Here is a match that went down in October of 1995 at a UFC like 8 man tournament event called WEC. It is remarkable how different the sport looks today from those early days. Check out the fight between Mike Bitonio and Bart Vale below. Probably not for the weak hearted or the lily limbed.
Now this is prior to the banning of headbutts, and obviously neither guy is wearing gloves.
But those glaring differences to MMA aren’t all that jumps out at you when taking a look back at what is now ancient history.
First of all, the whole production, announcing and details around the show lack the professionalism that UFC has polished in their presentation. Yes, Bart Vale knocked out Ken Shamrock, but it was in a pro wrestling style match with a pre determined outcome. Thankfully, today’s UFC doesn’t use anything but the reality of sport to back their hype, much to their benefit.
If you have never seen a fight with head butts, this is a good example of a match where the full brutality of the technique can be seen. Vale would be unable to continue in the tournament due to a concussion.
So let me get this straight. Head butts severely mangled the receiver Bitonio’s face, and they concussed the thrower, Vale? They also didn’t definitively end the fight, though they certainly took their toll on Bitonio. So the next time someone wants head butts legalized, show them this fight.
The most noticeable difference is in the officiating, specifically the in ring referee. Besides the actual fighters, it is the hardest job around a show, and it is completely thankless, but the referees nowadays have the best interest in the long term good of the fighters and the sport. Back then, this referee wasn’t awful, and I grant that Bitonio was defending himself very coherently throughout (cutting off Vale’s air, gouging when he could get away with it, he swept several times, including late. No one can deny Bitonio was lucid).
But you just get the feeling in this fight that the ref isn’t going to stop it.
So there is a lot to look at in this historical match, enjoy it!
I also want to take a moment out to give kudos to Mike Bitonio. Whatever that mysterious ‘it’ that some fighters claim to have, that heart, that willingness to die, Bitonio has it. You will be hard pressed to find another fight in this modern era of MMA where a guy takes the punishment Bitonio does, and keeps on ticking. If it could be bottled, every fighter would have it.