Home / Forums / Staff / Archive / Wrestling / RSS / Contact
UFC 123: Rampage vs. Machida review
by Scott Newman (MMA)
Posted on March 29, 2011, 2:36 AM

UFC 123: Rampage vs. Machida

Detroit, Michigan

-First time back in the Motor City for UFC since the Shamrock-Severn II debacle back in 1996 (!).

-Your hosts are Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan.

Lightweight Fight: Tyson Griffin vs Nik Lentz

Well, the word was that after his awful fight against Andre Winner at UFC 118 the Zuffa brass were looking to can Lentz, so not only was he shoved back into the untelevised prelims, he was faced with a very tough match in Griffin, who is not only a fantastic wrestler but has become seriously well-rounded too. Of course the other point was that Tyson nearly always puts on exciting fights, so they were obviously hoping he’d drag something good out of Lentz in the process of beating him.

First round and they trade kicks before Lentz gets a takedown to half-guard. Griffin looks for a sweep and manages to get out from underneath, but Lentz grabs a front facelock to control him. Tyson gets to his feet and hits a single leg of his own, driving Lentz into the cage. Lentz pops up and then drops down for a guillotine attempt, but he lets it go in order to stand. Big slam from Tyson but Lentz quickly scrambles back to his feet. He grabs the guillotine again, but it doesn’t look dangerous for Griffin, who continues to force Lentz into the cage. Tyson looks for a single leg again as Lentz defends and knees the body. Good takedown from Griffin but again Lentz manages to work back to his feet. Two minutes to go and Tyson gets him down again. Lentz reverses to his feet once more, and I’m surprised Herb Dean hasn’t separated them yet. Another takedown from Griffin but Lentz looks to twist his arm up into a kimura. Griffin easily pulls out of that and hits another slam as Lentz stands. Switch from Lentz and he escapes to his feet. They trade some strikes and neither man really gets the advantage, and that’s the round. 10-9 Griffin.

Second round and Lentz glances with an early head kick. They trade some punches before Tyson lands a solid leg kick. Lentz throws the head kick a couple more times then shoots, driving Griffin into the cage. Tyson quickly stuffs it and breaks off. Good right hand from Tyson but Lentz answers with a leg kick. Lentz comes forward but almost walks into a big right hook. High kick misses but Lentz shoots in and gets Tyson down for a second. Griffin pops up and eats a one-two before going for a takedown of his own. Takedown from Griffin and Lentz tries a guillotine, but Tyson escapes only for Lentz to scramble to his feet. Question mark kick from Lentz but Griffin fires back with a hard right hand. Good left-right from Tyson. Kick to the body from Lentz but Griffin goes for the takedown and forces him into the cage. Lentz goes down again, but again he appears to be looking for a kimura. He transitions into what looks like an oma plata attempt, but it doesn’t really work and Griffin remains on top. Lentz ends up seated against the cage, sporting a slightly bloody nose. Seconds remaining in the round and Lentz stands, but Tyson slams him back down on the buzzer. Closer round, but still 10-9 Griffin.

Third round and Tyson looks fired up. Big right hand decks Lentz early and he pops up and looks for the takedown. Tyson stuffs it though and follows up with a BIG head kick and another right that drops Lentz again! He gets up, but looks wobbly and Tyson tees off on him with another big combo and a heavy right hand. Lentz is in deep trouble here. He shoots in but Tyson stuffs it, then trips him down and gets on top. Full guard from Lentz and he tries to use the fence to roll out, but Tyson’s having none of it and he drops a solid elbow for good measure. Tyson looks to pass, but Lentz manages to get his back to the fence and gets up. Griffin drags him right back down and Lentz is taking some deep breaths now. Lentz works to his feet but Griffin grabs a guillotine, and it looks pretty tight as they go down. Lentz manages to get into half-guard though and it looks like he’s going to work free. Lentz manages to get free and begins to grind on Tyson, but Griffin fires back with some elbows to the leg from the bottom. Reversal attempt from Griffin, and they roll in a pretzel position before coming up where Lentz has him pressed against the fence. Thirty seconds remaining and Tyson breaks, but Lentz quickly stays on him and works another takedown to guard. Round ends with Lentz on top.

Third round has to go to Griffin for the early work, making it 30-27 Griffin overall, right? At least you’d think. Somehow the judges give it to Nik Lentz via a split decision, with two giving him a 29-28 and the third seeing it correctly and going 30-27 Griffin. Mind-boggling. I mean, there is just NO WAY Lentz won that fight. No way. I don’t see how you could score it for him at all. Probably the worst decision of 2010 off the top of my head, and that’s including stuff like Garcia-Phan. Tyson had more takedowns, had him hurt standing, was never in danger...how the hell does that mean Lentz wins? The guy seems like fucking Teflon in terms of keeping his job intact. Thankfully Dana White saw the fight the same as me (and anyone else with a brain) and so Griffin wasn’t cut despite this being his third loss in a row. As for the quality of the fight, well, it wasn’t great – nowhere near Tyson’s classics with Edgar, Guida, Tavares and Sherk – but considering it had Nik Lentz involved you can’t complain.

Lightweight Fight: Paul Kelly vs TJ O’Brien

Scouser Kelly was originally set to face Gabe Ruediger here, but when Godzilla dropped out, O’Brien – who had lost in the prelims of TUF 12 – stepped in on pretty short notice. With O’Brien having been knocked out in thirteen seconds on TUF the smart money here was on the Brit.

Fight begins and Kelly looks to swing for the fences, but O’Brien lands a body kick and manages to keep the distance, using his reach quite well early on. Good leg kick lands for TJ and he follows with another, but then takes a couple of hooks from the Brit as he charges in. They clinch for a moment and then break, and O’Brien lands a glancing high kick. O’Brien keeps throwing kicks to keep his distance and it looks like Kelly’s struggling a little with the reach. Combo from the Brit closes the distance, but O’Brien quickly breaks off. Good leg kick again from TJ. Clinch from Kelly and he forces TJ into the fence, but nothing happens and Dan Miragliotta calls the break. Another leg kick lands for O’Brien but a body kick is blocked. Nice left hook into a leg kick from Kelly to answer. Flying knee attempt from O’Brien but Kelly catches it and takes him down to guard. Oma plata attempt from O’Brien but Kelly pulls out easily and stands. O’Brien continues to use his reach well to land strikes before the round ends. Good round for TJ O’Brien, actually.

2nd round and Kelly misses a spinning back kick to begin. O’Brien fires off a couple more leg kicks, but Kelly manages to close the distance and lands a HUGE left hook that drops him badly. Kelly looks to pound away, going into the guard, and then he smartly decides to wave O’Brien up to his feet. TJ fires back with a good right hand, but Kelly walks him down, then makes a massive error and botches a takedown, ending up on his back and mounted! Elbows from O’Brien and Kelly rolls and gives his back, but O’Brien looks a little high and Kelly does a good job of escaping and getting on top in side mount. Nice job from the Brit. He works into the mounted crucifix and begins to work O’Brien over with punches and elbows, and although they’re not massively powerful TJ isn’t defending and Dan Miragliotta has to step in.

Decent little fight overall, as O’Brien acquitted himself well for a debutant, but once Kelly worked out how to handle the reach and found his range, he was able to take over. The mistake almost cost him big time, but once he got into the mounted crucifix he did a tremendous job to stop the fight. Good fight overall.

Lightweight Fight: Edson Barboza vs Mike Lullo

Lullo was another fighter coming into this show on short notice, replacing the injured Darren Elkins, but all the hype for his fight was on his opponent, Brazilian debutant Barboza, who came in with a lot of fanfare as another red-hot prospect. Personally I’d seen some of his highlight videos and the guy looked like a wrecking machine. I was expecting a fast and vicious finish in this one.

Fight gets underway and Lullo circles on the outside as Barboza looks pretty patient, waiting for his opportunity. Good leg kick lands for the Brazilian. He follows with another and then Lullo decides to shoot, driving Barboza into the fence, but the Brazilian slams him to the ground instead. Barboza moves into side mount, but then decides to stand back up. Heavy leg kick lands for Barboza again. And another. This guy is clearly a serious striker. Lullo clinches but Barboza hits a belly-to-belly suplex and slams him to guard again. Lullo immediately goes for the rubber guard this time, and it looks like he might have a gogoplata possibly sunk in. Barboza doesn’t really look in trouble though. Finally after about a minute or so Barboza manages to slam his way out and stands. Big high kick misses for the Brazilian, but he lands with a BRUTAL leg kick. Barboza’s leg kicks are reminiscent of Thiago Alves’s. Lullo throws one of his own, but Barboza throws one at the same time that drops him. Lullo pops up, but takes a glancing turning side kick. He walks in, but eats a right hand that wobbles him too. Round ends just there. 10-9 Barboza for the brutal strikes despite Lullo’s gogoplata attempt.

Round Two and Lullo walks right into a left hand that wobbles his legs a bit. Big leg kick follows and Lullo is clearly in trouble. Takedown attempt from Lullo but Barboza stuffs it and breaks off, before landing a head kick and a hard right. Lullo looks on jelly legs for a second but recovers. Hard body kick and a knee to the same spot from Barboza and he follows that with a leg kick. Takedown attempt from Lullo is stuffed but this time they go down with Barboza on top. Lullo tries for the rubber guard again, but this time Barboza does a better job of defending the position and he stands. Lullo is slow to get up, and Barboza meets him with another vicious leg kick. Another one buckles him and forces him to shoot, but Barboza sprawls and now Lullo can barely stand. Lullo continues to push forward though, but eats another leg kick and a right uppercut. Same combo follows and Lullo decides to pull guard this time. Again he tries to trap Barboza in the rubber guard, but like before Barboza pulls out and stands. Another leg kick drops him but he pulls himself up. Lullo can’t even try to mask the pain now. Another one drops him and this ought to be stopped. Ref waves him up instead though and that’s the round. He can barely walk to his corner. 10-8 Barboza as the fight should’ve been stopped.

Round Three and Lullo is grimacing coming out of his corner. First leg kick almost puts him down and the second one sends him flying. Ref calls him up. For fuck’s sake, stop the fight. One more drops Lullo again and finally the ref steps in.

Lullo showed a lot of heart and a half-decent guard game, but Barboza looked like a MONSTER here, displaying absolutely sick leg kicks and striking in general really, and clearly his ground game isn’t exactly bad either. This guy could be a genuine contender in a year or so. Definitely one to keep your eye on. Super-entertaining fight too.

Welterweight Fight: Dennis Hallman vs Karo Parisyan

After the way he left the UFC I honestly did not expect to see Karo back in the fold, but surprisingly one win later (over a nobody) and he was brought back. The word coming in was that he still had a painkiller and panic attack problem though and this was probably too soon for him to return. Hallman had surprisingly beaten Ben Saunders at UFC 117 and looked good in doing so, so I figured he’d be able to beat the zombie-ish Karo that appeared at the weigh-ins.

Round One and they circle before Karo looks to close the distance. Hallman shrugs off the clinch and backs out, but an overhand right allows Karo to close in and force Hallman back into the cage. They exchange some short strikes inside, before Dan Miragliotta calls a break. Karo steps in, but gets dropped with a short right hand and Hallman pounces and lands a series of hammer fists to stop it.

Post-fight Karo tries to claim an early stoppage, but there’s no way, he was definitely gone. It’s sad to say it because he was such a good fighter before, but I think Karo’s pretty much finished due to his injuries and various problems, and I doubt we see him in the UFC again. As for Hallman, this surprising renaissance for his career continues although I’m still waiting for Joe Silva to do the obvious and match him with Matt Hughes again!

Middleweight Fight: Mark Munoz vs Aaron Simpson

Battle of two big-time wrestlers in this one, with both men coming off losses too. Despite Munoz bringing in a better wrestling pedigree I was actually picking Simpson as I’ve not been fully convinced with Munoz’s overall game (outside of that sick ground-and-pound) and I’m a big fan of Simpson who could be a genuine contender I think if he can work on a couple of the holes in his game.

First round and Simpson pushes forward with a short right to the body, a leg kick and a combo into a takedown attempt. Munoz works to defend the single leg and they end up clinched, where they exchange knees. Simpson breaks off and then pushes into the clinch again, but Munoz breaks and just misses with a wild right. Into the clinch again and this time Munoz pushes him into the fence. They muscle for position and Simpson breaks with a strong knee to the head. Big swings miss for both men and then Munoz shoots, but Simpson sprawls and spins onto the back, landing a shot before getting a rear waistlock. Good job by Munoz to spin free though and he lands a good leg kick. Simpson throws a combo into a takedown and gets it, before taking the back, but Munoz escapes out the back door, sending Simpson over the top. They exchange some pretty wild punches into the clinch, where Munoz lands a solid elbow and uppercut inside. Good shots inside from Munoz and Simpson looks stunned, but he drops for a single leg and then grabs a front facelock as Munoz drops for a takedown of his own. Simpson gets him pushed into the fence again, but Munoz turns it around only for Simpson to trip him for a split second. Munoz pops right back up and they muscle for position again before Simpson exits with a knee to the head. High kick misses for Munoz and both men miss combos to end the round. Really good round.

Into the 2nd and Simpson clips him with a right to the body to begin. Good combo from Simpson and he follows with a body kick. Munoz pushes forward and hits a kick of his own, but Simpson catches it and takes him down. Munoz scrambles, but finds himself in a front facelock and then a rear waistlock as Simpson spins to take the back. Munoz exits with a beautiful backfist that catches Simpson clean, and they trade some big shots with both men landing. Simpson clinches but this time Munoz tackles him to the ground. Simpson rolls into the turtle position and takes two shots before standing and breaking free. Ref calls time for an inadvertent kick to the groin from Simpson, and it looks like Munoz is cut on his forehead too. Munoz recovers quickly and they continue, and Simpson catches the right kick again but this time he can’t get Munoz down. Good body kick from Munoz but Simpson fires back with a one-two. Right kick is caught again but once more Simpson can’t drag him down. BIG high kick lands for Munoz but Simpson TAKES IT LIKE A MAN. Wild swing misses for Munoz and Simpson hits a nice double leg. Munoz immediately looks for a switch as the blood runs down his face. Ref calls an odd stand-up and Munoz throws a couple of kicks into the clinch, where he returns the favour by landing a knee to the groin. Ref steps in to let Simpson recover as the replay shows it was a clash of heads that caused Munoz’s cut. They restart and Munoz has a low kick caught again and Simpson gets him down, but Munoz reverses using his own single leg attempt and they separate. They exchange some shots again with Munoz landing a solid right hand. Good knees from Simpson into the clinch and he forces Munoz into the cage, but the Filipino reverses and the round ends there. Another incredibly close round. I’d probably have Munoz ahead by a hair at this stage but it could easily go either way.

Third and final round and Simpson catches the kick and takes Munoz down again, but a sick reversal follows for the Filipino and he gets his own takedown, where he takes the back and lands a couple of BOMBS to the side of Simpson’s head. Simpson quickly escapes to his feet and takes a poke to the eye on the exit. Ref calls time again but the replay seems to show a knuckle landed in the eye rather than a finger. That’s pretty questionable. They decide to continue anyway and Simpson lands a knee to the body before catching the low kick, but this time Munoz swings wildly and escapes. They clinch and Munoz backs him into the cage with some knees to the body but the ref breaks them quickly. Combo from Munoz but the right low kick is caught again. He manages to break though and they clinch, where Munoz lands some really hard shots inside. Simpson fires right back with knees and reverses position to force Munoz into the fence, and they continue to muscle for position. Big punches break for Munoz and he’s beginning to pull away. Takedown attempt from Simpson is stuffed but he lands a left on the way out. Two minutes to go now. Combo from Simpson allows him to close the distance, but Munoz breaks free. Good leg kick from Munoz. Big swing misses in answer from Simpson. Takedown attempt from Simpson and he manages to get the Filipino off his feet, then grabs a front facelock, but Munoz reverses and gets up to his feet. Big exchange follows and both men get cracked, and then they clinch again. Seconds to go and they trade flurries again, and that’s the fight. Great stuff. Crowd go crazy and rightfully so.

Judges see it 29-28, 29-28, 29-28 for Mark Munoz. Close decision but I think Munoz pulled away in the last two rounds and I’d agree with the judges there. Fucking AWESOME fight though as both men went to WAR, exchanging huge shots and takedowns and they never let the pace slow down for a second. Hats off to both men, but particularly Munoz whose striking looked markedly improved here from his previous fights with Okami and Grove. I guess he could turn into a contender yet.

Welterweight Fight: Brian Foster vs Matt Brown

Despite neither of these two being close to contender status I was pretty excited for this one, as Brown brings a tough fight for anyone while Foster’s OTT aggressive style has made him one of my favourite guys to watch since he arrived in the UFC. My pick was Foster as I figured the Hughes student was a bit too explosive for Brown to handle. Side note as apparently this is the 1500th fight in UFC history! Word.

Fight begins and Brown stalks forward and lands a leg kick before missing with a head kick. Superman punch into a beautiful takedown follow for Foster and he lands in side mount and nails Brown with an elbow. Brown scrambles back to guard and gets to his feet, and they swing big hooks that miss. Body kick lands for Brown and he gets a takedown of his own, passing into side mount quickly. Brown controls him from north/south and it looks like he’s setting up for a top side guillotine, but Foster sneaks out the back door and lands punches from behind, taking the back proper with both hooks. Brown tries to turn into him and so Foster goes for an armbar, but the arm’s too far out and Brown scrambles and gets a front facelock, looking for a D’Arce. Foster reverses to his feet though and they trade knees to break. Good right hand from Foster but Brown comes back swinging, only for Foster to fight fire with fire with a wild combo into a takedown. Brown scrambles but Foster keeps hold of him and forces him down into half-guard. SICK sweep from Brown puts him in full mount but Foster escapes and Brown gets a front facelock again before trying to take the back. Foster looks to shake him off, but gives his arm in the process. Armbar looks pretty dangerous but Foster stays calm and escapes into the guard. This is a hell of a fight. Foster stands over him and looks to drop a haymaker into the guard, and the round ends with Brown using upkicks to keep Foster off him. 10-10 round I’d say as both men had tons of offense.

Round Two and Brown comes out aggressively, but eats a left hand. They trade kicks and Foster gets caught low, and Herb Dean calls time. Foster recovers and they get going, and Brown throws a spinning kick but Foster clutches his groin and Herb calls time again. Foster decides to continue and they trade some more kicks before Foster catches one and hits a SICK trip takedown. Foster lets go of a front facelock and allows Brown to turn to his back, where he kicks at the legs. Solid punches from the top from Foster but Brown manages to close up the guard. Foster pulls out and nails him with some really heavy shots, and Brown reverses into a single leg, but gets caught in a guillotine. Foster pulls guard and tightens it up and Brown has to tap out there.

Total dogfight just as I expected going in, and fuck it, even though Brown is now on a three-fight losing streak both of these guys ought to have jobs for life with the UFC because they are ANIMALS who will bring a fight against pretty much anyone. Wildly entertaining stuff.

Lightweight Fight: George Sotiropoulos vs Joe Lauzon

After beating Joe Stevenson and Kurt Pellegrino to extend his winning streak to six UFC fights (!) I was surprised they didn’t match Sotiropoulos with someone higher up the ladder, but I guess Joe Silva was super-impressed with the way Lauzon smashed Gabe Ruediger at UFC 118 (who wasn’t?) so this was what we got. Not that I was complaining as Lauzon’s never in a dull fight, but I was still expecting Greek George to be able to deal with him, probably on the ground.

Round One and they exchange some punches, with Lauzon looking a little looser and tagging George a couple of times with right hands. They clinch for a second and then break off, and Lauzon continues to get the better of the striking exchange. Single leg from Sotiropoulos but Lauzon stuffs it nicely. More punches from Joe and he’s backing George up here. Sotiropoulos clinches again but once more Lauzon shrugs it off and tags him with punches. Sotiropoulos tries to fire back but he’s looking stiff. Takedown attempt from George but Lauzon stuffs it and NAILS him with some heavy elbows as he defends. George stays on him though but still can’t get him down and Lauzon breaks off. Another good combo lands for Joe but as he grabs the plum clinch Sotiropoulos cracks him with a solid right hand of his own to break. Lauzon comes forward and Sotiropoulos looks to pull guard, and a wild scramble follows with both men exchanging position before Lauzon winds up on top in half-guard. Lauzon stands free but Sotiropoulos grabs a single leg and gets him down. Scramble from Lauzon but finally George keeps him down. Another scramble allows Joe to escape, but he gives his back in the process and Sotiropoulos gets an over/under. Joe rolls, but ends up under side mount and it looks like he might be going for an arm. Lauzon keeps squirming though, making it difficult. With seconds to go George takes full mount, but he takes a big risk with an armbar attempt that fails, and Lauzon ends up on top dropping punches as the round ends. Excellent stuff.

2nd round and Lauzon looks noticeably slower. George looks a bit looser now and lands some decent punches in an early exchange, before looking for the takedown. Lauzon manages to scramble back to his feet, but Sotiropoulos stays on him with the clinch and works a single leg, before giving up on it. Lauzon’s takedown defense is on point. Good combination from George and suddenly he’s getting the better of the stand-up. Pair of strong knees from the Aussie and Lauzon looks gassed. He still manages to defend a takedown, but then botches one of his own and George passes into side mount. He moves to north/south and looks for a kimura on the right arm, then looks to transition to an armbar, but misses it. Lauzon fails to scramble free though and George gets back into the same position. This time he goes for a kimura on the left arm, and cranks it up to force the tapout.

Post-fight both men look pissed off at the referee, and the replay appears to show he was out of position during the kimura, forcing Sotiropoulos to crank it for longer than he probably needed to in order for the official to stop it. Typical of the less-experienced refs in new states for the UFC. Great fight though as Lauzon came out like a house on fire, but Sotiropoulos was able to weather the storm and once Lauzon slowed down in the second, he took over and eventually sealed the deal with an impressive submission. Personally I would’ve put George against Anthony Pettis in a title eliminator after this, but at this point obviously nobody knew Edgar-Maynard would go to a draw and require Pettis to take a fight in the interim, and so the Aussie ended up falling in a surprising result to Dennis Siver, effectively ending his title hopes.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Phil Davis vs Tim Boetsch

After a one-sided beating of Rodney Wallace in August it was clear that Davis needed another step up and Boetsch seemed like just the right opponent – a strong striker with a pretty good wrestling background too, but not quite an elite-level guy. Personally I saw him as a tough test for Davis but one that Mr Wonderful would pass, as I think Davis is probably a future champion in this division at some stage while Boetsch has always struggled with better wrestlers.

First round gets underway and they circle with both men throwing some kicks early on. Good leg kicks land for both men. Davis’s striking looks much improved here even from the fight with Wallace. Hard leg kick knocks Boetsch off balance for a second, but another one is caught by the Barbarian and Davis narrowly avoids the counter right hand. Another Davis kick is caught by Boetsch and this time his counter hits the back of the head and forces Mr. Wonderful to retreat. Good left body kick and follow-up punches from Davis. Surprised he hasn’t gone for a takedown yet. Front kick from Boetsch, answered by a glancing high kick from Davis. Finally Mr. Wonderful shoots a double leg and has no problem in tackling Boetsch to the ground. He looks for an arm triangle from half-guard, but Boetsch avoids it. Davis hammers at the body as Boetsch looks for an opening to escape. Good elbows from Davis too. He continues to work Boetsch over from the half-guard before the Barbarian hip escapes to full guard. Davis passes right back into half-guard though and then works to take full mount, but he botches the attempt and Boetsch explodes to his feet. Davis stays on him though and lands some knees from the clinch, forcing Boetsch into the fence as the round ends. 10-9 Davis in a pretty comfortable round.

Second round and Davis misses with a high kick before clinching and forcing Boetsch into the fence. Bodylock from Davis and he transitions to a rear waistlock, but Boetsch does a good job to turn back into the clinch. Crowd randomly begin to boo for reasons I don’t understand, before Davis lands a couple of solid knees to the midsection. Davis drops for a double leg and Boetsch desperately tries to fight the takedown, then decides to try a guillotine on the way down. Davis escapes though and ends up on top in half-guard. He looks to work for a kimura, forcing the arm behind Boetsch’s back, and then in a SICK variation of the hold he actually pulls it through from the near side, forcing the Barbarian to tap out. Incredible submission.

Post-fight Davis says he discovered the kimura variation in training and christens it ‘The Mr. Wonderful’, but actually I remember Stephan Bonnar using a similar hold – albeit unsuccessfully – against Mike Nickels a few years back. Regardless, this was a great finish for Davis who continues to pass every test he’s presented with with flying colours. Just a phenomenal talent and I can’t wait to see him make the step up to the really elite level of competition.

Middleweight Fight: Maiquel Falcao vs Gerald Harris

There seemed to be quite a bit of hype around Harris coming into this one, with a lot of people thinking Joe Silva had brought in the relatively unknown Chute Boxe fighter Falcao as a “showcase” for the former TUFer. But in all honesty the three guys Harris had beaten coming into this (John Salter, Mario Miranda and Dave Branch) weren’t exactly elite-level opposition anyway, and Falcao’s record (25-3 with the last loss in 2008 and 21 KO’s!) and intimidating demeanour made me end up picking him.

We get underway and Falcao takes the center of the cage as Harris circles on the outside looking to throw the right hand. Couple of jabs land for Harris and Falcao hasn’t thrown a strike a minute into the round. Crowd begin to boo the lack of action about ninety seconds in but neither man seems affected. Halfway through the round and the only action has been a couple of jabs from Harris. Finally Falcao throws a body kick that lands. Nothing happens for a while again and then with 1:30 remaining Falcao suddenly EXPLODES, throwing an INSANELY fast combo that stuns Harris big time! Harris looks to clinch, but Falcao drops him with a knee to the chest and begins to pound him on the ground from half-guard with punches and elbows! Harris sits up against the fence, but Falcao’s having none of that and he drags him back down and continues to land. Harris gives his back, and Falcao locks up a choke without the hooks in, but Harris escapes. Falcao gets one hook in but Harris stands and looks to slam his way out, only for Falcao to spin onto the back again! The choke looks sunk and Falcao gets both hooks in and falls back to finish it....but the buzzer sounds before Harris can tap – despite the on-screen clock saying there’s seven seconds remaining. Wow. No idea what happened with the timekeeper there but with those seconds, Harris was probably done. Weird stuff.

Into the 2nd and Falcao pushes forward and stuns Harris with a right hand. Harris shoots, but Falcao stuffs it and nails him with another combo that hurts him badly again. Harris goes down and Falcao gets on top and starts to nail him again from the half-guard, then gets the back with one hook. He traps the arm with the second hook for a second but Harris slips it free, only to find Falcao fully clamped to his back. Looks like the choke is sunk again, but the Chute Boxe fighter can’t quite finish it up and he releases to land some hard punches. Finally Harris manages to turn it around, escaping to Falcao’s guard, but the Brazilian works to his feet and forces Gerald into the cage. Harris breaks off but he’s in big trouble here. Big right misses for Falcao, but he stuffs a single leg attempt and ends up with his back to the cage as Harris tries to lift him for a slam. Finally Harris gets him down, but Falcao explodes right back up, taking a knee on the way out. Body kick lands for the Brazilian and he begins to stalk forward again. Big head kick into a combo forces Harris to shoot, but Falcao sprawls again to avoid and drops a couple of elbows to the side of the head. Less than a minute to go here and Falcao continues to land shots to the head before standing to end the round. I’ve got Maiquel Falcao up two rounds to none here.

Round Three and Falcao stalks forward as Harris circles, and it looks like both men are waiting for the other to make the first move. Harris tries to lunge in with a couple of punches, but they don’t land and for some reason Falcao isn’t attacking at all. Crowd begin to boo loudly due to the lack of action with three minutes to go. Another minute gone and this is turning into a staring contest. No idea what’s happened to the Falcao from the first two rounds! Harris tries to swing some punches, but can’t land and for a guy clearly two rounds down isn’t exactly going for it. Takedown attempt from Harris is stuffed by the Brazilian but he doesn’t attack on the way out at all. Crowd are super pissed. No idea if Falcao’s gassed or something. Round finally peters out. I’d probably score that a 9-9 round as neither man deserved to win it, but I suspect the judges will have it 29-28 for Maiquel Falcao.

Indeed, it’s a unanimous decision for Maiquel Falcao, 29-27, 29-28, 29-28. First two rounds of this were pretty exciting as Falcao looked like an absolute beast and just destroyed Harris standing and on the ground, but whether he gassed or just decided to coast the third round I don’t know, but the third was one of the worst rounds of MMA I’ve seen in recent memory. I suspect though, based on this, that Falcao will probably develop into a very serious contender at 185lbs which is a relatively thin division. The saddest part of this was that Harris ended up being released from his contract due to the performance, and while I wouldn’t make him out to be Mr. Excitement like some did (the John Salter fight sucked and so did the Dave Branch one until the ending....) I don’t think he deserved to lose his job over it. The crazy thing? If the timekeeper hadn’t fucked up at the end of the first round (apparently it’s being investigated right now) Harris would’ve lost by submission and probably would’ve still had his job with the UFC!

Welterweight Fight: BJ Penn vs Matt Hughes

After BJ was thoroughly beaten by Frankie Edgar at UFC 118 I actually suspected he’d retire, so I was surprised when Dana White announced his return to the 170lbs division to take on his longtime nemesis Hughes in a rubber match – particularly as Hughes had said he’d be taking the rest of 2010 off after his win over Ricardo Almeida. Guess the thought of beating Penn a second time was too much for him to turn down, though. Despite Penn’s overall skills always making him a hard match for Hughes, I was actually picking the Hall of Famer to win here, as Penn hadn’t looked the same since ditching the Marinovich brothers prior to the first Edgar fight, and I didn’t think he’d be pushed enough in his own training camp in Hilo, making him come in in bad shape again.

Penn looks absolutely FIRED UP during the introductions. Big pops for both men and the crowd seem to be treating both fighters as major babyfaces, which is understandable at this point in their careers.

Round One and BJ comes out looking to swing, tagging Hughes with a couple of early punches. Hughes throws a body kick that Penn catches and looks to counter, but Hughes pulls away before anything significant can land. Jab from Hughes is slipped, and BJ counters with a STIFF RIGHT HAND that drops the former champion and some punches on the ground KNOCK HIM COLD! Jesus Christ.

Post-fight BJ gives us a flashback to his early days by sprinting out of the cage before his cornerman Troy Mandaloniz brings him back in. Man is he fired up. Well, everyone was hoping for a climactic ending to this trilogy and boy did we get one – you can’t get much more climactic than a knockout like that! Penn’s interview is crazy as usual as he just yells that he loves everyone, while Hughes admits he got hit HARD and actually figured he’d taken a kick or a knee. Wow.

Not much to say about this really! One of the best knockouts of 2010 for sure. Thoughts of ‘the real BJ Penn’ being back were a little premature though as this was a very quick, flash knockout and he’s since shown that he hasn’t changed at all in what should’ve been a loss at the hands of Jon Fitch. That’s another story, though. Where Hughes goes from here I don’t know – I still say he ought to avenge the Hallman loss and retire, personally, as he has nothing more to prove in the cage and will always be remembered as perhaps the greatest champion the UFC ever had.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Rampage Jackson vs Lyoto Machida

This was another surprising fight to me, given Rampage had always expressed a desire to avoid Machida because he claimed his style was boring. I guess after the loss to Rashad Evans though his back was against the wall big time. There were questions about how Machida would react to the first KO loss of his career against Shogun, but to me Rampage looked horribly out of shape against Rashad and with him “doing a Penn” and pretty much setting up his own one-man training camp (as opposed to training with a big team like ATT or Jackson’s or the like...) I thought he’d prove to be easy picking for Lyoto just as the likes of Tito Ortiz and Sokoudjou had been.

Rampage actually enters to the PRIDE theme song for this one, which makes sense as he was talking all week going into the fight that he was “bringing back the Rampage from the PRIDE days”. Personally I was praying that he meant he’d attempt to slam Lyoto as he hasn’t really done that to anyone in UFC thus far. Hard to believe, by the way, that Rampage is still only 32 given it feels like he’s been around forever at this point. Crowd give a big pop for both men, similar to the Penn/Hughes reaction.

First round begins and Lyoto circles around on the outside as Rampage looks to walk him down. Low kick lands for Machida but seemingly with little power. Two more low kicks follow. We get little action for a while before Lyoto tries another low kick, but this time Rampage counters with a flurry that backs him up. Nothing really landed cleanly though. Another low kick lands for Machida but Rampage swings his way into the clinch, landing a couple of glancing punches. They exchange some Ruas-style foot stomps and shots to the body, before Rampage lands a clean uppercut on the way out. Glancing knee to the body from Machida and he dodges the right hand counter. Body kick from Lyoto but Rampage clinches and forces him into the cage. Again they exchange knees, and this time Lyoto breaks off and backs out. Rampage pushes forward again but can’t land anything significant before the buzzer. Close round to call but you’d have to go with Rampage by a hair just because he landed the most significant shot in the uppercut. 10-9 Jackson.

Second round and Quinton stalks forward again, but takes a knee to the body and a glancing body kick. Low kick from Lyoto but Rampage grabs him in a clinch and forces him to the cage again. Herb Dean breaks them up and calls time, apparently for a knee to Lyoto’s groin, but he recovers fast and they restart. Lyoto continues to dance on the outside in an attempt to draw Jackson in, but he isn’t really biting. He does clinch again though, and they muscle into the fence once more. Knees from Lyoto but Rampage catches the leg in a cradle and takes him down. Immediately Machida looks for a switch to get out, and it looks like he’s got a possible kimura too. He works to his feet though and reverses, pushing Jackson into the fence. They break off and Lyoto clinches again, but Quinton gets a bodylock and lands a nice knee to the midsection. Lyoto breaks and throws a high kick but Rampage blocks. Knee to the body from Machida but Rampage answers with a NASTY uppercut that snaps his head right back. Lyoto backs up and avoids Rampage’s next left hook, and it looks like he’s recovered. They clinch again with a minute to go but nothing really happens there and Rampage breaks with seconds to go. Buzzer sounds just as an odd leg trip causes Rampage to go down for a split-second. Another incredibly close round to call with little in the way of significant action, but again Rampage landed the best shot with the uppercut and also got a takedown, so 10-9 Rampage by a hair.

Third round and Rampage actually lands a glancing leg kick to open. Lyoto answers with one of his own and then dodges a couple of big swings. Lyoto is dodging the punches here but he needs to land some of his own. And no sooner have I typed that than Machida OPENS UP with a big flurry that has Rampage hurt! Quinton backs up and takes more shots and Lyoto follows in with a BIG kick to the body and some knees to the head as Rampage tries to cover up! Rampage tries to swing back, but Lyoto grabs a bodylock and throws him to the ground in half-guard. Machida controls him from there and works to pass, then looks to lock up a kimura on the left arm. He gives up on that and elbows the body, then slips into side mount. Full mount from Lyoto but he doesn’t posture up for ground-and-pound, instead staying flat before moving up and going for an armbar. It looks locked up but Rampage gets his hands together to defend, and then lifts him up for the slam....but Lyoto releases and manages to stay on his feet. Crowd have gone from booing to popping hugely as Lyoto closes in again and forces Rampage back into the fence. He drags him down again with a rear waistlock, then decides to roll for a leglock, but Rampage avoids it and Lyoto ends up looking for a triangle on the buzzer. Clearly Lyoto’s round, but not enough for a 10-8, so overall I’ve got this 29-28 Rampage, even if Lyoto did far more in the third round than Rampage did in the first or second, strangely enough. Should be an interesting decision.

Judges have it 29-28 Machida, 29-28 Rampage, and 29-28 for Quinton Rampage Jackson to take the split decision! Crowd seem pretty torn and post-fight Rampage tells Joe Rogan he thought he’d lost and feels like Machida whooped his ass. Well, that isn’t really the case, but if you were judging the fight as a whole then Lyoto definitely would’ve won. With that said it wasn’t a bad decision, more it showed the flaws of the ten-point must system as a fighter can win two rounds by the narrowest of margins, then lose the third round heavily, but not too heavily, and then win a fight that he doesn’t really deserve to win. A similar thing happened with Rich Franklin-Yushin Okami a few years back. It’s just one of those things. As for the fight? Not really a barnburner and there were a LOT of slow spots, but it wasn’t what you’d call a bad fight and like a lot of Lyoto’s stuff (particularly his fights pre-Tito Ortiz) I think you can appreciate it more when you’re not watching live.

-And it’s time to roll the credits, dude.

Final Thoughts....

I totally underrated this one on first viewing somehow, as it’s actually one of the best UFC shows of the year. Sure, Falcao-Harris had one absolutely awful round, making it the worst fight, but outside of that nothing else was bad, we got a bunch of entertaining fights with some really slick finishes (Davis, Barboza, Hallman, Sotiropoulos), one of the best wrestler vs. wrestler fights I’ve seen in a long time (Munoz/Simpson) and a definitive ending to the Penn/Hughes trilogy. Main event wasn’t great which is why this sits below shows like 116, 117 and 121, but UFC 123 is easily worth a high recommendation. Two thumbs up.

Best Fight: Munoz-Simpson
Worst Fight: Falcao-Harris

Overall Rating: ****

Coming Soon....

UFC: 124-128, Fight Night 23, Versus 3
King of the Cage: Various shows

Until next time,

Scott Newman:

All material copyright 2006 its respective owners.
Site scripted and designed by Mike Maloney.