At the time Shamrock had plenty of Pancrase experience under his
belt but less than a year of unabated MMA. In fact, earlier that
Lober had exploited Shamrock’s unfamiliarity with closed-fist
striking to the face for a split decision.
Inoue was another worthy opponent. He had holes in his game, but he
was the kind of rough, aggressive adversary who could have
overwhelmed the still-progressing Shamrock.
To heighten the stakes, UFC owners Semaphore Entertainment Group
announced that the winner would meet Kevin
Jackson weeks later at Ultimate Japan for what was then called
the UFC middleweight title.
The first eight-minute round was positively boring. The five
minutes Shamrock spent mounted in the second round were not
terribly entertaining either, but when the bout moved back to the
feet, both men were ready to end it one way or another.
A throwdown commenced. Inoue rushed forward winging haymaker after
haymaker while Shamrock tried to pick his shots and create enough
distance to take off Inoue’s head with a kick.
Watching this exchange again years later, you notice the
accelerated speech of the Japanese commentators, the shrills of a
concerned female fan in the Tokyo Bay N.K. Hall that night, the
collective commotion of an audience that knows such a fight will
surely end with one man on the canvas.
And it did. Shamrock put a knee on a tiring Inoue’s chin, hurt him
with follow-up punches and floored him with another knee.
Technically, the fight wasn’t over. The Shooto-rules knockdown
count had begun when Inoue’s brother, Egan, stormed the ring and
shoved Shamrock. Shamrock landed upside-down in the corner, where
he stayed for some time, on his head, apparently considering the
application of a leg lock on his opponent’s brother. Meanwhile the
result was already being entered into the history books: Shamrock
Shamrock went on to submit Jackson in 16 seconds at Ultimate Japan
and begin an impressive title run in the UFC. Inoue, for his part,
rebounded a year later with the crowning victory of his career --
his armbar submission of Randy
In other bouts at Vale Tudo Japan 1997, an undefeated Rumina Sato
armbarred John Lewis, who
had drawn with Sato the year before. Three months later Sato was
shockingly submitted by Joel Gerson
for the first loss of his career.