TUF 5ís Hill had looked impressive in stopping Joe Veres in what was his official pro MMA debut, and always looked like an interesting prospect on the show with his ridiculous height (6í4Ē at 155lbs? Jeez) and strong work ethic. Opponent Buchholz is hardly a short LW himself, standing at 6í0Ē. Heíd lost in his Octagon debut to Matt Wiman in January.
Touch of gloves gets us underway and immediately you can see Buchholz wondering how to deal with the length of Hill. Corey stuns him with an early combo and breaks a quick clinch. Body kick and right hook land for Hill as Buchholz tries to answer back with some kicks of his own. Another right lands and then a knee too, as it looks like Buchholz is having trouble defending each time Corey steps in with the right. Corey continues to crack him from the outside, looking to have Buchholz hurt, and then he catches a kick and throws him to the ground. Hill goes down into Buchholzís guard, but then decides to step out and lands some uppercuts as Justin stands. Hill easily avoids a combo from Buchholz and then lands one of his own that puts Buchholz on his back again, and again he follows down to the guard. Buchholz uses the fence to stand, but eats another uppercut as they break off. Hill throws a body kick but this time Buchholz catches it, and finally gets some offense in, countering with a pair of sweet right hands. Nice knee to the body from Corey, answered by a leg kick from Buchholz. Really wild right almost lands for Buchholz and he follows with a body kick, but when he tries another Hill catches it and ends up slamming him to guard. Buchholz goes into the rubber guard to control Hill, but then decides to let it go and Hill stands. They wildly exchange punches for a moment and then back out, and then exchange again with Hill landing uppercuts to counter Buchholzís right hand. Good right and two knees appear to have Buchholz on wobbly legs, but heís playing possum and nearly lands a big overhand right! Not seen that in a long time. Round ends with Buchholz falling to his back after a failed body kick. Good opening round, got to go with Hill, 10-9.
Round Two, and Hill comes out aggressively again, landing strikes from the outside and easily avoiding Buchholzís strikes. Buchholz is seriously struggling with the reach, throwing nothing but the overhand right really now. He tries a couple of body kicks that donít really land, but he does catch Corey with a nice leg kick. Head kick (!) and left hand stuns Hill and Buchholz comes in swinging to capitalise, but Hill answers with a right and they wildly trade. Buchholz goes for a takedown and then drops to his knees, but they come up and Hill lands a knee to the body. Break off and they exchange wildly again, and then Buchholz pulls guard as Hill bulls forward. Rubber guard from Buchholz but he lets it go and a failed triangle attempt allows Hill to slip into side mount. Corey gets a little too loose though and in a BEAUTIFUL reversal Buchholz uses his legs on the cage to flip over and spin off, taking Coreyís back! Right away he slaps both hooks in, and bam, rear naked choke and Hill has to tap!
Wow, unbelievable finish that came literally out of nowhere, as Hill seemed in firm control from the side mount and appeared to have Buchholz hurt before they went to the ground, too. Bit of a rookie mistake from Hill to get a bit sloppy from the position he had, but you canít fault Buchholz and the reversal was awesome. Really fun opener as Buchholz was clearly struggling with Coreyís reach but somehow found a way to pull it out.
This was basically do or die for Guillard, as after a promising start at Lightweight that saw him stop Rick Davis and Gabe Ruediger, heíd lost successive fights to Joe Stevenson and Rich Clementi to sandwich a suspension for a positive test for cocaine. German Siver, meanwhile, had lost two of three fights thus far into his UFC career and so I was very surprised he hadnít been released at this stage actually. As a sort of part time fan of his I was picking Melvin in this one.
Round One begins and Melvin comes out aggressively and DROPS HIM WITH AN OVERHAND RIGHT! Guillard looks to finish as Siver tries to recover, and then Melvin decides to back up. Siver stands and comes forward, but walks right into a pair of HEAVY right hands that drop him face first, and Melvin quickly finishes the job on the ground.
Very impressive performance from Melvin, not that he showed any new facets in his game, but really he didnít have to as he sparked Siver out in extremely quick fashion. Total highlight reel stuff here, beautifully accurate punches for the stoppage.
Interesting fight here with two renowned BJJ guys, although Miller is I believe a purple belt to Gurgelís decorated black belt. Not that youíd guess that by watching Gurgel fight as pretty much all of his MMA bouts involve wild brawling as opposed to slick groundwork. I was hoping this fight with Miller Ė a fellow grappler as opposed to striker Ė would finally make Jorge yield and actually use his submission skill! On a side note Gurgel is sporting a truly awful haircut here, like a long-ish side parting thing.
They begin and Gurgel comes out throwing some low kicks to start off. High kick from Jorge narrowly clips Miller and he follows with a combo, but Cole seems alright. They continue to exchange some strikes, with the best one landed by Miller, a nice straight right hand. Body kick follows from Miller as Gurgel seems content to strike, as per usual. Nice leg kick lands for Jorge. Inside leg kick and an overhand right land for Jorge, but when he catches Millerís leg he doesnít even look for the takedown. Miller makes him pay with a flurry of punches that land pretty cleanly, and follows with a knee into the clinch. They muscle for position and exchange in close, with Jorge landing a sweet right on the way out. Low kick by Miller but a big combination from Gurgel hurts him bad and has him on the retreat. Jorge closes in winging punches in, but Miller grabs a clinch to slow him down. Miller breaks with a knee and looks recovered now, but he eats another hard combo from Gurgel and the Brazilian follows by grabbing a bodylock and forcing him into the cage. Miller breaks though and the striking exchange finishes the round. Got to be Gurgelís round, 10-9.
2nd round and they press forward, and once again Gurgel stuns him with a combo. Jorgeís stand-up is looking much improved here, got to say. Miller begins to press the action, looking to use his reach, but Gurgel fires back with another leg kick. Left high kick almost lands for Gurgel but Miller fires back with a straight right. Finally after eating another combo Miller shoots in and takes Gurgel down to guard. Cole opens up with some good shots from the top, as Gurgel looks to be struggling from his back as he did against Alvin Robinson. Jorge tries to kick him away but Miller drops a right hand over the top and then passes into half-guard too. Cole tries to work his leg free, and then ends up going for a guillotine as Jorge reverses into top position, but Gurgel pops his head free and ends up in Coleís guard. Miller rolls and ends up coming back to his feet, where he eats a knee on the way out. Good right from Miller but Gurgel comes back with a flurry and then takes Miller down to guard, where they finish out the round. Close round but Iíd probably give it to Miller by a hair.
Third and final round and this is anyoneís fight I would say. Well, anyone who is Cole Miller or Jorge Gurgel of course! Both men come out swinging again, landing clean combos at the beginning of the round. They exchange some kicks and Miller trips him down from a clinch, but Gurgel uses a whizzer to get back up, where he lands a right. Knee from Miller catches him though inside a clinch. Nice flurry from Gurgel answers, ending with an overhand right. Right high kick lands for Jorge, snapping Millerís head back, and he follows by tackling him to the ground. Miller works a high guard and tries to control Miller, but Gurgel passes to side mount and then looks to take the back. Miller turtles though and manages to escape to his feet. They exchange in the clinch and Gurgel gets another takedown to Millerís guard. Cole kicks him away, but Jorge gets back on top and tries to pass, looking to throw Coleís legs to the side. Miller pops back to his feet though and they muscle into a clinch. They exchange some wild punches from close range, just trading off, and then Jorge backs up. They clinch again and itís another trip takedown from Jorge. He works to half-guard with a minute to go, but Cole makes it back to full guard. Miller suddenly throws his legs up and locks up a triangle from nowhere, and Jorge struggles desperately but looks in DEEP trouble. Miller pulls the head but somehow Jorge holds on, so Cole goes to a mounted triangle, only for Jorge to roll again....but with fifteen seconds on the clock heís got nowhere to go and taps out rather than passing out! Amazing stuff.
Insane finish to what was an excellent fight, as both men came out to fight and threw down from start to finish, giving us a really exciting one to watch. You have to feel for Jorge as that was likely his decision; I had him ahead on the scorecards at the point where he was caught and to get caught at that stage is very unlucky, but for Miller to catch such an accomplished BJJ player in a triangle that late in the game is very impressive indeed. Just a really good fight overall, credit to both men.
Letís be fair, on paper this was a total squash, as McCullyís only UFC appearance up to this point had been an absolutely dire decision win over Antoni Hardonk, and Zuffa were clearly looking to rebuild Gonzaga as a contender after his losses to Couture and Werdum. Gonzaga in fact is one of those guys who, thanks to the Mirko Cro Cop head kick, is always going to just be a fight or two away from title contention at HW given how shallow that division is anyway I think. Point to note, Gonzaga looks a lot bigger than ever before, like heís packed on quite a bit of muscle. Looks like a gorilla pretty much; scary dude.
We get started and McCully opens with a leg kick, answered immediately by Gonzaga with one of his own. Couple more leg kicks and a jab land for McCully, but Gonzaga lands a HUGE LEG KICK that puts McCully on his back! Gonzaga immediately pounces right into side mount and then ends up in half-guard trying to mount, but itís only momentary as Napao takes full mount. McCully turns his back and then wriggles back to half-guard, but Gonzaga elbows the legs and then steps into a tight full mount. McCully looks in deep trouble now as Napao controls him, and from there he grabs a keylock and forces it back for the tapout.
Total squash, pretty much exactly as advertised. McCully actually threw some decent strikes, but he was outgunned standing in terms of power and once it hit the mat Gonzaga just tooled him. Nice comeback fight for Napao at any rate.
Third successive fight for Griffin against a Brazilian fighter then, after facing Thiago Tavares and Gleison Tibau beforehand. Aurelio was on a two-fight streak after his loss to Clay Guida, although his opponents were clearly on a lower level to Guida or Griffin for that matter. For me this was one of those fights that looked more interesting on paper than it likely would in execution, as I expected Griffin to simply stuff Aurelioís takedowns and beat him up standing.
Round One and Griffin circles around, clearly looking to strike. Crowd get restless right away, like 45 seconds in, and I donít get that at all. Nice right hand lands for Tyson and he avoids a combo from Aurelio. Not much action in the first minute and half before Griffin sidesteps a takedown attempt like a matador and shoves Aurelio to the ground. Aurelio looks to land an upkick as Tyson stands above him, but Griffin stands out of danger and lands some effective punches from the top, avoiding Aurelioís attempts at tying him up in something. Aurelio finally locks up a high guard, but Tyson postures up, avoids an armbar attempt, and continues to drop heavy right hands down. Aurelio stands and they exchange strikes, which is clearly to Tysonís advantage as he lands the far better blows. Tyson lands with some really sweet leg kicks and body shots, and he avoids a takedown from the Brazilian to close out the round. Easily Griffinís round.
Round 2, and Griffin opens with a combo and a heavy leg kick that almost turns Aurelio right around. Tyson continues to land body shots and right hands, really picking Marcus apart on the feet. They end up clinched but Aurelio seems unable to do anything from that position either, and Tyson lands with some knees to the body inside. Slam from Griffin dumps Marcus onto his back, and he passes to half-guard. Aurelio gets ahold of the leg and sweeps, putting Tyson down, but immediately he pops up to his feet. Aurelio manages to take his back though, but as he tries to get the hooks in Tyson rolls and ends up in Marcusís guard. Aurelio tries a triangle and an oma plata, but Griffin avoids both and remains in top position. Griffin does little from the position, but keeps control to end the round. Iíve got Tyson up 20-18 now and Aurelio really needs a sub or a KO to win this fight.
Into the final round and Griffin circles around again, landing another leg kick and a right hand. Takedown attempt is easily stuffed. Another big leg kick buckles Aurelio and he seems unable to do much standing at all. Aurelio is looking tired now too and Tyson is picking him apart with ease. Another takedown attempt is stuffed by Griffin and he fires off a combo too. Aurelio looks wobbled by a right hand and tries desperately to fire back, but Tyson slips the punches. Combo and another leg kick lands for Tyson. Change of plan now as Griffin takes Aurelio down to guard, which is surprising, but he postures out of a submission attempt. Fight peters out inside Aurelioís guard.
I have this as an easy to score 30-27 for Tyson Griffin. Judges have it the same, giving Griffin the unanimous decision. Fight went exactly as I expected, although I was hoping Griffin would be a little more aggressive and be able to finish Aurelio standing. Aurelio is a solid win for Griffin to have on his record though, thatís for sure. Not quite up to the usual levels of excitement for Tyson but then you canít really expect a FOTYC out of the guy every time I guess. Decent if unspectacular fight.
Bit of a funny backstory to this one as Lytle announced a couple of months beforehand that heíd signed a new UFC contract and would be fighting on UFC 86 against a HUGE NAME OPPONENT, and for some reason rumors flew around MMA forums that it was a big name boxer. I mean, not that Koscheck is a bad opponent or anything like that Ė guy hasnít had a boring fight since the Diego debacle Ė but when youíre expecting well, who knows, you canít help but be slightly disappointed. As for the fight I figured Kos would likely stand with Lytle until he got hurt, and then take him down and work him over on the mat.
Round One opens and Lytle comes out throwing strikes, but Koscheck stays on the outside and avoids. Kos misses a high kick as Lytle continues to throw, and finally Kos tries to answer with a combo but slips on a kick before springing back up. Good body kick from Lytle but now Koscheck decides to take it to the ground, and puts Lytle on his back. Lytle tries to get a guillotine, but Kos is in half-guard and quickly works out. Kos begins to work him over with short elbows, looking to pass the guard too. Lytle tries to kick him away, but Koscheckís having none of that and remains on top, although he canít seem to pass the guard. Butterfly guard from Lytle does a good job of controlling Kos, but he ends up getting a front facelock as Lytle blocks a guard pass. Koscheck tries to spin to take the back, but Lytle wriggles free into full guard again. Round finishes with Kos on top landing some nice hammer fists. Koscheck 10-9 for the ground work I think.
2nd round and they briefly exchange some strikes, with Koscheck landing a couple of decent leg kicks. Single leg by Koscheck and Lytle defends, doing a good job of escaping to his feet, but he eats an inside elbow. Kos comes forward with some strikes and gets the takedown this time, with Lytle grabbing the guillotine again. Once more though heís in half-guard and itís so difficult to finish it there, and sure enough Koscheck slips free. Nice short elbows land for Koscheck. Kos gets a great position now where heís still in half-guard but his leg is high enough to basically make it like a full mount, and from there he goes CRAZY with the elbows and punches, opening up some nasty cuts on Lytle that make him bleed like a stuck pig. Ridiculous amount of blood now and itís all over the camera too, like the third Couture-Belfort fight. Lytle tries to hold on to minimize the distance, but Kos keeps on pounding away. Lytle tries to grab a leg, but ends up with Koscheck passing his guard, and man is there a lot of blood now. This is disgusting and I have no clue why Yves Lavigne hasnít at least stepped in to get the cut checked out. Well I guess he canít stop it while Koscheck is so active, but still. Thereís pools of blood on the mat now and everything. Round ends with more punishment being dished out by Koscheck. 10-8 round and really this ought to be stopped between rounds I think on the cut, itís a HUGE gash above his right eye.
Big pop for the beginning of the third round as the crowd are clearly appreciating the guts shown by Lytle. Lytle comes out swinging, but he looks exhausted, most likely from the blood loss, and despite him landing a nice uppercut as Koscheck comes in, Kos works for a single leg and gets him down. Lytle tries for a kimura, but Kos pulls out and so Lytle grabs onto a guillotine. Koscheck spins out and this allows Lytle to stand, but Kos immediately brings him back down. Lytle tries the guillotine again to a huge pop, but Koscheck works free into half-guard again, deflating the crowd. Koscheck is such a villain to this crowd itís hilarious. Kos re-opens the cut with an elbow and itís pouring with blood once more. This is brutal. Koscheck continues to grind away at him, dropping vicious elbows, and this is the best Iíve ever seen Koscheckís ground-and-pound I think. I mean Matt Hughes himself didnít come close to doing this amount of damage to Lytle on the ground. Lytle is literally wearing the crimson mask now. Heís somehow hanging in there though, and Yves Lavigne decides to call a stand-up! Donít get that one at all as Koscheck was very active. 1:26 to go and Lytle needs the KO bad. Lytle presses with some wild punches as Koscheck backs up, but none of them land cleanly and they end up in a clinch. Big ďLYTLE!Ē chant erupts from the crowd as Koscheck shoves him to the fence, but the ref breaks them up. Lytle presses, landing a combo, and they trade wildly, but then Kos retreats as the buzzer sounds, and the crowd erupt in boos. Heh!
My scorecard says 30-26 for Koscheck, with the second round being 10-8, and the judges have it as 30-26, 29-27 (?) and 30-28 for Koscheck. Some REALLY odd scoring there but the right man won. Crowd are not happy at all. This was a decent fight actually, better on a second viewing, but it was difficult to watch in parts due to the amount of blood. I just donít see how the doctors could stop Lytleís fight with Thiago Alves on that tiny cut, and then let this go when the guy has a gash over his eye like heís been hit with an axe and heís pouring with blood. Still, Lytle showed a ton of guts and appeared to get more over with the crowd in his losing effort. Excellent performance from Koscheck though who did more damage to Lytle than pretty much anyone has before and looked about as good as I can ever recall seeing him.
This was Stevensonís comeback fight after the loss to BJ Penn in January and he was hardly faced with the easiest opponent in probably the biggest 155lber in MMA, American Top Teamís Gleison Tibau. Really intriguing fight actually as Stevenson usually uses his strength and size advantage in his fights and he clearly didnít have that with him against Tibau! Pre-fight package has Tibau sporting a lightly permed mullet, but heís had it cut off for the fight, boo!
We get started and Stevenson presses the action early, throwing strikes and he catches Tibau with a right hand that knocks him down. Stevenson closes in but Tibau swiftly pops up and grabs him for a takedown attempt. Tibau goes for a slam, but Joe goes for his guillotine and pulls guard, only for Tibau to slip out and grab an over/under. Stevenson scrambles and tries to get free, and they end up clinched along the fence. Nice grappling exchange. Takedown from Tibau, good stuff, but Joe uses the cage to get back to his feet quickly. They muscle for position before Stevenson cracks him with an elbow and gets some distance. Good combo from Joe and he gets a double leg and puts Tibau on his back in guard. Tibau rolls for an oma plata though and locks it up, trying to finish it off, but Stevenson seems calm and tries to turn into him. Awkward position now as Stevenson looks fine, but canít seem to escape the position and itís a bit of a stalemate. Stevenson actually tells the ref to stand them up, but thatís not going to happen in this sort of position, letís be fair. Round ends in the position. Probably Tibauís round at a push as he had more control, though you could go with Joe for the knockdown.
Into the 2nd and they push forward and exchange some punches to begin. Joe goes for the takedown, but Tibau defends and they clinch up again. They muscle for position, with Tibau forcing Joe back into the cage, and he drags Stevenson to the ground. Joe quickly wall-walks to his feet though and they separate. Tibau gets another takedown, avoiding the guillotine, and he passes to side mount in a beautiful guard pass. Full mount now from Tibau and Joe looks in trouble, but he bucks and manages to wriggle free. Tibau tries to take the back now, but Joe slips free and stands. Good body shot from Joe in an exchange. Tibau shoots and gets another takedown, but this time he lands in Stevensonís DREADED GUILLOTINE and heís forced to tap there!
Well, Stevenson definitely pulled that one out of the bag, victory from the jaws of defeat really as Tibau was clearly winning the fight. His guillotine is deadly though and as soon as they hit the ground he locked it up and just squeezed the hell out of the Brazilian. Fun fight actually with some tremendous grappling exchanges, and Tibau didnít really lose much as he looked good before he got caught. Good rebound win for Joe Daddy too.
The pre-fight stuff basically pushes this as a #1 Contenderís fight Ė without mentioning that theyíd actually said Yushin Okami was getting the next title shot, not that that ended up mattering anyway as Okamiís hand injury put him out and the winner of this fight DID get the next shot. Almeida had returned to the Octagon in February after some time in retirement with a win over Rob Yundt, while Cote, after a terrible start to his UFC career, was riding a three-fight win streak with wins over Scott Smith, Kendall Grove and Drew McFedries. My personal feeling was that Almeida would have enough to deal with Cote standing, and once it hit the mat Cote was toast. Interestingly enough Cote seems to be the crowd favourite, donít know if thatís due to his TUF run or people not really knowing Almeida or what.
Touch of gloves to open the 1st and Cote has a really low stance, clearly looking to avoid the takedown. They clinch early and right away Almeida jumps to guard and looks to lock up a guillotine. Cote stays calm and pops free, and Almeida drags him down to the ground in guard. Almeida looks to get the rubber guard but Cote pulls free and stands back up. Wild jumping kick misses for Almeida and then he shoots and ends up in the clinch again. Cote looks to defend the takedown, but Almeida presses him into the fence and keeps looking for a single leg. Good defense by Cote actually. Double leg finally puts Cote down on his back in half-guard as Cote looks to use the cage to stand. Almeida pulls him back though and then works to pass, standing above him to drop some punches. Almeida passes to half-guard and then looks to work for the full mount, landing some elbows for good measure. Cote tries some upkicks as Almeida stands, but he eats some right hands from the top. Some good punches land from the guard for Almeida. Round continues until the buzzer with Almeida dropping some heavy punches down onto Cote from above the guard. Almeidaís round for sure, 10-9.
2nd round is delayed slightly due to some sort of problem with Almeidaís glove, no clue what was wrong there. They finally begin and Cote avoids a telegraphed takedown attempt and almost clips him with an uppercut. Cote presses the action now, but Almeida shoots and ends up pulling guard, going into the rubber guard. He gets the position that Rogan calls ďcrackhead controlĒ, but Cote manages to escape and then stands back up. Cote stuffs a takedown and pushes forward, and Almeida is dropping his hands now, not sure whether itís due to tiredness or maybe trying to bait Cote into opening up so heís easier to take down. They clinch along the fence and Almeida looks for the takedown again, but Cote breaks with a right hand. Cote is pushing the action, but heís not landing anything significant as Almeida is doing a good job of moving his head as the Canadian comes in. They clinch and Almeida tries to pull guard again, but Cote manages to pop free and back up. Takedown attempt is stuffed by Cote and Almeida presses him into the fence, but he still canít get Cote down so he tries jumping for a guillotine. Cote pops out right away and stands, and now Almeida looks slow getting up, maybe he is tired after all. Takedown attempt is blocked again and Cote decks him with a right hand right on the buzzer! That literally won the round for Cote as it was a very poor round with little happening. So itís even going into the third.
Whoever wins this one takes the fight pretty much. Cote pushes forward, but Almeida goes for a takedown and shoves him to the fence again. Cote switches and then separates, and he continues to push forward, landing a nice outside leg kick. Almeida tries to work a left jab, but neither guy is really landing with anything at this stage and this is turning into a dull fight. Another leg kick lands for Cote though. Good left hook into a leg kick from Cote and Almeida is really slowing up at this point. They continue to circle and Almeida finally lands a right hand. Left hook for Cote catches him though. 30 seconds to go and Almeida gets a takedown, but he risks standing over him to try to pass the guard, working into side mount. Cote tries to reverse, and Almeida tries to lock up a Peruvian necktie, but botches it and Cote ends up in Almeidaís guard as the fight ends. Well, you could really make a case for either guy I would say, as itís literally Coteís aggression and couple of leg kicks against Almeidaís takedown, guard pass and sub attempt.
Judges have it 29-28 Cote, 29-28 Almeida, and 29-28 for Cote to take the split decision. This was, though, a poor showing from both men, as after a decent first round for Almeida, he appeared to gas out and was unable to do much at all in the way of offense, while Cote was just not willing to let his hands go and couldnít capitalise on the exhaustion of his opponent. Decision couldíve gone either way but I didnít have a problem with Cote taking it as it wasnít like Almeida did enough to really warrant the win either. It wasnít quite as bad a fight as I remembered Ė not Koscheck-Sanchez or anything Ė but for a fight that was supposed to decide a title contender this wasnít good at all.
When they first announced this fight and that the two would be coaches on the seventh season of TUF I honestly expected this to come close to breaking buyrate records and stuff, but that never really came to fruition as the TUF season was insanely dull and they really tried to build some sort of feud that just wasnít there between the two. Interesting fight though as despite Rampage being the clear favourite, Griffin had admittedly looked fantastic against Shogun in September and I felt he had a big advantage on the ground if the fight went there. Still, my pick was Rampage to finish Forrest with strikes probably in the third or fourth round, as Forrest, bless him, can take a hell of a beating.
*HUGE* crowd pop for Forrest, unsurprisingly, while Rampage gets a firm mixed reaction. It was pretty clear just by seeing the staredown at the weigh-in which guy was going to play the heel though, as Forrest tried to smile at Rampage while Quinton just gave him a mean, mean stare. Rampage looks just as intense and mean as Iíve ever seen him here. He really is a scary dude when he gets like this.
Round One gets underway and its clear from the off that Forrest wants to stick and move, as he lands a pair of leg kicks early and circles around the outside. Good right hand from Griffin and another leg kick lands too. Left body kick from Forrest as his gameplan appears to be working. Right hook narrowly misses from Rampage. Nice left hook from Rampage and they trade momentarily from close range, but Griffin backs out. Exchange continues with Forrest sticking to the outside and landing a couple more leg kicks. Rampage comes back with a powerful combo though that puts Forrest into retreat mode. Forrest chases forward with a combo himself though and Rampage slips and ends up clinching. They break quickly and Forrest goes back to the leg kick. Good left hook from Forrest, but he gets a little too open coming in and walks into a HUGE UPPERCUT that puts him down! Forrest manages to get guard as Rampage drops down to punish him, but the challenger does a good job of defending as he takes little shots on the mat. Forrest uses the fence to stand, but eats some punches on the way up, only to break with knees to the body. Leg kick from Rampage now and they exchange punches to end the round. Close round and Forrest was probably winning up to the uppercut, but the knockdown gives it to Rampage for me, 10-9. The shot actually looked like the one Keith Jardine caught Forrest with in 2006.
2nd round then and Forrest opens with a BRUTAL leg kick that almost spins Rampage around! Quinton looks badly hurt by it and backs up limping as Forrest closes in and lands another one. Rampage lunges in for a takedown, but gets caught in a front headlock and Forrest gives him some knees before dragging him down with a guillotine. Forrest ends up on top in Rampageís half-guard and he lands with punches before working to pass the guard. He grinds on Rampage with some elbows and then slides through to side mount. Crowd are going WILD at this point. Forrest tries to lock up a straight armlock, but canít get it and goes back to the elbows. It looks like Griffin is going for the Hughes crucifix as well as the keylock now. Full mount for Forrest from the keylock attempt and Rampage is being absolutely dominated with two minutes to go in the round. Punches and elbows from the mount land for Forrest but Rampage doesnít look in danger of being stopped. Rampage is just stuck under the mount though and Forrest continues to hit him with elbows until the round ends. Forrestís round but Iíd go 10-8 too as Rampage got completely dominated from start to finish and was badly hurt by the leg kick.
Into the third round now and somehow Rampageís leg doesnít look that bad. He is noticeably limping though. Forrest remains on the outside, landing a pair of inside leg kicks now as Rampage tries to swing punches to answer. Forrest stays on the outside, but doesnít land significantly and the first good shot of the round is landed by Quinton, a big combo. Leg kick lands for Forrest but only glancingly as Rampage is doing a good job of moving out of the way of them now. Left hook for the champion puts Forrest into retreat mode again. He quickly gets back to being the aggressor though, striking from the outside again. Good left hook from Forrest lands pretty cleanly. Good body shot from Rampage as he steps in, answered with a right by Forrest. Forrest lands a glancing superman punch followed by a left head kick that the champ deflects. Exchange continues and Forrest lands a combo, before backing way up as Rampage swings to try to answer. Buzzer sounds there. Very, very close round to call, but I would go with Griffin, 10-9 as he was the aggressor despite Rampage arguably landing the cleaner shots. So going into the championship rounds I have it 29-27 for Griffin.
Fourth round and weíre into deep water now and the crowd are loud as hell. Forrest comes right out with a left high kick that Rampage blocks. Pair of heavy right hooks land for Quinton in a trade and Forrest wisely gets outta dodge. Big uppercuts land for Jackson inside and cut Forrest. Griffin tries a takedown but Rampage blocks and they go down with Rampage on top in Forrestís guard. Good job of avoiding damage in the guard by Forrest, and he looks to lock up a triangle, but Rampage SLAMS his way out! Címon, Forrest had to see that coming. At least it wasnít with the impact of the Arona Powerbomb. Couple of good elbows from the guard for Rampage, but Forrest continues to do a good job with his guard defensively. Forrest goes for an oma plata, but Jackson pulls out and stands, and then lands a right uppercut and a left straight that knock Forrest off balance as he comes up. This is a hell of a fight. Forrest tries to go back to striking from the outside but takes another combo from Rampage. Big left from Rampage opens the cut further. Leg kick by Forrest but Rampage ends the round with another combination. Another close round but this time Rampage landed the cleaner shots and also escaped the triangle in strong fashion. 10-9 for Rampage and weíre going all the way now.
Fifth and final round! Leg kick opens for Forrest but Rampage comes back with a right hook. Theyíve slowed down a little now but Forrest is continuing to land stuff from the outside. Big leg kick looks to have hurt the champion but he comes back swinging with a right. Nice one two combo from Forrest followed by a left high kick. Forrest is definitely the busier fighter in this round, landing combos from the outside albeit nothing really damaging. Another good leg kick lands. Body shot and left hook land for Quinton. They clinch briefly but Jackson breaks with an uppercut. Good right from Forrest. Weíve got a minute left now and this is still anyoneís fight. Forrest narrowly avoids a big combo. 20 seconds to go and they trade off now. Rampage comes forward swinging and Forrest swings right back, and the fight ends in the clinch. Awesome fight. Like the third Iíd give the round to Forrest for his aggression and pushing the action, and that gives him the fight on my scorecard, 48-46. Unbelievably close fight though and I could see an argument for Rampage taking it.
Judges officially score it 48-46, 48-46 and 49-46, all for Forrest Griffin, making him the NEW UFC Light-Heavyweight Champion. WOW. Who wouldíve ever thought that possible? When you consider how far Forrestís come since the Stephan Bonnar fight, itís pretty insane. A complete testament to the hard work and determination that the guyís shown in training, and I would say Forrest is living proof that if you work hard enough and you want it bad enough, dreams can come true.
Fight itself was a tremendous five round war, a stone cold classic. We hadnít seen a back and forth five rounder like that since probably Couture-Rizzo back at UFC 31, or maybe Penn-Pulver at UFC 35, and it was an amazing fight with both men taking and giving some incredible punishment. I wouldíve gone with an instant rematch due to how close the fight was, but with Rampageís subsequent legal problems and Rashad Evans KOing Chuck Liddell they went a different route, so cíest la vie. I think Torres-Maeda was better overall but this was probably the Fight of the Year in the UFC.
-And we end with a highlight reel of the nightís action. Forrest Griffin, UFC Light-Heavyweight Champion of the World? Who wouldíve believed that?
Well, this one was much, much better on a second viewing than Iíd originally thought, as all four of the prelim bouts were tremendous fun, Koscheck-Lytle and Stevenson-Tibau were solid and the main event was likely the FOTY for the UFC. Sure, Almeida-Cote pretty much stunk and Aurelio-Griffin wasnít great, but two bad fights out of nine isnít bad going at all. Itís not the best show the UFC has ever put on, but UFC 86 is good, just not great, and itís worth a recommendation for the main event alone. Thumbs up.
Best Fight: Jackson-Griffin
Worst Fight: Almeida-Cote
Overall Rating: ***3/4
UFC: 87-96, Fight Nights 14-18, and TUF VIII Finale.
Pride: Shockwave 2005, Shockwave 2006, and the Openweight Grand Prix.
King of the Cage: 23, 29, 30, 32, 33, 36, 42, 48, 52, and 58.