ortiz battled Shamrock into the fourth round before succumbing to punches late in the fourth round.

Shamrock later vacated the title, citing a lack of competition. He finished his career by posting a 4-3 record in Strikeforce, K-1, WEC and EliteXC.

Monday, January 30, 2017

UFC 21: Sons of the Hawkeye State

Maurice Smith fights Marco Ruas at UFC 21
(Photo: Sherdog.com)

UFC 21: Return of the Champions – Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Five Seasons Events Center – July 16, 1999

Maurice Smith overcame “The King of the Streets” Marco Ruas in the main event of UFC 21.

Smith, a former UFC heavyweight champion, battled Ruas for five minutes before Ruas had to retire due to a knee injury.

Despite the lackluster finish, UFC 21 was a significant show because it saw the debut of the 10-point must system in the scoring.

The Iowa fans cheered favorite son Pat Miletich to a successful defense of his UFC lightweight title. Miletich stopped Andre Pederneiras in the second-round by TKO due to excessive cuts.

UFC 20: Don't Stop This Fight

Kevin Randleman battles Bas Rutten (Photo: fcfighter.com)


UFC 20: Battle for the Gold: Boutwell Auditorium - Birmingham, Ala. – May 7, 1999

Bas Rutten won the vacant UFC heavyweight title at UFC 20 over Kevin Randleman on May 7, 1999.

After a long and successful run in Japan’s Pancrase promotion, Rutten beat Tsuyoshi Kosaka at UFC 18 to earn a spot in the title fight.

Randleman earned his spot in the UFC 20 main event with a unanimous decision win over former champion Maurice Smith at UFC 19.

Randleman broke Rutten’s nose in the first round, and the fight was stopped twice to check the injury. Rutten battled through the pain.

Monday, January 18, 2016

UFC 19: Quick, Fast and In Shape



Kevin Randleman
(Photo:ringsofpain.gr)

UFC 19 - Ultimate Young Guns  - Bay St. Louis, Miss. - Casino Magic - March 5, 1999

Kevin Randleman and Tito Ortiz are two of the featured "young guns" tonight.

Randleman will face former UFC heavyweight champion Maurice Smith, with the winner battling Bas Rutten  for the vacant title at UFC 20.

Ortiz will take on Guy Mezger in a rematch of their UFC 13 tournament final, which Mezger won.

Before the pay-per-view went on the air, Sione Latu beat Joey Roberts at 10:01 when the ref stopped the fight due to a cut.

Mike Goldberg is calling the action with Jeff Blatnick. Bruce Buffer is the ring announcer. Here we go!

1. Heavyweights: Pete Williams vs. Jason Godsey

Williams (4-1) upset Mark Coleman at UFC 17 but lost to Tsuyoshi Kohsaka at Ultimate Brazil. The debuting Godsey is 35 years old and is from Indiana. He is 4-3 and has beaten Steve Jennum, who won the UFC 3 tournament.

Friday, January 1, 2016

UFC 18: Bas Rutten Targets the Title





Bas Rutten (Photo: IMDB)

UFC 18 - Road to the Heavyweight Title - New Orleans - Pontchartrain Center - Jan. 8, 1999

Announcers  Mike Goldberg and Jeff Blatnick welcome the fans and thank those who have been lobbying to get UFC back on most pay-per-view carriers.

They also talk about the semifinal matches in the Road to the Heavyweight Title, which had been vacated by Randy Couture due to a contract dispute.

Before the pay-per-view went on the air, LaVerne Clark beat Frank Caracci via tapout to strikes at the 6:52 mark.

Dave Meltzer of Wrestling Observer fame is one of the judges. Bruce Buffer is the ring announcer and John McCarthy and Tony Mullenix are the referees. Here we go!

1. MIDDLEWEIGHTS - Darrell Gholar (Greco-Roman wrestling)  vs. Evan Tanner (Freestyle)

Both are debuting in the Octagon. Tanner, from Amarillo, Texas, is 16-1 in Pancrase and Extreme Challenge. Gholar is a two-time national Greco-Roman champion.  He is also a Hollywood screenwriter.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

UFC Ultimate Brazil: A Taste of Home



Wanderlei Silva (Photo: sportskeeda.com)



UFC Ultimate Brazil - Oct. 16, 1998 - Sao Paolo, Brazil - Portuguesa Gymnasium

UFC made its first trip to its spiritual homeland at the "Ultimate Brazil" pay-per-view.

Frank Shamrock retained the UFC Light Heavyweight title in the main event. He forced John "The Machine" Lober to submit to punches at 7:40.

Lober entered the night on a six-fight winless streak, but his most recent win was over Shamrock 21 months earlier.

Wanderlei Silva made his UFC debut, entering the show with a 5-1 record. However, Vitor Belfort spoiled "The Axe Murderer's" debut with a TKO in 44 seconds.

Pedro Rizzo, on the other hand, made his first trip to the Octagon a successful one, as he knocked out Tank Abbott at the 8:07 mark.

Pat Miletich became the first UFC lightweight champion, scoring a decision win over Mikey Burnett.

Another grueling decision win went to Tsuyoshi Kohsaka, who defeated Pete Williams. Kohsaka's win earned him a spot in the semifinals of a tournament for the UFC heavyweight title, which had been vacated by Randy Couture.

Also,  Ebenezer Fontes Braga defeated Jeremy Horn with a guillotine choke at 3:27.

Before the pay-per-view went on the air, Tulio Parhares beat Adriano Santos by TKO at 9:00; and Cesar Marcussi beat Paulo Santos by TKO at 10:27.

Monday, October 12, 2015

UFC 17: Chuck Liddell, Dan Henderson Invade the Octagon


Chuck Liddell (Photo: Yahoo)

Chuck Liddell and Dan Henderson debuted at UFC 17, giving the company a double dose of future greatness at one of its “dark ages” pay-per-views.

UFC 17 took place on May 15, 1998, at the Mobile (Ala.) Civic Center.

The theme was “Redemption,” as former UFC heavyweight champion Mark Coleman was scheduled to face Randy Couture in an attempt to regain the crown that he lost to Maurice Smith.

However, Couture was unable to compete due to an injury. Coleman lost to his replacement, Lion’s Den fighter Pete Williams, on a head-kick knockout.   

Liddell, the “Iceman” who would become a UFC legend, made his MMA debut by defeating Noe Hernandez by unanimous decision.

Henderson won a four-man middleweight tournament by defeating Allan Goes by unanimous decision in the semifinals and Carlos Newton on a split decision in the finals.

Tank Abbott improved his UFC record to 7-6 by defeating Hugo Duarte by TKO in 43 seconds.

In the main event, Frank Shamrock continued his dominant run as UFC middleweight champion. He defeated Jeremy Horn by submission to a kneebar at 16:28.


Don’t cry for Horn, though, because he racked up an amazing 91 wins in his MMA career.

Monday, August 18, 2014

UFC 16: Lightweight Revolution


Chris Brennan vs. Pat Miletich at UFC 16
(Photo: UFC)

UFC 16: Battle in the Bayou - March 13, 1998 - New Orleans, La. 

Mike Goldberg and Jeff Blatnick are calling the action for “Battle in the Bayou.” Sounds like the fighters would all get wet.

In alternate fights before the pay-per-view, Chris Brennan beat Courtney Turner with an armbar at 1:20, and Laverne Clark defeated Josh Turner by TKO at 1:15.

Bruce Buffer is our ring announcer.  Here we go!

1. Lightweight tournament semifinal: Mikey Burnett (submission fighting) vs. Eugenio Tadeu (Luta Livre)

This is a tournament for fighters at 170 pounds or less. Burnett, from Tulsa, Okla., is at 170 pounds, but he can deadlift 600 pounds. Tadeu is a 33-year-old Brazilian Jiu Jitsu legend making his first U.S. appearance.

Both fighters start quickly. Burnett lands some good combinations. He sinks in a guillotine choke, but Tadeu escapes.   Referee Joe Hamilton stands the fighters up after a stalemate on the ground.

Friday, August 15, 2014

UFC Ultimate Japan: Couture Wins the Crown


Randy Couture wins UFC title
(Image: bloodyelbow.com)

Randy Couture won the first of his three UFC heavyweight titles at UFC Ultimate Japan on Dec. 21, 1997, at Yokohama Arena.

Couture, who had stopped Vitor Belfort two months earlier, won a 21-minute battle over champion Maurice Smith to capture the crown.

Smith had won the title from Mark Coleman on the strength of his kickboxing, but Couture neutralized his attack with the skills he honed as an All-American wrestler at Oklahoma State University.

Two of the judges ruled in Couture’s favor, while the third judge called the fight a draw.

Frank Shamrock became the UFC’s first middleweight champion (under 200 pounds). He demolished Kevin Jackson in 16 seconds with an armbar.