UFC 98: Evans vs. Machida review
by Scott Newman(MMA)
Posted on October 22, 2009, 2:46 PM
UFC 98: Evans vs. Machida
Las Vegas, Nevada
-When it comes to injuries in MMA when it rains it always seems to pour and this card was no exception – firstly the original main event of Brock Lesnar vs. Frank Mir for the Heavyweight Title was scrapped when Mir injured his knee, but thankfully Zuffa managed to put together Rashad Evans defending his Light-Heavyweight Title against Lyoto Machida as a replacement. But of course, a further five fighters ended up pulling out and we got a massively changed card in the end that was quite a lot weaker on paper than the original had been. Such is MMA.
These guys had been teammates on TUF 8, but both had lost their subsequent fights on the finale card so I was surprised that UFC kept them around to be honest. Especially Roop who – no offense meant – is a total non-entity when it comes to personality, too. Kaplan is the exact opposite in that aspect, in that he’d be a megastar if he were a decent fighter. Here for example he’s got a bleached mullet and tight red trunks that make him look like a Ric Flair impersonator.
We begin and Kaplan takes the center of the cage as Roop works from the outside, looking to use his superior reach. They exchange strikes and Roop does a good job of landing shots and then backing out. Kaplan’s got a cut over the bridge of his nose already, but Joe Rogan points out that he had the cut coming in and Roop’s just re-opened it. Exchange continues and Kaplan looks to be really struggling with the distance, only landing a couple of inside leg kicks. Kaplan begins to get more comfortable as the round goes on, landing the leg kicks more often than punches as he keeps trying to lunge in for them because Roop’s so much taller. Head kick almost lands for George but it sort of glances off the top of the dome instead. Roop is doing a good job of landing straight punches though, and with a minute to go he catches Kaplan with a nice uppercut. Takedown attempt from Kaplan and Roop sprawls, but can’t quite get his hips free and Kaplan gets him down and passes into side mount. Roop uses the fence to escape to his feet pretty quickly though and the round ends with another standing exchange. I’d give the round to George Roop as he landed the better shots on the feet.
Into the 2nd and Kaplan pushes forward, landing a couple of leg kicks. Single leg puts Roop on his back and Kaplan enters the guard before standing to attempt a pass. Roop does a good job of retaining full guard though and Kaplan ends up just punching from inside the guard. Roop pushes him off with a butterfly guard and stands, where he lands a nice bodyshot. Takedown attempt from Kaplan but Roop avoids it this time and lands with a combo. Good one-two from Kaplan and he closes the distance, looking to get Roop down again, but George hops around on one leg to avoid the single. Kaplan manages to finish it though and puts Roop on his back again, but he’s not really doing much from the position and Roop kicks him off and gets back up again. Inside leg kick lands for Kaplan again and he also throws in a nice short right hook. Takedown attempt from Kaplan again and Roop tries to stuff it, but Kaplan gets him up and puts him in guard again. Kaplan looks to be going for a neck crank at one point but that’s about it, as he stays very flat in Roop’s guard and doesn’t do much in terms of damage. Round ends in Roop’s guard. Well, that was dull. I’d go with Kaplan for the takedowns so overall it’s 19-19 and the next round decides things in my book.
Third and final round and they continue to exchange strikes, with Kaplan doing a very good job of landing the inside leg kick, marking up Roop’s leg pretty badly. Kaplan closes the distance and then changes levels to drop for a takedown, putting him on his back again. Roop looks to reverse from the bottom, but gives his back and ends up underneath Kaplan in side mount. Full mount for Kaplan now but he gets too flat and Roop wriggles back to half-guard. Butterfly guard from Roop and he pushes off and stands. Roop’s throwing a lot of high kicks now, but not really setting them up so they’re not landing. He stuffs a takedown attempt though. Another exchange follows before Kaplan forces Roop into the cage and goes for another takedown. Roop initially avoids a single leg, then manages to stuff a bodylock takedown and breaks free. Good combo from Roop and he follows with a couple more. Kaplan wades forward though and looks for the takedown again. Roop stuffs it once more and they exchange some kicks, with Roop continually throwing the head kick. Roop clocks him with a nice uppercut on the buzzer.
Don’t know which way I’d score that really as the third round was very close. Judges call it 29-28 Kaplan, 30-27 Roop and 30-27 Roop for Roop to take the split decision. Bleh. Dull opener as Kaplan was the better grappler but never put Roop in danger on the ground, while Roop had the better striking and never really hurt Kaplan there.
Both of these men had lost in pretty devastating fashion at the Fight For The Troops show back in December, Yoshida to Josh Koscheck and Wolff to Ben Saunders. With that said though Yoshida is a proven top ten-fifteen level guy while Wolff, well, isn’t, so I was giving the big advantage to Yoshida coming in, especially as he’d been training with Greg Jackson’s camp. Unbelievably it looks like Wolff’s still got some disfiguration on his head from the knees of Saunders. That was one hell of a beatdown.
We begin and Yoshida circles off as Wolff throws some feints, and then lands a short right hook. Yoshida clinches and forces him into the cage, but Wolff reverses position and forces Yoshida back. Yoshida reverses that and looks to trip him down, landing a couple of knees to the body. Wolff drops his head to attempt a takedown, but Yoshida secures a guillotine and then drops to his back, looking to finish it. This choke looks tight and Yoshida sweeps into a mounted variant, and Wolff looks to tap but referee Steve Mazzagatti doesn’t spot it. Yoshida simply rolls over into full guard with the choke sunk in though, and finally Wolff taps out for good this time.
Pretty one-sided win for Yoshida, who was just in a class above Wolff if we’re being blunt. Wolff literally made one mistake and bam, the fight was over. Bit of a dodgy finish but to be fair Mazzagatti’s positioning made it difficult for him to see the first tap, so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt there. Good way for Yoshida to bounce back from the Koscheck loss.
Originally this would’ve seen Houston Alexander taking on the capoeira-loving Brazilian Gusmao, but he picked up an injury in training (broken hand I think) and became one of the first casualties on the card. Soszynski had only fought about four weeks previously on the UFC 97 undercard, but was in good enough shape to step in and take this one too, looking to build on his two prior UFC victories. Gusmao looks to be in far better shape here than he was for his UFC debut back in August 2008, for those who care.
Round One and they circle around with Gusmao landing a low kick, causing Soszynski to force him into the cage quickly. They muscle along the fence and Gusmao breaks with a combo. Soszynski comes back with a pair of right hands that have Gusmao on the retreat, but an inside leg kick takes the Canadian off his feet momentarily and Gusmao follows with a flurry, securing the plum clinch and looking to deliver knees. High kick misses though. Krzysztof lands a kick to the groin and the ref calls time, but they restart quickly and continue to circle and throw strikes. Soszynski is really swinging heavily here. Gusmao comes back with a couple of front kicks to the body, then lands with an inside leg kick again. Suddenly Soszynski closes in and tags him with a right hand, and this time rather than back up, Gusmao looks to fight fire with fire and swings right back! They trade some wild punches before Soszynski lands a heavy right hand again, and as Gusmao tries to fire back Krzysztof lands with a BRUTAL RIGHT HAND that knocks the Brazilian silly.
Enjoyable little fight actually. Gusmao was doing very well I thought striking from the outside, and I actually had him ahead in the fight up to pretty much the end, but he made the mistake of trading leather with Soszynski and it cost him, as he fell foul of the Polish Experiment’s more brutal punching power. This was Soszynski’s most impressive UFC performance thus far as he actually beat an opponent here who wasn’t horribly overmatched.
After a bit of a surprising – and disappointing – loss to Efrain Escudero in the TUF 8 Finals, the Filipino Assassin Nover was seemingly thrown a bone here in the form of Bradley, who had lost his two prior UFC fights in pretty one-sided fashion. While the “new Anderson Silva/GSP” tag seemed a little premature for Nover, I fully expected him to blow through Bradley here and move on to the upper echelon of the division quickly.
We begin and they trade some early strikes, with Nover landing with a heavy knee to the midsection. Good one-two lands for Phillipe as well. Right from Nover and he grabs a plum clinch to look for a knee, but Bradley trips him down and follows with a BIG RIGHT HAND from above! Bradley starts to drop some bombs as Nover rolls and looks for a single leg, then appears to slip off balance, which causes referee Yves Lavigne to lunge in. It looks like he’s letting it go though as Nover spins to his back and kicks Bradley away...but then Lavigne steps in and calls the fight off. Oh, for Christ’s sake.
Post-fight the crowd are FURIOUS while Nover is quite clearly unhurt and could’ve continued. Replay shows Bradley hurt Nover with the first right hand, but to me while the announcers are claiming Phillipe went limp as he lunged for the takedown, to me that punch didn’t look like it even landed clean, it was more than his foot slipped from under him as he went for the single leg. Regardless I think it was pretty clear that the stoppage wasn’t warranted as he wasn’t out of it at all. I mean, you can’t blame Bradley in the slightest as all he did was try to do his job, but even if you excuse the referee by saying human error is bound to happen and he’s got to make a split second decision, I think the Athletic Commission has to make a ruling where if it’s clear that the fighter isn’t out then the ref can restart the fight, or at least change the result to a No Contest or something. Basically this was bullshit of the highest order, practically identical to the Riley-Nelson fight at UFC 96.
K1-level striker Barry had looked impressive at UFC 92 in stopping Dan Evensen with leg kicks, and I guess Zuffa wanted to build him up slowly as he was faced with a UFC debutant here in Canadian former kindergarten teacher Tim Hague, who sported a record of 9-1, but with no real big wins. I figured Barry’s striking would prove too much for the ‘Thrashing Machine’ here. Interestingly enough Hague bears a pretty big resemblance to Tim Sylvia, although he’s a little smaller than Tim.
First round and Hague comes out quickly, lunging with punches, but Barry’s clearly confident with his striking as he’s hanging his hands pretty damn low. Sure enough an overhand right nearly clips the Canadian and Barry follows with a head kick that narrowly misses too. BIG RIGHT HIGH KICK lands to the side of Hague’s head, and he looks wobbled, and Barry closes in with a big combo that has Hague badly hurt! The fight basically looks over, but Barry gets too overzealous and Hague manages to take him down and quickly passes the guard and takes the back. Barry ends up turtled up and it looks like he’s going for a single leg, but he leaves his neck out and Hague clamps on a guillotine and rolls it over for the tapout!
Wow, talk about snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. It looked like Barry had the fight won as he had Hague hurt badly on the feet, but he just got too overconfident and left himself wide open for the takedown, and once the fight was on the ground the kickboxer looked completely lost and it was over. Hague showed tremendous heart to come back from being hurt, and the fight was definitely short and exciting, but really this showed the limitations of both men more than anything, as Hague looked stiff and plodding in the stand-up while Barry looked outsized and lost on the ground.
Original fight here had been Josh Koscheck vs. Chris Wilson, but Kos got injured a few weeks out and so WEC veteran Larson stepped in to take his place. Then some odd incident happened with Wilson being robbed at gunpoint in Brazil and he ended up failing his medicals really late on, so Extreme Couture’s Pyle, a veteran of well, basically all of the shows outside of UFC ended up stepping in on a day’s notice. Tough fight to take on such late notice too as Larson’s a beast who at this point had only ever lost to Jon Fitch and Carlos Condit, and there’s no shame in either of those losses to be quite frank.
We begin and they circle and throw some feints before Larson closes the distance and gets a takedown. Guillotine attempt by Pyle but Larson pulls his head out. Pyle tries an oma plata and then transitions right into a leglock, but Larson does a good job of spinning free and ends up taking Pyle’s back. Pyle rolls into guard and goes for a triangle, but Larson postures free and stays inside the guard. Another triangle attempt follows but Brock gets a mini-slam and then stands to attempt a guard pass. Larson goes into half-guard and it looks like he might be going for a D’Arce choke, but Pyle rolls free and gets back into half-guard. From there though Larson sets up an arm triangle choke, and he manages to get his legs free and passes out to the side, and a tight squeeze later Pyle’s forced to tap out.
Really fun grappling-based match and Pyle acquitted himself tremendously well on such short notice, but Larson’s top game is as nasty as they come and the choke he locked up was pretty awesome. I thought Larson would be worth a crack at a proper contender after this, but a recent loss to the unheralded Mike Pierce has thrown that into question. Still, this one was definitely an excellent win for him.
Really interesting fight this one. Edgar had been out with injuries since July and man, talk about a tough fight to come back into – Sherk had of course lost his title to BJ Penn at UFC 84, but he’d bounced back with a convincing win over Tyson Griffin in October – the man who Edgar had upset in his UFC debut. Personally due to his size and strength advantage I was leaning towards Sherk for the win, but after turning basically into a kickboxer in the Griffin fight, I did wonder whether Edgar’s crisp boxing could give him some difficulties. Still, I expected Sherk to overpower and outwrestle the Answer to a decision.
Round One begins and Edgar keeps on his toes, moving around on the outside as Sherk throws some punches. Edgar does a good job of avoiding Sherk’s punches and then they clinch and muscle for position before breaking off. Good low kick from Edgar and then he avoids a right hook. Both men are throwing out some quick combos here but neither’s really landed yet. Finally Edgar catches Sherk with a nice combo. Another swift combination fires off on Sherk and then Edgar gets right out of the way of the return. Edgar’s boxing is looking crisp. Nice leg kick from Frankie and he follows with a left hook. Edgar tries a single leg but Sherk stuffs it and then breaks off with a right. Edgar continues to dance around the outside, and then he catches a leg kick and gets a takedown, before looking to lock up a guillotine as Sherk sits up. Frankie drags him around by the neck for a bit but can’t get the choke sunk in and Sherk manages to escape to his feet. Sherk tries to fire off with some combos now, but he can’t seem to catch Edgar who appears to have really improved his footwork. Good low kick from Edgar but Sherk answers with a flurry right before the buzzer. Surprising round that I’d give to Frankie Edgar, 10-9.
Round Two and Sherk comes out throwing combos, but gets caught early on with a left uppercut. Sherk begins to throw some real power into his punches now, but again Edgar’s doing a good job of countering, landing a body kick and then getting right out of the way of a right hook. Edgar goes for a takedown and Sherk stuffs it, but eats a knee to the gut on the way out that drops him momentarily. Sherk bounces right back up, but Edgar fires a high kick at him that knocks him off balance as he blocks. Exchange follows with Sherk as the aggressor, but he still hasn’t landed very cleanly while Edgar’s catching him coming in with combinations. Beautiful combo to the head and body from Edgar and I’m very surprised that Sherk hasn’t tried to get him down yet. Another big combo lands for Edgar and Sherk tries to swing right back but still can’t catch the quicker, more nimble fighter. Edgar’s footwork is winning him this fight. Sherk stuffs a takedown attempt though and lands a right hand. Edgar gets back to moving around though and the round ends shortly after. I’ve got Edgar up two rounds to none now.
Into the third round and Sherk comes out looking to push the pace, but to me his boxing just seems too rudimentary to catch Edgar, particularly as his reach is so short. Finally Sherk hits a beautiful double leg and puts Edgar on his back in guard. Edgar immediately turns to his left and manages to escape to his feet though, although he takes a couple of shots on the way out. Nice one-two lands for Edgar and he’s still on his bike as Sherk comes straight forward. Sherk stuffs a takedown and lands a knee on the way out, but he’s bloody now. Good left hand from Edgar. Sherk goes for a single leg, but Edgar shakes it off this time and lands a body kick and a straight right hand. Leg kick from Edgar as he continues to mix things up brilliantly, just flummoxing the former champion. Great combination lands for Edgar with less than a minute to go. And another one lands clean, snapping Sherk’s head back with a right hand. Seconds to go and Sherk shoots, but this time Edgar grabs a guillotine and pulls guard, but the buzzer sounds there.
Incredible stuff. I’ve got this 30-27 for Frankie Edgar, which was almost unthinkable coming in. Judges all agree and it’s Edgar’s decision and his biggest win to date. Edgar basically won this fight through his movement and footwork, as he stayed on the outside and used his superior boxing skill to land clean combinations while avoiding Sherk’s more straightforward style and shorter reach. I think Sherk could’ve made it a different fight had he used his wrestling and sheer power more, but hey, if he wants to become a crude kickboxer for some reason then it’s his decision. Massive win for Edgar though – prior to this I thought he should cut to 145lbs to avoid the bigger men at 155lbs, but by beating Sherk he just took out one of the larger ‘bully’ type fighters anyway. Tremendous win for him.
Miller’s original opponent here had been Japan’s Yushin Okami in a fight that could well have determined the #1 contender for Anderson Silva’s Middleweight crown, but Okami’s hand got hurt again and so he pulled out and in stepped Chael Sonnen, who had made an unsuccessful return to UFC action in February, losing to Demian Maia. As far as a pick goes, despite Sonnen having a big advantage in the wrestling department, his submission defense leaves a lot to be desired and I figured Miller – who had already won three straight in UFC – would catch him with something nasty early on, probably from the guard. Yves Lavigne is the referee here and boy does he get a nasty crowd response, probably due to the awful stoppage in the Nover-Bradley fight earlier.
We get started and Miller lands a right hand in an early exchange. Sonnen shoots and takes him down, but gets caught in an arm-in guillotine and Miller closes up the guard and really strains to finish it. Sonnen goes BRIGHT RED and this looks like it’s over, but somehow Chael grits his teeth and fights through it, popping his head free. Sonnen lands a pair of elbows and a left hand, then stands to attempt a pass before settling back into the guard. Miller uses a really high guard as Sonnen chops away with some short elbows, landing pretty cleanly too. Miller looks to kick him off, but Chael is relentless and stays on him, dropping some more good punches. Miller tries to roll into a kneebar and again Sonnen looks in trouble, but he sits back to avoid extending the leg and manages to take top position in side mount, landing some elbows as Miller gives up on the submission. Good job from Miller of getting back into half-guard, but Sonnen remains on top working with solid punches. Miller is really stuck here, being pressed horribly into the cage and taking punches. He tries for the kneebar again but can’t get it locked, and it’s more of the same – nasty ground-and-pound – from Sonnen on top. Round ends in the same position and it’s easily scored for Sonnen, 10-9.
Between rounds – despite Sonnen absolutely dominating Miller on the ground – Matt Lindland in his corner tells Chael to stand up with him this round. I’m wondering which drugs Lindland’s been smoking backstage prior to this.
Into the 2nd and Sonnen catches a kick and goes for the takedown. Miller manages to avoid and they clinch up, with Chael pushing him into the fence. Big slam from Sonnen puts Miller on his back, but he’s got a guillotine in full guard. Miller looks exhausted though and can’t finish the choke, and Sonnen pops his head free and begins to work the ground-and-pound game again. Miller brings his legs up to try a triangle, but Sonnen postures up and drops a pair of big rights over the top onto him, making him pay for the attempt. This is perhaps the best I’ve ever seen Sonnen look against a dangerous opponent. Announcers riff on Paulo Filho as Sonnen continues to pound Miller, mentioning that Chael was robbed of the WEC Title, but instead he gained a chance to fight in the UFC. Armbar attempt from Miller and it looks quite deep, but Sonnen’s arm doesn’t look deep enough in there and he manages to slip free. More punches and elbows land for Chael and to me it looks like Miller’s very gassed, and I think it may have been due to him blowing a ton of energy trying to finish the early guillotine. Crowd begin to get restless as Sonnen stands over Miller and drops some more punches to finish off the round. 10-9 Sonnen and Miller needs to tap him in the third to win. Well, or knock him out I guess. Which could happen when poor Sonnen has an idiot like Lindland in his corner STILL telling him to stay on the outside and box (!).
Third and final round and Miller catches him early with a nice combination. Sonnen shoots for the takedown though, obviously not heeding Lindland’s “advice”, and gets him down again. Miller tries to go for the rubber guard but he’s too tired to get it locked up right and Sonnen stays inside the guard and begins to work him over once again. Crowd are beginning to get annoyed again but hey, Chael’s being active enough to avoid a stand-up and he is doing damage. Miller is doing a good job of retaining full guard, but he’s doing little else as Sonnen remains on top landing elbows and punches. Classic line from Rogan with about thirty seconds to go – “unless Chael has a stroke, he’s going to win this fight”. And of course he doesn’t have a stroke and so the fight ends with Sonnen ground-and-pounding his way inside Miller’s guard. 10-9 Sonnen and it has to be his decision.
Sure enough the judges all score it 30-27 for Chael. The story here was that Miller just didn’t have a good enough guard game to catch Sonnen with a submission after gassing himself with the early guillotine attempt, and he was unable to stop the takedown as Sonnen is such a good wrestler. Very good performance from Sonnen even if it got dull in places, although I still worry about his submission defence against a better BJJ guy.
Yet another injury-hit bout here, McFedries was originally set to take on fellow banger James Irvin, but when the Sandman got hurt, Zuffa simply replaced him with another kickboxer in France’s ‘Professor X’ and gave us a bout that practically guaranteed as many fireworks as McFedries-Irvin would’ve done. Basically power (McFedries) against technique (Professor X).
First round and Xavier circles around, but McFedries comes out SWINGING and tags him with a left before putting him DOWN with a CRUSHING RIGHT! Xavier looks done and McFedries pounces and pounds away, and no sooner has the Frenchman got back to his feet than McFedries sends him right back down with an uppercut! Another right and a left drops Xavier again, and despite him going for a takedown the ref stops it there.
Post-fight Xavier protests the stoppage but unlike the Nover-Bradley fight this one was entirely warranted as the guy was absolutely out of it. Well, I said the fight was power vs. technique and here power won the day. Good lord does McFedries hit hard. If that guy catches you in the right spot you are DEAD. Vicious showing.
Man, talk about a long wait – this grudge match had been building since well, early 2007, and had originally been scheduled for December of that year, so after all the injuries and various other fights (and losses) for the two, it was basically almost eighteen months late. With that said though, it didn’t really matter as the selling point for the fight was never the fact that it was for the Welterweight Title, it was more that these two guys DESPISE one another. Well, maybe despise is the wrong word from the Hughes perspective, as you got the feeling he never really cared about Serra either way until Serra’s persistent taunting (“the guy is a dick!” over and over and over and over) finally got to him. Serra, on the other hand, clearly hated Hughes. Interestingly back during the tapings of TUF 6 it was Serra who was portrayed as the good guy to Hughes’s cocky jock character, but by the time the fight finally came around, judging by the Countdown show the roles had reversed, with Hughes the conquering hero who would shut the loud mouth of Serra. Crowd here clearly take that standpoint too, giving a huge pop to Hughes while Serra gets pretty roundly booed.
As far as a pick goes? I was firmly with Hughes, as I figured despite him looking off the pace in his past couple of fights, those fights had been against the best fighters in the world, and he would still have more than enough in the tank to be able to take Serra down, keep him there, avoid a submission and grind out a victory. Hughes also looks HUGE here, like he’s really hit the weights again. I don’t think I can remember him looking this big since he was 175lbs for the Royce Gracie fight.
And here we go! No touch of gloves, unsurprisingly. Hughes comes out in a southpaw stance, looking to shoot, and they circle around and throw some feeler strikes that don’t really land. Hughes comes forward and suddenly a BIG RIGHT from Serra to the temple stuns him badly! Hughes is in trouble and he’s forced to grab guard as Serra pounces, looking to finish. They come back to their feet and Hughes is on wobbly legs, and Serra lands with another big right that puts Hughes on queer street, sending him on the retreat across the cage! A desperation shot almost puts Serra on his back, but Serra manages to shake him off and hop around as Hughes drives for a single. Hughes manages to force him into the cage as Joe Rogan tells us he’s just seen a replay and it was a clash of heads that stunned Hughes initially. They muscle for position along the fence for a while before Serra breaks off. Inside leg kick lands for Serra and he’s grinning at Hughes now. Hughes closes the distance into the clinch and then gets a BIG TAKEDOWN into side mount. Serra gives his back and Hughes manages to get both hooks in and begins to work for the choke! Serra looks calm though and manages to turn into Hughes and escape to his feet. They circle off and Serra misses a high kick to end the round.
Replay confirms it was a clash of heads that rocked Hughes, but Serra followed it with a big right to the temple/back of the head and then landed another big shot that had Hughes in deep trouble, so I’m giving him the round, 10-9.
Round Two and Serra looks to strike again, but he can’t really land clean and Hughes closes the distance and gets a bodylock takedown to Serra’s guard. Hughes passes into half-guard but doesn’t really do much damage with his ground-and-pound as Serra’s guard game is very strong. Serra looks like he’s stalling for a stand-up here as there’s little going on really and the moment Hughes looks to posture up, he gets to full guard. Hughes manages to get right back to half-guard though. Couple of right hands land for Hughes but nothing too damaging really. Referee finally brings them up with seconds remaining, and Serra comes lunging in with a body kick, then blocks a takedown on the buzzer. Well, very little happened in that round but Hughes was in control so it’s got to go to him, meaning it’s even going into the third.
Round Three and Hughes paws with the right hand, looking to set up his takedown again. Couple of low kicks land for Serra as he’s looking for the big right hand. Good right from Hughes and he closes the distance and goes for the takedown. Serra does a good job of defending initially but Hughes gets relentless and drives him to the ground. Serra looks to isolate an arm for a possible oma plata, but Hughes keeps his posture up and works to free his arm, chopping at the body with his right hand at the same time. Hughes pops his arm free into the full guard now and looks to pin Serra into the fence as Serra ties up the arm again. Once again Hughes pops free and now Serra goes for a triangle, but Hughes postures out easily. Hughes gets into half-guard and the crowd are becoming restless now as he’s doing little in the way of damage. Referee decides to bring them back to their feet and Serra looks to attack, then even baits Hughes by dropping his hands. Hughes refuses to commit though and they clinch, and now Serra hits a BEAUTIFUL takedown and lands in half-guard! Serra quickly works from the top and looks to pass, landing some short punches, and then Hughes looks to get a takedown of his own, but Serra uses a headlock to block it and then begins to prep a kimura as the buzzer sounds.
Round was very close and really, Serra did more in the short portion that he was on top than Hughes did, plus he had submission attempts while Hughes did very little damage. If I’m scoring I’d go 29-28 for Matt Serra, but due to the sheer top control of the third round the judges are going to give it to Hughes.
Scorecards are in, and all three judges score it 29-28 for Matt Hughes. Like I say, I can understand that but I wouldn’t agree with it. Post-fight Hughes says that now they’ve fought, they can bury the hatchet, but the trash talk definitely motivated him in the gym, and he says he’s still ready to compete and wants to sign a new deal with the UFC. Serra then tells us that he wanted to finish Hughes in the first round but admits Hughes had a good chin and did a good job of hanging in there, and then he says he always respected Hughes as a fighter and the hatchet is now buried.
Fight was odd in a way in that if the backstory hadn’t been there and there hadn’t been so much heat going in, it probably would’ve been disappointing as really Hughes basically outwrestled Serra to a decision, which was what I was expecting coming in I guess. But throw in all of the heat and the trash talk and then the drama of the first round with Hughes almost going out after the head clash and the punch to the back of the head (what is it with Serra landing that punch?!) and in the end the fight basically came off twice as good as it had any right to. I mean, it wasn’t anywhere near like a FOTYC or anything, but it was a lot of fun, and what more can you really ask?
Pretty unbelievable when you think about it that this was the first title match in UFC history to feature two unbeaten fighters, but there you go. Coming in the betting favourite, strangely enough, was the challenger Machida (I’m going out on a limb and guessing the last time the challenger was the favourite in a UFC title match would’ve been BJ Penn against Jens Pulver?), despite Evans looking unbelievable in his previous two fights, destroying both Chuck Liddell and Forrest Griffin. Machida though had taken apart the likes of Sokoudjou, Ortiz, and Thiago Silva and his elusive counterstriking style had flummoxed every single opponent he’d faced, so much that he’d never lost a round in UFC competition. Here though, going against the trend, I was behind the champion – I figured that while Machida had been able to beat brawlers like Silva and Sokoudjou, Evans was on another level both technically and from a speed perspective, and not only did he have explosive power, but he also had top-class wrestling and a great strategist in his corner in Greg Jackson. In the end I was going with Rashad to retain his title with a third-round TKO.
Crowd are surprisingly firmly behind Machida here, giving him a nice pop and booing Rashad. I don’t get why people boo Rashad actually – it’s not like he’s ever acted like a dick or anything and really the worst thing (to casual fans) he’s ever done is KO two favourites in Liddell and Griffin. Maybe that’s it?
First round begins and Rashad bounces around on the outside while Machida takes the center of the cage. It looks like both men want to play the role of counter-striker, and we’re past one minute in and nobody’s landed a shot yet. Two minutes gone and still nobody’s landed. Finally Machida throws a left high kick out of nowhere that knocks Rashad off balance momentarily, but the champ’s not hurt at all. Wild flurry from Evans misses by a mile. Left kick lands for Machida again but like before it doesn’t look like Rashad is hurt. Machida tries his leg sweep too but Rashad manages to avoid it. Rashad tries to work his jab, but he can’t seem to get in range and Machida lands with a body kick and then clinches. Quick break follows and both men bounce around again before Machida steps in with a low kick and DROPS RASHAD WITH A LEFT! Machida pounces and looks to finish, but Rashad quickly recovers and gets to guard before using the fence to get to his feet. Machida looks to take him down again, but they break off and it looks like Evans is fully recovered now. Lyoto tries a few more kicks and then the round ends shortly thereafter. Round One clearly goes to Lyoto Machida for the big knockdown, 10-9.
Second round begins in the same way as the first, with Rashad bouncing around on the outside. Big chant for Machida from the crowd now, and who would’ve ever expected that a year or so ago, even during the Ortiz fight for instance? Lyoto surprisingly goes for a trip takedown from the clinch, but the fence gets in the way and Rashad manages to avoid it. Suddenly Lyoto leaps in and throws a FAST combo that lands, but Evans fires right back using his hand speed and almost catches Machida with a big right! Machida gets outta dodge though and continues to press in his odd fashion, throwing a pair of high kicks that narrowly miss. Rashad is having a very tough time finding his range here. Good body kick finally lands for the champion as Machida continues to move in and out. Rashad tries to move in, but he gets caught coming in with a pair of lefts that ROCK HIS WORLD and put him down again! Lyoto pounces and Rashad looks to get back to his feet, but this time he’s clearly on wobbly legs. Machida continues to close in and this time Rashad’s so out of it that he tries to swing right back, but Machida continues to land until a BIG LEFT KILLS RASHAD DEAD!~!
Holy crap. Certainly didn’t think Machida had the power in his shots to do that, particularly as Rashad had never really seemed hurt in any of his fights prior to this one. He was knocked completely unconscious here, dropping like Guy Mezger against Chuck Liddell or something. Amazing stuff. Post-fight Machida gets on the mic and in decent English (!) cuts a uber-charismatic promo telling the fans that he’s been working all of his life to become champion, karate is BACK, and if you have a dream, go ahead, it’s possible! Crowd naturally go APESHIT and you can practically see the dollar signs in Dana White’s eyes as A STAR IS BORN. And who the hell would’ve expected that two years ago when everyone and his dog found this guy boring?
Well, I honestly thought Rashad was the guy to solve the puzzle of Machida and I was horribly wrong as he looked just as lost as everyone else who’s fought the guy. I really don’t see what sort of gameplan could take the guy out, as his style is so different to anyone else that how do you train for it? It’s like Joe Rogan says – karate on its own might be pretty useless in MMA but when you’ve got solid wrestling, a BJJ black belt, strong Muay Thai and natural speed and reflexes then karate like this can be very useful indeed. If I really had to hedge a bet I think a very strong wrestler could prove a difficult match for Lyoto, but if that’s the case then the Machida Era may go on for at least a couple of years while Ryan Bader and Jon Jones climb up the ladder. Barring any upsets, of course. As a main event this was the shit, dude.
-Highlight reel rolls there and so our night comes to an end.
For some reason I remembered this as being a bit of a dull show, but perhaps I was on mind bending drugs during that period as on a rewatch it was really, really good. Sure, there’s no definitive classic here and I actually had a tough time picking the best fight, as top to bottom it’s filled with good-but-not-great ones. Having said that, the only dull fight I remembered (Sonnen-Miller) was pretty decent watching it again and that makes the only truly bad fight Roop vs. Kaplan. Aside from that the rest of the prelims all end in exciting fashion (even if Phillipe got screwed), Sherk-Edgar was excellent, McFedries-Xavier was like a minute’s worth of sheer brutality and the co-headliners delivered, with the main event especially being a really memorable ending to the show. So overall I’m giving UFC 98 two thumbs up.
Best Fight: Edgar-Sherk
Worst Fight: Roop-Kaplan
Overall Rating: ****
UFC: 99-103, Fight Night 19, TUF IX Finale.
King of the Cage: Various shows