ByJason Nawara, writer at
Jason Nawara

Ultimate Fighting Championship: The Beginning. It's where it all started, at least in the States, and you'll be hard-pressed at finding a more entertaining card from top to bottom in regards to pure action and historical moments. UFC 1 has it all — from freakshow fights to the dawn of BJJ as a formidable martial art. It's a solid 88 minutes, especially if you make liberal use of the fast forward button.

It also has one of the most awkward intros to anything ever. It's clear none of the announcers know what they're doing.

The card took place on what was a cold night on November 13th, 1993, and we were reminded that the weatherman was warning the Denver residents that a snowstorm would be coming. But inside the cage, there was a different type of storm brewing — a storm of confusion and violence.

The first card featured an 8-man tournament that would crown the first UFC tournament champion featuring a prize of $50,000. That was a lot of money in 1993 (not really).

Match 1: Gerard Gordeau vs. Teila Tuli

This is it. The first fight PPV-buyers (and stealers) ever saw, and it featured one of the most brutal highlights in UFC history: Gordeau's kick to Tuli's face that sent his tooth flying out into the crowd. There's starting out hot, and there's starting out with a tooth flying out of a sumo champion's face to land deep into the crowd hot. The fight lasted mere seconds, and the confusion after the brutality lasted longer than the fight.

Gordeau is actually a real savage. He was a Dutch Kyokushin Karate champion for nearly a decade, and is known for fighting dirty. After his run in the UFC, he fought Yuki Nakai in Vale Tudo Japan and gouged Nakai's eyes during takedown attempts which resulted in the Japanese fighter losing sight in one eye.

That context of Gordeau aside, this fight was unforgettable.

Winner: Gerard Gordeau via FACE KICK!!!

Rating: Five Sad Tuli Heads

Match 2: Kevin Rosier vs. Zane Frazier

Kevin Rosier went on to amass a 2-7 record in MMA and a 7-17 record in boxing after this appearance, but on this evening he was a god amongst men for about four minutes. Probably because Zan Frazier was going to go on to equally mediocre things, like going 4-11 in his 15-year MMA career. Woof.

The most interesting part about this fight was Rosier's shorts.

Don't mess with a man who won't show you his bellybutton.
Don't mess with a man who won't show you his bellybutton.

This fight is appropriately wild, though. Rosier was a super heavyweight kickboxing champ and it kind of showed with his limited strikes. There was a point in which Frazier kneed Rosier right in the nuts which led the announcers to wonder why the referee didn't step in, further cementing the fact that no one knew what the hell was going on during this broadcast. The barbarism is real. Frazier's hand is bleeding early, Rosier's hair is being torn out, and they're scratching each other. This is a good example of why Senator McCain called this "human cockfighting." It's all quite entertaining.

Eventually, after some nasty dirty boxing, Frazier totally gasses, sloowwwly goes to the ground, then Rosier grabs the shaking Octagon and stomps on Frazier's head until his corner throws in the towel.

Winner: Kevin Rosier via head stomps of doom!

Rating: Five Sad Tuli Heads

Match 3: Royce Gracie vs. Art Jimmerson

One of the most iconic fights for the first half of the UFC's history was between Royce Gracie and his gi, versus Art Jimmerson and his glove. People still probably call him Art "One Glove" Jimmerson, maybe. It's impossible to really know.

This is also the match that marked a sea change in how people viewed "real" fighting. This UFC stuff wasn't an action movie, and it wasn't boxing. This was take down, drag out and work you over until you tap fighting. In the end, Royce Gracie introduced the world to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, while Art Jimmerson introduced the world to complete confusion inside a fighting pit.

Winner: Royce Gracie via historical hilariousness (technical term: full mount)!

Rating: Two Sad Tuli Heads

Match 4: Ken Shamrock vs. Patrick Smith

Ken Shamrock is a SHOOTFIGHTER! Rather than being a workfighter (???) which he was in the WWE, aside from that Lion's Den Match. That was 100% real. Shamrock was arguably the best well-rounded fighter coming into this event, and you could argue Patrick Smith was the second-most dangerous fighter. He had a solid kickboxing career and was a regular in K-1, going 66-8, and even finished with a decent MMA record of 20-15 after retiring in 2008. The announcer touted a Muay Thai record of 250-0 for Smith but I dunno.

Unfortunately, all the striking in the world want help you when Ken Shamrock grabs you be the heel and HOOKS IT!

Winner: Ken Shamrock via SHOOTFIGHT HEEL HOOK!!!

Rating: Two Sad Tuli Heads

At this point in the evening, we roll into the semis to witness more history, more bone-crunching action, and more confusion.

Match 5 (semifinals): Gerard Gordeau vs. Kevin Rosier

The coolest and most disturbing part of these early UFCs (and Pride tournaments), were the accumulation of injuries as the fights went on. Gerard Gordeau's hand is swollen like a Sad Tuli Head, and Rosier is wearing the scars from his war with Frazier that happened mere minutes previous. Hardcore as hell. Look at them, trotting into the cage, probably with broken hands, doing their business.

The fight goes Gordeau's way early by working Rosier's chubby legs with some perfectly-placed kicks. Rosier goes down and can't get up from under the heavy elbows and strong gaze of Gordeau. The Dutch have a very strong gaze. This is known. A few more elbows and stomps later and there's a tap as the confused ref wonders what to do with the grimacing man in front of him. Yes, tapping ends the fight, apparently.

Winner: Gerard Gordeau via stomp to the belly!

Rating: Three Sad Tuli Heads

Match 6 (semifinals): Ken Shamrock vs. Royce Gracie

The battle that started the feud that would last all the way until 2016. Thanks, Bellator. The fight starts quickly with Royce shooting in for a takedown, but Shamrock smoothly sprawls out of it. A neat scramble happens, Royce works kidney shots with his heel (they're legal again now!), and after a heel hook attempt from Ken, Royce turns the fight around and taps Shamrock with what looks like a lapel choke? No one really knows. Maybe no one will ever know.

The following series of events plays out in earnest after the initial tap:

  • The fight goes on.
  • Then Shamrock taps again?
  • Then Royce chokes him a bit more.
  • There's a conversation between Royce, Ken and the confused referee.
  • Royce starts yelling at Ken.
  • Ken concedes that he did indeed tap.
  • Royce mean mugs everyone.

Winner: Royce Gracie via Mass Confusion (technical term: lapel choke)!

Rating: Three Sad Tuli Heads

So the finals are set — Gerard Gordeau would take on Royce Gracie to become the Ultimate Fighting Challenger!!!

Match 7 (Finals): Gerard Gordeau vs. Royce Gracie

Let's get this out of the way: Gordeau bit Gracie's ear in this fight. When Gracie asked him why, the Dutchman explained to Gracie that there were no rules, so what can ya do? Gracie seemingly accepted that fact over 20 years later. It took Royce Gracie 20 years to finally realize there were no rules beyond the no eye-gouging rule, it seems?

The fight itself was just over a minute long, so there isn't much to discuss beyond Gordeau's attempts at avoiding the takedown by grabbing onto the cage, Gracie's headbutts that softened up Gordeau, then the sweet, sweet rear naked choke that's held on WAY TOO LONG. Basically, Gracie wanted to make sure the clueless ref saw that Gordeau was done, or he was pissed about his ear getting bit. Probably both.

Winner: Royce Gracie via a choking choke of ear revenge!

Rating: Three Sad Tuli Heads

And so ends the first . There's a grand total of 12 minutes and 39 seconds of fighting in an 88 minute broadcast, there's complete and utter confusion as to the rules and regulations within the cage, and no one knows what they're doing. It was great!

Event Rating: Four Sad Tuli Heads!


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