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UFC 40: What happened when Ken Shamrock finally got his hands on Tito Ortiz?

Paul Benson
ANALYST
Feature
Timeless

Ken Shamrock and Tito Ortiz exchange blows
Ken Shamrock and Tito Ortiz exchange blows

November 22, 2002, is a date that will forever be engrained in the history of the UFC. It was the first event in over six years that generated a mainstream buzz and brought the company out of the underground where it had been forced in 1996 due to a government clampdown spearheaded by Senator John McCain.

UFC 40 appropriately taglined Vendetta was built around its headline attraction of Ken Shamrock challenging Light-Heavyweight Champion, Tito Ortiz.

Shamrock's fame from his run in the World Wrestling Federation between 1997-1999 as well as the novelty of his return to the Octagon after a six-year absence was the main drawing card.

That he was facing Ortiz, a man he had a genuine beef with, stemming from an altercation that took place three years earlier at UFC 19 on March 5, 1999, when Ortiz defeated Shamrock's buddy, Lion's Den fighter Guy Mezger then proceeded to parade around in an inflammatory T-shirt that read: "Guy Mezger is my b*tch."

Shamrock, who was in Mezger's corner for the fight was incensed and leapt onto the Octagon fence and berated Ortiz for being a disrespectful punk.

Over the subsequent years and particularly in the lead up to the fight, Ortiz continually mocked the then 38-year-old Shamrock for being too old and told his foe he had zero chance of wresting the Light-Heavyweight Championship from him.

This incensed Shamrock further, likely because deep down, he knew the young upstart had a point.

Shamrock was not the fighter he was at his peak and despite entering a world-class performance in his previous fight versus Don Frye at Pride 19: Bad Blood on February 24th earlier that year, he was feeling the accumulation of years of fighting and wrestling combat on his battered body.


Ken Shamrock: A beaten man after the main event
Ken Shamrock: A beaten man after the main event
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Shamrock did not look confident when he entered the Octagon but he launched himself at Ortiz immediately, likely in the hopes of a quick Knockout.

A right hand rocked Ortiz but the younger athlete regained his composure and spent the majority of the fight taking the veteran down at will as he pummelled his legendary challenger in ground and pound.

Shamrock managed to force himself up to his feet on a couple of occasions but could not land any significant blows on the Light-Heavyweight Champion.

After 15 minutes of intense action, Shamrock's corner threw in the towel with their man looking like he had been in a car wreck. Shamrock was gracious in defeat and acknowledged he had been beaten by the better man.

The card wasn't all about the main event, however. Knowing full well that UFC 40 was their chance to make brand new fans with the eyes of the world watching, UFC stacked their card with some of their top young stars.

One of whom was a Light-Heavyweight contender, Chuck Liddell who was putting his No.1 contendership on the line versus Renato "Babalu" Sobral.

Liddell was taking a big risk putting it all on the line against Sobral, who is a dangerous wrestler and striker but Liddell, the man for the big occasion landed a thumping leg kick to the head to put Sobral down. Your winner by Knockout: "The Iceman" Chuck Liddell.

Chuck Liddell impressed at UFC 40
Chuck Liddell impressed at UFC 40

Dominant Welterweight Champion, Matt Hughes put the title on the line versus Gil Castillo. Hughes quickly took Castillo down and while in side control rained down brutal strikes. The buzzer saved Castillo from a Knockout defeat but the doctor didn't.

He ended the fight via stoppage, determining Castillo could not continue. It was a disappointing end to the fight but was thrilling skill from Hughes on display before we got there.

Carlos Newton beat Pete Spratt in less than two minutes when he locked in a beautiful Kimura for the Submission victory.

"Ruthless" Robbie Lawler lived up to his nickname when he quickly dispatched Tiki Ghosn in 90 seconds with devastating right hands for the Knockout win.

UFC hooked an audience based upon the fame of Shamrock but introduced a wider audience to their biggest and best young names in Ortiz, Liddell, Hughes and Lawler.

Thankfully for the company, all four won and would lead the organisation into greater prosperity over the coming years.

The event pulled 100,000 pay per view buys, by far the largest number the company had produced since 1997. UFC was back and this time it was for good.


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