This Day in MMA History: July 14

By Ben Duffy Jul 14, 2020

UFC 6, which took place on July 14, 1995 in Casper, Wyoming, was an evening full of firsts—even by the standards of a single-digit Ultimate Fighting Championship event. It was the first Gracie-free UFC, as co-founder Rorion Gracie had stepped away from direct involvement with the show and three-time tournament champ Royce Gracie did not participate. It was also the first UFC to feature a Buffer on the mic, with Michael, boxing fixture and half-brother of future UFC mainstay Bruce Buffer, serving as ring announcer.

Most importantly from a historical standpoint, UFC 6 featured the first UFC champion to be crowned in a non-tournament format. A “superfight” between previous tournament champions Gracie and Ken Shamrock had been attempted at UFC 5 a few months before, but they had fought to a draw and therefore no title was awarded. At UFC 6, Shamrock returned in a superfight against Dan Severn, who had won the UFC 5 tournament. Shamrock guillotined “The Beast” in a little over two minutes to become the UFC superfight champion. The superfight title continued to be contested until UFC 12, when it was melded into the newly-minted heavyweight title, paving the way to the system of weight classes and title contention used today by the UFC and virtually every other mixed martial arts promotion in the world.

UFC 6 also marked the professional no-holds-barred fighting debuts of several notable fighters, none more notable than David "Tank" Abbott. The timing could not have been more perfect: On the night that Patrick Smith made his final Octagon appearance, putting poor Rudyard Moncayo halfway through the fence with a flying kick to cement his status as the most awesomely violent man to that point in the UFC, Abbott showed up to take that baton from him.

Like Smith, Abbott wielded a blend of technical skill and real-world meanness that was exceedingly rare in the mid-90s and which allowed him to perform outlandish acts of violence on fighters who couldn’t match it. He plowed through John Matua and Paul Varelans—each of whom probably outweighed him by 100 pounds—in about two minutes of total cage time. Abbott’s mocking imitation of Matua’s stiff-armed posture after knocking him out cold is one of the most enduring images of the savagery of single-digit UFCs and one of MMA’s original “I feel bad for laughing” moments. It made “Tank” yet another first: Whether he was the UFC’s first heel, its first cult favorite or both is in the eye of the beholder, but a straight line can be drawn from Abbott through every fighter who has flipped the middle finger at an opponent or the audience for the last quarter-century.

Unfortunately for Abbott, he was also similar to Smith in that he hit a hard ceiling against fighters who could exploit him on the ground, and thus his first UFC appearance is also arguably his most impressive. After blowing through the overmatched Matua and Varelans, “Tank” met Oleg Taktarov in the UFC 6 final. Taktarov was a superior athlete and one of the most well-rounded fighters in the sport at the time, but Abbott gave him all he could handle for 17 minutes and change before finally falling victim to a rear-naked choke. Taktarov would go on to face Shamrock for the superfight championship at UFC 7, while Abbott kept on doing what he did best: weeding out the unworthy with breathtaking violence while falling short against the best of the best—and giving even those guys a good scare from time to time. Just ask fellow legend Don Frye, who claims to this day that nobody ever hit him as hard as “Tank.”
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