When people think of MMA, it's hard to not have the UFC come to mind first and foremost. From the legends of old such as Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrock to the rising new superstars such as Jon Jones and Cain Velasquez, the Octagon is where legends are born in this young sport. After all, it's where it all began...right? Not quite. The first UFC event was held on November 12, 1993. The first event held by Japanese organization Pancrase was held on September 21 of that same year. Though it hasn't reached the levels of popularity and success that the UFC has in recent years, Pancrase is still functioning today, and the its past contributions to the sport simply cannot be overlooked.
Pancrase stood out for a number of reasons. The first was the interesting rules set of the early days. No elbows to the head (standing or on the ground) were allowed, and no closed-fist strikes were allowed, which led to open-palm strikes. Fighters were given five "rope breaks" if they were able to grab onto the ropes during a submission attempt, and there was a 10-count similar to boxing in the event of a knockdown on the feet. But the rules are not only what separated Pancrase from the rest; the fighters were what truly made Pancrase shine in the early days.
The first fighter that comes to mind is UFC Hall-of-Famer Ken Shamrock. Admittedly, seeing Ken fight now is almost...sad. The game has passed him by and his old age is showing more and more with each fight. However, at one time he was well deserving of the title of "World's Most Dangerous Man." Who could ever forget his legacy in the early UFC: his legendary fights with Gracie, making Pat Smith flail around like a fish out of water after catching him in a heel hook, and his tenure as the first UFC Superfight Champion. However, one thing that must also not be forgotten was an interview Shamrock did after one of his early UFC matches. When the reporter asked Ken how the UFC compared to the tournaments in Japan (Pancrase), Shamrock replied: "Easier." When asked why, Shamrock went on to say, "Because these guys don't know any submissions." It is true that Shamrock may have been right in the difficulty of opponents in the different organizations. Bas Rutten has four losses in his career, and the only man he never beat once, and in fact lost to twice, was Ken Shamrock. The only people to best Shamrock before his infamous "Dance in Detroit" with Dan Severn were to Royce Gracie and fellow Pancrase legends Minoru Suzuki and Masakatsu Funaki, all by submission. Shamrock may have had validity to his claims. Shamrock was the first King of Pancrase, a moniker to be held by many of MMA's top stars over the years. For all his contributions to the UFC, his contributions to Pancrase may have contributed more to his moniker of "World's Most Dangerous Man."