Judge Daryl Loomis is thankful that the fighters today are slimmer than in the past.
The early days of the Ultimate Fighting Championship were a far cry from the fully-sanctioned sport that we see today. Pitting discipline versus discipline, big or small—it doesn't matter—in a tournament that could see a fighter take a beating three times in the night. It isn't hard to imagine how John McCain could have called UFC in this era "human cockfighting." While the sport is infinitely better today than it was in 1996, the eleventh show the fledgling organization put on is of high interest to fight fans. People finally saw the effectiveness of a ground and pound style—and the death of the idea that some dirtbag street fighter like Tank Abbot could walk through the UFC. UFC 11 was the first real turning point in the organization. Let's have a look at the combatants in tonight's tourney.
Mark Coleman (Wrestling): Mark Coleman's wrestling background speaks for itself. An NCAA wrestling champion at Ohio State and a member of the 1992 Olympic team, Coleman took the UFC by storm in the early days and, as the winner of UFC 10, he stands to defend the title of Ultimate Fighter at Proving Ground.
Julian Sanchez (Asax): A veteran of an unspecified number of "Mexican challenge fights," Julian Sanchez practices the art of ASAX. Though I can't find anything about the style, my best guess from looking at him and watching him fight is that the style involves a lot of pie.
Raza Nasri (Greco Roman Wrestling): An Olympian in Greco-Roman wrestling and the first UFC competitor from Iran (not sure if there's been a second), this would be Nasri's only appearance with the company.
Brian Johnston (Kickboxing/Judo): Looking at Johnston makes me wonder what kind of steroid testing the UFC had in these days. Johnston was a strong competitor with a good pedigree, but he only made three appearances for the organization.
David "Tank" Abbot (Streetfighting): Anybody who thought Kimbo Slice was a novelty never saw Tank Abbot. His time in pro wrestling was probably more productive. His aggressive, street brawling style won fans but now is laughable in comparison to modern fighters.
Sam Adkins (Boxing): While his designated discipline is boxing, it's pretty clear why he is in MMA instead of pro boxing. Then again, it's a little hard to see why he competed in MMA, either, since he's spent ten years losing to up-and-comers. Still, this is an early bout for him when his record wasn't yet so awful.
Fabio Gurgel (Jiu-Jitsu): Gurgel has been a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu champion for years. The third degree black belt is a master in standard competition and a renowned instructor but, like so many BJJ practitioners, the cage, the time limit, and his opponent's lack of a gi means a lot of limitations for Gurgel.
Jerry Bohlander (Submission Fighting): Fighting out of Ken Shamrock's Lion's Den, Bohlander was a strong shootfighter in the early years of the UFC and, at UFC 12, he would win the UFC's first lightweight (under 200lb.) tournament, moving further down the road to what the organization would later become.
Scott Ferrozzo (Pitfighting): While not notable for his skills, conditioning, or MMA record, Ferrozzo was a scarily agile force at his size, at least against his opponent this time around. Winning one of the alternate fights before the show, he gets to appear and definitely makes the most of his chance.
UFC 11 was one of the weirder early shows and may have helped people understand that the tournament system wasn't working. Before all of their televised shows, they put on preliminary matches to arrange alternative fighters in case of injury. This time, that wasn't good enough. Scott Ferrozzo comes in after one of the first-round winner's hand been too hurt to continue. Given his heft, Ferrozzo makes a good showing of himself, but the other preliminary winner was injured in his fight. When a fighter goes down in the second round, there aren't any fighters to give us a final round fight.
The results are disappointing because it had been an above average show up to that point, but the circumstances do shed light on many of the rule problems that faced the UFC. Allowing bare knuckles, shoes, and head butts is dangerous for the fighters and, though it may have been cool to scream about having no rules, it undermines competition. They are in a much better position today for learning these lessons from the early shows.
This release of UFC Classics 11 is a continuation in the release of the entire UFC early catalog. The video presentation looks nearly identical to its original broadcast. It is watchable, but there has been no attempt to clean it up. The sound is equally fine, despite the troubles of the commentators. The only extras are a series of fighter bios and a relatively current interview with Mark Coleman. Ultimately, the fact that this is cut short makes it less of a value than other UFC releases. It does have some historical interest, but there are better shows out there.
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