November 12, 1993. McNichols Sports Arena in Denver, Colorado. The Ultimate Fighting Championship was born with, of course, UFC 1: The Beginning.
And now, on April 2, 2008, more than 14 years later, the UFC returns to its roots when it stages the deepest fight card the organization has ever put on free television in its UFC Fight Night history on Spike TV.
In fact, the card is so jacked with Pay Per View quality fights that Spike expanded the normal 2-hour broadcast to three full hours! When you look at the matchups for the televised event, you'll know why the Spike execs are smart people!
Joe Lauzon (15-3 MMA, 3-0 UFC)
Florian's only loss at lightweight came at the hands of Sean Sherk in their title fight, a 5-round war where he severely cut Sherk with his razor sharp elbows.
He also has fantastic Muay Thai and seems to improve with every outing. But Kenny's real strength is his incredible BJJ, which is among the best in the division, but clearly behind division champ BJ Penn, possibly the best BJJ practitioner in the world.
Ironically, Lauzon studies BJJ with Penn, so I am sure he will be as prepared as he can be to try to neutralize Kenny's skills and try to beat him at his own game.
Two of Joe's three wins have come by submission with the other being a stunning first round knockout of superstar Jens Pulver in Joe's UFC debut. He is also reputed to have freakish strength.
When it comes to the level of competition they are accustomed to facing, Joe has a significant disadvantage but seems to have an unshakable, "cool as a cucumber" demeanor that will serve him well here and in the future.
This has the potential to be an edge-of-your-seat battle from start to finish. Both are highly-conditioned, with Kenny having the edge in BJJ and elbow and knee strikes and Joe being close behind in those areas but the stronger of the two.
Joe's best chance of winning is using his strength to control the ground and display aggressive ground and pound and grind out a decision or a stoppage.
Given his aggressive striking and BJJ, Kenny is the more likely of the two to finish it early, but then again, how much has Joe learned from BJ Penn? I can't wait to find out!
Karo Parisyan (25-4 MMA, 8-2 UFC)
How does a guy go 6-2 in the UFC, 18-4 overall and have some highlight reel finishes and go unnoticed? Ask Thiago Alves.
Part of it could be due to the packed welterweight division and Thiago will now have the chance to grab the spotlight when he steps up in competition to take on a judo expert and top-tier welterweight in Parysian.
Thiago is a great striker with strong BJJ and great conditioning. Karo, on the other hand, was the Grappling World Black Belt Judo International Champion, a Pan American judo silver medalist and a BJJ national champion.
He was supposed to fight then-champion Matt Hughes a few years ago and was sidelined by an injury and never made it back to the top of the division.
A loss here would surely have him fall way back down the ladder. Additionally, eight of Karo's ten fights have gone the distance, which hasn't endeared him to the fans recently.
If he wants to please the fans and tries to stand with Thiago too much, he could end up asleep. He should rely on his world class judo throws and ground game and be very mindful of Thiago's explosiveness.
When it comes to the quality of opponents these two have met, Karo's resume is heads and tails over Thiago's, making this a proving ground for Thiago and a potential career-smasher for Karo if he loses. This has fight of the night potential written all over it. Let the fireworks begin.
James Irvin (13-4-1 MMA, 3-3 UFC)
Call this one the light heavyweight battle of two of the best built guys in the entire UFC. Houston Alexander is one bad dude and hits as hard as he looks like he would, which is saying something! Houston has vicious knockout power in both his hands and knees.
Just ask Keith Jardine (yes, he beat Chuck Liddell) who lasted a whopping 48 seconds before he didn't know what state he was in and former pro boxer turned MMA fighter Alessio Sakara, who lasted 13 seconds longer than Jardine.
However, there are two major issues with Houston. He was quickly submitted in his last fight by undefeated Thiago Silva, creating huge questions about his ground game and there's no way to tell if he has any conditioning if the fight gets out of the first round.
Alexander's opponent, James Irvin, is said to hit like the strongest of heavyweights. Two of his big UFC losses have come at the hands at superior BJJ practitioners, something he won't have to worry about against Houston.
Of course, Houston doesn't have worry too much about getting submitted by Irvin either; he clearly favors the power punching game. James is probably the more athletic and conditioned of the two and Houston the more aggressive, scary striker.
This is a let's swing for the fences matchup and should be a real crowd pleaser. My guess is that Houston will be a bit too much for James, but the longer it goes the better James' chances.
Matt Hamill (5-1 MMA, 3-1 UFC)
Originally scheduled to be a fight based in reality TV between TUF alumni Staphan Bonnar and Matt Hamill, the former suffered an injury and the UFC went looking for an opponent. Meet Tim Boetsch, again.
Tim was a late replacement in his UFC debut, taking the fight on a few weeks notice and promptly TKO'd David Heath in the first round.
Boetsch was dominant, peppering Heath with front kicks and punches and literally tossing him on his head like a rag doll right before finishing him off. Tim is strong, has good kicks and a solid wrestling background.
In Hamill he will be in the Octagon with a 3-time NCAA national wrestling champion and 2-time world champion for freestyle wrestling.
As good as Tim looked, Matt has a huge edge in the wrestling department and showed improved striking in his only UFC loss, which was among the most controversial decisions in recent past.
He should have won the fight 29-28 and been 4-0 in his UFC career and clearly has something to prove here. Add in that this is Matt's first fight since having knee surgery, and he REALLY has something to prove.
One thing to watch for with Matt is that he sometimes takes time off in fights, probably due to conditioning. Will that be a factor here? Can Tim capitalize or is his condition suspect since we've only see him in a 1-round fight? This light heavyweight clash is a case of strength against strength.
Kurt Pellegrino (17-3 MMA, 3-2 UFC)
Well, you gotta give the UFC credit, they aren't exactly waiting to test TUF lightweight champ Nate Diaz. Nate is an incredible Caesar Gracie trained Brazilian Jiu Jitsu expert who has submitted all three of his opponents in the UFC, none making it out of the first round.
At six feet tall, he will also have a significant height and reach advantage over Pellegrino, which could help land both knees and punches when the fight is standing, where I think he'll have an edge.
Pellegrino is a strong wrestler with great BJJ as well, so this could look like an absolute chess match when it hits the ground.
What Kurt gives up in height by four inches he gets back as the much stronger fighter between the two. One interesting subplot to this fight is that Hermes Franca, one of Kurt's trainers, scored a second round submission over Nate 18 months ago, so if anyone should have the game plan to beat Nate, you would think it would be Kurt. We'll soon find out.
Gray Maynard (5-0-1 MMA, 2-0-1 UFC)
This battle of undefeated lightweights is the swing bout of the evening meaning that if one or more of the televised bouts end early and this one didn't go too long, fans will see it as part of the 3-hour Spike special.
In my opinion, this fight was too good to ever leave off the main card in the first place, so let's hope we see it.
Edgar comes in to this fight on a 3-fight undefeated streak in the UFC with two big-name victories on his resume.
He debuted against then 8-0 rising star Tyson Griffin and promptly handed him his only loss with a unanimous decision. In his latest fight, he beat perennial contender Spencer Fisher, who was 21-2 at the time and on his way to a title shot.
Edgar is incredibly well-rounded, with great wrestling, superior striking and great condition. A win here could put him in a top contender fight with someone like Roger Huerta with the winner getting a title shot.
Like Edgar, Maynard is undefeated in the UFC at 2-0-1. The draw with Rob Emerson was a terrible decision, so he really should be 3-0.
He is a great wrestler, with a strength edge over Edgar, but Frankie has the edge on the feet. Let's call conditioning a draw and we have a real fight on our hands.
The difference? Maynard has never fought anyone even remotely in Edgar's league while two of Frankie's wins have come over guys who would be easy favorites over Maynard. I'd have to give Edgar the edge here.