UFC 14: Upset city
UFC 14, held on July 27, 1997, in Birmingham, Ala., featured what was, at the time, the most stunning upset in company history.
Heavyweight champion Mark Coleman had looked unstoppable with his ground-and-pound in going 6-0, winning two tournaments as well and later the heavyweight title
Maurice Smith, a kickboxing legend, had been the heavyweight champion of the rival and at that point defunct Extreme Fighting promotion, and was brought in to be fed to UFC’s monster.
At the time, UFC was the province of the wrestlers, who were able to take down the strikers and maul them to victory. Smith, training with the Lion’s Den camp, and in particular Frank Shamrock, became the first striker to beat a world-class wrestler in a UFC match.
The strategy was to expect to get taken down, not to panic, defend on the bottom, and wait for Coleman’s gas tank to run dry. Coleman had dominated foes up to that point to get a 6-0 record, but had shown signs of fatigue in long matches.
In hindsight, Smith beat Coleman to win the title, winning a mental game, claiming Coleman “punched like a girl.” Coleman took the remark seriously enough that he came out looking to quickly tear Smith’s head from his shoulders.
But going out so fast caused Coleman to tire even quicker. After dominating early, Coleman ran out of gas at the 7:00 mark, although he was at least still in the match for the next few minutes. In those days, the rules were a championship fight had a 12- minute first round, followed by two three minute overtimes.
Smith destroyed Coleman in both overtimes, using leg kicks and punches, and taunting the exhausted Coleman. Smith finally went for the kill, but time expired before Coleman was finished. But Smith still became the company’s fourth champion with an easy decision.
The show also featured the UFC debut of Mark “The Specimen” Kerr, who made quick work of Moti Horenstein and Daniel Bobish to win the heavyweight tournament. Kerr eventually walked out on his contract with UFC, beat the company in a court fight, and became the top heavyweight in the early days of the Pride Fighting Championships.
The first Olympic gold medalist in UFC history, Kevin Jackson, the 1992 champion in Barcelona at 181 pounds, debuted in the under 200-pound tournament, winning his two matches in a total time of 2:13.
During a match with Joe Morreira and Yuri Vaulin, Morreira’s wife went into premature labor while in the stands watching the fight, and gave birth while the show was going on.
Morreira weighed in at 203 pounds for the under-200 weight class. The tournament was built around the idea of Jackson, the wrestler, against Morreira, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu master, in the finals. Jackson then loaned Morreira his plastic sweat suit that he had brought to help him make weight, and with it, enabled Morreira to get down to 199.9 pounds. However the match itself never took place, as Morreira suffered a concussion in his win, likely from delivering a head-butt (they were still legal at the time) to Vaulin.
The heavyweight tournament final was a battle between two former collegiate champion wrestlers. Kerr, who like Mark Coleman, was a 1996 Olympic hopeful, took down Daniel Bobish, a 310-pound former Division II national champion, and dug his chin into Bobish’s eye, a move never done before in UFC competition. Bobish quickly tapped. The move was then made illegal for future shows.
Kerr later became the subject of an acclaimed documentary, “The Smashing Machine,” which chronicled his fall from being No. 1 in the sport due to a painkiller addiction.
Tony Fryklund def. Donnie Chappell, submission (choke), 1:35
Kevin Jackson def. Todd Butler, submission (strikes), 1:28
Joe Moreira def. Yuri Vaulin, unanimous decision
Jackson def. Fryklund (substitute for Moreira), submission (rear naked choke), 0:44
Alex Hunter def. Sam Fulton, TKO, 2:22
Mark Kerr def. Moti Horenstein, TKO, 2:23
Dan Bobish de. Brian Honston, submission (forearm choke), 2:11
Kerr def. Bobish, TKO, 1:39
UFC heavyweight championship
Maurice Smith def. Mark Coleman, unanimous decision (Smith wins title).