This is the event that basically forced the UFC promoters to rethink about the tournament format. After the success of the two prior events, SEG brought back defending champion, Royce Gracie, and King of Pancrase, Ken Shamrock. Now, these two fighters had fought before in the first UFC, Gracie becoming the victor, and Shamrock had become such a huge star in Japan that the promotion had to bring him back, not to mention that Gracie in UFC-2 had virtually no competition. They decided to put both fighters on opposite side of the bracket thinking that they might make it to the finals and have that so awaited rematch as a main event. Unfortunately for the SEG, in the world of MMA everything is unpredictable.
The first match looks like it came out of a comic book. You had Keith Hackney, a 200 pound, 5'11 fighter, fighting a gigantic Sumo wrestler by the name, Emmanuel Yarborough, who was literally three time bigger than Hackney. Now, you might think the sumo fighter had the edge because of his size, think again, Hackney managed to knock down the giant and forced the ref to stop the fight. But this came to a heavy price for Hackney, because of the blows to the head he gave Yarborough, he broke his hand and could not continue.
Second fight, Shamrock defeated Judoka, Christopher Leninger. The third fight, Harold Howard, defeated Roland Payne by KO. Howard was quite a character. If you ever see UFC-3 on DVD, you will see a video of Howard breaking a sand bag with his bare fists and saying catchy phrases. Back then, the UFC gave promotional videos before every fight to the fighters and their styles.
The fourth fight and perhaps the best fight in UFC history up until that moment, was the fight between Gracie and Kimo. This was an amazing fight and for the first time we see Gracie pushed to the limit. Kimo looked like a villain from a Van Damme movie. Kimo, had the pony tail, the colorful tattoos and an imposing body that would make a lesser man think twice about entering the octagon, not to mention his WWF entrance and his evil looking manager, Joe Son. This fight was so intense that it felt like Gracie fought forever. Gracie managed to defeat Kimo with an arm-bar, but unfortunately, Gracie couldn't continue to the second round because exhaustion, therefore forfeiting his title. In the semi's Shamrock scored another victory against an alternate, but Shamrock also couldn't continue and Howard didn't have an opponent for the second round.
Now here is when it gets really interesting. For the finals, UFC brought Steve Jennum to fight Howard as replacement for Shamrock. Jennum was fresh and did not had to fight in the tournament to get to the finals. Jennum defeated Howard when he mounted him and rained pushes, Howard taped out.
I have spoken to many old school UFC fans, like myself, and I hear people say that Jennum is not the real champion of that event, that Jennum was lucky to fight only one fight to win, and I agree to this, but Jennum saw the opportunity and took it. I believe that Jennum was a great fighter, whether he would have defeated Gracie of Shamrock or whomever, there is no doubt that he did the job and he passed to be the UFC-3 champion.
Although it was obvious that changes had to be made, it took several years for the UFC to evolve. I really think this event is one of the most important events in UFC history and one of the most controversial and entertaining.
If you haven't seen it, I strongly recommend you do.
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