This event took place on the 9th of September, 1994 at the Grady Cole Centre in Charlotte, North Carolina. This was the first event that wasn’t held in Denver, Colorado. There was also 3,000 fans in attendance.
A tournament format was used again but this time went back to the eight man tournament rather than the sixteen fighters used at UFC 2. The event again had no weight classes, no rounds and no judges. The only way to win was knockout, submission, corner throwing in the towel and this was the first event where the referee could step in and stop the contest if the fighter was unable to defend themselves.
The commentators for the event were Jim Brown, Brian Kilmeade and Ben Perry. They state that every fighter will be gunning for Royce Gracie the winner of both previous tournaments, and begin identifying the Grappler vs Striker styles which is still famous to this day.
Keith Hackney (MMA Debut) vs Emmanuel Yarborough (MMA Debut)
Emmanuel Yarborough is a Sumo wrestler that’s 6ft 8 and weighs an incredible 600lbs, Keith Hackney is a Kenpo Kung Fu practitioner and believes that open hand strikes are the key to victory.
The fights starts and they begin circling until Hackney lands an over hand right and Yarborough drops like a felled tree. Hackney rushes in to finish but Yarborough grabs him and gets to his feet, he then pushes Hackney against the cage and then through the gate! We get restarted and they circle again Hackney throwing kicks until Yarborough catches one, hopping on one leg Hackney starts landing punches and Yarborough drops again! This time Hackney pounces and pounds Yarborough until John McCarthy stops the fight.
Keith Hackney advances to the next round! David defeats Goliath!
Keith Hackney def. Emmanuel Yarborough via TKO (punches) 1:59
Ken Shamrock (MMA 8-3, UFC 1-1) vs Chris Leininger (MMA Debut)
Shamrock is back after losing to Royce Gracie at UFC 1 and claims he’s here to redeem himself. Apparently Shamrock is known as a celebrity in Japan and has established himself as a great fighter there. Leininger is a Judo black belt and a ten-time state Judo champion, he comes to the octagon wearing a blue gi.
The fight begins and both are hesitant to engage, Leininger shoots for a takedown but ends up on his back with Shamrock on top. Leininger starts firing punches from the bottom to which Shamrock answers with some head-butts. Leininger throws up his legs attempting an arm-bar then switches to a triangle but Shamrock defends well and end ups taking Leininger’s back against the cage. They scramble and Shamrock ends up on top and starts dropping heavy punches, eventually Leininger taps out.
Shamrock advances, he never looked in any trouble and used his wrestling to stay on top and finish Leininger.
Ken Shamrock def. Chris Leininger via TKO (punches) 4:49
Harold Howard (MMA Debut) vs Roland Payne (MMA Debut)
Payne is the hometown kid here and is a Muay Thai fighter with a 27-0 record, Howard is Canadian fighter that is a heavyweight champion in both Karate and Jiu Jitsu. He cuts a good promo in his intro tape and looks crazy doing so.
They begin and Howard lands a jab to which Payne answers with a takedown, they scramble on the ground but end up back on the feet. Payne becomes the aggressor pushing Howard against the fence with kicks, Howard starts looking to land with some hooks and catches Payne with an overhand right that puts him down. He follows up with a hammer fist on the ground but Payne is already done.
Payne put up a good fight but Howard was just too big and strong for him and landed the more powerful strikes to put him away.
Harold Howard def. Roland Payne via KO (punch) 0:46
Royce Gracie (MMA 7-0, UFC 7-0) vs Kimo (MMA Debut)
The reigning defending Champion of both the previous tournaments Royce Gracie is back to try and win his third tournament. His opponent Kimo is a Tai-Kwon-Do black belt, it is said that he spreads the word of Jesus 6 months out of the year. He makes his octagon walk with a huge wooden cross on his back!
The fight begins and Kimo comes out fast forcing Gracie to shoot right away, they clinch up against the fence and Kimo is out-muscling Gracie and grabbing his gi to avoid being taken down. Big John is yelling at Kimo as he keeps grabbing the fence to stop the takedown, Gracie finally gets the takedown but they scramble and Kimo gets his back! Gracie manages to get back to full guard and grabs Kimo’s hair and lands some punches from the bottom that cut Kimo over the eye. Gracie keeps attempting submissions and Kimo starts landing some punches of his own, Gracie manoeuvres and they are back to their feet. Kimo grabs a waist lock on Gracie but he pulls guard, he attempts another arm-bar and this time he gets it.
Both fighters look really tired after the bout and you can see some hostility towards Kimo from the Gracie corner. It’s the most adversity we have seen Gracie be in so far and Kimo put up a great fight! Gracie is helped from the octagon and carried back stage as he looks injured and fatigued.
Royce Gracie def. Kimo via Submission (arm-bar) 4:40
Ken Shamrock (MMA 9-3, UFC 2-1) vs Felix Lee Mitchell (MMA Debut)
Felix Lee Mitchell is an alternate replacing Keith Hackney who had broken his hand, possibly from repeatedly punching Emmanuel Yarborough in the back of the head!
The fight begins and Shamrock shoots into the clinch and attempts the takedown, Mitchell defends well but does grab the cage in the process. Shamrock eventually works around to the back and attempts a standing choke, Mitchell again defends well and escapes turning Shamrock against the cage. Shamrock reverses Mitchell and holds him against the cage eventually taking him down. He works his way to the back and sinks in the choke and Mitchell taps.
Shamrock again shows his grappling skills to finish Mitchell. Shamrock looks injured as he stands limping out of the cage. A tough night for everyone it seems.
Ken Shamrock def. Felix Lee Mitchell via Submission (rear-naked choke) 4:34
Royce Gracie (MMA 8-0, UFC 8-0) vs Harold Howard (MMA 1-0, UFC 1-0)
This will be interesting as Howard had a quick fight and knocked his opponent out whilst Gracie had a gruelling quarter-final fight with Kimo.
Royce Gracie makes his way to the octagon and looks terrible, he can barely stand on his own. After the announcements are made the Gracie corner call the referee over and the towel goes in! Gracie’s corner throw in the towel before the bout even starts and Harold Howard is into the final!
After the fight Kimo and his manager Joe Son run into the octagon and celebrate the withdrawal of Gracie, claiming the victory.
Harold Howard (MMA 1-0, UFC 1-0) vs Steve Jennum (MMA Debut)
Another injury to Ken Shamrock means that alternate Steve Jennum is into the final in his first fight! Jennum is a police officer from Omaha, Nebraska. He is a black belt in Ninjitsu and will be looking to grapple.
The fight begins and Howard comes out confident throwing jabs, he then tries a front somersault kick! He tags Jennum with a right that forces Jennum to clinch Howard up against the cage attempts a guillotine choke and its tight! Jennum drops to the ground trying to defend and scrambles getting out of the submission. They are now back to the feet and Jennum sweeps the leg for a takedown and quickly takes full mount! He begins reigning down punches, Howard’s arms are flailing around trying to defend and the corner throw in the towel! Steve Jennum the alternate wins the tournament and the $60,000! Unbelievable!
Afterwards Jennum’s team crowd the octagon celebrating his victory, Howard came out confident but the fresher fighter came out on top.
Steve Jennum def. Harold Howard via TKO (punches) 1:27
Final thoughts, well this is the first tournament we have seen that Royce Gracie didn’t win, whilst he didn’t technically lose we still saw that he wasn’t invincible as Kimo gave him a really tough fight. This tournament was set to have a Gracie vs Shamrock finale but was ruined by the likes of Kimo and other fighters that made it difficult for the elites. This shows that fighters are adapting to the different styles and finding ways to counter grapple. The winner Steve Jennum was the first alternate to win a tournament although he only won one fight. An unexpected victor as injuries plagued the event, but nevertheless a good performance and deserving winner!
Fight of the Night: Royce Gracie vs Kimo
Knockout of the Night: Harold Howard
Submission of the Night: Royce Gracie
Performance of the Night: Keith Hackney