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UFC 126: Silva vs. Belfort review
by Scott Newman (MMA)
Posted on June 27, 2011, 4:22 AM

UFC 126: Silva vs. Belfort

Las Vegas, Nevada

-Your hosts are Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan.

Welterweight Fight: Mike Pierce vs Kenny Robertson

Unbeaten newcomer Robertson was supposed to have debuted back at UFC 122 but ended up injured and waiting until here. Pierce meanwhile was looking to follow up a couple of 2010 wins Ė hopefully in more exciting fashion than those previous fights.

We get underway and the crowd actually sound pretty hot considering itís the first prelim on a Vegas show. They circle around and throw out some jabs early, before Pierce backs him up and grabs a front facelock as Robertson drops for a takedown. Pierce drops a couple of knees to the shoulder before Robertson gets up, but Pierce stays on him with an attempted single leg. He gets Robertson down into a seated position against the fence, defending a potential sweep attempt. Robertson works back up to his feet, but Pierce drags him right back down. Again Robertson gets up, but Pierce remains on him. They exchange a couple of strikes inside the clinch and honestly this is becoming dull already. Referee Herb Dean calls a break with 1:30 remaining and Robertson comes in swinging, but naturally Pierce grabs him and forces him back into the cage. They exchange some shots from close range before Pierce clinches again. Seconds to go and they trade briefly before Pierce completes a takedown. 10-9 Pierce I guess but the round sucked.

Second round and they circle before Pierce DECKS HIM WITH A LEFT HOOK! Robertson goes down HARD and Pierce immediately pounces, looking to finish. Big shots on the ground follow and Robertson is OUT.

Well, that finish almost made up for the shitty opening round. Pierce clearly packs some serious power in his punches even if he usually doesnít use them that often and prefers to shove guys into the fence. Dude has skills though and is due a step up in competition now after fighting debutants in his last three.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Kyle Kingsbury vs Ricardo Romero

Wrestler Romero had beaten Seth Petruzelli in a super-exciting fight at UFC 116, while TUF 8ís Kingsbury had sort of flown under the radar since the reality show, although heíd won two fights over Razak Al-Hassan and Jared Hamman. The big news surrounding Kingsbury was that heíd hooked up with the infamous Victor Conte Ė best known, in the UK at least, for being the guy who got sprinter Dwain Chambers onto steroids Ė and since hooking up with Conte heíd suddenly gained a bodybuilder-like physique. How about that.

Round One gets underway and Romero pushes forward and swings into the clinch, where Kingsbury meets him with a heavy knee to the gut. More knees have Romero hurt early and Kyle follows with a BIG LEFT HAND that drops him! Kingsbury pounces and hammers him, and thatís all she wrote. Damn.

Questionable physique or not, this was a sick performance from Kingsbury to blow through Romero like that, particularly when you consider the amount of punishment Romero took from Seth Petruzelli. At 28 he isnít that old either and youíve got to consider him a prospect to watch at 205lbs at this point. Super-vicious finish.

Lightweight Fight: Paul Taylor vs Gabe Ruediger

Not many guys get kept around in the UFC after losing three of their last four, but Paul Taylor is an exception basically because the guy just does not know how to have a dull fight. Here he was faced with the infamous weight-cutter Ruediger, who was being given a second chance after helping the UFC out by taking on Joe Lauzon on short notice at UFC 118.

Fight begins and Taylor quickly comes out and clips Gabe with a couple of combos. Gabe answers with a superman punch into the clinch, but Taylor reverses and forces him into the fence instead. Ruediger turns it around and looks to secure double underhooks, but Taylor shrugs him off and breaks. Big head kick glances for Taylor and he follows with a one-two. Ruediger is holding his chin worryingly high here. Another combo lands for the Brit but Gabe manages to grab a clinch to slow him down. They muscle for position on the cage and Taylor does surprisingly well, stuffing a takedown and winding up on top! He chooses to stand though and forces Gabe back to his feet. Gabe clinches again but he still canít get Taylor down, even by diving onto a single leg. Taylorís grappling looks much improved. Action slows down a little and referee Kim Winslow calls a break. Leg kick lands for Gabe and he narrowly avoids the counter, but Taylor fires right back with a nasty combo. Front kick is caught by Ruediger and he tries the takedown, but again Taylor blocks it. Big right hand and head kick hurt Gabe late on, but the buzzer sounds before Taylor can capitalize. Very good round for the Brit, 10-9.

Into the 2nd and Taylor opens with a couple of really vicious combos. Gabe shoots and then drops to his back when Taylor stuffs it, but the Britís having none of it. Gabe comes back up and eats another heavy right hand. Leg kick from Taylor is caught and Gabe pushes him into the fence, but the Brit reverses position. Gabe reverses that and looks for the takedown again, but this time Taylor uses a standing kimura to spin him round and OPENS UP with a combo that rocks his world! Ruediger looks out on his feet and a BIG LEFT HEAD KICK drops him face-first for the stoppage. Beautiful stuff.

Story of this fight was basically that Taylorís grappling had improved to a level where Ruediger just couldnít get him to the ground, and on the feet Taylor was on a completely different level to poor Gabe. Really excellent performance from Paul Taylor and heís an exciting match for anyone at 155lbs I think even though Iíd still favour the big wrestlers over him. Third sick finish in a row on this card too!

Bantamweight Fight: Kid Yamamoto vs Demetrious Johnson

Although some would argue heís past his prime now, to me the signing of the legendary ĎKidí was one of the biggest coups in recent UFC memory, and I was insanely excited for his debut here even if it was surprisingly buried on the prelims. Opponent Mighty Mouse had looked very impressive in his WEC run, but I just didnít see him being able to handle Yamamoto, who I was hoping would be immediately pushed as a title contender and maybe put into one of my all-time dream matches Ė against Miguel Torres.

First round and they circle around and keep a pretty big distance too. Left hand lands for Kid as Johnson steps in with a kick, and the Japanese star lands a right hand in the same manner too. Leg kick lands for Mighty Mouse but Kidís catching him a bit with the counters. Takedown attempt from Johnson is stuffed by Yamamoto and they break off quickly. They continue to exchange from distance before Kid misses a wild uppercut, allowing Johnson to duck under and get the takedown. Yamamoto immediately uses a half-guard to get back to his feet though. They circle off and a big left narrowly misses for Kid. Nice counter lands for him though as Johnson steps in. Flurry from Kid but Johnson ducks under and hits a takedown to half-guard. Johnson looks to pass and almost takes the back, but Kid slips out the back door and escapes, only to be stunned by a combo as he stands! Kid retreats and then clinches, landing a good knee to the body, but he canít get Mighty Mouse down and they break off. SICK takedown from Johnson follows. The speed there was insane. He lands in half-guard and keeps top position to end the round. 10-9 Mighty Mouse.

Second round and Johnson looks really energetic coming out of his corner. Good leg kick from Johnson. Takedown from Yamamoto, but Johnson pops right back up and comes in swinging, but slips on a high kick and winds up on his back. Kid lets him up, and Johnson continues to push the action before he lands a low blow. Mario Yamasaki calls time to let Kid recover, and they restart with Johnson hitting another ridiculously quick takedown. Kid reverses back to his feet instantly, however. Low kick lands for Johnson and he continues to push forward, but Kid lands with a left hand counter. Kid stuffs a takedown, but Johnson comes in with a combination that has him retreating. Johnson looks quite a bit faster than Kid which is wild. Good right from a faked shot by Johnson, and then he ducks under a counter and gets the takedown. Kid again reverses to his feet though. Johnson comes forward and ducks under a shot to hit a takedown again. This guy is just ridiculously fast. Kid AGAIN gets back up to his feet though. Johnson shoots and gets him down again, looking to spin onto the back as Kid scrambles, but he slips and Kid gets up, and lands a knee as they scramble for position. Johnson goes down for a second but both guys seem to think it mightíve been illegal so Kid doesnít follow up and the round ends shortly after. Johnson is just outworking him here. 10-9 Johnson.

Third and final round and Johnson dances around on the outside as Kid just seems unable to really land anything. Another takedown follows for Mighty Mouse and he gets into half-guard. The way heís taking Kid down is amazing when you consider Kidís wrestling background. Yamamoto works his way back to his feet, but Johnson circles back out and avoids a combo to land a knee from close quarters. Right hand from Johnson but Kid shrugs off a takedown. Kid tries to push the action, but Johnson looks too fast and he gets another takedown and then grabs a front facelock. Kid manages to break off and gets back up, but with two minutes remaining this is looking like Johnsonís fight. Johnson lands a left hook and then backs up Yamamoto with some strikes, following a left and a body kick with another takedown. Kid works a butterfly guard to get to his feet and breaks with a knee, but Johnson manages to get another single leg to half-guard. Seconds to go and this time Johnson manages to hold Kid down to end the fight. Total domination for Demetrious Johnson.

Judges have it 29-28, 30-27 and 30-27 for Demetrious Johnson. Total bummer for Kid fans, but I donít think this was so much that Kid is past his best or anything, more than he was faced with probably the fastest guy in the whole of MMA and he just couldnít deal with that speed as heís usually the quicker fighter. I mean, the takedowns Johnson hit here were absolutely ridiculous, and even if he couldnít actually keep Kid on his back for a long period of time, on the feet he was basically outlanding him there too. Just a stellar performance from Mighty Mouse really, even the outcome disappointed me.

Featherweight Fight: Chad Mendes vs Michihiro Omigawa

Omigawa was another big signing from the Japanese circuit following the WEC merger, as heíd dropped to 145lbs after a poor UFC run in 2007-8 and had beaten the likes of Hiroyuki Takaya, Hatsu Hioki and Marlon Sandro (although the latter two were via questionable decision) since returning to Japan. Mendes meanwhile was still unbeaten after beating the likes of Erik Koch, Cub Swanson and Javier Vazquez in the WEC, and the feeling was that this fight might throw up the next title contender.

We begin and Mendes opens with a nice leg kick. They press the action and right away it looks like Mendes is pretty comfortable standing with the Japanese fighter. Both men land some decent punches before Mendes lands a leg kick. Takedown attempt from Mendes but Omigawa stuffs it. Right hand connects for Mendes. Hard leg kick follows. Low kick from Omigawa and he defends a takedown attempt nicely. Omigawa presses forward, but takes a solid combo from Mendes. Beautiful leg kick from Mendes and he finally gets his takedown, landing in Omigawaís guard. Omigawa stays active and looks for the same armbar variant that he hit on Cole Escovedo, but Mendes avoids it and postures up over him, then lets him back up. Another leg kick lands for Mendes and the round ends shortly after. Interesting round but Iíd go 10-9 for Chad Mendes.

2nd round and Mendes opens with another hard leg kick and follows with a right hand that buckles Omigawa! He goes down and Mendes quickly pounces, getting on top in half-guard where he rains down some heavy blows. Omigawa manages to hold onto him and recovers a bit, working back to full guard. Mendes stands free of an oma plata and drops some pretty heavy shots over the top. Leglock attempt from Omigawa but Mendes pulls free and brings the fight back to standing. Good left to the body from Mendes and he follows with a hard overhand right. Mendesís stand-up has improved massively. Omigawa tries to close the distance, but Mendes drops for a takedown. He really drives on the single leg, but Omigawa shows some sick takedown defense to remain on his feet and they end up clinched on the fence. Omigawa looks like heís bleeding from the nose. Two minutes to go and Omigawa gets free of the clinch. Big combo misses for Mendes but he lands a pair of inside leg kicks. Omigawa comes forward with some punches of his own that cause Mendes to drop for a single leg, but Omigawa blocks it nicely with some elbows to the body. They come back to standing and Mendes lands a leg kick before landing a glancing flying knee. Seconds to go and Mendes hits a power double leg and dumps Omigawa on his back in guard. Good elbow from Mendes and Omigawaís really bloody as the round ends. 10-9 Chad Mendes.

3rd round and Omigawaís sporting a horrible cut over his left eye. Right hand opens things for Mendes and re-opens the cut too. Omigawa is being beaten to the punch here. He pushes the action, but Mendes avoids a takedown. Single leg attempt from Chad, but Omigawa sprawls to block it. Omigawa drops back for a guillotine, but Mendes slips free and gets into top position in half-guard. Omigawa works back into full guard but Mendes controls him and lands some shots from the top. Two minutes to go and Mendes uses a scramble attempt to get into side mount, but Omigawa manages to slip to his feet. Good right from Mendes as Omigawa comes forward. Omigawa pushes in, but eats a left hand on the way and his face is really messy now. He throws some shots but just canít seem to catch Chad cleanly. Good left does connect, but Mendes answers with a driving single leg and gets back to the guard. Nasty elbow from Mendes as he smothers the Japanese fighter. Seconds to go and Mendes stands and drops some hard ground-and-pound to finish the fight. Pretty clear win for Chad Mendes methinks.

To the judges and itís a unanimous decision for Chad Mendes, 30-27 all round. Great showing from the Alpha Male fighter and it was a far cry from his lay-and-pray days in the WEC too, as his striking looked hugely improved Ė particularly his leg kicks Ė and he basically took the fight to Omigawa in all areas. I think this does show too, in a way, that the level of competition at this point is far higher in the US than it is in Japan. I mean, Omigawa had been ranked as high as #3 in the world by some people based on his record in Sengoku, and yet he was thoroughly beaten here by Mendes who a lot of people didnít even have in the top ten. Forgetting about that for a second though, I probably wouldíve pushed Mendes as the next title challenger after this win but it looks like the UFCís going with Kenny Florian instead, which is okay I guess as it allows Jose Aldo to cement himself further as champion before he defends against Mendes in the future at some point. I definitely see Chad as probably the biggest threat to Aldo in the world right now, especially with his striking improving at this rate.

Lightweight Fight: Donald ĎCowboyí Cerrone vs Paul Kelly

Brit Kelly was initially scheduled to face Sam Stout here, but when the Canadian pulled out with an injury, former WECer Cowboy stepped in. I figured that was a very smart move for Cerrone, as he matches up well with Kelly and was likely to win, while some of the other UFC Lightweights mightíve had a much better chance of defeating him.

Fight begins and Kelly fakes a glove touch to swing a right, but Cerrone ducks under and gets a takedown. Never a fan of that tactic. Kelly looks for a guillotine, but Cerrone passes to side mount to avoid it. Full mount for Cowboy, but Kelly manages to scramble free to his feet. Good knee from the clinch for Kelly but Cerrone breaks off with a right hand. Jumping left hook connects for the Brit and they trade some knees before breaking off. Nice leg kick from Cowboy. Action slows a little before Cerrone lands another leg kick. Good combo lands for Kelly. Left hook lands flush for the Brit. Body kick from Cowboy as Kelly continues to headhunt and lands a right hand. These guys are really going at it with the striking exchanges. Takedown from Cowboy and he works into half-guard. Couple of short elbows land for Cowboy and Kelly is cut. Big elbows end the round. Close round but Cowboy took it with the work at the very end in my opinion.

Into the 2nd and Cerrone begins with a good low kick. Kelly chases forward but takes a knee. Good exchange and both men land. Body kick from Cowboy. Another leg kick follows. Kelly swings some wild shots that miss. Nice body kick into a right hand from Cowboy. Combo from Kelly answers. Good knee from Cowboy as Kelly steps in. More combos land for both men before Cerrone ducks under and trips the Brit to the ground in half-guard. Short elbow lands for Cowboy and he works to pass, moving into full mount. Elbows from Cerrone and Kelly looks in trouble. He gives his back and Cowboy gets the body triangle before landing some shots to set up the submission. Rear naked choke follows and Kelly is forced to tap out.

Not the most spectacular performance of Cowboyís career but he got the job done in the end. Apparently he had some family issues coming into the fight which would explain his somewhat flat performance, but hey, he still dealt with Kelly and finished him off which isnít exactly an easy task. Onwards and upwards for him then I guess. Good fight too as Kelly really came out swinging (even if the glove touch fake was cheap) and Iím surprised the UFC cut him after a fight like this.

Bantamweight Fight: Miguel Angel Torres vs Antonio Banuelos

After two losses to Brian Bowles and Joseph Benavidez knocked him firmly out of the pound-for-pound discussion, former WEC champion Torres had regrouped by moving to Montreal to train with Firas Zahabiís Tri-Star team, and had looked fantastic in taking out Charlie Valencia in September. I was hoping heíd follow that up with another impressive performance in his UFC debut, facing Chuck Liddellís good friend Banuelos, who was at a massive reach and height disadvantage to the former champ.

Round One and Torres looks to use his reach right away, keeping his left hand extended and throwing some kicks. Few jabs land for Torres and Banuelos has landed nothing thus far. Crowd begin to get restless two minutes in, which is pretty impatient. Couple of nice jabs land for Torres but Banuelos catches a kick and sends him down. He refuses to go into the guard though and they come back to their feet. Stiff right lands for Torres and he follows with a trio of jabs. Torres is basically just keeping Banuelos at the end of his jab here. Couple of wild swings miss for Banuelos. Round ends with another Torres jab. Pretty clear-cut round for Torres, 10-9, and the crowd boo loudly for some reason. Hey, how can you fault Torres for a smart gameplan?

Round Two and Torres picks up right where he left off with the jab. Good body kick from Torres as he narrowly avoids a right from Banuelos. Good combo from Torres and Banuelos is beginning to look lost in there. Head kick glances for Miguel. Another combo lands for the former champ and Banuelosís counters miss. Banuelos is sporting a bloody nose now. More jabs from Torres and he continues to keep Banuelos at a distance. Banuelos manages to close the distance, but he eats a right hand for his troubles. Beautiful combo from Torres and he avoids the wild swings that Banuelos fires back. Seconds to go and Banuelos finally lands in a short exchange, but Torres recovers instantly and the round ends just after. 10-9 Torres and so far this has been like an instructional on how to use a reach advantage.

Round Three and Banuelos tries to press the action, but has his head snapped back by a jab right away. And itís more of the same, as Torres uses the jab to set up combinations from the outside. Crowd do not like this but itís not nearly as bad as a wall-and-stall special from a Nik Lentz type. Torres is lighting him up with so much ease that itís not even funny. Less than a minute to go and Torres is the clear aggressor, walking Banuelos down and feeding him jabs and combinations. Seconds remaining and Banuelos really swings wildly, but he canít catch Torres even in a total shootout, and as the buzzer sounds he curses loudly. 10-9 Torres.

Judges scorecards read 30-27, 30-27, 30-27 for Miguel Angel Torres. Well, duh. Banuelos just couldnít deal with the reach and the footwork of the former champion, and Torres spent the whole fifteen minutes picking him off from the outside. Was it the most exciting fight? Well, no, but itís smarter to fight like this than it is in the reckless manner of the old Torres, even if it isnít as fun to watch, and as a fan of Miguelís Iím just happy to see him winning.

Welterweight Fight: Jake Ellenberger vs Carlos Eduardo Rocha

This was a bit of an odd choice for the main card considering guys like Mendes, Kid and Cowboy were on prelims, but the word was that Zuffa wanted to push Ellenberger as a possible future contender, so I guess thatís why it was on the PPV. Here the hard-hitting wrestler was faced with submission expert Rocha, who had pulled out one of the best subs of 2010 with a kneebar over Kris McCray at UFC 122. The big question to me here was whether Ellenbergerís aggressive style would play right into Rochaís hands.

Fight begins and Ellenberger lands a left and looks for the takedown, but Rocha reverses the second they hit the ground and winds up on top. Ellenberger quickly gets up into the clinch, and they exchange some knees as Rocha looks for the takedown. Ellenberger gets a takedown himself and lands in side mount, but Rocha quickly scrambles up. Ellenberger swings wildly and then sprawls to avoid a takedown, but slips and winds up on his back with Rocha in full mount. Beautiful transition from Rocha to spin to the opposite side, and it looks like he might be setting up for a kimura. Jake looks calm, but Rochaís clearly in control here. He moves into north/south and it looks like heís setting up a top-side triangle. Ellenberger turns, but Rocha hits a sick transition to back mount and then into a tight full mount as Jake rolls again. Punches from the Brazilian and he slides back into side mount. This guy is SLICK. Back to north/south and it looks like heís setting up for a kneebar, then he decides against it and slips back to side mount. Referee Kim Winslow gives him a warning for headbutting, but I didnít spot it myself. Sudden explosion from Ellenberger lets him slide to his feet and grab a front headlock, and he breaks free. Wild swings miss for Rocha and he eats a nasty knee to the body as Ellenberger stuffs a takedown. CRAZY wheel kick from Rocha glances off Ellenbergerís chin. Takedown attempt from Rocha but Jake sprawls and lands some hard punches to the head, but Rocha hits a SICK arm trap sweep and gets back to top position, right into an Americana! Jake looks in trouble, but manages to survive until the round ends. Wow. 10-9 Rocha.

Second round and Ellenberger opens with some vicious knees from the plum clinch, then stuffs a takedown and lands some punches from there. Rocha actually looks in trouble for a second and drops to his back, but when he stands he seems fine. Wheel kick misses again for Rocha. Right hand to the body from Jake. Action slows a little as Ellenberger blocks a pair of kicks. Good right hand from Jake, followed by a jab. Left hook from Ellenberger and he avoids a wild kick. Jumping knee glances for Rocha. One minute to go and Jake continues to push forward and lands a decent body kick. Takedown from Jake, surprisingly, and Rocha tries a triangle but canít get it before the round ends. Close round but Iíd lean slightly to Ellenberger, 10-9. This fight could still go either way though.
Third and final round and they trade a couple of strikes to begin. Trio of leg kicks land for Rocha. Good combo lands for Jake and he sprawls and grabs a front facelock as Rocha shoots. Rocha drops to his back but Jakeís having none of that and waves him back up. Wheel kick just about misses for Rocha. Leg kick connects though. Low kick from Rocha but he eats a heavy right hand counter that snaps his head back. This is going to be a close fight to score. Brief exchange ends in a stalemate. Right hand into the clinch from Jake and they exchange knees before breaking off. Head kick from Rocha but Ellenberger catches it and throws him to the ground. Low kicks from Rocha are countered by a good combo from Jake. Beautiful takedown from Ellenberger with about thirty seconds remaining and he lands in the guard. Nothing happens from there pretty much, but it probably stole the fight for Ellenberger. Iíd give it to him 29-28, razor close stuff though.

Aaaand, itís a split decision, 30-27 Rocha, 29-28 Ellenberger, and 29-28 for Ellenberger to take the win. First round of this was dynamite, second and third less so, but it was still a decent fight. In a lot of ways it showed some issues with the ten-point must system as if you judged the fight as a whole youíd probably go with Rocha as he did more in the first round than either guy did in the second and third, but it is what it is. Bit of a disappointing performance from Ellenberger who was looking to cement himself as a genuine title challenger, but at least he won, and heís still a viable name in that hat of future contenders. Rocha acquitted himself well too though, and I look forward to his next fight.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Jon Jones vs Ryan Bader

The matchmaking here actually surprised me as UFC usually keeps hot prospects apart, but when this was announced I couldnít help but get excited as Jones and Bader were quite clearly *the* top prospects in the world at 205lbs and the winner would firmly cement themselves as possibly the next title contender. Despite Jones being an overwhelming favourite due to the fact that heíd destroyed everyone heíd faced and had also dealt with two similar fighters to Bader in Matt Hamill and Vladimir Matyushenko, I was taking Darth Bader by KO. Why? Because Iím FUCKING BIASED, thatís why.

And here we go! Pretty odd staredown pre-fight as neither man looks the other in the eye, both pulling a Gomi and looking at the ground. Couple of pawing lefts from Bader as they circle before Jones shoots and gets a takedown! Bader grabs a guillotine, but Jones moves into side mount and drops a knee to the body before working his head free. Jones moves into north/south and it looks like heís going for the north/south choke ala Jeff Monson. Bader seems a little unsure what to do and the crowd go crazy, but Jones gives him some room and Bader manages to get his head free. Heís still on the bottom under side mount, though. Bader rolls and gets back to his feet, managing to shrug the clinch off. Both men throw some punches that miss and then Jones lands a right to the body. Big chant for Bader as Jones lands a high kick that hits the arm but knocks him slightly off balance. Bader shoots, but Jones stuffs it easily and grabs a front facelock. Jones looks much bigger than Bader, it must be said. He gets into top position surprisingly easily, grabbing a headlock again. Bader tries to work his way to his feet, but Jones suddenly hits a SICK leapfrog over him and grabs a rear waistlock as they stand! Whoa. Bader decides to drop for a kimura, but Jones escapes and drops a couple of nasty elbows. Half-guard for Bader and Jones looks to set up a DíArce, then elbows to the body. Seconds to go and Jones remains in control. 10-9 Jon Jones in an incredibly dominant round.

Into the 2nd and they circle before Jones clips him with a left hook. Couple of shots miss for Bader and Jones lands the left hook again. Leaping kick puts Bader on his back foot, and Jones follows with a leg kick. Superman punch misses for Jones and Bader finally lands a counter right hand that slows Jonny Bones up a little. Leg kick from Bader but Jones begins to walk him down. Jab lands for Bader and the crowd begin to chant for him again. Big swings miss for both men. Beautiful combo ending in a leg kick from Jones. Clinch from Bader and he blocks a takedown before Jones muscles him off. Nice leg kick from Jones. Two minutes remaining and Bader shoots but Jones easily stuffs it. Nice combo from Jones and heís definitely becoming the aggressor. Another leg kick from Jones and they clinch, and Bader falls to his back. Huh, donít know if he was pulling guard or something there. He gets half-guard, but Jones isolates the neck to work for a DíArce, then locks up a TIGHT guillotine variant, and Bader holds on for a second but then has to tap out. Wow.

Real eye-opening performance from Jon Jones as he just totally dominated Bader from the off. The big deal to me wasnít so much that he was able to win, but the fact that he physically outpowered Bader, who looks like one of the very strongest guys in the whole division and is certainly one of the most credentialed wrestlers. I mean, he never came close to a takedown on Jones and when they were on the ground it looked like Jones was dealing with a small child, which is INSANE. Truly shocking stuff (and disappointing for me as a big Bader fan!).

And of course the big moment happens post-fight, as Joe Rogan tells Jones that Rashad Evans has picked up an injury and canít fight Mauricio Shogun in March, and so the UFC want to give him the title shot instead, causing Jones to drop to his knees in celebration. Total star-making moment and very reminiscent of when GSP got on his knees to ask for a title shot back in 2006. And of course itís another show, but heís taken the momentum he got here and ran and ran with it.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Forrest Griffin vs Rich Franklin

Well, you know you have a loaded card when this doesnít make the main event, as Griffin and Franklin are pretty much perennial headliners with an insane twelve PPV main events between them! Forrest hadnít actually fought in over a year Ė his last fight was his November 2009 win over Tito Ortiz Ė while Franklin was coming back from the broken arm he suffered in his win over Chuck Liddell. To me this was a hard one to pick as while Franklin is the more skilled guy in terms of technique, Forrest was the bigger, stronger man. In the end I went with Rich, based pretty much on a hunch.

Fight begins and they circle and throw out some feeler strikes before Griffin catches a kick and gets a takedown to guard. Crowd begin a small chant for Forrest as he works to pass the guard and lands some short shots from the top. Rich does a good job of keeping full guard, but he takes a couple of solid elbows from Forrest. This is a surprisingly smart gameplan from Forrest. Franklinís defensive guard is good but Forrest does manage to get through with some ground-and-pound. 1:15 remaining and Griffin lands a few excellent right hands. Seconds to go and it looks like Griffinís going to ride the round out on top. 10-9 Forrest Griffin in a very good round for him.

Round Two and Forrest opens with a leg kick. Rich looks to counter with a left hook as Griffin throws more kicks, and a brief exchange sees both men land. Good body kick from Franklin. Head kick is blocked by Rich and Forrest follows with a takedown attempt, transitioning to a rear waistlock and dragging Rich to the ground. He looks to get the hooks in, but Franklin defends and ends up on his knees with Forrest holding an over/under. One hook in for Forrest and he lands some hard shots, but Rich escapes to his feet. Forrest stays on him and drags him back down, but Rich gets up again and works to get free. Good job of escaping from Franklin and theyíre back on their feet. Good combo from Rich. They exchange strikes and Forrest lands a leg kick to counter Richís right hook. Another exchange follows and ends with a glancing head kick from Griffin. Big left hook suddenly wobbles Franklin and he looks in trouble, but a follow-up head kick misses for Forrest and Rich looks recovered. One minute to go and Griffin lands a beautiful body kick into a right hand. Franklin fires back with a couple of right hooks. Hard body kick from Franklin. Thirty seconds to go and Rich lands a one-two as Forrest steps in. Good combo from Rich to end the round. Closer round but youíd probably still go with Forrest Griffin, 10-9.

Round Three and they exchange kicks before Rich lands a left hook. They trade punches and Franklin lands with a left kick to the body. A trade follows and Forrest catches him with a knee to the body. They clinch and Rich tries to take Forrest down, but Forrest uses a whizzer to pull Rich down for a second before they break off. Left kick glances off Forrestís head. Good combo lands for Forrest as both men continue to exchange strikes. This is a really even exchange actually. Just over a minute to go and Forrest drops and manages to secure a takedown. He looks to pass guard and then grabs a front facelock as Rich scrambles, but they come up and go back down with Rich ending up on top! Half-guard for Forrest and he uses an underhook to stand and trips Rich down. Franklin immediately reverses back to his feet and they break off. Into the clinch again and Franklin forces Forrest into the fence, but Griffin breaks off with a left hand. Fight ends with a striking exchange. Iíd probably go with Rich Franklin in that round by a hair, making it 29-28 for Forrest Griffin.

Judges have it 29-28 all round for Forrest Griffin. Pretty clear-cut decision I guess. The fight was just as close as Iíd imagined going in, but I think the difference in the end was Forrestís size advantage, as he looked far larger than Franklin and was able to basically shut him down on the ground in the first round and then landed the more telling blows in the second round too. Just goes to show the difference that size can make when the skill levels are pretty much even. A good fight, albeit not one of the most exciting of either manís career. Big win for Forrest though who really needed it as heíd been on the shelf for quite a while and hadnít looked truly great since his 2008 win over Rampage Jackson.

UFC World Middleweight Title: Anderson Silva vs Vitor Belfort

This one was a long time in the making, as Dana White had been pushing Vitor as a possible threat to Andersonís crown as far back as mid-2009 when Vitor was still with Affliction! After Vitor returned to the UFC and KOd Rich Franklin in September 2009 it looked like the fight would be on for UFC 112 in April 2010, but Vitor ended up hurt and dropped out. Then he was set to fight Yushin Okami for the title shot at UFC 122, but when Chael Sonnen got busted for steroids, scrapping his rematch with Silva, they decided to just move Vitor back into the title match. Apparently there were a few personal issues too, as Vitor had once trained with Silva and so Anderson saw it as disrespectful that heíd want to face him for the belt. Vitor accused Silva of ďwearing a maskĒ in public, and so at the weigh-ins in one of the wildest scenes I can recall, Silva slapped on a white mask and got right into Vitorís face, causing a shoving match. In terms of how they matched up, well, it was true that the majority of highlights the UFC were using to push Vitor were pretty old, and indeed, he hadnít fought since 2009 and his only major recent wins were over Matt Lindland and Rich Franklin. But hey, those are two BIG wins and as well as his great striking Iíve always considered Vitor as one of the more underrated wrestlers out there too. And with Silva looking more vulnerable than ever before against Chael Sonnen, could it be that father time was catching up with him at the age of 36? So in one of my less illustrious picks, I decided to go with Vitor via knockout.

Fight begins and the crowd are AMPED. Big chant for Vitor early on as they circle around. Both men look pretty tentative to begin. Weíre almost ninety seconds in and nothingís happened thus far. Both men throw low kicks from a distance that donít really do much. Halfway through the round and finally Vitor lands with a left hand. High kick misses for Silva and Vitor tackles him to the ground, but Silva quickly reverses back to his feet and lands a knee to break. High kick misses for Vitor and he takes a low kick. Big combo from Vitor but Silva uses his ridiculous head movement to avoid and then DROPS HIM WITH A FRONT KICK TO THE FACE!~! Vitor looks OUT and Silva finishes him off with a couple of shots on the ground. Holy shit.

Amazing stuff. I mean shit, what can you say? Thatís probably THE best highlight reel finish of Andersonís career, or at least second only to the reverse elbow KO of Tony Fryklund. I mean, nobody had EVER done that in MMA before and yet Silva pulls it out in a big-time World Title fight against a guy whoís never been knocked out before. Insane. Not much else to be said really outside of the fact that Silva is a true virtuoso and when heís fighting like this then heís arguably the greatest fighter to ever compete in MMA. I mean, Iíd actually argue that GSP is better by virtue of the fact that heís had no gimme opponents like say, Thales Leites or James Irvin, but for pure genius moments like this, itís hard to top Anderson, isnít it?

-And on that unbelievable note we hit the highlights.

Final Thoughts....

On paper this was arguably the best UFC card of all time, and while it didnít quite live up to those standards in execution it was still a pretty good show. We were missing one really great fight, as the more exciting fights of the night (Taylor-Ruediger, Jones-Bader, Silva-Belfort) were one-sided and more exciting for their finishes, and the more competitive fights like Griffin-Franklin were a little slower. There were no downright awful fights and everything is watchable which makes the show an easy thumbs up, but it isnít the blowaway classic a lot of us were expecting coming in. Still Ė the Silva knockout, how can you not recommend a show with that in the main event?

Best Fight: Taylor-Ruediger
Worst Fight: Torres-Banuelos

Overall Rating: ****1/4

Coming Soon....

UFC: 127-131, Fight Night 24, Versus 3
Strike Force: Overeem vs. Werdum
King of the Cage: Various shows

Until next time,

Scott Newman:

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