CHUCK LIDDELL VS. KEITH JARDINE
September 22, 2007 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California, The only sure thing about this fight is that it wont go the distance. Both fighters like to stand and throw so someone is going to sleep. Both fighters are also coming off embarrassing losses. Chuck got knocked silly in the first round by Rampage Jackson and lost his championship belt at UFC 71. Tonight he faces brawler Keith Jardine. A Jardine fight is never boring. He just loves to throw down. Unfortunately, the hard-fisted Jardine was exposed by Houston Alexander in his last fight and got TKOd in 48 seconds. But instead of getting banished to the prelims, Jardine is thrust into a main event against the ex-champion.
When the action commenced, Jardine kept landing leg kicks but Liddell kept landing the left hook, one of which opened up a cut over Jardines right eye, and a few overhand rights. The entire round was fought standing which made for an exciting spectacle.
4:15 into the second round, Jardine caught Liddell big time on the jaw with an overhand right that crumpled Liddell to the canvas. Amazingly Liddell popped right back up. Growing more confident, Mean Jardine kept kicking Chuck in the ribs and tagged him again with the overhand right. This time Chucks head absorbed it pretty good. Jardine continued to land the leg kick throughout the round and yet another overhand right. With a minute left in the round, Liddell launched an offensive of his own when it appeared Jardine was tiring. Jardine got popped and his legs buckled but he managed to scamper away. Looks like Mean Jardine outscored Liddell.
The third round saw more leg kicks from Jardine, this time followed up with a left hook. Jardine landed this combo more than a few times. Liddell looked like he was waiting for an opening to land the big blow, but it never came. Liddell couldnt seem to uncork. Then, against all odds, the fight went the distance.
The judges saw the fight pretty much the same as everyone else and awarded Keith Jardine (13-4-1) the split decision. This was a very poor showing by Chuck Liddell (20-5) as he loses his second fight in a row. More importantly, he screws up the UFCs grand plans for a blockbuster pay-per-view with Chuck facing off against Wanderlei Silva in December. Any other fighter would be banished to the prelims. The decision announcement left Wanderlei Silva ringside shaking his head in disgust as his big payday vanished right before his eyes.
Celebrities in attendance included Juliette Lewis, David Spade, and Jaime Pressly. Still no sign of Kevin James.
MAURICIO SHOGUN RUA VS. FORREST GRIFFIN
Another legend from PRIDE makes his UFC debut. Mauricio Rua has beaten notable fighters like current UFC champion Rampage Jackson, Antonio Nogueira and Kevin Randleman. Rua is a striker from the Chute Boxe academy with sick Muay Thai skills. As for the popular light-heavy winner of the Ultimate Fighter (TUF), Forrest Griffin actually went to UFC management and asked for this fight. Griffin reasoned that a victory over Rua would put him in contention for a title fight. Though Griffin won his last fight, he suffered a loss to Keith Jardine in UFC 66 last December. In Griffins favor, PRIDE fighters traditionally havent done well making the transition for their UFC debut.
The first round saw plenty of action. Both fighters were eager to jump in and mix it up. On the ground, Forrest got his takedowns and spent his time on top. He also defended well on his back when Rua was in the dominate position. The stand-up game was equally close. Though Shogun landed some heavy shots, Forrest poked a couple and Shogun ended up with a substantial blood-engorged knot on his forehead. This was a very close round.
Forrest wasnt so lucky escaping damage in the second round. Rua landed some vicious elbows in the guard position and opened up a huge cut on Griffins forehead. Forrest bled like a stuck pig and took on a familiar look with blood streaming down his face. With two minutes left Rua looked exhausted, pausing for deep breaths and dropping his hands. Though Forrest was unable to take advantage, he did manage to get a takedown and land some good shots in the final 30 seconds. Another round that could go either way.
The third round would decide it and it went to the ground. Rua was on top but was inactive and mostly resting. Then Forrest got his turn on top. Forrest tried to remain active with punches to the ears. Rua looked gassed and just like he had done so many times in the fight, Rua turned his back to Griffin. This time Griffin jumped on and sunk both hooks (getting both legs wrapped around the torso and tucked inside the opponents legs). With 22 seconds left, Forrest grabbed Ruas head and secured a rear naked choke and squeezed for dear life. With 20 seconds left he flattens Ruas body out, a bad position for Rua. Would time run out and save Rua? No! Rua taps out with 16 seconds left on the clock! What an amazing victory for Forrest Griffin to submit one of the greatest fighters in the game.
With the sweetest victory in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), Forrest Griffin improves his record to 15-4 and showed the world he is a world class fighter deserving of a shot at the title. Shogun Rua (16-3) just didnt seem to have the cardio necessary to beat a relentless warrior like Forrest Griffin. What an exiting fight. This one did not disappoint.
DIEGO SANCHEZ VS. JON FITCH
MMA fight fans are anxious to see how Diego Sanchez, the TUF 1 middleweight winner, would respond after suffering his first loss to Josh Koscheck last April in UFC 69. Sanchez, who usually comes out like a pitbull with ADD, appeared timid and subdued against Koscheck, though it was later determined that Sanchez was suffering from a serious staff infection. Diego will have no easy task tonight as he goes up against the versatile Jon Fitch. Jon has won all six of his UFC fights, ending four of them early, including a TKO of Thiago Alves and a submission win over Josh Burkman. Overall, Fitch has a 13 fight win streak. To make matters worse, Jon trains daily with the only guy to beat Sanchez, Josh Koscheck.
When the bell rang, Sanchez sprinted out of his corner like the old Diego. Fitch, however, was able to diffuse the intensity and prevent Diego from inflicting any damage. Fitch was even able to turn the tables and get a takedown himself but almost got armbarred twice. Nevertheless, Fitch proved he could hold his own on the ground against Diego.
For the second round, Sanchez came out and touched gloves. It was an incredible see-saw battle on the mat as each man scrambled and grappled into the dominate guard position. Fitch seemed to come out on top more often than not and landed some painful hammer fists on Diegos head. Diego sustained a small cut on the bridge of his nose.
In the third and final round, Fitch shot in for the takedown but landed inside a guillotine choke hold. When he finally escaped, the crowd cheered. Fitch remained in Diegos guard dealing out punishment for the rest of the round. Desperate, Sanchez kept trying for submissions and secured a triangle choke but again Fitch escaped and stayed on top.
The referees gave Jon Fitch the split decision whose MMA record now stands at 20-2. Fitch not only held his own against one of the best ground-and-pounders in the game, he was the more dominant grappler and kept Sanchez from dealing out any punishment. Jon Fitchs UFC stock went through the roof with an excellent performance against Sanchez, who suffers his second defeat in a row and drops to 19-2.
In his post-fight comments Joe Rogan, who is a vocal critic of the 10-point must system of scoring for MMA, tried to bait both fighters into condemning it. Both fighters ignored the invitation. Sanchez refused to use it as an excuse, crediting Jon with escaping his submissions.
KAZUHIRO NAKAMURA VS. LYOTO MACHIDA
Another PRIDE import making his UFC debut is Japans Kazuhiro Nakamura. Nakamura is an experienced veteran who has fought some legendary fighters such as Mauricio Rua, Wanderlei Silva, Kevin Randleman, Dan Henderson, and Antonio Nogueira. Unfortunately, he only beat Randleman but deserves credit for going after the best fighters in the game. Nakamura goes up against Lyoto Machida, a man who has beaten B.J. Penn, Rich Franklin and Stephan Bonnar. Granted, they werent UFC fights, but the Penn fight was during K-1s Heros event. The unbeaten Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialist has won both of his UFC fights by unanimous decision.
A bit of a character, Nakamura made his way to the Octagon sporting a red Japanese umbrella. The first round featured some nice leg kicks from Machida and some good elbows. But mostly it was Machida pressing the action on the mat with grappling and submission attempts. Nakamura was plainly outclassed in the second round spending most of it on his back eating Machidas elbows. Machida also landed a big right hand that stunned Nakamura. Nakamura finally managed to get a takedown but the round ended. Nakamura continued his aggressiveness in the third round but was slowly overpowered by Machida.
Though Machida won the unanimous decision to keep his record perfect at 11-0, he did so in an less-than-exiting fashion, as the fans booing indicates. Even though Nakamura (11-7) is a tough guy to finish, Machida cannot be boring and needs to finish fights if he wants to stand out in this talent-rich weight division.
TYSON GRIFFIN VS. THIAGO TAVARES
Undefeated Thiago Tavares has won both of his UFC fights. Tonight the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt and Muay Thai specialist squares off against Tyson Griffin. Griffin is a strong wrestler and aggressive striker. He has won two out of his three UFC fights and looked impressive in all of them. Tyson is also the first man to beat Urijah Faber, who is now the WEC 145 lb.
First round action saw Tyson controlling the fight with powerful wrestling and a little ground and pound. Tavares landed a beautiful flying knee in the second which resulted with Tavares controlling most of the round with several submission attempts. At one point, Tavares was on Griffins back when Tyson leaned forward and dropped Tavares on his head. Tavares came out of the round with an ugly mouse under his left eye. The third and final round featured more jiu-jitsu and wrestling, each fighter taking control for a brief moment. Tyson landed some nice elbows in a clinch but this one was going to the judges.
The judges unanimously declared Tyson Griffin the winner. His MMA record improves to 10-1. Tavares suffers his first defeat at 16-1. Tavares was visibly disappointed with the decision but both fighters respectfully congratulated each other.
In Preliminary action
Matt Wiman over Michihiro Omigawa Decision Rd 3
Christian Wellisch over Scott Junk submission 3:19 Rd 1
Jeremy Stephens over Diego Saraiva Decision Rd 3
Rich Clementi over Anthoney Johnson Choke 3:05 Rd 2