Twenty thousand spectators filled the 02 arena in London, England to see this historic September 8, 2007 Pride/UFC unification bout.
RAMPAGE JACKSON VS. DAN HENDERSON
Light-Heavyweight Championship Bout
Pride Middleweight and Light-Heavyweight Champion Dan Henderson goes up against UFC Champion, Rampage Jackson in the first MMA unification bout combining the two biggest MMA organizations in the sport. Both belts are on the line and the winner will emerge as the first unified Light-Heavyweight MMA champion. Rampage easily dispatched of Chuck Liddell in his last fight to become UFC champion but hell have a tougher time against Henderson, who has never been knocked out. The Pride champion is coming off a brutal knockout victory over Wanderlei Silva. Henderson is no stranger to the UFC beating Carlos Newton and Allan Goes in UFC 17.
When the fight starts, Rampage comes out swinging but Henderson ducks under and wraps him up. Most of the round was spent with Dan holding Rampage up against the fence, both men throwing elbows and knees. On the mat, Henderson got side control with three minutes left in the round and managed to keep Rampage pinned for a full minute. But then they went right back up against the fence until the round ended. It was a close one but if I had to bet on it, Id have to go with Henderson for dictating all the action, or what might colloquially be said as octagon generalsmenship.
More wrestling in round two. This time on the mat with Henderson in side control. Rampage stands up for more roman-greco wrestling against the fence. Then back to the mat. This time with Rampage in side control where he held Henderson until the end of the round. I wouldnt bet a buck on who won this round.
The third round saw the two mixing it up in the center of the octagon, each landing some wake-me-up shots. An errant knee by Henderson led to a Rampage takedown and side control, where Rampage was content to land knees to the body. Henderson tried a kimura but no soap. A few scattered boos as fans grew bored with all the wrestling. Henderson rolled on top while fans yawned. I wouldnt be surprised if this round was scored a draw.
In the fourth round, I was hoping referee John McCarthy would kick both their asses. Thirty seconds into the round, Rampage lands a glancing left hook on the temple and an off-balance Henderson hit the floor. Rampage pounces but Henderson was able to tie him up and eventually Rampage got side control where he held Dan for the next three minutes. Finally referee John McCarthy stood them back up. He shouldve done that 30 seconds after they hit the mat. The last minute was spent shadowboxing.
The fifth round saw Rampage land some hard shots before Henderson grabbed and tied him up. More roman-greco wrestling. With two and half minutes left, both men opened it up and traded blows. Henderson hurt Rampage with a left hook and they clinched and went to the ground with Henderson landing on top. They exchanged positions but then Rampage stood up and got in some good blows when the horn sounded.
It was anti-climactic when the judges awarded Rampage Jackson a unanimous decision. The new unified undisputed light-heavyweight champion has a 28-6 MMA record. Henderson falls to 22-6.
MATT HAMILL VS. MICHAEL BISPING
Battle of the Undefeated
This long-awaited Light-Heavyweight showdown between The Ultimate Fighter 3 (TUF 3) cast members Matt Hamill and Michael Bisping will finally put to rest the question of who is the real winner of TUF 3. Though Michael Bisping ended up easily winning the TUF 3 tournament, he did it without having to face powerful wrestler, and Tito Ortiz protégé, Matt Hamill. Hamill ended up leaving the tournament after suffering injuries during his victory over Mike Nickels and was unable to fight Bisping in the semi-finals. Bisping easily defeated his next two opponents to win the tournament but left fans wondering if he could have beaten Hamill, who might have gone on to win the tournament just as easily. Hamills housemates acknowledged his awesome wrestling skills but questioned whether he could still fight after taking a hard punch to the face. Curiously, Matt Hamill is completely deaf and cannot hear his corners instructions during a fight.
Tonight the questions will be answered. Matt Hamill will finally go up against a top-notch opponent with awesome striking power. Matts last fight was an easy first round TKO over a 37 year old wrestling coach making his UFC debut. Prior to that, he cruised to an unanimous decision over Seth Petruzelli. Bisping hasnt had it any tougher beating journeyman Elvis Sinosic and little-known Eric Schafer.
Matt Hamill showed he had big American balls by entering the octagon to Bruce Springfields Born in the USA. It was largely booed by the London crowd who were there to support the hometown boy Bisping. As an American, ya gotta admire the kid. Bisping appropriately answered by entering to the Clashs London Calling, which had the crowd happily clapping along. Good gamesmanship between two countries that are like brothers.
When the bell rang Hamill came out swinging and landed some good shots, refusing to take it to the ground where he would have the advantage. Hamill continued to land left jabs as if to prove that he wasnt afraid to stand and strike with Bisping. Each time the fight went to the ground, Hamill got back to his feet. Hamill put Bisping in a headlock and jarred him with uppercuts. With 2:03 left, Hamill cut Bisping with a big right hand. With under a minute left, Bisping came alive and landed several hard shots but Hamill recovered and ended the round on his own terms, hitting and throwing Bisping around the octagon. This round goes to Hamill.
In the second, the fight spent some time on the ground with Hamill in the dominant position. But he let Bisping get up. With two minutes left, Hamill went for, and got, his first takedown. Bisping stood up but got caught in a headlock and ate a few uppercuts. The rest of the round was spent boxing. Bisping on his bicycle and Hamill chasing him. Though not as embarrassing for Bisping as the first round, this round still went to Hamill due to Bispings inactivity.
Bisping landed a solid right to start the third but Hamill just shrugged it off. Bisping landed two more overhand rights and it looked like the tide was turning. Bisping loaded up and landed another shot right on Hamills chin. But Hamill looked unfazed. Hamill went for a takedown but Bisping blew it off. Suddenly it seemed that maybe Hamill couldnt take Bisping down nor keep him down. With three minutes left, Hamill began to show fatigue. He wisely decided to take the fight to the ground. But a minute later, Bisping escaped and got to his feet. Bisping tried a knee, Hamill caught it and took him down. Hamill struggled to keep Bisping on the mat. Bisping escaped again but was unable to capitalize as time ran out.
How do you score a three-round fight when Hamill wins the first two rounds but gets overwhelmed in the final round, letting Bisping close the fight in convincing fashion? A draw? As it turns out, the judges were split about this and declared Bisping the winner. I dont know which country these judges were from, but one gave all three rounds to Hamill. The rest gave two rounds to Bisping. That makes three intoxicated judges by my scorecard. Bisping keeps his record perfect at 15-0. Hamill suffers his first MMA loss at 5-1.
During the postfight comments with Joe Rogan, Bisping rubbed it in by asking the crowd who is the real winner of the Ultimate Fighter 3. Hamill paid his respects saying Bisping beat him fair and square.
MIRKO CRO COP FILIPOVIC VS. CHEICK KONGO
Cro Cop is coming off a disappointing loss to Gabriel Gonzaga in UFC 70 held in Manchester England last April. He badly wanted to return to the UK to redeem himself with a convincing victory. On the surface, this appeared to be a tune-up fight for Cro Cop. He goes up against Muay Thai fighter, Cheick Kongo, who beat Assuerio Silva in unspectacular fashion during UFC 70.
The first round was pretty uneventful. Both men traded leg kicks. Cro Cop stalked Kongo around the octagon. With 50 seconds left in the round, Cro Cop got full mount but was unable to inflict any damage as Kongo tied him up close. This round was very close due to inactivity but based on the stalking and the full mount, Crop Cop won the round.
In the second, it was Kongo getting side control and up in Crop Cops guard. Kongo threw a few elbows then stood up and planted a nice axe-kick on Cro Cops chest. Kongo went on to land several good knees both in the clinch and up against the fence. Cro Cop started to retreat. This round was all Kongo.
In the third, Kongo had Cro Cop up against the fence and quickly kneed him in the groin twice, hard enough to make Cro Cop squeak. Referee John McCarthy called time out to issue Kongo a warning while Cro Cop squatted and massaged his bruised twig and berries. A deducted point would have given the fight to Cro Cop. When the action resumed, the Frenchman continued to kick and punch Crop Cop, pushing him all around the octagon for the unanimous decision.
With the loss, Cro Cops record drops to 22-6-2. Any other UFC fighter with two straight losses would be placed on undercard hell, if he could get a fight at all. I think Cro Cops days as an intimidating fighter are over. Any more losses and he is dangerously close to being used by the UFC to test future up-and-coming Ultimate Fighter contestants. Kongo looked strong as he man-handled Crop Cop for a 21-3-1 MMA record.
MARCUS DAVIS VS. PAUL TAYLOR
TUF 2s Marcus Taylor, coming off a stunning knockout victory, takes on Englands own Paul Taylor in this welterweight contest. Taylor, a former kick boxing champion, is coming off a knockout victory of his own in UFC 70, the previous time a UFC event was held in England.
The first round featured a devastating leg kick by Taylor that caught Davis on the side of the head and sent him to the canvas. Taylor pounced and tried to hammer-fist a stoppage but was unable to do further damage. Davis weathered the knockdown. Later in the round Davis rolled into side control and landed several right-handed bombs that Taylor was unable to ward off. Davis then got full guard and reigned down combinations. Taylor rolled him off but unfortunately fell right into an arm-bar and was forced to tap out.
An excellent, action-packed fight with a brilliant performance by both men. With an impressive come-from-behind victory, Davis wins his 10th straight fight and now sports an MMA record of 18-4. Taylor, with nothing to be ashamed of, falls to 8-2-1. This might have been the best fight of the night.
HOUSTON ALEXANDER VS. ALESSIO SAKARA
This light-heavyweight bout features Houston Alexander, fresh from his stunning first round knockout over Keith Jardine in his UFC debut last May. That fight, the heavy-handed Alexander came out swinging and didnt stop until Jardine spit up his mouthpiece. That amazing display earned him a return to the octagon to take on the hard-hitting Italian, Alessio Sakara. Sakara has accomplished boxing skills so this should prove to be banging spectacle.
Sure enough, when the action started, Alexander came out all fists and knees. Alexander is an absolute monster. He proved that his first round knockout of Jardine was no fluke by dropping Sakara 45 seconds into the round with a knee to the face. Alexander pounced and landed head-bouncing bombs until the ref stopped the fight. Another amazing performance by Houston Alexander! The woozy Sakara laid on the canvas several seconds holding his head.
Alexander improves his MMA record to 8-1 while Sakara drops to 15-6.
In the dark matches
Jess Liaudin over Anthoney Torres 4:10 Rd 1
Gleison Tibau over Terry Etim Decision Rd 3
Thiago SIlva over Tomasz Drwal 4:23 Rd 2
Dennis SIver over Naoyuki Kotani 2:04 Rd 2