Judge Ian Visser is glad he finally gets the chance to use the word "octagon" in a review.
When in doubt, gouge.
By now most people are familiar with the Ultimate Fighting Championship, or UFC, which attracts legions of loyal viewers with brutal action and no-holds-barred violence. Lionsgate now unleashes onto the public Ultimate Fighting Championship Classics, Vol. 2, a chronicling of the second winner-take-all championship event held in the early days of the UFC.
Ultimate Fighting Championship Classics, Vol. 2 takes place in Denver, CO in 1994. At this point in the UFC's development there were no weight classes, no regulations, and no time limits to matches. Unlike current events, these early fights were literal "bare-knuckle" competitions, and fighters endured multiple matches in a single night. Unlike current UFC fighters, early competitors also generally relied on one style or discipline of fighting such as karate, grappling, kung fu, jiu jitsu, or muay thai.
16 fighters step into the octagon in Ultimate Fighting Championship Classics, Vol. 2. Random draws determine the match-ups, and the viewer gets a few short profiles before each match explaining the fighter's style and history.
Featured fights on this disc include:
• Minoki Ichihara vs. Royce Gracie
Royce Gracie, a Brazilian champion, is biggest draw here for fans. One of the UFC's first big superstars, Gracie comes from a famous fighting family and won the first UFC title. His fighting style seems to mostly involve grappling an opponent, immobilizing him, and choking him until he submits. This judge really doesn't see the attraction in Gracie or his fighting, but somebody out there must know better to make Gracie such a star.
Although shot and broadcast in 1994, the production values of Ultimate Fighting Championship Classics, Vol. 2make it appear 10 years older than even that. The titles are dated and cheap-looking and there are a lot of early-90s-era double-breasted suits and floral ties amongst the commentators that add to the dated feel. Every expense, as they say, seems to have been spared.
Frankly, I found myself fast-forwarding though several near-endless grappling and choking fights on this disc. A couple of fighters turn possum very quickly in their matches, while others are almost too pathetically out-of-shape to be fighting. Some of the matches are painfully (and almost comically) brief, and many fall way short in the blood 'n guts department; selling this disc as "Before There Were Rules" implies a level of bloodshed simply not present in the presentation.
The commentators in Ultimate Fighting Championship Classics, Vol. 2attempt to fill in the time between matches with small-talk, but its clear they know little about most of the fighters or the fighting styles which they employ. NFL great Jim Brown has little to say about anything and is simply along for the ride as a "celebrity" commentator.
The full-screen video presentation of Ultimate Fighting Championship Classics, Vol. 2deserves a beating of its own. The entire program is a washed-out mess, with significant grain, a heavy amount of flickering, and weak colors (oh, 1994—how we miss your crappy broadcast quality). The 2-channel Dolby Digital audio is on par with the video—there's nothing here that is going to give your set-up any kind of workout.
The special features on Ultimate Fighting Championship Classics, Vol. 2are a limited bunch. We get three additional fights cut from the broadcast segment, which are in the same format as the feature fights. An option allows the fights to be viewed with alternative angles (usually a hand-held camera operator's view) but as these fights are all extremely short their inclusion adds little value.
The second extra is a recent "Hall of Fame" interview with Royce Gracie discussing his discipline, his fighting history, and his past fights. While this may be interesting for Gracie fans there's not much here for casual viewers of the UFC.
Ultimate Fighting Championship Classics, Vol. 2may be a good resource for completists, but those looking for blood will find only a minor payoff. Casual fans would be better served with any number of the more recent releases from UFC.
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Scales of Justice
• Hall of Fame Interview with Royce Gracie
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