Royce Gracie vs. Kimo Leopoldo
Kimo Leopoldo, or just Kimo as he was called at the time would be a draw for the, as well as other promotions, for over a decade after this fight. He is a freestyle and taekwondo fighter with a penchant for the theatrical. Wearing his Christian beliefs on his sleeve, or to be more precise his tattooed body, the American entered the arena carrying a cross on his back. The Hawaiian became famous after this fight as the guy who stopped Gracie from winning his third UFC crown.
Kimo would lose the fight but he exhausted Gracie to such an extent that Gracie couldn’t continue afterward. Kimo used his notoriety to be the participant in some of the best fights held in the first decade of the emerging MMA world facing the likes of Patrick Smith, Dan Severn, Tank Abbott, Tsuyoshi Kohsaka, Ikuhisa Minowa and Ken Shamrock. Even though Kimo would be caught using steroids later in his career and therefore bring shame to himself and the sport, he was quite exciting to watch.
As for Royce Gracie, he had nothing to prove. Winning both& 2, the future Hall of Famer had already shown that in the world of mixed martial arts, Brazilian jujitsu was the best discipline at the time. He had submitted every opponent he had faced up to this fight and Kimo would be no different.
The fight started with Gracie waiting as Kimo charged. The two entered the clench and Gracie forced Kimo back into the fence. As Gracie repeatedly tried to position himself to put Kimo to the ground, Kimo used his superior strength to stop it. The door the two fighters were against opened and referee John McCarthy paused the fight. After the door was secured McCarthy resumed the fight and Gracie and Kimo continued in their clench.
It took 1:40 before Gracie finally brought Kimo down. After striking Kimo with knees and a head butt, Gracie succeeded with a leg trip. But the resulting fall had Kimo gain Gracie’s back. Kimo mounted Gracie trying to apply a choke on the Brazilian but Royce countered it. While Kimo tried to hook his legs around Gracie to improve his position Gracie turtled forcing Kimo to grab the gi at Gracie’s left thigh.
Kimo couldn’t hold the gi and Gracie took advantage putting the Hawaiian on to his back. Royce then gained full mount. But Kimo used his strength to reverse it. Kimo entered Gracie’s guard but couldn’t strike the Brazilian because of Royce’s superb defense. When Kimo stood up he left his right arm in Royce’s control whereby Gracie attempted a triangle which failed. When Kimo escaped, Royce ended up exposing his back which the Hawaiian quickly pounced on but couldn’t take advantage of.
Gracie turned onto his back and Kimo entered the jujitsu expert’s half guard. Gracie moved to full guard while blocking any attempted strikes by Kimo. Kimo again raised himself to a standing position but Royce grabbed a hold of the Hawaiian’s ponytail pulling him back down into his guard.
Gracie then spent the next half minute hitting Kimo’s face while the Hawaiian dealt with the hair pulling. Kimo eventually got his hair free and stood up followed by Gracie also gaining his feet. Kimo hooked Gracie’s back so Gracie isolated Kimo’s left arm and tried for an arm lock. This brought the two fighters to the ground and Gracie continued with the arm bar. Kimo tried to escape the hold but failed and tapped out at 4:40.
Both fighters needed help exiting the ring due to extreme exhaustion.
Ken Shamrock vs. Felix Lee Mitchell
The scheduled fighter Keith Hackney had to withdraw due to injury. Although it wasn’t stated, it was probably from a broken hand from the numerous strikes Hackney applied to Emmanuel Yarborough’s head. As a result, Felix Lee Mitchell, an alternate, entered the octagon to face Ken Shamrock.
Mitchell was a gung fu practitioner and this would be his first of two appearances in the UFC (the second was at UFC 10 losing to Sam Adkins). Ken Shamrock would be facing a rested opponent but as Mitchell had little experience on the ground most thought it wouldn’t make any difference.
Surprisingly it took Shamrock over four minutes to bring his fellow American to the ground. but once he did Ken made quick work of the gung fu fighter. The first four minutes was a boring affair showing the two fighters remaining in the clinch up against the fence with only the occasional punch or knee strike used.
Once Shamrock had Mitchell on the floor, he quickly gained full mount. To avoid the oncoming strikes, Mitchell turned and exposed his back to the shoot fighter, an obvious mistake. Shamrock applied a rear naked choke and Mitchell tapped at the 4:34 mark.
Harold Howard vs. Royce Gracie
Because of the energy it took to defeat Kimo, Royce Gracie was unable to continue against Harold Howard. There was some confusion in the crowd and at home when Howard wasn’t matched up with another alternate as Ken Shamrock did the fight previous. Gracie did enter the ring but his corner threw in the towel before the fight commenced. It seemed that because of this Howard received a bye into the finals.
Steve Jennum vs. Harold Howard
With Gracie out of the tournament, Ken Shamrock withdrew. According to Ken, since he was there to fight Gracie, there was no point in continuing. Injury was given as the reason and you could tell when Shamrock left the ring after the Mitchell fight, he was suffering at least from exhaustion. Facing a fresh Howard who only spent 46 seconds in the ring so far, might have also been a factor in Shamrock’s decision not to continue. Whatever the reasons, alternate Steve Jennum was sent into the ring to replace Shamrock.
Although using alternates was a must in the early UFC as the tournament format needed extra fighters in case of injuries, it still seemed an unfair way to determine an ultimate winner. The UFC knew paying customers would feel ripped off if too many fights were turned into byes as the expectation of seven fights for a fan’s hard earned cash would be considered much fairer than four, for example, due to fighter withdraws. But it meant that Jennum entered the UFC 3 final without a fight under his belt. Not only was he rested, but he could win the tournament having fought only once.
A solution to this problem, which the UFC never implemented would be to take the fighter who lost to the man who withdrew and see if he wished to be the replacement. This would somewhat even out the fatigue factor as the tournament progressed. Although the UFC never adopted this solution, they did address the problem somewhat at future events. What they did was have alternates fight to determine a pecking order entry into the main tournament.
Steve Jennum was a black belt in ninjitsu. After winning UFC 3, he would return for UFC 4 only to lose in the semifinals to Melton Bowen. He would finish his UFC career at the Ultimate Ultimate 1995 (a UFC tournament between UFC 7 and UFC 8) losing in the quarterfinals to Tank Abbott.
The finals opened with Howard attempting a aerial 360 kick which missed Jennum entirely. But Howard returned quickly to his feet and nailed Jennum with a straight right. When he followed with another, Jennum clinched and ate an uppercut. Jennum pushed Howard to the cage while Howard wrapped his left arm around the American’s head. Howard then tried a choke. Jennum countered by sweeping Howard to the ground. Jennum entered Howard’s half guard, but Howard never released the choke hold. Jennum escaped the half guard and entered side control and rolled over the break the hold.After the escape by Jennum, the two fighters stood and simultaneously let loose with their right fists. Jennum connected better with his strike and it stunned the Canadian. Jennum moved in and landed a left jab. Howard returned the punch with a hay-maker of his own which Jennum avoided. They entered the clinch and Jennum tripped the Canadian and brought him to the ground. Jennum then gained full mount and pummeled Howard with numerous strikes until Howard’s corner threw in the towel. Referee John McCarthy stopped the fight at the 1:31 mark making Steve Jennum the winner of UFC 3.