Weíre opening with the heavyweights then, with K1 veteran Pat Barry taking on Dan ĎThe Vikingí Evensen, whoíd lost to Cheick Kongo at UFC 87 in August. The word on Barry was that he had some of the most brutal leg kicks out there and heíd been quoted as saying that Evensen ďwould consider himself a striker until he gets hit by me, a real strikerĒ. No shortage of confidence then! Evensen is in absolutely embarrassing shape here, looking like a dude who has barely trained.
We begin and Barry looks to keep his distance to strike, although he looks much shorter than Evensen and gives up a reach advantage. Barry easily dodges an early takedown attempt and then lands a left kick to the body. Nice leg kick from Barry but Evensen closes the distance and forces him into the cage, looking for the takedown. Good defense from Barry and the ref calls the break. They exchange strikes and a big leg kick buckles Evensen this time. Another one lands heavily and Evensen basically lunges desperately for a takedown, but Barry reverses and ends up on top. Evensen scrambles to guard, but doesnít really control Barry properly and the kickboxer stands free. Evensen joins him and lumbers forward, but another brutal leg kick lands and this time Evensen staggers back and waves the fight off, looks like he blew his knee out.
Replay appears to show Evensenís knee pop out on impact from the kick. Nasty stuff. Barry looked good in his UFC debut and his leg kicks were indeed vicious, but this was questionable opposition and there were still a ton of questions Ė namely his ground game Ė about Barry that werenít answered here.
IFL veteran Blackburn had made a successful UFC debut on the same card as a number of other IFL refugees Ė UFN 14 Ė stopping James Giboo in the second round. Chonan meanwhile had returned from almost a year on the shelf to narrowly get past Roan Carneiro. Coin toss told me to pick Chonan though it was clearly a close fight on paper.
Chonan has an awesome dye job going here, this crazy red stripe ish thing. Canít deny the man has style. Round One begins and they exchange strikes early, with both men landing decent body kicks and combos. Blackburn looks like the better striker though, and a right hook clips Chonan and appears to have him stunned. Chonan recovers quickly though and seems okay, but he takes another combo soon after. Chonan comes back with some combinations of his own, and the exchange continues at a bit more even pace now. Good right hand and low kick from Chonan, as Blackburn looks a bit slower now. He fires off another good combo though. Chonan tries a flying knee and slips to the ground, and then goes for a single leg, but Blackburn easily shrugs it off and remains standing. Pair of nice body kicks land for Blackburn. Exchange continues, with Blackburn landing the best shot, a beautiful uppercut, and the round ends shortly after. Got to go with Blackburn there, 10-9, although it was pretty close.
Touch of gloves to open the 2nd and the striking exchange continues where they left off, with Blackburn seemingly in control again. Right hand lands to counter a kick and Chonan goes down, with Blackburn following him into the guard. They come back to standing quickly though and continue to exchange, and Blackburn looks a lot slower now, putting together less combinations, and Chonan lands a nice body kick. Combo into a takedown attempt from Blackburn but Chonan avoids it. Body kick lands again for Ryo. Blackburn definitely looks tired now and Chonan lands a leg kick. Chonan begins to really push forward, but itís still an even exchange and the round ends with Blackburn stuffing a takedown. Closer round there. You could go either way really.
Round Three and Chonan opens with a pair of body kicks. Chonan is really pushing forward now and looks like the much fresher fighter. Nothing major is landing though outside of the body kicks and low kicks for Ryo. Blackburn comes back with a hook-ish left jab, but Chonan keeps pressing forward and heís outstriking Blackburn now. Vicious leg kick lands for Chonan with 90 seconds remaining. Chonan catches a kick but canít get Blackburn down, but it doesnít seem to matter as Chonan continues to push forward and land shots. Big uppercut wobbles Blackburn and Chonan is just walking him down now, landing at will. Blackburn is bleeding badly from his nose and heís backpedalling like mad now. Round ends with Chonan landing another combo.
Close one to call but Iím leaning to Chonan. Judges all score it 29-28 for Blackburn though, and the crowd do not like that one. I guess this would be an argument against using the ten point must system, as Blackburn didnít do nearly as much in the 1st and 2nd as Chonan did in winning the 3rd, but because Blackburn took the points in the first two he wins the fight. Personally I think you could make an argument for Chonan winning the second round and that would give him the fight, but ah well. Fight wasnít bad or anything, but it certainly didnít stand out.
Like Blackburn, Andy had made his Octagon debut at UFN 14, but his had been an unsuccessful one, losing a boring decision to Brandon Vera. Hamill was coming off the loss to Rich Franklin at UFC 88 and had apparently worked his striking extensively since, and with him having a better wrestling game than Andy I figured this would be the Hammerís fight to lose.
First round begins and they exchange some strikes, before Hamill catches a kick and puts Andy down with a pair of left hands. Andy pops back up quickly and looks to establish the left jab, using it to bloody Hamillís nose. High kick misses for Hamill and Andy lands a nice knee from close quarters. Another good combo lands for Andy as his striking looks much better here than in the Vera fight. Nice left jab from Hamill but Andy comes back with a right to the body. Takedown attempt from Andy but Hamill easily stuffs it. Hamill pushes forward, landing a right hand and a kick to the body. Andy continues to work the jab, and Hamillís right eye is bloody now too. Exchange continues and itís largely even as the round comes to an end. Not sure who Iíd score that for although Hamill probably landed the better shots and definitely pushed the action more.
Into the 2nd and they exchange punches again with Hamill taking the center of the cage. Hamill begins to take over, looking the more comfortable striker, and so Andy goes for a couple of takedowns that Hamill easily stuffs. Hamill gets a front headlock off another takedown attempt and really goes to town with uppercuts, stunning Andy before following up with a pair of big knees to the head. Andy looks in trouble now, sucking in wind, and Hamill closes in with another combo ending with a heavy bodyshot. Andy is all over the place by the fence and Hamill closes in with the left bodyshot again, dropping Andy to his knees. Hamill follows up with a flurry of punches to the head, ending with Andy slumped against the cage, and finally Hamill mounts him and pounds him out for the stoppage.
Stoppage if weíre being fair was probably late, but itís Steve Mazzagatti, so hey. Hamill looked very good in this one, particularly in the second round, and watching him now, itís hard to believe that this is the same guy that like, two years before this was winning fights with lay-and-pray and rubbing cuts. He really has come on leaps and bounds, especially in the striking department, as heís finally looking more natural there now as opposed to being horribly stiff like he was in his early fights.
I forget who Hardonkís original opponent was here, but I do know that Wessell stepped in on relatively short notice, with an unbeaten record of 6-0. Physically he just looks like a big heavy dude though, and so there was no way I was picking him over Hardonk even if the last unknown late replacement (Justin McCully) to fight the Dutchman ended up tooling him!
We begin and Wessell comes out swinging for the fences, dropping Hardonk to his back with what looked to be a body punch. Hardonk gets half-guard and then full guard and looks to control Wessell as the big man looks for some ground and pound. Hardonk actually goes for an armbar from the bottom and almost gets it, but Wessell scrambles and they come to their feet. Clinch by Wessell and he forces Hardonk into the cage, but Hardonk lands some knees and reverses him. Uppercut from Wessell breaks but Hardonk comes back with a leg kick and looks to grab the plum clinch. They break and trade some punches, before Hardonk gets the plum and lands a series of knees to the body. Nice chopping leg kick from Hardonk from inside the plum clinch, never seen that before, and then the Dutchman continues to land knees. One-two and a leg kick land for Hardonk flush, and he follows with the knees from the clinch again, but Wessell drops for a takedown. Hardonk tries to avoid, but ends up on his back in guard where he ties Wessell up again. Very little happens as Hardonk at least shows a decent defensive guard, and with seconds remaining on the clock Wessell avoids a triangle attempt and passes the guard to full mount.
Between rounds the replay shows Hardonk actually got dropped by an inadvertent headbutt.
Second round and Wessell looks pretty gassed. He gets to the clinch though and trips Hardonk to his back right away. High guard from Hardonk and he goes for a triangle again, but takes a couple of punches for his troubles. Wessellís nose looks mad bloody now and surprisingly Hardonk wriggles out to the side and takes Wessellís back with both hooks in! Hardonk flattens him out, and from there he lands punches before Wessell rolls to full mount. Hardonk continues to pound away and thereís no way out for Wessell as he looks exhausted, and the ref steps in there.
Fun fight if a little sloppy, as again Hardonk showed excellent striking but a totally non-existent wrestling game as Wessell easily got him down. Sweep from Hardonk was nice but it looked more down to exhaustion from Wessell rather than pure skill, but I guess you canít take it away from the Dutchman.
When they announced this one on the prelim card a number of hardcore fans were horrified as Okami was basically the #1 Contender to the Middleweight title, but then they shut up when they realised that well, it was Yushin Okami vs. Dean Lister and neither guy is really known for putting on exciting fights. General consensus was that Okami would just stuff Listerís weak takedowns and beat him up standing, and the entertainment factor would be determined by how aggressive Okami was.
Round One, and Lister presses with some strikes and then shoots, and decides to pull half-guard as Okami stuffs the takedown. Lister ends up in full guard, but Okamiís having none of that and stands free. Crowd boo immediately as Okami stands over him with Lister in the butt-scoot position. Straight left by Okami and he stuffs another takedown, causing Lister to again pull half-guard. Okami is crazy strong though and he works free and gets to his feet. Lister ends up on his back and Okami kicks the legs before the ref calls him to his feet. Nice left again by Okami and then Lister shoots and ends up pulling guard, but again Okami pulls free, dropping some punches before Lister rolls for a leglock. Okami defends it well though and lands punches to the head until the round ends. Dull round but it goes to Okami.
Second round and Okami easily blocks a single leg and forces Lister into the cage in a clinch. Knees inside from Okami and then he breaks off and presses, again avoiding a takedown. The crowd are becoming restless now, unsurprisingly, as Okami is landing the straight left hand but little else. Lister ends up sitting in front of Okami, much to the disgust of the crowd. Back up and they end up clinched again and once more Lister shoots and decides to pull guard. He looks to tie up an arm from the bottom, but Okami easily escapes and lands some heavy punches from the top. They come back to their feet and Lister drops for a takedown again, but Okami stuffs it as before and Lister just crawls to try to get him down. He pulls guard again but Okami passes over to almost side control, and then decides to stand free, before dropping into the guard to land some punches. Round ends with Okami landing punches from Listerís half-guard. So far this has been exactly as advertised, a shutout for Okami but hardly an entertaining one.
Third and final round, and Okami lands straight punches as Lister looks hopelessly outgunned standing. They clinch briefly but Okami breaks and easily avoids Listerís reaching strikes. Lister drops to his back and this time Okami happily goes down into the guard, where he lands punches and hammer fists. Crowd begin to boo again as things slow down, but Okami is at least landing some hard shots from the top. Herb Dean finally calls for the stand-up and Lister lands a low kick, but eats a couple of combos and he shoots for a single leg, but again Okami blocks it. Fight ends with Okami stuffing the takedown attempt. Crowd are pretty underwhelmed to say the least.
Judges all score it 30-27, unanimous decision for Yushin Okami. Well, thank God they didnít air that on PPV as if it werenít for the existence of Nate Quarry vs. The Running Man from UFC 83, it wouldíve been the worst televised fight of the year. Good win for Okami in terms of name value, but why he wasnít more aggressive when it became clear that Lister offered zero threat I donít know. I guess he just doesnít care about being entertaining and just goes for the win, but in the UFC youíre just not going to pick up fans fighting like this. As for Lister, is it a tradition for him to stink up the last card of the year every time or something? First the stinker against Jordan Radev at UFC 79, and now this debacle. Heís been released now though so hopefully it wonít repeat itself in 2009!
Decent Heavyweight bout to open the PPV card then, with Kongo, fresh off a knockout win over Dan Evensen, taking on the Cage Rage Heavyweight champion in Al-Turk. For me, Al-Turkís pre-fight interview was one of the most unintentionally hilarious moments of 2008 in the UFC, as well, heís this huge, intimidating guy that looks like the top villain from an old Van Damme flick, he has a name like Mostapha Al-Turk, and yet what does he say in his soundbite?
ďHeh heh, Iím a tough bloke, what can I say?Ē...in a cockney accent, sounding like a character from Snatch or something. Honestly I knew Al-Turk was a London-based guy (I believe he trained with Lee Murray back in the day even!) but I just didnít expect that. Hilarious! Anyhow back to the fight, I was actually picking Mostapha in the upset as heís a hell of a grappler and takedowns and ground control had always been Kongoís Achilles heel.
They get started and Al-Turk lands a jab to open, but then slightly slips off balance. Leg kick from Al-Turk but Kongo catches the foot and lands a right hand that puts Mostapha on his back. Kongo kicks at the legs, but wants nothing to do with the ground game and then calls him up. Al-Turk swings a wild hook and looks for a takedown, but Kongo does a good job of defending and they end up clinched against the cage. Mostapha keeps looking for the takedown, but Kongo defends again and lands a good knee inside too. Al-Turk really works for a single leg, but just canít get Kongo down and they end up in the body clinch again and exchange some knees. Knee from Al-Turk catches Kongo in the groin and Mazzagatti calls time to give him a break, but as the announcers point out itís probably better for Al-Turk as he was looking a bit tired anyway. Totally accidental shot judging by the replay. They restart after a while and Al-Turk misses a wild overhand right. He shoots in again, but Kongo blocks it once more and then takes revenge, landing a sickening knee to the groin. Man, that was totally blatant, pretty sad for Kongo to stoop so low as it was clearly a return shot after Al-Turk did it earlier, but Al-Turkís was definitely unintentional. Mazzagattiís in a bit of a dodgy situation though as he canít really take a point from Kongo as he didnít take one from Al-Turk, so he calls both guys to the center of the cage and gives them a talking to.
Restart and they circle off, and this time Kongo lands a right hand that stuns Mostapha. Another pair of rights drop Al-Turk to his back and Kongo pounces and goes WILD with the ground-and-pound, landing shot after shot and really laying in with some vicious elbows. Al-Turk is clearly done at this point and Kongo is just hitting him again and again and again, and now Mostapha has two or three bad cuts on his head. Mazzagatti just lets it go though and Kongo continues with the elbows and hammer fists until he FINALLY calls the TKO. Good lord.
Replay shows the brutality; I counted seventeen more shots after the point where I thought it shouldíve been stopped, and really this was yet another criminal display of refereeing by Mazzagatti, who at this point should be disciplined by the NSAC in some way in my opinion. Low blow seemed to be the beginning of the end for Al-Turk, but to be fair he was in deep trouble as soon as he couldnít get Kongo down anyway, as very few people can survive on their feet with the Frenchman. The ending was vicious, some of the nastiest ground striking Iíve seen in the UFC, and this was arguably Kongoís most impressive showing to date.
The announcement of this, the third fight between the two, caught me totally off-guard, as firstly I didnít expect to see Rampage until 2009 following his legal problems after the whole car chase incident in the summer, and secondly I figured theyíd put Wanderlei against someone a little lower on the totem pole next (Bonnar or someone, I donít know!) in order to prep him for a title shot in 2009. But hey, Iím not going to complain about another Silva-Rampage fight as their second one was probably the best fight in PRIDE in 2004. Hard to believe thatís like four and a half years ago now. Not that either guy seems to have let go of the grudge, as they both talk about their hatred for one another and at the weigh-ins Wanderlei totally lost it and ended up shoving Jackson. Surprisingly Rampage had looked and sounded the more confident fighter coming in, after moving camps to Liverpoolís Wolfslair following his break with Juanito Ibarra, but I was still picking Wanderlei, figuring that heíd always had Quintonís number and Rampage probably hadnít been able to properly focus due to his legal problems.
Round One begins and Jackson quickly takes the center of the cage and presses forward. One-two glances off Silvaís arms. Wanderlei answers with a combo but Rampage deflects that also. Both of these guys look surprisingly tentative here, especially Wanderlei who you always expect to come out all guns blazing. Takedown attempt from Rampage but Silva shrugs it off and narrowly misses a knee strike. Nice leg kick from Wanderlei. Another one lands and Jackson appears to still be vulnerable to those strikes. Silva tries another but this time Rampage catches it and Silva ends up off balance, but he pops up quickly. Wanderlei presses forward and they trade some punches, and Rampage suddenly lands a HUGE LEFT HOOK that knocks Silva OUT COLD! Silva is STIFF, but Rampage adds in a pair of right hands for good measure as the referee tries to pull him off.
Wow, beautiful left from Rampage. He twisted his whole body into it and caught Silva right on the button, and Wanderlei really was out before he hit the mat. No need for the extra shots but I guess thatís what four years of frustration will do to you. I actually thought Silva was winning the fight up to that point as the only significant shots were the leg kicks, but as soon as they traded and Rampage landed, it was game over. If Iím honest, while this was a massive win for Jackson, I think itís more a case of Silva probably being shot as a top-level fighter, with the years of abuse in PRIDE (fighting way too often, fighting out of his weight class) finally catching up with him. Still, canít take a thing away from Rampage and judging by his post-fight interview itís nice to have the real Quinton back after he was clearly in a dark place post-Griffin fight. Fight wasnít nearly as exciting as their second fight but you canít moan about a brutal KO like that.
Pre-fight package mentions that these two wrestled against one another in their college days with Dollaway taking the win, which is similar to CBís previous fight with Jesse Taylor actually. Massenzio had looked solid in tapping out Drew McFedries in his UFC debut but my pick was of course the Doberman as heís a better wrestler and well, Iím heavily biased towards anything involving him or Ryan Bader.
Touch of gloves to start, and itís worth pointing out that Massenzioís left knee is heavily taped up, like Sakuraba or something. Good body kick by Dollaway to open things. Massenzio comes forward into a clinch and takes a strong knee from CB, and then they break off before Dollaway slips on a body kick attempt. Combo from CB and he comes forward, but Massenzio hurts him with a left hook and Dollaway looks stunned badly and shoots for a takedown. Massenzio catches him in a tight guillotine though and pulls guard, and Dollaway looks in deep trouble, but he manages to wriggle his neck free and ends up in Massenzioís guard. Good escape from the Doberman. Massenzio goes for a triangle, but Dollaway shrugs it off and passes to side mount, but itís only momentary as Massenzio scrambles back to guard. CB lands some punches and passes to side mount again, and then takes full mount. Elbow from CB and Massenzio gives his back, and from there Dollaway flattens him out and lands a series of undefended punches for the stoppage.
Good little fight actually as it looked like CB was in trouble early, but he weathered the storm of being rocked and then caught in a deep submission to take over and once he got the full mount it was basically over. Post-fight Massenzio complains about an early stoppage, but he was doing nothing to defend himself so I donít think he has a case. Good win for Dollaway who continues to improve his overall game.
This one had of course been set up by the TUF 8 series, which saw the two act as coaches. The series basically played up Nogueira as the babyface and Mir as the cocky heel, and pretty much got Nogueira over as a star with the casual fans as he gets like, twice the crowd reaction here than he did against Tim Sylvia in February.
To me at least, on paper this was probably the most one-sided UFC title fight since Franklin vs. Quarry back in 2005. I mean, Mir had looked good against Lesnar and Hardonk, but one of them was a total rookie and the other has pretty much zero ground game. Before that Mir had the awful trio of fights with Vera, Christison and Pe De Pano, and well, everything before that seemed largely irrelevant as it came before the horrific motorcycle accident that had seemingly ruined Mirís career. Couple that with the fact that Mir was faced with probably the one heavyweight with a better submission game than him, and a guy who also happened to have better striking, an iron chin and a better gas tank, and you can see why Iíd consider it one-sided. For me the only way Mir could win would be to ride out a 25 minute decision, staying on top of Nog ala Ricco Rodriguez, and who the hell could envision Frank Mir lasting 25 minutes? So my pick was firmly Nogueira, by TKO in the second round.
Weíre underway and Mir throws out a couple of kicks that donít land. Nice left jab-right uppercut combo for Mir lands, snapping Nogueiraís head back. Another one-two lands and Mir follows with a combo into the uppercut again, landing flush. Trip takedown from Mir and he lands some punches from the top, then decides to stand back up. Good body kick from Mir and another nice right uppercut lands as well, as Nog just doesnít seem to be able to spot it coming. Good leg kick from Mir, as Nogueira comes back with a pair of jabs. Another combo lands for Mir as Nogueira pushes forward; Mirís striking is looking better here than I can ever remember seeing it. Right uppercut and another good leg kick from Mir. Nogueira comes forward and eats a nice left hook, and then as he steps in again another one lands and DROPS HIM! Mir pounces and looks to finish him off, but Nogueira manages to recover quickly so Mir stands off and lets him get back to his feet. Nog keeps pressing, but another combo lands for Mir and then they clinch briefly before breaking off. Good body kick from Mir. Nogueira lands a left straight to come back, but Mir grins and shakes it off. Good combo from Nogueira but Mir covers up, and with seconds on the clock Mir decks him with another combo! Unbelievable stuff. Thatís got to be a 10-8 round for Mir I think. And between rounds heís not even breathing heavily! This is like bizarro world.
Into the 2nd and Mir throws out a left head kick and again looks to land a combo. Uppercut and right hook land for Mir as Nog tries to answer with some shots of his own. Same left hand-right uppercut lands again. They clinch briefly but Nog avoids a trip. Good leg kick from Nogueira. Uppercut and left body kick land for Mir. BIG LEFT HOOK lands for Mir, stunning Nogueira bad, and another one lands and puts Nogueira DOWN AND OUT!~! Few punches follow and Herb Dean stops things. Jesus Christ.
Post-fight Mir cuts possibly the best promo Iíve ever heard in MMA history, as he basically admits that even he didnít believe he could beat Nogueira, but now heís done it and by coming back from the motorcycle accident and his various setbacks to become the first guy to stop Nogueira, heís living proof that if you want it bad enough, anything is possible.
Amazing fight. Upset of the year, by far. For me personally this was painful to watch as Nogueira was my favourite fighter when I first got into MMA and he was the one guy who, while he was beatable, I never thought heíd get taken apart and stopped like this. I mean the guy had taken beatings from Fedor, Sapp, Cro Cop, Sylvia, and yet nobody was able to do this to him. I think what we got here was a combination of two things Ė one being, like Wanderlei Silva, the accumulation of the abuse of his body and fighting way too often in PRIDE catching up with Nogueira, and two, Mir coming in in the best shape of his life cardio-wise, with better striking than weíd ever seen from him before. As someone whoís knocked Mir a ton in the past, you canít take anything away from him now Ė not many guys can boast wins over Tim Sylvia, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, and Brock Lesnar (though that one will probably mean more in the future). As for Nogueira I hope he can bounce back from this, but to see his career end after one or two more fights wouldnít surprise me at all. Weíve all heard some fights called ďunbelievableĒ before but usually itís not true. In this case though, itís the only fair way to describe this fight.
Main event had been set up by two upsets earlier in the year; namely Griffin winning the LHW title from Rampage Jackson in July, and then Evans stunningly knocking Chuck Liddell dead a couple of months later. Interesting to think that in a different world we couldíve ended up with Griffin-Liddell here which wouldíve drawn ridiculous numbers (not that this show didnít end up doing that anyway, but still...).
On paper I figured most of the advantages were with Rashad, as he had the better wrestling game, thunderous power in all of his strikes, and while Forrest had the better ground game in terms of submissions and BJJ I didnít think heíd be able to get Rashad down there. For Forrest to win I figured he would have to make it a brawl, a gutter war, and drag the fight into the later rounds to gas Rashad out. Rashad though had been my pick to eventually take the title right from when I first saw him on TUF 2, and so I was taking him to stop Forrest with strikes, probably in the second round.
Oh, and is it not amazing to see two guys who came off TUF fighting for the marquee title in the company in the main event of the biggest show of the year? And hardcore fans wanted to just label these guys as TV stars, ha.
Round One begins and Rashad stays on the outside early as they circle around and throw some feeler strikes. Forrest looks to put together some combos, and he lands a body kick and narrowly avoids a big right hand from Rashad. Nice left hook-leg kick combo from Griffin. Forrest continues to throw out kicks and then Evans comes back with a low kick of his own. Nice triple jab from Forrest. One-two lands to follow. Rashad throws some counters but none land cleanly and Forrestís combos look the better so far. Nice low kick from Rashad though. Couple of high kicks miss for Griffin. Both men narrowly miss right hands. Left jab and right hook land for Rashad in an exchange. Good jab from Forrest to answer. Combo from Forrest ending in a body kick causes Rashad to back up. Griffin continues to throw kicks and misses a superman punch as the round ends. 10-9 for Griffin there I think as he seemed to gauge the distance much better than the challenger.
Into the second and a combo from Forrest causes Rashad to slip wildly off balance early. Good leg kick from Forrest. Nice jab from Rashad but Forrest comes back with a body kick, only to catch another jab. Good leg kick again from Griffin and he follows that up with a straight right hand that lands on the button. Leg kick follows and Forrest chases him down, landing another leg kick and a beautiful jab. Right hand answers for Rashad but Griffin looks to land some knees from inside and then lands a right, only for Rashad to taunt the champ by grabbing his crotch, slapping himself and then lunging forward with a left hook! WORD! Crowd go wild for that and now Rashad presses forward. Good one-two from the challenger. Leg kick again lands for Forrest and he closes Rashad down and lands another. A third follows. Good lunging left hook for the champ too. Couple of head kicks miss and they trade some combos. Beautiful combo lands for Griffin ending with a pair of leg kicks, one inside, one outside. Leg kick from Forrest is answered by a body kick from Evans. They trade off and Rashad lands a big right, but Forrest takes it. Forrest is landing the far better shots in this round. Rashad throws a fast combo but Forrest stays out of range. Good combo from the champ and he ends the round with a nice superman punch. 10-9 for Forrest Griffin again I think.
Third round now and Forrest is looking confident. Double jab and leg kick for Forrest. Heís throwing out combos a lot more now and lands another body kick. Kick lands for Griffin but this time Rashad catches it and counters with some right hands, putting Forrest on his back. Rashad drops some hammer fists over the top and stuns Forrest, whose guard looks really loose. He manages to lock down on full guard finally but eats a right hand as he does so. Forrest looks to be rolling into a kimura, but Evans has none of that and stands free before dropping back into half-guard. Forrest tries to get full guard back, but eats a big elbow as he does. Forrest goes for a triangle but Rashad easily postures out, and from there he opens up with some BIG RIGHT HANDS that stun Griffin badly! Forrest looks to be in deep trouble, and Rashad stacks right up and NAILS him with left hooks, and the referee steps in as an unconscious Griffin begins to flail his arms.
Ending was absolutely brutal, as Griffin looked like he was knocked silly and it even looked as if he was tapping as his arms began to randomly flail when he went out. Interesting fight as Forrest started off far better and was using his range to land combinations and leg kicks seemingly at will, but as soon as Rashad landed a power shot Ė it didnít really matter that it was on the ground, just that it landed flush Ė the fight was pretty much over. Incredible how Rashadís developed such crushing power over the past couple of years. And hey, this was hugely satisfying for me as Iíd been trumping Rashad as a future champ for so long! Good fight to main event the show with if not a truly great one.
-And the show Ė and year - ends with a highlight reel.
While a major stinker (Okami-Lister) and a couple of nothing fights (Wessell-Hardonk, Blackburn-Chonan, Andy-Hamill) put it behind the classic UFC shows of 2008 (81 and 84 I would say), UFC 92 is only just behind them. Granted, we got no proper classics, but how can you complain about stuff like Rampage finally taking revenge over Wanderlei, Mir pulling out the ultimate upset and knocking out Nogueira, and finally Rashad Evans recognizing his destiny to take the LHW Title? Add in solid filler like Dollaway-Massenzio, Kongo-Al-Turk and Barry-Evensen and youíve got a pretty great show. So overall itís thumbs firmly up for the Ultimate 2008.
Best Fight: Mir-Nogueira
Worst Fight: Okami-Lister
Overall Rating: ****1/4
UFC: 93-98, Fight Nights 17-18, and TUF VIII Finale.
Pride: Shockwave 2005, Shockwave 2006, 31, Bushido 10-13 and the Openweight Grand Prix.
King of the Cage: 23, 29, 30, 32, 33, 36, 42, 48, 52, and 58.