UFC 6: Wild West
UFC 6, billed as “Clash of the Titans,” was one of the most memorable events in company history. Besides the crowning of the first UFC champion, it featured the debut of David Lee “Tank” Abbott, and the most exciting fight in company history up to that point.
The show took place July 14, 1995, in Casper, Wyo., and featured Ken Shamrock’s win over Dan Severn with a guillotine in 2:15 to become the UFC Superfight champion. That championship was renamed the heavyweight championship in 1997, and is the same championship currently held by Brock Lesnar.
Shamrock became the first man in UFC competition to stop Severn’s takedowns, and then when Severn came forward, he left his neck open for the guillotine, the first time that strategy had been used against a high-level wrestler.
Abbott, who had some boxing experience and wrestled in college (facts kept secret from the public at the time), was marketed as a street fighter – actually the term created by the UFC’s Art Davie was “pit fighter” – who was there to punch out all the martial arts types who had dominated the shows up to that point.
With his buzz-shaved head and beer belly, Abbott had a unique look. And by becoming the first fighter allowed to wear what today are known as MMA gloves, he changed the game, because with bare knuckles, you could only throw so many punches before damaging your hands, but the open gloves protected the knuckles.
The legend of Abbott was created when he faced a man billed as a 400-pound Samoan bone-breaker named John Matua, whose was neither 400 pounds nor a bone-breaker, but was probably well north of 300. He knocked Matua out in 18 seconds, and the visual of Matua going into convulsions on the ground, as Abbott mocked him, created a bad boy image that made him UFC’s most talked about star for a couple of years. Matua remained out cold for about four minutes and a legend, of sorts, was made, as Abbott in an interview when showing a replay of his handiwork talked about how it made him sexually aroused.
The three favorites in the tournament were Oleg Taktarov, the Russian submission expert, Dave Beneteau, a Canadian wrestler who lost in the finals the previous show, and Abbott. In those days, the tournament bracketing was drawn at random the day before, and the place was abuzz, both at Abbott vs. Matua, because the two had words all week, and at Taktarov vs. Beneteau, with the idea the possible championship match would take place in the first round. As it turned out, Takatarov submitted Beneteau with a choke in 57 seconds.
Abbott next bloodied up and finished a 6-8, 320-pound former San Jose State football player, who grew up in Alaska and was billed as “The Polar Bear,” Paul Varelans. Patrick Smith was scheduled against Taktarov next, but he pulled out, claiming stomach cramps.
The only alternates available were Guy Mezger and Anthony Macias, both training partners of Taktarov. Both refused to fight at first. Finally, after delaying the show, Macias agreed, and was choked out in 12 seconds, in what has been widely discussed since as a possible thrown match. Macias was never used by UFC again.
The championship match with Abbott and Taktarov saw both men exhausted in the high altitude. Taktarov seemed on the verge of passing out when he got behind Abbott, got his neck, squeezed for all he was worth, and Abbott tapped out at 18:04.
But the legend of Abbott only grew, as Taktarov, who looked like death warmed over, was hospitalized for exhaustion, while Abbott and his crew partied the night away, acting like he won.
Campbell McLaren, who ran UFC, had a memorable quote at the postmatch party about Abbott’s gloves.
“That will be the last time,” he said, “anyone in UFC will ever be allowed to wear gloves.”
Leon Spinks, the former boxing heavyweight champion, was at the show, as promoters tried to talk him into entering a future tournament. That never materialized.
David Hasselhoff of “Baywatch” fame was in the front row as the biggest celebrity up to that point to attend a show.
Abbott’s posse was furious at Smith for backing out of his semifinal match with Taktarov, allowing Taktarov a walkover in the semifinals. Smith was suckerpunched as he came out of a hotel elevator the next morning and given a bad beating, enough to be hospitalized. Yes, that was the UFC in 1995. Every day with Abbott and his crew was an adventure.
Joel Sutton def. Jack McLaughlin, submission (strikes) 2:01
Anthony Macias def. He-Man Gipson, submission (strikes) 3:06
Tank Abbott def. Jon Matua, KO, 0:18
Paul Varelans def. Cal Worsham, KO, 1:02
Patrick Smith def. Rudyard Moncayo, submission (rear naked choke), 1:08
Oleg Taktarov def. Dave Beneteau, submission (front choke), 0:57
Abbott def. Varelans, TKO, 1:53
Taktarov def. Macias (substitute for Smith), submission 0:09
Taktarov def. Abbott, submission (rear naked choke), 17:45
UFC Superfight championship (30-minute time limit; five-minute overtime)
Ken Shamrock def. Dan Severn, submission, 2:14