UFC 22: Instant classic
The Frank Shamrock vs. Tito Ortiz middleweight title match, which headlined UFC 22 on September 24, 1999, in Lake Charles, La., is generally considered the greatest match of the early days.
Even before the match, it was known that this would be Shamrock’s last fight with the organization. With few outlets still carrying the pay-per-views, money was scarce and the company wasn’t going to be able to pay him what he was contracted for. An agreement was made that should he win, because they were going to breach, if he publicly announced his retirement in the ring and that he was vacating his title, they would release claims on him and allow him to fight elsewhere.
But the betting line was that wouldn’t happen, because Ortiz was considered far too big and strong for him to deal with. The match had been marketed as a grudge, since Ortiz had beaten Lion’s Den fighters Guy Mezger and Jerry Bohlander, and then put on T-shirts disrespecting them.
Mezger and Bohlander started in the sport with Shamrock, and it was pushed as Shamrock going for revenge. The reality was Shamrock had left the Lion’s Den two years earlier on bad terms and Lion’s Den revenge made for good promotion but there was actually nothing to it.
Shamrock weighed in at 198 pounds fully clothed, and after getting off the scale, pulled a thick book out of his pocket, so he was really about 195 pounds. Ortiz weighed in at 199.9 pounds, the maximum allowed at the time in the weight class. By the early afternoon of the fight, he was 217, and he was between 220 and 222 when he stepped into the cage.
With five inches and about 25-27 pounds weight difference, the two men looked to be two weight classes apart.
The first two rounds saw Ortiz easily take Shamrock down. Shamrock’s movement on the ground was such that he was able to avoid most of Ortiz’s ground-and-pound. During the second round, Shamrock was busier from the bottom punching Ortiz’s ears, and Ortiz was having trouble getting clean blows in.
The third round was the turning point. Shamrock scored with several low kicks but Ortiz took him down once again. Shamrock again threw more blows from the bottom, but couldn’t get off his back against his much stronger foe. Ortiz delivered a hard knee to the head when knees on the ground were still legal, opening up a big cut over Shamrock’s left eye.
Ortiz then stuck his fingers into the cut to attempt to spread it, again, at a time when such a maneuver was still legal since it had never been done in UFC so nobody thought to ban it (it was banned after this fight).
Shamrock was bleeding heavily, but Ortiz was huffing and puffing at the end of the round.
As the second show under the 10-point must system for scoring, Shamrock had lost all three rounds, although it was just as clear to the crowd the fight had turned around and Shamrock was likely to win.
In the fourth round, Shamrock’s low kicks resulted in Ortiz’s knee being bright red with welts. Ortiz still used his reach and hurt Shamrock with jabs, but Shamrock’s low kick were doing more damage. Ortiz got the takedown, but was tiring and Shamrock reversed him, unleashed a barrage of punches, and Ortiz went for another takedown. Shamrock caught him in a guillotine and started squeezing, dropped the hold, then started dropping elbows and punches, and Ortiz tapped at 4:45 of Round 4.
It was reminiscent of the night the UFC’s first legend, Royce Gracie, had his most impressive career win, over Dan Se vern. Like Gracie, Shamrockwould never get his hand raised again in UFC after his biggest win. Unlike Gracie, he also never fought again in UFC.
As he announced his retirement and vacated the title, owner Bob Meyrowitz and announcer Jeff Blatnick both praised him as the greatest competitor in the history of the UFC. In his 10 previous matches, he had nine wins and one draw (some records of Shamrock’s career have him at 8-0-1 at the time, but he won a fight in Texas that is often overlooked). Every win was different. All but one win was against someone who outweighed him. Three of his wins were against people who outweighed him by 20 pounds or more.
Before UFC 21, judging consisted of three judges watching a fight and when it was over, simply writing the name of the person they thought had won on a piece of paper. After UFC 22, the second show under the 10-point must system, it was generally believed the new method was less effective than the prior one. The key was the opener, the debut of Jens Pulver as well as the first fight ever in UFC history in the 155-pound weight class. In a two round fight with Alfonso Alcaraz, Pulver won the first round by dominant fashion. Alcaraz won the second round close. On the ten-point must system, the match was a draw, but it was clear to everyone Pulver should have received the decision. Later, in a match with Ron Waterman vs. Tim Lacjik, a three-round fight, Waterman won two of the three rounds but had a penalty point called against him for a low blow, thus that match also ended as a draw even though under the old system, Waterman would have been a clear winner.
Jeremy Horn, who currently fights as a middleweight, was a 229-pound heavyweight in a match where he beat Jason Godsey.
The biggest win thus far in Chuck Liddell’s career came when he was able to avoid the takedown against wrestler Paul Jones, and through sprawling and knees, set up a left that opened a cut over Jones’ left eye and the match was stopped at 3:38 of the first round.
With the exception of the main eventers, almost every fighter on the show fought for a flat $1,000 purse because money was so tight.
Jens Pulver vs. Alfonso Alcarez, draw
John Lewis def. Lowell Anderson, TKO, 0:14 R3
Matt Hughes def. Valeri Ignatov, unanimous decision
Chuck Liddell def. Paul Jones, TKO, 3:35 R1
Brad Kohler def. Steve Judson, KO< 2:07 R1
Jeremy Horn def. Jason Godsey, submission (armbar), 2:07 R1
Tim Lajcik vs. Ron Waterman, draw
UFC middleweight championship: Frank Shamrock def. Tito Ortiz, submission (elbow strikes), 4:48 R4.