September 20th, 1996. Augusta, Georgia. UFC 11: The Proving Ground.
And the real dark days for the UFC were about to begin.
UFC 9 had been a complete disaster. Due to increased scrutiny, they implemented a "no closed fist striking" rule but didn't bother to tell the audience and the main event superfight between Dan Severn and Ken Shamrock was a tentative bore, still one of the worst (if not the worst) in UFC history which lead to a post fight riot by the drunken and justifiably disgruntled Detroit fans.
UFC 10 picked things up considerably, becoming most notable for the debut of Mark Coleman, who would herald in the age of wrestlers beginning to dominate no holds barred fighting. It was the birth of "ground and pound."
UFC 11 would see the return of another tournament and the return of defending champion Mark Coleman. From the outset commentators Bruce Beck, Jeff Blatnick, and Don "The Dragon" Wilson hype a potential final between Coleman and David "Tank" Abbot.
The night begins with Mark Coleman Vs. Julian Sanchez. Sanchez is described as a bare knuckle fighter who is good at armlocks and a practitioner of Asax, whatever the hell that is. But, basically all one needs to know is that he enters the cage wearing a black t-shirt. In the early days of no holds barred fighting its always a bad sign when a big guy opts for this apparel because it usually means he's an out of shape fatty. Coleman takes him down and puts him in a rudimentary headlock. Sanchez taps and was never heard from again.
The next two fights were barely more competative. Reza Nasri Vs. Brain Johnston pits the Iranian Greco Roman wrestler versus kickboxer. Nasri closes the distance and tries to take Johnston down but finds his efforts reversed. Johnston headbutts, gets mount, rains down punches, and recieves his only damage in the fight, a bloody nose, from referee Big John McCarthy jumping in to stop the pummeling. Tank Abbot Vs. Sam Adkins is up next and bar room brawler Abbot opts for a takedown on the boxercize instructor. Tank pins Adkins to the mat and punches a bit, grinds away, and Adkins finally decides he's had enough after a schoolyard forearm choke.
Fabio Gurgel Vs. Jerry Bohlander finally offers some competition, one-sided but at least its not a blowout. BJJ versus the Lions Den, this becomes a long grinder with BJJ ace Gurgel trying to work for submissions and avoid damage from his back while Bohlander controls him and peppers him with small punches, headbutts, and man sweat. Next, the road to the finals begins with Coleman Vs. Johnston. Johnston manages to keep it on the feet for a bit and actually lays down the subtle blueprint for hurting Coleman- effective kicks. But, then Coleman gets a takedown, some headbutts, and Johnston quickly has enough, turns his back, and taps.
The final fight of the night is Abbot Vs Scott Ferrozzo. The 350 pound Don Frye trained Ferrozzo was an alternate replacement for Bohlander. The fight is basically a rinse and repeat of two elements- the men briefly winging Rock 'Em Sock 'Em punches at each other with Ferrozo getting the better of the exchanges, then Tank pushes Ferrozzo agaisnt the cage, struggles for takedowns he cannot get, and just lays on Ferrozzo huffing and puffing, eating the occasional uppercut or knee to the gut. Despite the chorus of boos and periods of inaction, it is a surreal scene with Ferrozzo audibly mocking Abbot ("Fuck you! You can't hurt me!") and Don Frye outside the cage, mere inches away from the two, coaching Ferrozzo ("There you go sweetheart.")
The night limps to a close with some time killing. Interviews with Ferrozzo, Frye, and Abbot, plus replays of the nights "highlights." If I remember the original broadcast correctly there were a couple more dull interviews and some past UFC fight replays that were edited out. They then announce that Ferrozzo cannot make the finals and neither can the other alternate (backstage, we would later learn, Frye offered to fight but Coleman turned that option down), so Coleman becomes the default champ and the night ends with no real culmination.
The DVD: Lions Gate
Picture: Standard fullscreen is all you'll get because that's all there is. Simple stuff that is hard to complain about considering the era and budget just isn't up to par with what we have today. Rudimentary video and a brightly lit civic auditorium. No more, no less.
Sound: A basic stereo track and English closed-conditioning. Again, like the image, fine for what it is but one cannot expect much from the mid-90s/early UFCs when it comes to high end or modern production values.
Extras: The disc includes bio's and fight records plus the most significant extra, a five and half minute interview with Coleman.
Conclusion: Really, this is a pretty lackluster early UFC. Because of the tournament injuries it lacks a true defined finish and the only two competitive fights are fairly boring. I'm giving this one an individual "skip it." You are only likely to watch this one once, maybe twice, so UFC 11 is best reserved as a buy in a bulk volume set.