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UFC Ultimate Japan 1997: What happened when Randy Couture challenged Maurice Smith for Heavyweight Championship?

Paul Benson
ANALYST
Feature
Timeless

Randy Couture after his victory in the headliner
Randy Couture after his victory in the headliner

The Heavyweight Championship was on the line when Heavyweight Champion, Maurice Smith defended the Championship versus UFC 13 tournament champion, Randy Couture.

Unfortunately, the bout was a bust and an extremely unmemorable way for Couture to win the first of his record three Heavyweight Championships.

For 21 long minutes, Couture worked over Smith in the mount. That was the fight. Couture was awarded the decision and thus the title.

Underneath the main event, the rest of the card was also unfortunately disappointing.

In the show's one-man tournament, Tank Abbott edged Yoji Anjo via Decision in a strangely lethargic and dull battle by Tank's standards. Tank pulled out of the tournament following the fight due to injury.

The other Semi-Final was shrouded in controversy when Japanese legend, Kazushi Sakuraba took on Marcus Silveira. Referee, "Big" John McCarthy stopped the bout when he believed Sakuraba had been knocked out. In actuality, however, after being caught with a shot, he dropped to attempt to take Silveira down. McCarthy had been a little hasty in the stoppage.

After Tank pulled out, UFC bosses, declared the Sakuraba/Silveira fight a No Contest and a re-match was booked in the final slot.

This time around, Sakuraba won the bout with an armbar.

Elsewhere, Vitor Belfort bounced back from his Couture loss at UFC 15 to defeat Joe Charles in four minutes with an armbar. It was an impressive comeback performance from the Brazilian.

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Finally, the Middleweight Championship was on the line when Frank Shamrock faced Kevin Jackson. 22 seconds later it was over. Shamrock became the inaugural champion.

That was Ultimate Japan. An absolute disaster of an event. All the matches were either too short to leave an impression or long and dull.

The event has historical value due to Couture and Shamrock's title victories but little else of interest.


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