A Case for Frank Shamrock

Every so often, I will choose a fighter at random, and watch all of their fights chronologically. I’ve watched the MMA careers of BJ Penn, Royce Gracie, Tank Abbott, Don Frye, and many more exciting fighters from before my time.

Earlier this week, I decided to open up UFC Fight Pass, and check out Frank Shamrocks’ UFC career.

The year was 1997. After amassing a 14-7-1 professional mixed martial arts record, Frank Shamrock was making his UFC debut with an immediate title shot. His opponent, Kevin Jackson, had just won the UFC 14 Middleweight Tournament with a pair of finishes in one night. As the commentators kept mentioning, Frank was Ken Shamrocks’ little brother. It was no secret that he received this title shot due to his last name—or at least, that’s how it came off to me.

In the pre-fight interview, Frank proclaimed that he was going to teach the middleweight (now light-heavyweight) division a thing or two about submission grappling. Kevin Jackson was a larger, muscular, and athletic wrestler. The size difference between the two was immediately apparent to me as they both stepped into the cage.

Kevin came out aggressive, and put Shamrock on his back almost immediately. To my surprise, Shamrock held true to his word by submitting Kevin Jackson via armbar in 16 seconds. It was a thing of beauty.

Up until Ronda Rousey submitted Cat Zingano via armbar in 14 seconds, this was the quickest submission in UFC title fight history. I had never even heard of this high-speed submission happening, yet here it was etched into history.

I couldn’t believe what I had just witnessed. I had to watch more.

A little less than 3 months later, Frank defended his belt against Igor Zinoviev. This fight also didn’t last long. In 22 seconds, Frank Shamrock slam KO’d his opponent in another spectacular victory. Again, I was blown away. The slam KO in Tito Ortiz vs Evan Tanner came to mind. I always thought that was such a unique title defense for Tito. And here was Frank Shamrock doing it before "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" had ever even won a belt.

My fascination grew. Onto the next fight!

Enter Jeremy Horn. Remember how good of a submission artist Jeremy Horn was? Nicknamed "Gumby" due to his flexibility, Horn retired with 120 professional mixed martial arts bouts and 62 submissions to his name. He was no slouch, and Frank Shamrock fought him in a title bout on short notice. Back then, the first round would last for 15 minutes. If there wasn’t a winner at the end of the round, they would go into overtime rounds. And here I thought 10 minute rounds in PRIDE were tough. This was even worse.

Jeremy Horn and Frank Shamrock had fought each other for 15 minutes straight in the first round. An overtime round was needed for this fight. Neither of them refused to give an inch. Frank made multiple submission attempts, but was unable to secure anything substantial-- but then came the overtime round.

Less than 2 minutes into overtime, Frank Shamrock secured a knee bar, and Jeremy Horn tapped. Unbelievable. Frank had submitted "Gumby." He wasn’t the first or even the last person to accomplish this feat, but submitting Jeremy Horn was no easy task.

Not only could Frank finish his opponents in record time; he had the cardio to outlast and finish his opponents after 15 minutes of grueling activity. That really stood out to me as something special.

His next fight was against John Lober—the last man to ever defeat him. John had beaten Frank via split-decision in a different promotion, about two years prior to their second booking. John made mention of their records in the pre-fight hype. Focused, Frank didn’t leave the fight in the hands of the judges this time. He avenged this loss 7 minutes into the bout by dropping Lober and submitting him via strikes. There would have been no better way to rectify the loss. He could finally put this one behind him.

His next title defense is probably his most well-known. If you don’t know much about Frank Shamrock, you probably at least know about his famous Tito Ortiz bout. Anytime I've asked anybody about Frank Shamrock, they've always mentioned his fight with Tito Ortiz. Scott Coker even proposed making a rematch between these two as recently as 2015.

If you’re unfamiliar with how it played out, Frank spent the majority of 4 rounds beneath the young and aggressive ground-and-pound-machine. Frank stayed active and forced Tito to work throughout the entire fight. His cardio ultimately outlasted Tito’s. In the fourth round, Frank Shamrock was able to get back to his feet and finish an exhausted opponent in Tito Ortiz. I’ve always heard about this win but I never actually watched it until last week. This was the fight that changed Tito’s entire mentality on cardio. I would wager that Frank gifted this lesson to many fighters.

Frank Shamrock thoroughly impressed me. But like every UFC champion, he had to lose his belt at some point, right? Wrong.

After finishing Tito Ortiz and deeming the division not challenging enough, Frank retired his position as the UFC Middleweight Champion in his post-fight interview. After 4 successful title defenses and 5 wins in total, all by finish, Frank walked away from the UFC; never to return.

Frank Shamrock had a short career in the UFC. He may have ultimately worn out his welcome in MMA, (like every other fighter does) but his UFC career is without blemish. Not only was it a perfect title run, it was also a fun one. He had the quick armbar submission like Ronda Rousey, the slam KO like Rampage Jackson or Tito Ortiz, he overcame his nemesis in a rematch, and he even had a couple of victorious David vs Goliath moments.

All of those fights were pretty spectacular but the one thing he did that sets him apart from every other UFC champion, is that he walked away untouched. Nobody ever beat him under the UFC banner and nobody ever will.

Frank Shamrock is a legend of the sport and he deserves to be placed into the UFC Hall of Fame.