UFC 75: Champion vs. Champion review
by Scott Newman(MMA)
Posted on February 3, 2009, 2:34 PM
UFC 75: Champion vs. Champion
-For the third UK event of 2007 Zuffa surprisingly gave the card a huge main event in the form of the UFC and Pride Light-Heavyweight Title unification match between Rampage Jackson and Dan Henderson. I was completely shocked that they didn’t save the fight for a major PPV, but then I guess they figured neither guy would be a huge draw in the US anyway, and so it ended up on this card, on free TV on Spike, and the gamble pretty much paid off as they drew the largest TV audience for any MMA show until earlier this year when Elite XC debuted on CBS (which gets much more viewers than Spike regardless).
-Your hosts are Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan.
-Totally random note now, but I still can’t really believe that the O2 Arena actually used to be the Millennium Dome.
The UK’s favourite adopted Frenchman (well, maybe behind Eric Cantona!) Liaudin was coming off a win in his UFC debut over Dennis Siver, and finally seemed to have hit a good vein of form after a very mixed career. TUF II vet Torres meanwhile had looked impressive in his own UFC debut, choking out Pat Healy, but that fight was over a year prior to this and he’d been out since with various injuries.
Touch of gloves to begin, and Liaudin throws some kicks before they brawl their way into a clinch. Break and Jess lands a leg kick, then comes forward with a superman punch into a combo, landing a short right hand flush. Torres clinches and Jess ducks for a single leg, but Torres blocks and they muscle for position again in the clinch. Jess breaks and backs off, and then catches Torres with a one-two. Jess slips on a spinning back kick attempt and they clinch briefly before breaking again. Torres comes forward throwing some bombs, but walks right into a nice combo from Liaudin that drops him to the canvas! Jess looks to finish, throwing punches from above, as Torres seems to have recovered. He shoots for a takedown but Jess avoids and they end up on their feet. Torres wades in with some shots, but Jess grabs a clinch and lands a couple of good knees and uppercuts inside. They break off, and then Liaudin lands a nice spinning backfist into a left hand. Right hand follows as Torres leans for the clinch again, where Jess gets the better of things with some heavy uppercuts. They break off, and then Liaudin lands a good leg kick and a right hand to follow. Torres tries to fire back, but gets decked by a right hand and shoots for a desperate takedown. Jess defends well and lands some more punches, but Torres makes it back to his feet, where he takes more punishment, wobbling his way along the fence eating punches and uppercuts until referee Mario Yamasaki steps in.
Decent little brawl as Liaudin clearly outgunned Torres in the standing department, but credit where credit is due, Torres – like in his fight with Luke Cummo – never stopped coming forward for a second and took his punishment LIKE A MAN. Sadly though he got busted for steroids in the post-fight drug test and got released by the UFC shortly afterwards. Life sucks sometimes. As for Liaudin, this was another fun, impressive showing from him.
German-based Siver was coming off the afore-mentioned armbar loss to Liaudin, while Kotani, better known for his exploits in the Japanese promotion ZST, had lost his UFC debut too, to Thiago Tavares. This was also Siver’s debut at 155lbs, a much more natural weight class for the guy.
Both press the action to open the first round, with Kotani landing a nice right hand as Siver steps in. Couple of leg kicks are exchanges before Kotani bulls to a clinch and then pulls guard. He immediately goes for a triangle from the bottom, and it looks locked up, and he begins to pull down on Siver’s head as the German tries to punch the head to force a break. There’s still a slight gap though and Siver forces his way free and lands a right hand into half-guard. Siver lands some short elbows and hammer-fists from the top, as Kotani keeps moving. Crowd begin to get restless, before Siver really opens up with the elbow, landing over and over into the face of the Japanese fighter. BRUTAL elbows land as Kotani is bloodied up at this point. More elbows follow, and Kotani’s face is a mess at this point as he’s just doing nothing to avoid the blows. Siver avoids a kimura and gets back to his feet, ending the round with a straight right.
2nd round begins and they exchange some wild punches before Siver tries a headlock takeover, only for Kotani to slip out and regain his footing. Siver presses though and catches him with a glancing right high kick. Kotani fires off a couple of leg kicks, but Siver gets to the clinch. Quick break and Siver then rocks him with a right hand and a left hook. More strikes are exchanged with Siver getting the better of it, before going for a takedown that Kotani blocks. Kotani gets a front facelock and lands a knee or two, but Siver breaks off with a left hook, and then presses forward, landing another heavy left hook that drops Kotani! Ref hesitates and Siver pounces, landing a few more shots on the ground before the fight is finally called.
Siver had a good showing here, looking dangerous standing and on the ground, but again Kotani’s unfamiliarity with strikes to the head on the ground (they’re banned in ZST) gave him serious problems in the first round and probably contributed heavily to his downfall.
By debuting here Drwal became the first Polish fighter in UFC history, which I guess is cool. Really this could’ve been Silva’s debut too for all intents and purposes, as he’d won in bizarre fashion back in May when James Irvin blew out his knee. Bit of a mirror image match here as both men are known for brawling and their stand-up, though Silva’s got the BJJ background too.
Thiago comes charging right out of his corner and eats a one-two, and they clinch up and scramble before Thiago drops down for a leglock. Drwal avoids and drops some punches, and then Silva comes back to his feet and Drwal comes in swinging, catching him with a right hand. Drwal grabs a clinch and forces him into the fence, where things slow down a little. Right hand and body kick land for Silva as they break, but Drwal lands a good right of his own to counter a low kick. Drwal pushes the action, landing punches and a couple of leg kicks before clinching, but Silva forces his way free and narrowly misses a head kick. Both continue to throw bombs, until a kick goes awry and lands low on Silva. Time called and then they restart, with Silva landing a hard body kick. Thiago shoots for a takedown but Drwal stuffs it and breaks free quickly. High kick misses but Thiago follows with a knee to the gut. Drwal answers with some big punches, mainly blocked by Silva though. Good leg kick lands from Drwal and Silva tells him to bring it on. Drwal continues to get the better of the standing exchange, but he looks tired at this point and begins to slow up a little. Drwal blocks another takedown, and they continue to brawl, Drwal swinging for the fences all the time. Silva shows a good chin though, eating some power shots with little problem. Silva shoots and ends up on the ground, but makes it back to his feet to end the round.
Second round gets underway and they brawl from the off, with Drwal pressing the action. Good body kick from Silva lands though as he begins to take over now, landing the better shots. Silva catches him with a right hook to the top of the head, staggering the Pole, and he follows in with another right and a knee. They clinch briefly against the fence and then break, and Drwal comes back with a combo. Another knee to the gut lands, but Drwal answers with some heavy punches that catch Silva flush. Really good chin, Silva has. Silva avoids a trip from the clinch, and they break and exchange again as things begin to get really sloppy now, both showing signs of fatigue. The brawl continues, but Drwal looks exhausted at this point, backing off with his hands by his waist. Good right uppercut from Silva hurts the Pole and he follows with a knee, but Drwal still remains standing as he takes a few more shots. Thiago closes in, but Drwal comes back with his own punches and now both men have their hands down. They just continue to swing for the fences, with Silva pushing forward at this point, and both men land some good shots. Brief clinch breaks off and Drwal appears to be gasping for breath now. Crowd boo momentarily as both look completely out of gas, but then Silva lands a pair of big rights that hurt Drwal and have him stumbling backwards. Knees and punches inside land for the Brazilian, and finally a left hook puts Drwal down for the count.
This was pretty much a brawl that turned into a slop-fest once both men were gassed, and Drwal particularly appeared to have real stamina problems, probably just caused by the fact that he was putting everything into every punch he threw. Silva’s performance was somewhat impressive in that he took a lot of heavy shots and didn’t ever appear to be in trouble, and he was able to put a tough fighter away, but really his conditioning left a lot to be desired and if he wants to break into the upper echelon against the really elite fighters it’s something he needs to work on judging by this fight.
Etim was one of the successful UK debutants from UFC 70, where he choked out Matt Grice. Tibau meanwhile had dropped to 155lbs following a loss to Nick Diaz, and had reeled off three straight victories since, with wins over Jason Dent and Jeff Cox in the UFC Octagon. And man is he a ridiculous size for a Lightweight, looking pretty much a weight class bigger than Etim who isn’t small himself. Dude literally has no neck. I’d love to know how ATT do their weight cuts.
Etim stays on the outside, circling off and clearly looking to strike. Tibau finally manages to close the distance and looks for the takedown. Etim manages to block initially, but then Tibau lifts him up and gets a takedown to guard. Etim looks like he’s going for an oma plata from the bottom, but Tibau passes to half-guard. Etim somehow manages to roll and takes Tibau’s back, but the Brazilian does a good job to escape into Etim’s guard. Etim holds on with a tight guard, and then uses the fence to wall-walk to his feet, but Tibau elevates him with a slam back to the ground. Etim goes to the rubber guard to control Tibau, and sure enough the Brazilian doesn’t really do much in the position. Tibau gets to half-guard and Etim lets the rubber guard go, but then gets full guard back. Tibau doesn’t really land many strikes, but works a guard pass into side mount, and then lands a few body shots as the crowd begin to get restless. Tibau goes for the full mount, but Etim blocks it and gets half-guard back. Ref finally stands them to a big pop, and Etim lands a glancing high kick and a knee before Tibau tackles him down as the buzzer sounds. Tibau’s round although little damage was done.
Round 2 begins and Etim lands a HARD leg kick, trying to keep his distance to avoid the takedown. Another leg kick lands, but Tibau shoots in and muscles him to the ground again. Etim immediately works to stand, but Tibau uses the attempt to take the back with one hook. Tibau gets the other hook and lands some punches, as Terry covers up and tries to shake him off. Etim does a good job to remove one hook, and then manages to roll, ending up in half-guard, almost a mount for Tibau. Big “TERRY” chant erupts as Etim ends up on his back in half-guard. Tibau gets the mount and works to back mount once again, looking to trap an arm, and he goes for the straight armbar as Etim blocks by hooking his own leg around Tibau’s and preventing full extension. Tibau ends up letting it go, and this allows Etim to scramble and get to his feet in the clinch. Etim tries to break, but Tibau lifts him into the air again with another big slam. Etim keeps a tight guard like before, and takes a few short hammer fists but little else in the way of strikes. Ref calls the stand-up with about 30 seconds to go and Etim decides to go for broke, landing a hard leg kick and finally avoiding a takedown! Big combo lands for Etim but he gets too comfortable standing and Tibau grabs ahold of him again, getting another takedown to guard as the round ends.
Crowd continue to chant for Etim as the third and final round begins, and Terry pushes forward and lands another strong leg kick. Couple more leg kicks land, and then Etim avoids a telegraphed attempt at a takedown as Tibau lumbers forward with his head down. Etim surprisingly goes for a takedown of his own, but Tibau easily stuffs it and breaks off. Another leg kick lands, and Terry follows with a right hand that tags him. Few more shots land but Tibau shoots and tackles him back to guard. Etim goes for an oma plata, but Tibau easily avoids it and uses it to pass the guard to side mount. Short elbows land from the Brazilian as the crowd begin to boo now, and I’m unsure whether it’s the slow fight they’re booing or the fact that Etim is being held down. Tibau works to full mount, and then opens up with some big shots as it looks for a second like the ref’s going to step in. He lets it go though and Etim manages to cover up, as Tibau slows down with the offense from the top too. More punches land as Etim tries to buck off to no avail. Tibau stays in the mount, and continues to land punches to end the fight.
I have this 30-27 for Tibau, and sure enough it’s a unanimous decision for the Brazilian. I actually enjoyed this fight as the ground work was enough to keep me entertained. Tibau put in a good showing, demonstrating excellent takedowns and really good ground control, even if he didn’t do much damage until the third round, but for Etim it was a story of frustration as he clearly had the Brazilian outgunned standing, and also had enough for the most part to stifle him on the ground, but just couldn’t stop the takedown at all in order to get his strikes off. With some serious training in wrestling, at his young age Etim could still be a force at LW, but until he really improves on his takedown defense he’s going to be fodder for guys like Tibau (and by proxy the similar fighters in the division, of which there are too many to list).
Alexander had exploded onto the scene with his brutal stoppage of Keith Jardine four months prior to this, and so Joe Silva matched him up with another brawling striker in Alessio Sakara, pretty much guaranteeing fireworks for the opening televised bout of the show. Alexander, I have to admit, is in pretty insane shape.
They exchange a couple of shots to begin with the always-aggressive Alexander coming forward with a left hand. Sakara looks for a takedown and manages to get a single leg, putting Houston on his back. Alexander immediately kicks him off, and as they stand he nails him with a knee. They exchange some punches into a clinch, and suddenly Alexander CRACKS him with a huge knee that puts Sakara down! Alexander follows up with some HUGE PUNCHES on the ground, and that’s all she wrote. Post-fight Sakara’s eye is a mess, as the announcers gush over Alexander’s thunderous power.
Rogan says that Houston “answered all the questions” there, but really that wasn’t the case as Sakara had always displayed little in the way of a hard chin, and for a guy with the power of Alexander it was always a case of if he caught the Italian he’d probably win. I mean, take nothing away from Houston, he did what he had to do and destroyed his opponent in clinical and entertaining fashion, but it’s not like he escaped a mount or an armbar or anything in doing so, you know? Good knockout, however.
This was another fight that promised to be explosive, as Taylor had lit up Edilberto Crocota with some serious kickboxing skill in his UFC debut, while Davis, known for his boxing prowess, was on a four-fight win streak in the UFC alone, with his last win being a KO over Jason Tan.
Round One gets underway and they quickly fire off some strikes before Davis closes the distance and looks for a takedown. Taylor does a good job of blocking the takedown, and they break off with some punches. Striking exchange follows with both men landing their fair share of good shots. Suddenly BIG RIGHT HIGH KICK lands for Taylor, directly into the side of the neck, putting Davis down HARD! Taylor pounces into side mount and begins to bomb away with hammer fists, bouncing Davis’s head off the mat, and it looks for a second like referee Yves Lavigne will stop things, but he decides to let it go and Davis somehow regains his composure and gets half-guard. Very good refereeing there as Lavigne saw that Davis was still with it. Taylor looks to pass the guard, and then moves Davis towards the fence where he opens up with some big right hands. Davis reverses though and grabs a single leg, and then gets Taylor down by the fence. Taylor manages to get up, but Davis brings him back down to guard and avoids some upkicks as he works to pass. He gets to half-guard, and then tries to leap to mount, but instead lands in side control where he OPENS UP with some huge punches and elbows! Taylor tries to defend and rolls for a sweep, but ends up mounted and Davis pounds away! Taylor tries to buck off, but in the process gives his arm, and Davis catches it and locks up an armbar for the tapout!
Wow, awesome, AWESOME fight there as it looked like Taylor had the fight won with the head kick, but Davis somehow was able to turn it around and gave as good as he got once he got into dominant position. Beautiful submission finish too as Davis just caught the arm in the transition. It wasn’t like Taylor came away looking bad either, as he was like *this* close to putting Davis away there, which is something nobody has ever been able to do before. Incredibly exciting fight for the time it lasted, and in fact I’d even consider it a low end FOTYC.
This was planned as Cro Cop’s big comeback after the massive head kick KO loss at the hands of Gabriel Gonzaga on the previous UK show, and I guess they wanted to throw him a bone by handing him what seemed to be a perfect opponent in French kickboxer Cheick Kongo, who on paper was outgunned by Mirko standing and had never really displayed anything in the way of a ground game. At this point there were still high hopes for Cro Cop’s UFC run and he was pushed as one of the marquee fighters on this card.
Round One gets started and Mirko stalks him right away, looking for the big left hand as Kongo fires off a pair of leg kicks. Mirko blocks a high kick as the fight settles down now, and Cro Cop lands a good body kick. Kongo slips on a high kick attempt and Mirko clinches up against the fence. Little happens from the position outside of a few short knees from Kongo. McCarthy breaks them up and they restart, with Kongo missing a high kick. Mirko misses a left high kick of his own, and then catches a kick and gets a takedown. Cro Cop stays in half-guard and moves Kongo towards the fence, landing punches to the body. Mount follows as Kongo holds onto the head and upper body to prevent distance. Kongo squirms from the bottom, and then gets out the back door, ending up on top to end the round.
2nd round begins with Kongo pushing forward, landing a glancing high kick and a nice kick to the body. Mirko begins to back up, as Kongo walks him down with a couple more body kicks. Kongo clinches, and gets the surprising takedown to guard. He passes to side mount, and looks to grind Cro Cop down with his elbow. Mirko scrambles to half-guard, but eats a big left elbow before trying a triangle. Kongo shrugs it off easily though, and ends up in Mirko’s full guard. Kongo stands over him to try and drop some punches, and then lands a very nice ax-stomp to the body. Couple of kicks to the legs land and then Kongo drops down into the guard. Mirko kicks him off and gets to his feet, but Kongo closes the distance and gets a clinch, where he appears to land a knee to the groin. Good knees to the body inside from Kongo, as Cro Cop tries to reverse position. They get separated by the referee, and Kongo ends the round by grabbing the plum clinch and nailing Cro Cop with heavy knees to the body.
Third and final round then; I have it a round apiece at the minute. Kongo easily avoids the left high kick early, and then lands a heavy body kick and a good right hand. They clinch, and Kongo muscles him to the fence and begins to lay in with the knees to the body, but two of them catch Mirko in the groin and John McCarthy calls time. Mirko looks badly hurt though, squatting down by the side of the cage and generally looks down. They restart after a moment, and Kongo uses a left jab to keep Mirko at bay while he works him with kicks to the leg and the body. Strong kicks to the body land, as Mirko looks hurt and begins to really back off now. Kongo gets another clinch and lands some knees to the legs, but looks tentative now to avoid catching the groin again. Ref breaks them and Mirko lands a body kick. Mirko tries to come back, but Kongo closes him down again and gets another clinch. More knees inside land for Kongo before McCarthy breaks them. Kongo continues to walk him down, landing another body kick. Mirko answers with a kick of his own, but Kongo catches him with a one-two and follows with a pair of hard knees. More pressure from Kongo with kicks, and then he clinches and shoves Cro Cop to the cage. Kongo lands some knees to the legs, and that’s that as the buzzer sounds.
Judges score it 29-28 unanimous decision for Cheick Kongo, and I’d agree with that score, giving him the last two rounds. You could perhaps argue that the groin strikes did some serious damage to Mirko, but really he was already being walked down and battered in the second round before they landed. I think it was more a case of Kongo realizing that Mirko doesn’t like to be backed up and pushed around, and once he found that he could do that, his confidence just grew and he took over with the strikes to the body. The ax-stomp in the second particularly appeared to do some damage. I guess the Gonzaga kick did more psychological damage than people originally thought, as while you have to give credit to Kongo for this win, Cro Cop fought a horribly flat fight and hasn’t even looked the same since returning to Japan. Decent fight in itself but Mirko’s performance was horribly underwhelming.
This was a big grudge match dating back to over a year beforehand during the tapings of TUF III, as Bisping and Hamill, despite being teammates on the show, had clashed numerous times and clearly didn’t like one another. They were expected to end up in the finale of that season but Hamill got injured during tapings and Bisping ended up killing Josh Haynes to claim the crown instead. There was also a bizarre rumor at the time of leading into the show that Ken Shamrock was going to fight Bisping here, but thankfully that never came to pass.
Major pity that they cut out the entrances here actually, as Hamill came out to Springsteen’s ‘Born In The USA’ and got booed out of the arena. Not that it matters as he can’t hear the boos anyway, but it was still pretty hilarious.
Hamill comes forward from the off looking to swing for the fences, and they trade punches with Hamill actually catching Bisping with a heavy right hand! Bisping looks to fire back, but gets grabbed in a headlock momentarily before escaping. He lands a left kick to the body before Hamill bizarrely tries a flying knee that misses. Hamill blocks a high kick, but Bisping keeps his distance well, landing a left leg kick. He tries a knee, but Hamill catches it and gets a takedown. Bisping scrambles for guard and Hamill surprisingly decides to stand back up. Big left hook lands for Hamill as Bisping tries to keep distance and work combos, but doesn’t really manage to land much of note. Good leg kick lands from the Brit, but he tries another and Hamill gets a takedown, landing a right hand as Bisping scrambles to his feet. Hamill grabs a front headlock and lands a couple of punches inside, but Bisping breaks off. Good combo lands from Bisping, but Hamill answers with a heavy right hand that hurts Bisping bad. He backs up along the fence and tries to throw a kick, but Hamill grabs a leg and looks for the takedown. Bisping spins and avoids, but still looks hurt and he’s cut now too, under both eyes. Hamill continues to push the action, swinging for the fences as Bisping looks recovered at this point. Bisping catches him with a right hand and a left too, beginning to get back into his rhythm. Hamill continues to throw bombs though, and Bisping ends up falling to his back coming out of the clinch as the buzzer sounds. Close round but probably Hamill’s, 10-9, based on the big right that hurt Bisping.
Hamill looks confident to begin the 2nd and continues to walk Bisping down. Bisping backs off and looks to counterpunch, but gets a leg kick caught and Hamill takes him down to guard. Bisping tries to lock in the rubber guard, but can’t seem to get it properly locked down. Hamill doesn’t do much from the top though and Bisping works to get free, giving his back in the process, but he manages to get to his feet. Bisping lands some punches from the outside, and breaks off from a brief clinch. Hamill continues to stalk though, as Bisping looks somewhat tentative. Takedown from Hamill, and when Bisping gets to his feet Hamill gets a headlock and lands a couple of uppercuts. Bisping breaks off, but takes a right hook on the way out. Bisping finally begins to pick things up towards the end of the round, keeping his distance and landing combos, albeit not really hurting Hamill at all. Very close round to call there.
Third and final round, and Hamill comes forward, but walks into a big right hand and a left hook. They clinch briefly but Bisping breaks off, and avoids a pair of lefts from Hamill, landing an uppercut and escaping the clinch again. Hamill continues to press as Bisping looks to counter, landing another nice right hand to the jaw. Bisping lands a left and then shrugs off another takedown well. Bisping continues to circle off, avoiding Hamill’s somewhat telegraphed punches now, but Hamill manages to catch him with a takedown. Bisping squirms from the bottom as Hamill tries to pass and keeps the guard, looking to secure an armbar. Bisping tries to use the cage to get to his feet, and does so, breaking off with a left hand. Good knee from Bisping but Hamill catches it for a takedown to guard. Bisping tries to use a butterfly guard to escape, but Hamill keeps him down. Hamill tries to pass and makes it to side mount, but Bisping spins and works to his feet. 30 seconds to go, and Bisping lands a one-two and an inside leg kick. Good left high kick from Bisping and he ends the fight by avoiding a takedown.
Judges score it a split decision, 29-28 Bisping, 30-27 Hamill, 29-28 Bisping giving Michael Bisping the victory. Naturally the crowd explode for this. When this fight happened there was a HUGE outcry online claiming Hamill was robbed of the decision here, and there’s a lot to be said about that. First off UFC clearly didn’t “fix” the decision for the hometown fighter or anything – the judges are randomly assigned and hey, the UK judge was the one who scored it for Hamill. Secondly, it was a very close fight – personally I scored it 29-28 Hamill, giving him the first and second rounds, albeit the second by a very close margin. The first was clearly Hamill’s, the third was clearly Bisping’s, but the second could’ve gone either way – Hamill got a takedown or two and may have landed a couple heavier shots, but Bisping landed more strikes – perhaps not cleanly, but he was the busier of the two. So yeah I think the wrong decision was made, but it wasn’t a bad decision on the level of like, Rutten-Randleman or anything. Take away the controversy and it wasn’t that great a fight either, to be fair, as Bisping never seemed to settle into a rhythm until very late on, while Hamill started well but got sloppy as the fight went on.
Plans for this fight seemed to change day-by-day leading into it, as at one point it was just champion vs. champion with both men keeping their belts regardless, but I’m thinking that changed when Zuffa decided they wouldn’t re-boot Pride, and so it ended up with both titles on the line with the winner becoming the undisputed champion. Henderson calls this the “biggest fight in MMA history” in his pre-fight interview and he’s got a point really – the first UFC/Pride unification match was obviously a big deal. Maybe not as big in terms of a drawing card as it would’ve been with Chuck Liddell and Wanderlei Silva holding the titles, but still. This was an incredibly close fight to call but I was leaning towards Rampage based on his size advantage and slightly better striking. Randy Couture joins us on color commentary for this one.
First round and Rampage comes out SWINGING and they clinch up, both looking for the takedown. Rampage forces him into the fence and lands some knees to the thighs, but Henderson switches position and lands some knees of his own as well as a nice inside elbow. They break off, and Henderson swings his trademark overhand right and then grabs a bodylock, forcing Rampage back and landing a couple of rights inside. Foot sweep puts Quinton on his back in side mount, and Hendo drops an elbow. Hendo tries to get a crucifix, but Rampage manages to block, and then uses the fence to scramble and reverse free to his feet! Henderson catches him with a right hand coming up though, and follows with another to the body. Another clinch follows and they muscle along the fence, exchanging a few shots to the body. Knee inside from Rampage and they trade off, with Henderson cracking him with a heavy left hook. Back to the clinch, and the round peters out with them clinched again. 10-9 Henderson.
2nd round begins with Rampage landing an uppercut, avoiding a right from Hendo. Right to the body lands from Henderson as he ducks under a right hook. They clinch again and Hendo gets a nice trip down to side control. Goldberg on commentary notes that Henderson is “38, waaay younger than that Heavyweight champion!” Heh. Hendo drops some knees to the body, but doesn’t really do much else, and eventually Rampage gets a sweet reversal and escapes to his feet in a clinch. Hendo tries the trip again, but Rampage blocks and ends up on top in side mount himself. Hendo scrambles from the bottom, but Rampage does a good job of keeping the Pride champ on his back, looking for the crucifix position. Hendo looks for a reversal and gets to half-guard, where Rampage lands a few elbows to the body. Rampage ends the round on top. Close round to call but I’d give it to Rampage by the slimmest margin. So it’s 19-19 at this point.
Third round starts slowly with both men looking tentative. Good leg kick by Quinton. Nice bodyshot follows from Rampage as Henderson tries to swing for the fences. They trade off and Rampage gets the better of the shootout, landing a heavy right hand. Hendo tries a knee but it’s countered by a Jackson takedown to side mount. Knees to the body from Rampage land, as he looks for the crucifix again. Hendo tries to get to a better position, reclaiming half-guard and looking for a kimura, but Jackson answers by punching the body. Rampage works free into half-guard and keeps control as Hendo looks to lock up the arm for a second time. Hendo uses the kimura to get a nice reversal, rolling into top position where he lands a couple of elbows inside Jackson’s half-guard. With 20 seconds to go Dan gets the mount, but Rampage rolls and stands, and they end the round trading knees and punches, with Rampage catching him on the buzzer. Another razor-close round that I’d give to Rampage, putting him up two rounds to one going into the championship stage.
Fourth round then, and Rampage opens with a jab. Hendo lands a left hook, but gets caught with a glancing left and gets caught off balance, stumbling to the ground. Rampage follows him down into the guard, where Hendo tries to lock up an armbar, but Rampage avoids it and stays in top position. Hendo goes for it again and Rampage stacks him, and escapes to side control. Henderson looks tired now as Jackson controls him from top position. Hendo gets to half-guard and looks to hook the kimura again, but Rampage avoids and remains on top. Elbows to the body land for Rampage. Action slows up a little as Henderson looks for a way to get out from underneath, but Rampage keeps him firmly down. With just over a minute left John McCarthy stands them up. Hendo misses a spinning back kick, strangely enough. Rampage pushes forward and lands a right and an uppercut as they trade. 10 seconds to go and Hendo narrowly misses his big overhand right. Round ends in a bit of a stalemate. Rampage’s round again and realistically now Henderson needs to stop him in the fifth round to win.
Fifth and final round, and it’s do or die for Henderson now. Jackson draws first blood with a right, but Henderson comes back swinging for the fences and they trade off into a clinch against the fence. Shoulder shrugs land for Henderson as they muscle for position. Hendo looks for the takedown but can’t get it. Big knee from Quinton, but Hendo lands a left hook on the way out of the clinch that hurts him. With two and a half minutes remaining they trade off. Good combos land flush for Rampage, but Henderson comes back with some big shots of his own, and then gets a bodylock takedown coming off the fence. Jackson gets a full guard in and works to his feet as Henderson grinds from the top. Hendo tries the takedown again but Rampage blocks with a knee and gets a takedown of his own to half-guard. Hendo scrambles up, but gets shoved down to the ground and cracked with two rights as the buzzer sounds.
Both men head off with their hands in the air, but I have this 49-46 for Rampage myself. Judges see it the same way, scoring it 48-47, 49-46, 49-46 for Rampage Jackson, making him the Undisputed Light-Heavyweight Champion of the World. Really good fight – not the most explosive or the most exciting, and not quite up there with the great UFC title fights like Couture-Rizzo or Jackson-Griffin, but in terms of real high-level MMA this was an excellent five round fight. In a year that didn’t have the ridiculous wars at Lightweight like Edgar-Griffin and Guida-Huerta and it might’ve been a strong contender for Fight of the Year. Both men had their strong moments and both took their fair share of whacks, and Rampage’s wrestling game especially was very impressive, as it’s rare to see Henderson controlled on the mat for extended periods of time, but Rampage was able to do that here. Very strong main event.
-And we end with the usual highlight reel of the night’s action.
On a first watch I didn’t really enjoy this show, but looking back perhaps I was drunk. This is a really, really strong show – how can you go wrong with any show with two FOTYCs really? – and nothing stands out as being really poor. Bisping-Hamill wasn’t a great fight in itself, but the controversy makes it an interesting watch, and the main event and Taylor-Davis are pretty damn awesome. Rest isn’t anything special I guess but there’s something fun in seeing Houston Alexander kill someone dead, and Kongo-Cro Cop and Liaudin-Torres are fun too. Not the best UFC show ever but definitely one worth checking out. Thumbs up.
Best Fight: Henderson-Jackson or Davis-Taylor
Worst Fight: Silva-Drwal
Overall Rating: ***1/2
UFC: 76-92, Fight Nights 11-16, and TUF VI and VII Finales.
Pride: Shockwave 2005, 32, and 33.
King of the Cage: 23, 29, 30, 32, 33, 36, 42, 48, 52, and 58.