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UFC 76: Knockout review
by Scott Newman (MMA)
Posted on February 3, 2009, 2:36 PM

UFC 76: Knockout

Anaheim, California

-Your hosts are Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan.

Lightweight Fight: Matt Wiman vs Michihiro Omigawa

Omigawa was a curious signing by Zuffa – I mean, sure he’d fought in Pride but his record there was 0-1 and his overall record 4-4 at this stage. Plus he was blatantly better suited to fighting at 145lbs as opposed to the 155lbs Lightweight limit. Maybe he came in like a package deal with Nakamura or something? Who knows. Wiman meanwhile had come off his run on TUF with a win at the finale, and was fortunate enough to make it right onto a PPV undercard in his next fight.

Round One begins and they clinch right away where Omigawa gets a foot sweep to Wiman’s guard. They scramble for position on the ground, and Omigawa lands some hammer strikes. Wiman gets a reversal though but gets caught in a guillotine on the way and Omigawa gets full guard. Looks tight, but he’s got an arm in and Wiman works to break free. Wiman finally escapes and drops a right, trying to pass guard, but Omigawa scrambles back to a butterfly guard. Wiman stands over the top and drops some punches, and then looks to pass again. Couple of upkicks from Omigawa land, so Wiman stands over him and kicks at the legs before hitting a nice cartwheel guard pass! Omigawa gets his legs back into position though, and then in a scramble ends up taking Wiman’s back and reversing so Wiman ends up in guard. Now Omigawa stands over Wiman and drops some punches, but then Wiman reverses that and gets back on top. He avoids a heel hook, before dropping a BIG hammer fist that hurts the Japanese fighter. Wiman doesn’t really follow that up though, and ends up back in the guard landing some smaller shots to end the round.

Omigawa taunts him like he’s Nick Diaz against Robbie Lawler or something to begin the second round, weird stuff. They trade punches wildly with both men landing, and then Wiman grabs a waistlock and trips him down, taking the back with both hooks in. Wiman lands punches from the back, but for some reason doesn’t control the body with the hooks, and that lets Omigawa free to escape to his feet, where they trade off and Omigawa lands some punches flush to the jaw! He clearly doesn’t have KO power though as Wiman manages to shrug them off with little effect, and wades forward swinging himself. Wiman shoots and grabs a headlock off Omigawa’s sprawl attempt, but they end up just exchanging again, Wiman eating shot after shot before answering with a heavy knee to the head. Finally things slow down as they clinch, and Omigawa drops levels for a takedown attempt. They break off and both look tired now, but Wiman keeps coming forward and trading off. Takedown from Wiman follows and he gets him down by the fence in guard. Omigawa kicks him off, but Wiman now lands a HUGE combo that snaps the Japanese fighter’s head right back! Omigawa looks hurt as Wiman continues to throw down, and then gets a takedown to Omigawa’s guard. Big right hand lands as Wiman stands and attempts to pass, but can’t get past the guard as the action slows and the crowd get restless. Damn, impatient crowd. Some good punches land from the top for Wiman. He postures up to land some more, but gets his leg hooked and they end up standing to end the round, with Wiman hitting him with another knee.

Third and final round, and I have Wiman up 20-18 at this stage. Could easily go 19-19 and give Omigawa the 2nd though. Flying knee from Wiman to begin and they THROW DOWN again, trading huge punches before Wiman gets a takedown. This fight is ill. Wiman with a nice elbow from the top. Wiman tries to pass but gets caught momentarily in an oma plata, but he escapes and uses it to pass to half-guard. Nice pass to side mount follows, but he gives Omigawa a little too much room and he scrambles, only to give Wiman his back. Wiman catches him with some punches from the back, but there’s still TONS of room in there. Wiman manages to stay on the back this time though and keeps landing the shots from the back. Omigawa finally manages to take advantage of the room though and rolls to guard. Wiman postures up and lands some rights, and then passes momentarily, but again Omigawa quickly escapes back to guard. Heavy punches land from the guard though, as Wiman keeps standing to attempt to pass. Finally he gets a knee on the belly and lands some big left hands, and then with seconds remaining he stands and just SMASHES Omigawa with soccer kicks to the body! Omigawa looks badly hurt post-fight as Wiman does a series of push ups.

Decision goes to Wiman, unsurprisingly. That was a hell of a fight in the end though, as Omigawa hung in there throughout and actually did well in the stand-up even if he never truly hurt Wiman. Wiman is just one of those guys I guess that 9 times out of 10 he’ll put on an exciting fight, and that was no exception. Very good opener.

Heavyweight Fight: Scott Junk vs Christian Wellisch

I believe Wellisch’s original opponent here was Justin McCully, but Tito’s training buddy pulled out with injury and so Hawaiian-based Scott Junk stepped in. Can’t say that I know all that much about Junk really as all I’ve seen of him was a 2005 loss to Ricco Rodriguez. Junk has almost 30lbs on the AKA fighter.

Junk refuses a glove touch as they begin, which draws the ire of the crowd. Junk swings into a clinch and they muscle for position along the cage, with Wellisch landing a few knees to the body. Junk breaks off with a left hook, and then lands a left kick, but Wellisch grabs ahold of him and spins him into the cage. They exchange from close quarters and Junk looks to be working for a single leg. He changes his mind though and goes back to exchanging in the clinch, and Wellisch gets the better of it with more knees to the body. They break momentarily, but then Junk clinches again. Wellisch slips on a knee attempt, and Junk lets him up and lands some looping hooks from the outside as Wellisch looks to deflect with his arms. Finally Wellisch gets a single leg, and from there he rolls through to a heel hook and locks it up for the tapout, with Junk screaming in pain.

Pretty dull fight. It was just like Wellisch let him do a bit standing and then decided, right, I’ll take you down and tap you out now. Not offensive or anything but this was a nothing fight.

Lightweight Fight: Jeremy Stephens vs Diego Saraiva

This promised to be an exciting little fight, as both men had put on fun showings in their previous bouts, against Din Thomas and Jorge Gurgel respectively, albeit in losing efforts. Size difference is pretty notable here as Saraiva is another guy, like Omigawa earlier, who should probably be at 145lbs.

Stephens presses and they exchange a couple of kicks early. Spinning backfist from Stephens glances off Saraiva as the Brazilian tries to keep his distance. Diego pulls guard, and gets a nice sweep off an elevator. He passes to half-guard, and then works into side mount nicely, controlling Stephens from the top position well. Good elbows from the top by Saraiva. Stephens squirms from the bottom, but Saraiva keeps him down and uses the knee on the belly to take full mount. Stephens rolls and gives his back, and Saraiva lands some punches before Stephens rolls. Diego looks to lock up the rear naked choke, but Stephens defends well. Saraiva switches to an armbar, but slips and ends up on his back in guard instead. Stephens takes over with some good ground-and-pound work from the guard, as Saraiva tries to lock up something and hooks in a triangle choke! It looks tight and Saraiva tries to pull on his legs to synch it, but Stephens stands with the triangle on and HITS A JUMPING POWERBOMB!~! When he lands the triangle is still locked in though, so Stephens PICKS HIM UP AND SLAMS HIM AGAIN! Finally this breaks the hold and Stephens ends the round in Saraiva’s guard. Fun stuff.

Round 2 begins and Stephens lands a nice kick to the body and a follow-up combo. Big body punch lands too, and then Stephens lands a leg kick into a body kick. Niiice. Spinning backfist misses, but Stephens continues to avoid Saraiva’s punches and land from the outside. Diego chooses to pull guard, and Stephens seems content to chop away with a few punches and elbows from that position, not really much going on to be fair. Eventually he stands up and lands a glancing right hand back to the guard. Ref brings them back to their feet with a minute to go and a flying knee from Stephens narrowly misses. Diego shoots and pulls guard again, and then tries a leglock, but Stephens gets his leg out quite easily and ends up on top to finish the round.

Third round begins with a brief exchange that Stephens gets the best of, before he grabs Saraiva and gets a slam to guard. Saraiva continually shifts his hips to look for an arm, but Stephens avoids and grinds away from the top. Fight really slows down from here as Stephens just works away with some short punches and elbows, avoiding Saraiva’s armbar attempts very easily. Few good shots begin to get through with about a minute remaining, as Saraiva’s face looks marked up at this stage. 30 seconds remaining and Saraiva attempts the elevator again, but its to no avail as Stephens continues to grind away, and ends things with a sweet flying hammer fist!

Has to be Stephens’ decision and sure enough all three judges give it to him 30-27. Solid win for Stephens who continues to improve as a fighter. Can’t believe the guy is only 21! First round of this was really good, but then the fight really petered out and became dull for the most part.

Welterweight Fight: Anthony Johnson vs Rich Clementi

This one was a real late addition to the card, I think on a week’s notice or something like that after Wilson Gouveia-Jason Lambert got scrapped. Due to the late notice Johnson couldn’t actually make the 170lbs Welterweight limit and instead they agreed to fight at a catchweight of 177lbs. Pretty tough on Clementi as he’s a natural 155lbs, too, and really they look like they belong in two different weight classes. Well, they do.

Johnson stalks forward with his long punches to begin, putting Clementi on the retreat. Rich does land a nice low kick though. Massive right hand puts Clementi down, however, and Johnson quickly follows down to capitalize. Clementi tries a swift triangle, but Rumble slams his way free and lands a right hand during the scramble back to Clementi’s guard. Clementi ties him up and gives himself some time to recover, but they come back up to their feet where Johnson lands a heavy knee. Clementi forces him back into the fence and they muscle for position and exchange some knees. Break off and a nice left hook lands for Clementi. They exchange some punches and then Johnson tries to high-five Clementi, but Rich is having none of it and gives him a leg kick. C’mon. Clementi looks more relaxed now, avoiding Johnson’s punches and landing a leg kick and a knee to the gut. Johnson misses a kick, and Clementi ducks under and gets a bodylock, getting Johnson down and taking his back. He can’t get the hooks in though so he just lands some punches to the side of the head instead. Rich gets one hook in, but can’t get the other and Johnson turns and looks for a kimura. Johnson looks very tired, though, probably from the weight cut. He manages to use the kimura to reverse into top position, and from there Rumble stuns Clementi with some punches. Clementi remains composed though and gets full guard locked in, and then they scramble to their feet to end the round.

2nd round and Rumble appears to be breathing very heavily. Big left hand from Clementi to open things, and then he lands a glancing right and they call time as Johnson’s lost a contact lens. Herb Dean tells him to get rid of it and fight, and they restart, with Clementi eating a jab and falling to the mat. Johnson kicks at the legs and then lets Clementi up. Flying knee from Johnson is countered by a nice left hand by Clementi. Takedown to guard from Johnson and he works to pass to half-guard, but Clementi uses an underhook to reverse up and take Johnson down. Johnson tries for the kimura again, but this time Clementi uses it to swing his leg over and take Rumble’s back. From there he works to lock up a rear naked choke, and gets it synched in for the tapout.

Pretty decent fight there, it looked like Johnson would just overwhelm Clementi with his striking power and explosiveness early, but the experienced veteran managed to weather the storm and then when Johnson began to slow down – most likely from taking the fight on short notice and having to cut a substantial amount of weight, even if he didn’t make the 170lbs limit – Clementi took over. Good win for Clementi but I think it’s clear that Johnson has a lot of untapped potential for the future so hopefully he can live up to that promise.

Lightweight Fight: Tyson Griffin vs Thiago Tavares

Another one in the series of seemingly never-ending “guaranteed excitement” fights from the Lightweight division in 2007, this one featured two of the hottest prospects in the UFC, with the Xtreme Couture-based Griffin taking on Brazilian Top Team’s Tavares, who had beaten Jason Black in his previous fight and looked set to live up to his hype of being the ‘next big thing’ to come out of Brazil.

Round One begins with them circling and exchanging some feeler strikes, neither man seemingly gaining an advantage. Nice leg kick from Griffin turns Thiago all the way around, and then he shoots and gets a takedown against the fence. Big right lands from the top, but Tavares goes for a leg lock so Tyson spins out and they stand. Knee to the body from Griffin. Tyson lands a looping left hand and looks for the takedown again. Tavares uses a whizzer to block and they exchange inside before Griffin goes for the takedown again. Thiago gets a reversal, but Tyson gets on top in the scramble and momentarily holds a guillotine. Tavares works free and lands a couple of upkicks as Tyson stands, but then Griffin lands some shots from above. Tavares goes for the leg again, and this time pulls Griffin down, using the opportunity to take Griffin’s back. Tyson slips out the back door and gets on top, hitting Tavares with a big right hand. Solid body shots follow as Tavares looks to tie him up. They come back to their feet, where Tyson lands a knee and a crushing right hand. Thiago drops for a single, but Tyson blocks and forces him back to the fence. Round ends there.

2nd round and Tyson pushes forward again, but eats a BIG FLYING KNEE that puts him on wobbly legs! Tavares tackles him to guard, and works some hammer fists from the top as Griffin looks to push away. Tyson tries to stand, but eats a hard right hand and Thiago drags him back down and passes to mount! Tyson gives his back and stands with Tavares riding his back looking for the choke, locking in a body triangle in the process. Tyson does a tremendous job in defending the choke though, and ends up pushing Tavares off to the side and getting on top, landing some elbows. Tavares locks up an armbar though, but can’t roll through because of the cage, and Tyson works free and gets on top in guard. This is an awesome fight. Tyson stands and drops some big punches, but Thiago remains active from the bottom. Guillotine attempt from Griffin, but Thiago easily avoids and then works free, using the attempt to take Tyson’s back! Once again Griffin stands with Tavares on his back, and this time he grabs Thiago’s head and pulls him forward, spiking him! Griffin gets on top as the announcers point out a cut over Thiago’s right eyebrow. Big mouse under Thiago’s left eye as Tyson closes the round with an elbow.

I’ve got this one round apiece, with the first going to Tyson and the second to Tavares, so it’s anyone’s fight.

Tyson pushes forward to open the third, and avoids a takedown, stuffing Thiago into the fence. Shoulder shrugs from Griffin, but Thiago switches and gets a takedown, and then rolls through into an oma plata. BEAUTIFUL spin to escape from Tyson and the crowd EXPLODE. They come back to their feet in a clinch, and Tyson looks to use a whizzer to get a takedown. Thiago blocks and they remain clinched, momentarily going to the ground before popping right back up. Tyson looks for a crotch lift and lands some shots, but Tavares blocks, so Griffin cracks him with an elbow and then separates. Tavares shoots and gets a takedown, looking to transition to the back, but Griffin pops back up to his feet again as Rogan criticises the scoring system, which goes to show how close this fight is. They exchange some knees inside, and Tavares gets him down off one big knee. Thiago takes the back in a scramble and goes for an arm, but Tyson escapes and gets on top himself, landing some hammer fists, only for Tavares to try a leglock, using that to end the fight on top.

Really close fight and I honestly can’t pick a winner. Judges give it unanimously to Tyson Griffin though, so there you go. Awesome fight throughout, with some great striking, great grappling and as always with a Tyson Griffin fight, absolutely insane scrambles at a ridiculous pace. Tavares came out on the wrong end of the decision, but really if he’d have won I don’t think anyone would’ve complained, it was that close a fight. Low end FOTYC.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Lyoto Machida vs Kazuhiro Nakamura

Of all the signings from Pride (well, apart from his buddy Omigawa...) Nakamura was probably greeted with the least fanfare, as despite having some really good wins (Vovchanchyn, Randleman) he’d never quite scaled the heights of stardom that Shogun, Rampage, Nogueira et al had. So naturally he was matched up with the guy that everyone was trying to avoid at this stage, Lyoto Machida, who even here had developed a reputation of being able to make any fighter look stupid while putting on what was usually seen as a dull fight. Just a side note, not that it’s on the DVD, but Nakamura made a BIZARRE entrance here, waving an umbrella about in weird fashion.

Low kick and body kick open things for Lyoto after Nakamura strangely dances off before the glove touch. Lyoto avoids a right hand into a clinch, where he fires off a few knees inside. They break off and Lyoto lands another low kick into a brief clinch. Nice knee lands from Machida, and a body kick too before they clinch again. Machida counters a judo trip attempt and gets on top in half-guard. Nakamura works to his feet, but eats a knee in the clinch for his troubles. They separate and Machida lands a leg kick, but a high kick is narrowly blocked. Nakamura clinches again and they muscle for position, but neither man gets the upper hand and they break. Nakamura comes forward, but gets caught by a beautiful foot sweep and Machida ends up on top in half-guard again. Lyoto attempts to pass the guard, and lands some elbows to the head for good measure. Nakamura tries to escape, but Lyoto keeps him down, and keeps trying to pass as the round ends. Strong round for Lyoto.

Lyoto opens the 2nd with a right hand-foot sweep combo that puts Nakamura down right away, and then follows with some strong right hands. Machida pounds away and then passes to side mount, and follows with full mount. Nakamura rolls and gives his back, but ends up mounted again as he rolls. Big elbows land for Machida who takes the back again as Nakamura rolls. Machida looks like he’s got the rear naked choke locked up, but Nakamura somehow avoids getting choked out. Sudden scramble from Nakamura allows him to his feet, but he can’t take Machida down and ends up pushing him into the fence. Nakamura loses it and ends up on the bottom and mounted again, where he takes some short, nasty elbows from the Brazilian. Big punches and elbows land but Nakamura does a good job to scramble to his feet in the clinch. Nakamura tries for a takedown, but eats a knee to the gut and then a right hand staggers him as Machida backs up. Nakamura finally catches him with a shot to counter a leg kick, but Machida backs up and fires back with a left. They clinch up again and Nakamura gets a leg trip to guard. Lyoto controls him from the bottom though and Nakamura does little damage before passing to half-guard to close the round.

Third and final round then, and Lyoto easily avoids Nakamura’s early wild attacks. Machida lands a leg kick, but eats a nice left hand and he manages to drag Machida to the ground. Lyoto stands up easily though and they clinch along the fence again. Lyoto blocks a judo throw and works some knees inside. Leg trip from Machida puts Nakamura down in half-guard, and he works the Japanese fighter over with some hammer fists and elbows. Full mount now for Machida, but Nakamura rolls and gives his back, and then escapes to his feet. Nakamura swings for the fences, but eats a very nice counter left and Machida gets the clinch again. Lyoto blocks another throw and works inside with some punches, including a big right hook. Nakamura continues to eat shots inside, but holds on as the crowd get restless. Two knees to the gut land for Lyoto. More shots to the body land but Nakamura counters with a hard inside elbow. They break off and Machida closes it out with a left hand and a takedown.

Machida takes the unanimous decision, 30-27’s all around, and I don’t think anyone would argue with that. Lyoto basically outclassed Nakamura throughout and despite coming close to finishing on a couple of occasions, Nakamura showed a lot of toughness in being able to hold on and last the distance. I have seen far more dull performances from Machida before though and for the most part, outside of a couple of slow spots, this was perfectly acceptable stuff. Even I have to admit at this point, when you get used to his style of fighting you have to appreciate the skill that Lyoto has in landing some of his more unorthodox stuff as well as avoiding practically any damage.

Welterweight Fight: Diego Sanchez vs Jon Fitch

The first of three marquee fights on this card, this was Diego’s comeback following the unbelievably disappointing loss to Josh Koscheck in April, and he was faced with none other than Koscheck’s training partner, Fitch. Fitch had been on a sick tear through the Welterweight division himself, going 6-0 coming into this one, and his fans felt that this would be his coming out party. Diego right from the staredown looks pissed here. He’s giving up a lot of size to Fitch, though.

Diego comes CHARGING OUT LIKE AN ANIMAL to begin and immediately goes for the takedown, but Fitch stuffs it and they end up clinched by the fence. Knee to the midsection from Diego and he continues to go for the takedown, but Fitch uses his size and wrestling skill to continually block. They break off and Fitch stuffs another takedown before landing a leg kick and a short uppercut. Diego forces him into the cage again, really pressing the action, but he still can’t get Fitch down. They exchange some knees inside, and muscle for position before Fitch separates with a right hand. Immediately Diego comes back in for the takedown and this time he manages to get Fitch down, dragging him to the mat in a cradle. Fitch immediately reverses though, and gets a double leg of his own, putting Sanchez on his back in guard. Short punches to the head and body from Fitch, but Diego goes for a triangle and transitions to an armbar. Fitch counters with some knees to the body, and then Diego lets it go. With a minute to go Fitch is on top landing some short punches to the head and body. Diego goes for the triangle again, but eats some hammer fists as he spins. Fitch looks to turn to the back, so Diego looks for a leglock, only to eat some more shots for his troubles. Fitch ends up in half-guard to end the round. Interesting opener but you’d have to give it to Fitch really I think.

2nd round and Diego shoots, but ends up on the bottom in half-guard again. Fitch shows a good base to avoid Diego’s sweep attempt, and they come back to standing. Diego surprises him with a catch of a low kick, and gets the takedown to guard, Fitch on his back for the first time properly now. Diego passes to half-guard, but Fitch uses an underhook to reverse, and Diego sprawls out and looks to grab the head. Fitch pushes forward and gets a single though, and then lifts Diego up over his head and plants him down. Diego immediately reaches for a switch, but gives his back in the process and Fitch looks to get the hooks in. He takes one hook, but can’t get the other one in and Diego controls the wrists well. Diego does well to avoid the second hook, and then spins his way free, getting into Fitch’s guard. He tries to posture up, but Fitch uses the opportunity to explode up and look for a takedown. He lifts Diego up but Diego locks his legs around Fitch’s head in a reverse triangle-ish move, so Fitch stands and DUMPS HIM ON HIS HEAD!~! Awesome. Diego ends up with like a reverse guard with Fitch kneeling, and Sanchez elbows at the kidneys as Fitch turns off and gets on top in Diego’s guard. Fitch does well to avoid a triangle attempt and lands some more strong hammer fists, but Diego again rolls for the armbar. This time Fitch kneels on his chest and lands some nasty, chopping hammer fists that cut Diego open. Round ends with Fitch on top in guard.

Final round, and both men look fresh considering what they’ve gone through so far. They start a little slower, throwing strikes from distance before Fitch cracks him with a left coming off a brief clinch. Fitch shoots, but lands in a tight-looking guillotine and Diego really cranks on it, looking to finish. Fitch gives his corner the thumbs up sign though, seemingly fine, as Sanchez tries to extend his body for more leverage on it. And sure enough Fitch gets free, and avoids a scramble from Diego to remain on top. Fitch begins to work him over with shots to the body, as Sanchez remains active from the bottom, continually shifting his hips. He turns for a kimura, but again Fitch shows tremendous base to avoid it. Diego then tries to pull his leg up for a possible triangle or oma plata, but can’t get it and Fitch remains on top working him over. Crowd begin to get restless now as Diego looks unable to catch Fitch with anything from the bottom. Few elbows land from Fitch as he looks to pass. Finally Diego manages to lock up a triangle from the bottom, but Fitch twists and turns his way out with surprising ease, and remains on top, landing punches and hammer fists to close things out.

Great fight; close one too but I have it 30-27 for Fitch by the narrowest of margins. Judges score it 30-27 Fitch, 29-28 Sanchez, and 29-28 for Fitch, giving him the split decision victory. Very, very high-level fight but the difference was Fitch’s size and wrestling advantage, as it enabled him to keep top position for the majority of the fight, and his strong base negated the advantage that Diego had in the scrambling game. Diego looked better here – far better – than he’d done against Koscheck, but the writing was on the wall in terms of the size he was giving up to Fitch, and after a couple of comeback wins he’s decided now to drop to 155lbs. For Fitch, this was indeed a coming out party as not only had he broken into the very upper echelon at 170lbs with this win, but he’d also broken into the minds of the more casual fans with a win over a “name” star finally. Too many slow spots for a FOTYC but it was a great fight nonetheless.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua vs Forrest Griffin

For the majority of fans this was the real main event on this card. The biggest star to ever come from the TUF factory taking on PRIDE’s top guy in the division (yeah, he didn’t hold the belt, but at this stage he was pretty much everyone’s consensus #1) in the 2005 Grand Prix winner Shogun. Fun fact – this fight could’ve happened almost exactly four years prior in the IFC Global Domination tourney had Griffin beaten Jeremy Horn and Shogun beaten Babalu. Funny how things work out. The online Pride-biased guys were obviously calling a slaughter for Shogun, while Randy Couture and a few others picked the upset for Forrest. Personally I figured Forrest would put up a good fight, but would eventually fall to Rua’s unrelenting pressure.

Round One opens with Griffin landing a pair of leg kicks and avoiding an overhand right. Shogun closes the distance and looks for a takedown, pushing Forrest back towards the fence. Shogun tries to drag Forrest down, but ends up giving his back before rolling, and Forrest tries to drop some punches from above while avoiding the upkicks. Forrest passes the guard and Rua gives his back in the turtle position momentarily before rolling back to guard. They come back to their feet and exchange strikes; leg kick for leg kick, punch for punch as the crowd begin to chant for Forrest. Takedown from Shogun into Griffin’s guard. Forrest does well to keep full guard and ties Shogun up, avoiding damage nicely. Shogun tries to posture up, but Forrest keeps a good grip on the wrists and avoids it again. Forrest’s guard is looking very effective here. Shogun goes for a pass, but Forrest uses it to stand, and breaks off with a short uppercut. Big right from Shogun to counter a leg kick clips Griffin, but the Brazilian misses a high kick and takes another leg kick and a glancing one-two. Shogun pushes forward, but eats a left hand into the clinch, where they exchange knees before Forrest trips him down. Shogun looks to sweep and gives his back again, before rolling back to guard like earlier in the round. Elbow from the bottom lands for Shogun, but Forrest lands some punches from the top and then stands and lets him up. They exchange some strikes standing and a hard left hook from Forrest appears to wobble him a little. Big lump is visible on Shogun’s forehead now. They exchange some more shots and then Shogun goes for a takedown, Forrest defending well but eventually Rua gets him on his back. Forrest strikes from the bottom as Rua looks to pass, and as Shogun stands Forrest pops up and reverses, ending the round on top with a big right hand. Good start for Griffin; I’d call it his round.

They circle to open the 2nd and exchange some shots, before Shogun drops for a low single leg. He gets Forrest down in guard and avoids a guillotine pretty easily. Forrest protects himself from the guard well, but a BIG ELBOW cracks him hard and opens up a big gash on the forehead. Blood starts to flow immediately but Forrest doesn’t care, instead visibly flipping off Shogun’s corner and then pushing off the hips to scramble to his feet! They clinch up and now Forrest gets a leg trip takedown and works from the top with some punches. Rua gives his back and turtles up, taking some more shots before escaping to his feet. Shogun pushes forward and dives for a single again, but this time Forrest stuffs it and spins, again taking the back with Shogun turtling up. They come back to their feet, and suddenly Shogun looks to be breathing heavily. Forrest’s corner begin to scream that Shogun’s gassing as indeed, he looks exhausted and begins to drop his hands. Good leg kick from Forrest and he avoids another desperate single leg. Shogun keeps swinging though, landing a left hook. Forrest answers with a left of his own, and then avoids a takedown and spins to the back again, landing punches from behind. Shogun ends up on his back in half-guard, taking more shots with punches and elbows as Forrest’s confidence appears to be growing. Shogun turtles again, but eats more punches as Forrest traps his arm to give a clearer target. Round ends with Forrest bombing on Shogun’s head and I’ve got him up 20-18 now. Insane to see Shogun gassed like this.

Third round and Forrest is the clear aggressor now, striking from the outside, but he gives up a takedown to guard. Forrest goes for a triangle from the bottom though, and then avoids an attempted guard pass. Shogun looks to chip away with elbows from the top again, but Forrest holds on and actually asks Steve Mazzagatti to stand them up as Shogun’s not doing enough. Few elbows land, but again Griffin does a good job defensively. Suddenly he turns and catches Shogun in an oma plata, controlling the leg for good measure. He uses the hold to reverse and take the back, landing punches and knees to the body with Shogun in the turtle position. Shogun tries to get Forrest down, but Griffin ends up on top in half-guard and lays in with the elbows to the head. Shogun really does look absolutely cracked at this point, sucking in wind like mad as Forrest continues to land punches. Back to the turtle position and Forrest just keeps punching away, and then goes back to the knees to the body. Shogun rolls to guard, but can’t get up from underneath Forrest now and the TUF winner ends up in half-guard again landing more shots. With little less than a minute remaining Forrest tries to get his leg free, and takes the back with both hooks in! Crowd are DEAFENING at this point. Fifteen seconds remaining and Forrest flattens him out and LOCKS UP THE CHOKE.....and Shogun TAPS OUT AS THE CROWD EXPLODE!~! Cue the celebrations.

Post-fight Forrest compares the win to doing Ecstasy, and then tries to cut his usual self-depracating promo (“I’m not that good....”) but Rogan corrects him this time and says dude, you ARE that good.

Well, with over a year of hindsight now the actual fight wasn’t all that great – if it were like, James Irvin vs. Keith Jardine or something it’s just your average UFC fight – but forgetting that for a moment, as a spectacle this was indeed something special. Not only did it tell a great story in terms of the development of Forrest Griffin, the “average guy” (yeah, I realize he’s always been talented, but in terms of the image he portrays...) who suddenly realizes he *can* compete at the elite level and decides to do so, but it’s also the quintessential UFC vs. PRIDE fight and the final nail in the coffin of the moronic online crowd who always persisted that the crop of fighters who fought in Japan were far more talented than their US counterparts. I always argued that the talent levels were more comparable than those fans made out, and it was nice to be proven right in that aspect. Add in a tremendously hot crowd and you’ve got one of the most entertaining fights of 2007.

As for Shogun, well, this was a devastatingly disappointing performance from him, not in the fact that he lost to Forrest Griffin, but more because he just didn’t look like the same guy who fought in PRIDE. PRIDE’s Shogun was a guy who could go through a ten-minute round without even breathing heavily and could fight gruelling matches at such a sick pace that Mauro Renallo compared him to the Energizer Bunny. Here he appeared to be completely spent at about seven minutes in. Reports said he was banged up coming in with a bum knee, but he’s apparently healthy now and still looked as bad in his recent fight with Mark Coleman. He’s still 27 and I honestly hope he can recover as the old Shogun was a tremendous fighter, but you have to wonder now whether certain substances were giving him a hand in the non-drug tested Japanese rings.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Chuck Liddell vs Keith Jardine

Original plans would’ve seen the Liddell-Wanderlei Silva fight finally come together and main event this card, but for reasons that I don’t remember right now (Silva had *signed* with Zuffa at this stage) they couldn’t put it together and instead we ended up with Jardine as Liddell’s opponent, a decision that annoyed most fans as Jardine had been knocked out in his last fight by Houston Alexander. In fact despite Jardine’s win over Forrest Griffin, most were thinking this would be a squash for Liddell to give him a win back and get him ready for the inevitable showdown with Silva down the road. Hilarious crowd reaction here as Liddell gets a monstrous pop while Jardine gets total apathy.

Round 1 gets started and Jardine looks to stay on the outside and circle, landing a leg kick and following with a nice left hook. Another leg kick from Keith and a pair of right hands, as he refuses to get drawn into a trade with Liddell. Jardine throws a few more kicks, including a nasty one to the body, but Chuck begins to counter and catches him a couple of times with punches. Big right puts Jardine on his bike and he backpedals quickly as Liddell closes in smelling blood. Jardine survives the flurry and lands a right of his own, and then begins to circle off again, landing a leg kick and another kick to the body. His face looks marked up now though. Another leg kick lands from Jardine as he circles off and sticks to his gameplan. Liddell lands a right, answered pretty much at the same time by a left hook from Jardine. Liddell pushes forward, but Jardine uses a front kick to push him away. Liddell closes in swinging and throws a high kick himself, but Jardine quickly backs off again. Crowd sound restless as Chuck clips him with an uppercut. Big right from Chuck sends Jardine on the retreat again, but he avoids the follow-ups and lands a leg kick as the round ends. Good first round although it’s basically a pure kickboxing match.

Jardine opens the 2nd with a leg kick as they circle, and both men look more tentative now. Left jab lands from Jardine and then a big kick to the body follows. Chuck comes forward, but walks right into a BIG RIGHT that puts him down! Jardine closes in but Chuck recovers instantly and pops right back up. Big body kick from Jardine and Chuck’s body looks badly marked up on the left side now. Another right hook lands from Jardine. Liddell tries to answer, but can’t seem to get anything off at the minute. Jardine keeps coming forward, and lands another right hand, but again refuses to get drawn into a trade. Another leg kick follows. Liddell narrowly misses a right hook, and eats one from Jardine. Good leg kick folds Chuck’s left leg inward this time. Jardine looks bloody now, which is surprising given that Chuck hasn’t appeared to have landed anything major. Liddell catches Jardine coming forward with a right hand that drops him to a knee, and then he closes in sensing Jardine is hurt. Keith looks a little wobbly as Liddell swings wildly, but can’t catch him with the killer shot and even misses a crazy spinning backfist! Backpedalling again, Jardine survives and comes back with a pair of leg kicks. Another right lands from Liddell. Body shot by Jardine, but Liddell counters with a right to the head. Jardine appears to be slowing down now, but still manages a kick to the leg and another to the body. Round ends shortly after. Hell of a round there. Liddell actually heads to the wrong corner on the buzzer.

Third and final round, and Jardine opens with a SICK leg kick and a left hook. Another leg kick lands as Liddell seemingly has no answer at this stage. Liddell clips him with a right, and avoids a front kick, but then takes another leg kick. Leg kick and left hook from Jardine now who seems to be growing in confidence with every shot that lands. Biiig body kick lands as Liddell simply looks to be waiting for the chance to counter with a KO now. Jardine manages to avoid some big shots and lands another leg kick. Jab lands for Liddell, but he backs up and it’s Jardine who’s the aggressor now, landing another kick to the body and a left hook. Jumping front kick misses for Jardine, but he lands another body kick. Leg kick and big left hook snaps Liddell’s head back. Chuck lands a right to the body, but looks like he’s being picked apart. Crowd begin to get louder as they exchange punches, but Jardine backs up again and avoids a high kick. Leg kick from Jardine and Liddell actually throws a spinning kick, but the buzzer sounds. Liddell throws his arms up in celebration....and is greeted with a chorus of boos. Jardine is getting cheered at this stage.This is like a double-turn or something. I have it 29-28 for Jardine, for the record, giving him the second and third rounds.

Judges score it 29-28 for Jardine....29-28 for Liddell....and 29-28 giving Keith Jardine the split decision! Very surprised to see that as a split, as I thought Jardine clearly took the last two rounds, but at least the right guy got the ‘W’ in the end. Post-fight Jardine gets a mixed reaction. He puts Liddell over as the greatest of all time in his interview, and talks about wanting to use his kicks throughout the fight, before admitting he was “seeing stars” in the first round.

Big upset, but really it was all about the gameplan as Jardine simply stayed on the outside, refused to get drawn into a trade with Liddell (which would’ve allowed him to use his counterpunching), and used his leg kicks to slow Chuck up and prevented him from ever becoming comfortable and dictating the pace. Some of the body kicks Jardine landed were seriously vicious, and overall this will probably be considered the performance of his career I’d guess. Liddell just didn’t really get chance to land the big shot, and never looked comfortable even when he looked to have Jardine hurt in the first round. I might be alone in this as I remember a clearly mixed reaction to the fight, but I thought it was tremendous stuff, especially for an MMA fight that ended up pretty much being all kickboxing. Really hard-hitting fight with some brutal leg kicks from Jardine.

-And we quickly hit the highlight reel, as this was one long show in the end.

Final Thoughts....

Has there ever been a more inappropriate title for a show? We didn’t get one knockout – or even a TKO for that matter – in the end as the show gave us three submissions and six decisions, but despite the large amount of fights going the distance this was a hell of a show. Opener was the best prelim by far, but the main card gave us a FOTYC in Tavares-Griffin, another very strong fight in Fitch-Sanchez, and one of the most dramatic, engaging fights in recent memory in Griffin-Rua. I probably liked the main event more than most people and I guess Machida-Nakamura wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea either, but from top to bottom I think this is probably the show of the year for the UFC in 2007, just edging out UFC 74. High recommendation for any UFC fan, even if it’s long as hell.

Best Fight: Griffin-Tavares
Worst Fight: Wellisch-Junk

Overall Rating: ****1/4

Coming Soon....

UFC: 77-94, Fight Nights 12-16, and TUF VI and VII Finales.
Pride: Shockwave 2005, 32, and 33.
WEC: 28-38
King of the Cage: 23, 29, 30, 32, 33, 36, 42, 48, 52, and 58.

Until next time,

Scott Newman:

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