Tito Ortiz (photo:defymag.com)
UFC 13: The Ultimate Force - May 30, 1997 - Augusta (Ga.) Civic Center
However, the debuts of Tito Ortiz and Randy Couture set the stage for a bright future.
UFC 13 featured four-man heavyweight and light heavyweight tournaments, along with a superfight between Brazilian phenom Vitor Belfort and brawling anti-hero Tank Abbott.
Ortiz opened the show by smashing Wes Albritton for a successful UFC debut in just 31 seconds. This was the alternate bout for the light heavyweight tournament.
After the fight, Ortiz told Joe Rogan that he knew he would “blow through” Albritton. Here’s the interview.
In the heavyweight alternate fight, hometown boy Jack “The Ripper” Nilson beat Saeed Hosseini by TKO in 1:23.
Bruce Beck and Jeff Blatnick are on commentary, with Bruce Buffer as ring announcer. Big John McCarthy is our referee. Here we go!
1. Light heavyweight semifinal: Christophe Leninger (Kodokan Judo) vs. Guy “The Sandman” Mezger (Submission fighting)
Mezger finally gets his chance in the main UFC tournament, which he earned way back at UFC 5 but never received. Since his last UFC appearance two years earlier, Mezger went to Japan's Pancrase promotion to slug it out with guys like Yuki Kondo, Bas Rutten and Semmy Schilt, posting a 9-5-2 record.
Leninger lost his only previous fight in the Octagon to Ken Shamrock three years earlier at UFC 3.
Leninger is wearing a gi, so Mezger grabs it while punching him. Leninger responds by yanking on the front of Guy’s shorts. Nothing is happening on the ground, as Leninger doesn’t seem to have a way to win the fight. McCarthy stands them up.
Mezger lands a kick that earns a compliment from his opponent. Back to the mat and the 12-minute time limit expires. The fans boo. In overtime, Mezger lands some good punches and wins the unanimous decision. After the fight, Mezger said that nothing Leninger did hurt him.
2. Light heavyweight semifinal: Enson Inoue (Shooto) vs. Royce Alger (Wrestling)
Blatnick explains that Shooto is a hybrid of grappling, striking and submission fighting. UFC champ Mark Coleman is in the corner of Alger, an All-American wrestler from Iowa City.
Alger grapples his way on top of Inoue, who stays cool and grabs an armbar from the bottom to win by tapout at 1:36.
3. Heavyweight semifinal: Dmitri Stepanov (Muay Thai and Sambo) vs. Steven Graham (Extension Fighting)
Stepanov is from Minsk, Belarus. Graham wants to play pro football. Beck says that extension fighting consists of “whatever works.” Graham outweighs Stepanov 290-217.
Graham scoops up Stepanov for a big takedown and starts yanking on his arm. Stepanov taps out to a keylock at 1:28.
4. Heavyweight semifinal: Randy Couture (Greco-Roman wrestling) vs. Tony "The Vikiing" Halme (Pro Wrestling)
Couture says he’s not worried about the transition from Greco-Roman wrestling to the Octagon. Of course, Halme is from Finland and wrestled in the WWF as Ludvig Borga, feuding with Lex Luger and Tatanka. You must now stop what you’re doing and watch his classic “America stinks” promo.
Couture takes Halme down immediately and drills him with a right hand. He floats to the back and puts “The Viking” away in 58 seconds with a rear naked choke, as seen in this video.
Due to an injury, Inoue can’t compete at in the light heavyweight finals. Ortiz was inserted into the final, but first we get to watch his alternate fight.
5. LIGHTWEIGHT ALTERNATE – Tito Ortiz (Street Fighting) vs. Wes Albritton (Kempo Karate)
Ortiz trains with Tank Abbott and is a high school wrestling coach in Huntington Beach, Calif. Albritton is from Scottsborough, Ala.
Ortiz takes down Albritton and batters him with lefts and elbows until the towel comes flying in. Albritton was not happy with his corner, but he was getting clobbered.
6. LIGHTWEIGHT FINALS: Guy Mezger (Submission Fighting) vs. Tito Ortiz (Street Fighting)
Ortiz lands a lot of early strikes and stops Mezger’s takedown attempt. A knee to the head busts Mezger open in two places, prompting a visit from the doctor.
Ortiz goes for a double-leg takedown but walks right into a guillotine choke, and Mezger wins! He has a big celebration.
7. HEAVYWEIGHT FINALS: Randy Couture (Greco-Roman Wrestling) vs. Stephen Graham (Extension Fighting)
Couture immediately establishes himself as a big-name player, beating Graham by TKO at 3:13.
8. MAIN EVENT Superfight: Vitor Belfort (Gracie Jiu Jitsu) vs. Tank Abbott (Street Fighting)
Belfort is a 20-year-old phenom from Brazil, while the 32-year-old Abbott is the bad-boy brawler from Huntington Beach.
Abbott comes into the fight at 270 pounds, with Belfort checking in at 215. Abbott misses an overhand right, so Belfort grabs him around the waist and dumps him to the canvas.
Both men return to their feet, but Belfort prevails in the punching exchange. Abbott falls to the mat and Belfort rains down punches from behind until referee John McCarthy stops the fight at the 52-second mark.
“Overwhelming!” says Blatnick. Check out the fight on the UFC website here.
The UFC was a long way from returning to the national spotlight, but it had some great young stars getting ready for that day.