On December 21, 1997 the SEG Sports version of the UFC took the promotion outside of the United States for the first time, hosting UFC 15.5 Ultimate Japan from Yokohama. The historic night witnessed the inaugural middleweight title (200 pounds) bout, the UFC debuts for legends like Frank Shamrock and Kazushi Sakuraba, and was even the first-ever UFC show for longtime commentator Mike Goldberg. In the main event, Randy Couture captured the heavyweight belt for the first time with a controlling decision win over former champ Maurice Smith, so there were a lot of ‘first evers’ for the promotion and the fighters that night.
From the missing pectoral muscle of Tra Telligman, to Tank Abbott wrestling, and even a Vitor Belfort fight in which he didn’t throw a single punch, UFC 15.5 was definitely a classic. Despite having killers like Abbott, Belfort, and Smith on the card UFC Ultimate Japan was a rather gentle event, especially for that era, with four armbars on the evening, and the only KO finish actually being a poor stoppage. The stoppage was so poor that the bout was ultimately changed to a No Contest just moments later. The UFC’s first go at the Japanese market was a hit and a must-watch for all hardcore fans.
Main Event Heavyweight Title:
**15 minute opening round w/ 2-3 minute overtimes
Randy Couture def. Maurice Smith by Decision
4-man Tournament Finals:
Kazushi Sakuraba def. Marcus Silveira by Submission (Armbar) at 3:44 of round 1
Vitor Belfort def. Joe Charles by Submission (Armbar) at 4:03 of round 1: Heavyweight
Inaugural Middleweight Title:
Frank Shamrock def. Kevin Jackson by Submission (Armbar) at :16 of round 1
4-man Heavyweight Tournament Opening Round:
**12 minute opening round w/ 3 minute overtime
Marcus Silveira def. Kazushi Sakuraba by KO at 1:51 of round 1
**This bout was changed to a No Contest just moments later due to a bad referee stoppage
David Abbot def. Yoji Anjo by Decision
**It should be noted that Tank Abbot injured his left hand in this fight and was forced to withdraw from the tournament.
4-man Tournament Alternate:
Tra Telligman def. Brad Kohler by Submission (Armbar) at 10:05 of round 1
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