Throwback Throwdown: Royce Gracie’s Historic Performance at UFC 2

It’s as if the UFC knew what was about to come when they named the event. The moment opponents were in Gracie’s grasp, there was no way out.

27 years ago today, UFC 2: No Way Out took place at the Mammoth Gardens in Denver, Colorado, where Royce Gracie returned to the martial-arts spotlight and retained his title as the Ultimate Fighting Champion. 

Gracie once again proved jiu-jitsu was the most dominant martial art throughout the tournament. He outclassed his counterparts by finishing all four of them in a combined span of nine minutes and three seconds. 

4 men, 543 seconds. Read that again.

An astonishing feat from a dedicated martial artist. 

Without further ado, let’s break it down.

Opening Round: Gracie vs Ichihara

Minoki Ichihara, a Kakuto Karate practitioner from Daidojuko and a second-degree black belt, was set to become the first Japanese-born UFC fighter and was labeled as a “national hero” by ring announcer Rich Goins.

“I saw Royce Gracie win last year. He looked dangerous. I thought to myself, I would like to fight this dangerous man.” – Minoki Ichihara, via translator. 

His wish of facing Royce was granted via random draw, but the mountain of a challenge Royce presented was too tall for Minoki to climb.

To begin the fight, both men exchanged low kicks that were geared towards managing distance rather than creating damage. After the brief striking exchange, Royce landed his first take down of the night into side control. 

After ending up on his back, Ichihara oozed determination and displayed an impressive defensive grappling skillset compared to previous opponents Royce had faced.

Gracie controlled top position and instead of chasing the submission, he softened up Minoki with punches to the ribs and occasionally to the face. Eventually, Gracie allowed Ichihara to reverse him, which brought the crowd to a brief moment of pandemonium, before the Brazilian secured a lapel choke with his gi to advance to the quarterfinals in dominant fashion.

Quarterfinals: Gracie vs Delucia 

Fans may have been unaware of Jason Delucia‘s UFC experience as both his alternate bout at UFC 1 and his opening round contest in UFC 2 weren’t televised, but the product of Bellingham, Massachusetts was the only fighter, besides Royce, with multiple wins and zero losses in the promotion.

Delucia opened the fight in his traditional kung-fu stance and closed distance immediately with an oblique kick, but Gracie was ready for any pace presented to him as he pulled guard.

Once the fight had entered Royce’s world, he reversed Delucia with ease.

The fight didn’t last much longer as Gracie made quick work from top mount as he submitted Delucia with this wicked armbar. 

Semi-Finals: Gracie vs Pardoel

The last semi-final bout of the evening featured two established grapplers as Gracie and Remco Pardoel faced off for a chance to meet the hometown hero Patrick Smith in the finals.

Early on, Gracie kept his distance from the 1993 Jiu-Jitsu world champion as he utilized leg kicks before springing in on a takedown. Pardoel’s defence held up, but Gracie showed relentlessness and earned the takedown with this magnificent trip, once again proving technique can outweigh all size advantages. 

Royce got to back mount with both hooks in efficiently, and a few sequences later was on his way to the UFC 2 Finals as he used his gi to submit Pardoel with his second lapel choke of the tournament.

On paper, Pardoel seemed destined to present problems for Gracie as the Dutch fighter held a massive size advantage and owned a prestigious resume in the European jiu-jitsu scene, but once again Gracie continued to look untouchable and was proving his skills were on a different level from the rest. 

UFC 2 Finals: Gracie vs Smith

The only two men who returned from the UFC 1 tournament worked their way to finals, proving UFC experience is strongly advantageous even in the earliest days possible. 

Patrick Smith was backed by the hometown crowd, and despite coming off a submission win, wanted no part of Gracie’s grappling and looked rather timid to begin the fight. The moment he closed distance to strike, Royce latched onto a body lock and completed his final takedown of the night. Once they were on the ground, Gracie worked his way to top mount and began landing some of the best ground and pound we’ve seen from him. After a few blows landed, it was clear Smith wanted to escape Gracie’s world and his corner threw in the towel after the brief barrage. 

The victory secured Gracie’s title as the Ultimate Fighting Champion, and marked the first time the 27-year-old won via strikes. 

Final Thoughts: 

What Gracie accomplished on this night was the pinnacle of his legendary career, and one of the most incredible accomplishments in MMA history. The 27-year-old sliced through his four opponents like a warm knife on butter and looked composed all the way through. Gracie set an early precedent on how all UFC Champions should present themselves in the octagon and inspired many by proving technique can stifle the bigger man. As Herb Perez stated to Gracie in the post-tournament interview, it seemed as if Royce was destined to dominate like this forever.

Mike Beelby

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