In a previous blog, I took a look at Brock Lesnar‘s brief career, and my retrospective had a decidely negative tone. Then a friend of mine sent me a perspective that showed Lesnar could be considered the most successful heavyweight champion in the history of the UFC. So to do this properly, I’m gonna break this up into a series of blogs on the heavyweight belt. Looking back on it, the belt has had a tumultuous history well worthy of a look.
It all starts with the UFC owned by Bob Meyrowitz and SEG. In the early days, belts were awarded for winning the eight man tournament, and several of the early UFC’s started to feature single ‘Super’ fights and it is in these superfights that the perception of a champion started to formulate.
The first superfight saw Ken Shamrock fight Royce Gracie to a draw. Shamrock would make short order of Dan Severn in the next Superfight with a guillotine. Severn would go on to win the Ultimate Ultimate, which was an 8 man tournament of the early UFC’s toughest fighters. Then at UFC 9, Severn would earn a split decision victory over Shamrock in the rematch that is now known as one of the most controversial UFC matches of all time. The authorities in Detroit were interfering with the event, and neither man was able to use closed fist strikes on their feet, resulting in a match referred to as ‘The Dance’.
UFC 10 and 11 would see the rise of Mark Coleman, who swept both opponents and was so dominant that no one would come out to fight him in the finals of UFC 11.
SEG and the UFC were definitely feeling the pressure of dwindling access to cable outlets combined with negative press, and they were already starting to adapt additional rules in those UFCs. It would be UFC 12 that would see a monumental change with the adaptation of weight classes.
As you can imagine, the so called ‘purists’ of the era hated the idea, but the UFC went forward with the addition of weight classes. The first weight classes were above 200 lbs (Heavyweight) and under 200 lbs (lightweight).
For UFC 12, it was decided that Mark Coleman would face Dan Severn to crown the first ever UFC Heavyweight Champion. Coleman would finish the fight fast, basically squeezing Severn’s head until he tapped.
At the time, Coleman was so hard nosed and so athletic, that few thought he would lose anytime soon. At UFC 14 however, Coleman would face kickboxer Maurice Smith, who was able to take Coleman out of his game and tire him out before delivering the KO blow. In the storied history of the UFC belts, this was the first truly great fight in my opinion, as the early superfights, though historic, didn’t have a huge sense of excitement.
Maurice Smith showed that a striker with some added tools could be effective in MMA against a wrestler. A whole new era had begun…
TO BE CONTINUED