UFC 15.5 – Ultimate Japan
UFC Japan: Ultimate Japan (also known as UFC Ultimate Japan or UFC 15.5) was a mixed martial arts event held by the Ultimate Fighting Championship on December 21, 1997 in Yokohama, Japan. The event was seen on pay per view in the United States, on cable TV in Japan, and was later released on home video.
The event featured a four-man heavyweight tournament, the first ever UFC Middleweight Championship bout, a Heavyweight Championship bout, a Superfight and an alternate bout. Ultimate Japan 1 featured the first UFC appearance of MMA legends Kazushi Sakuraba and Frank Shamrock.
The event was the first appearance of longtime UFC announcer Mike Goldberg, who replaced Bruce Beck as the play by play announcer. Another notable first was the use of unique entry music for each fighter, though this was not repeated in UFC 16.
In an attempt to gain attention for the Japanese Kingdom Pro Wrestling, Hiromitsu Kanehara and Yoji Anjo signed on to compete in the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s Ultimate Japan tournament. As fate would have it, Kanehara was injured in his training for the tournament, and Kazushi Sakuraba wound up as his late hour substitute. The tournament was intended for heavyweights, and Sakuraba, at 183 pounds, was nearly twenty pounds beneath the UFC’s 200 pound designation for the weight class. Reporting himself as 203 pounds in order to gain entry, Sakuraba was paired off against the 243 pound Brazilian jiu-jitsu blackbelt and former Extreme Fighting champion, Marcus Silveira.
Following a barrage of blows by Silveira, Sakuraba dropped for a low-single, only for the fight to be prematurely ended on a KO. Referee John McCarthy had mistakenly thought Sakuraba to have been knocked out. A loud protest followed from the crowd and an angry Sakuraba attempted unsuccessfully to take the microphone and address the Japanese audience. However, after reviewing tape, McCarthy changed his decision to a no-contest. Tank Abbott, who had earlier defeated Yoji Anjo, dropped from the tournament due to an injured hand, leaving Sakuraba and Silveira to face off once more that night in what would be the championship bout of the tournament. This time, Sakuraba claimed the victory, submitting Silveira with an armbar. Afterwards, Sakuraba famously stated, “In fact, professional wrestling is strong”.
|Heavyweight||Randy Couture||def.||Maurice Smith (c)||Decision||1||21:00||[a]|
|Heavyweight Tournament Final|
|Heavyweight||Kazushi Sakuraba||def.||Marcus Silveira||Submission (armbar)||1||3:44||[b]|
|Heavyweight||Vitor Belfort||def.||Joe Charles||Submission (armbar)||1||4:03|
|Light Heavyweight Championship|
|Light Heavyweight||Frank Shamrock||def.||Kevin Jackson||Submission (armbar)||1||0:22||[c]|
|Heavyweight Tournament Semifinals|
|Heavyweight||Kazushi Sakuraba||vs.||Marcus Silveira||No Contest (premature stoppage)||1||1:51||[d]|
|Heavyweight||Tank Abbott||def.||Yoji Anjo||Decision||1||15:00||[e]|
|Heavyweight Alternate bout|
|Heavyweight||Tra Telligman||def.||Brad Kohler||Submission (armbar)||1||10:05|
- Couture defeated Smith to become the new UFC Heavyweight Champion. However, he was stripped of the title in October 1998 due to a contract dispute.
- Due to the earlier no-contest, and Tank Abbott bowing out of the tournament, UFC officials ruled that a rematch between Sakuraba and Silveira would serve as the Heavyweight Tournament Finals.
- Shamrock defeated Jackson to become the inaugural the Light Heavyweight Champion.
- Originally Silveira was thought to have knocked out Sakuraba at 1:51, but referee John McCarthy mistakenly stopped the bout early, with Sakuraba in good fighting condition. After a protest, the decision was changed to a no-contest.
- Abbott was unable to continue in the tournament due to a broken hand.