On November 12, 1993, the stage was set for martial arts practitioners from far and wide to determine once and for all what was the most dominant discipline. The Gracie family, confident in their spin on BJJ and representative Royce Gracie, entered UFC 1 with certainty. Meanwhile, in the historic tournament, the brawny, brash Ken Shamrock stood across from the diminutive Gracie, outweighing his opponent by upwards of 30 pounds and possessing a balanced skill-set capable of taking out most foes.
Suddenly the bell rang, Shamrock eyed Gracie, shot in, and secured a takedown. Gracie attempted to pull guard, but couldn’t secure it, opening the door for Shamrock to rain down punches and elbows, bloodying Gracie. Gracie looked like he was working for an Armbar or Triangle Choke, but thanks to the movement and defense of Shamrock, he wasn’t able to maintain any grappling advantage. Gradually, blood began to appear on Gracie’s brow, nose and face. Gracie’s arms went slack first, followed by the legs that were looking to lock up Shamrock’s shoulders. The referee jumped into action, calling the fight in 1:12 in the first round in favor of Shamrock.
Of course we all know that’s not how it went down, as Gracie submitted Shamrock in less than a minute despite his adversary’s knowledge of how to fight on the ground. However, think of about the impact the aforementioned scenario would have had on the sport if Gracie had been defeated and removed from the tournament his own family had hoped would build a respect for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in the United States. Instead of sparking an interest with most combat fighters in the nation, Shamrock’s own shoot fighting might have taken the spotlight.
How could this have played out you ask? Simple really. In truth, if two things were different in the fight it is conceivable that Shamrock could’ve walked away with a victory over Gracie, then met Gerard Gordeau in the finals to likely become the UFC’s first “last man standing”.
The first factor that would’ve had to come into play involved Shamrock’s preparedness for Gracie. Following the fight, Shamrock admitted he had little prior knowledge of Gracie, and had never fought a Jiu-Jitsu practitioner before their bout. Had Shamrock simply studied up and knew what to look for before entering the cage with Gracie, he could’ve left victorious against the grappling legend.
Secondly, Shamrock should not have been so reliant on the Heel Hook. It wasn’t a secret to Gracie that Shamrock was a submission fighter favoring leg locks. Even Gracie’s family members have gone on record to state that Royce knew what to do as soon as Shamrock grabbed his right foot. Because Shamrock telegraphed his intent, Gracie was able to calmly evade the maneuver.
There’s no question the match-up was a major part of a momentous night for MMA in general. Still, it is certainly worth pondering where the sport would’ve headed had this fight that mesmerized a nation ended with Shamrock’s hand raised.
What effect do you feel the change in outcome would have had on the sport if any? What about the respective careers of Shamrock and Gracie? Let me know in the comments section below…
PHOTO CREDIT – UFC