On Dec. 30, the UFC’s customary end of year bash takes place at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, with Cris Cyborg defending her UFC women’s featherweight crown against former bantamweight queen Holly Holm in the main event of UFC 219. To get ready for the final event of 2017, we’re looking back at five of the UFC’s most memorable year-end shows. Today, it’s UFC 92, headlined by a quartet of MMA legends.
UFC 92: The Ultimate 2008
Dec. 27, 2008
MGM Grand Garden Arena
WATCH ON UFC FIGHT PASS
One of the best parts of being a UFC fan in the early days was getting to see the Ultimate Ultimate shows in December of 1995 and 1996. Featuring the best of the best of that era in a tournament format, it was almost like the World Series of MMA right on your television.
Fast forward a dozen years, and the UFC’s year-end event for 2008 was dubbed The Ultimate 2008, and I couldn’t have been more excited. Yeah, there wasn’t a tournament, but there were two title fights and the third meeting between two of PRIDE’s greatest rivals. The rest of the card was okay, but getting hit with Jackson-Silva, Mir-Nogueira and Evans-Griffin on the main card was the perfect way to end 2008.
Starting off with Quinton “Rampage” Jackson vs Wanderlei Silva, this was a bout between two guys who most definitely didn’t exchange Christmas cards a couple days earlier. They met twice in PRIDE, Silva winning both by knockout, and “The Axe Murderer” was confident of a three-peat.
“I remember beating him so nice,” said Silva. “They were very, very good fights for me, but he was a very tough guy and I know I need to train hard to fight him so I give my best every day all day. I don’t like him and he don’t like me. He’s my rival for years, and for me, to fight with my rivals is much better than when opponents respect you too much. We are professionals and we fight, but it’s more better to fight with some guy you don’t like. You train more, you have more motivation, and I love to fight with my big rival.”
Jackson was coming off the loss of his 205-pound belt to headliner Forrest Griffin, and while that stung, what better way to get back on track than by exorcising the demons of two losses to Silva?
As for the co-main event, the storyline was even better. Former PRIDE great Minotauro Nogueira had won two straight since coming over to the UFC in 2007, and in February 2008, he won the interim UFC heavyweight crown. Now he was up against former champ Frank Mir, who had resurrected his career after a serious motorcycle accident by defeating Antoni Hardonk and Brock Lesnar. Few were giving him a chance to beat Nogueira, though.
If those two weren’t enough, the main event pit two former Ultimate Fighter winners against each other for the UFC light heavyweight title. Remember, just three and a half years removed from the first TUF season finale, many diehard fans considered the fighters who came off the show to be TV stars and not legit UFC competitors. Champion Forrest Griffin and challenger Rashad Evans put that myth to rest, as now they were fighting for the sport’s ultimate prize.
It was a night that lived up to all expectations. Here’s how we saw the aforementioned fights that night.
EVANS VS GRIFFIN / MIR VS NOGUEIRA / JACKSON VS SILVA
For two rounds in the UFC 92 main event at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, it looked like Forrest Griffin’s height and reach advantage was going to be too much for Rashad Evans to deal with. But when you haven’t lost in your previous 18 pro fights, you find a way to win, and that’s what Evans did, roaring back in the third round to stop Griffin and win the UFC light heavyweight championship.
“It was a great fight,” said Evans. “It took me a while to get warmed up, but I got there. I didn’t want to go in there with one mindset because sometimes when you do that, you get messed up.”
And after ten minutes of sporadic success, Evans – winner of The Ultimate Fighter’s second season – attacked. Less than three minutes later, he was a world champion.
Both fighters got their ranges in the opening minute, with Evans opening up minute number two with a haymaker that likely would have ended the fight had it landed. But it didn’t, and the two combatants continued to circle each other at close range, adding tension to each exchange, as both fighters had their moments of success. Griffin and especially had success with low kicks, and though Evans was the faster puncher of the two, he appeared to be having difficulty getting inside on his taller opponent.
Griffin continued to stalk in round two, briefly jarring Evans and pinning him against the fence. The flurry got the crowd chanting “For-rest, For-rest”, but it also re-focused Evans, who now made a concerted effort to close the distance on Griffin. Each step closer caused Evans to pay a price though, whether with kicks low or punches high. But when Evans did score, with a crisp 1-2 or a thudding body kick, it drew a roar. It was Griffin ending the round with the hardest shot, a right to the head at the bell.
In round three, Evans finally found his opening as he grabbed one of Griffin’s kicks and sent the champion to the canvas with a flurry of punches. Evans tried to finish matters on the ground, but Griffin weathered the storm and quickly recovered. Evans remained in control on the ground though, periodically erupting with hard strikes to the head. Griffin appeared to take the shots well until one ferocious barrage that began with a right hand stunned Griffin and put him out, with referee Steve Mazzagatti halting the contest at 2:46 of round three.
Take the word “former” away from Frank Mir’s name, as the Las Vegas native completed an amazing career comeback at UFC 92 by dominating and stopping Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in the second round to regain a portion of the UFC heavyweight title he never lost in the Octagon.
“I faced such demons after my wreck,” said an emotional Mir, who came back from a devastating motorcycle wreck in 2004 that broke his leg in two places and forced him to the sidelines for almost two years, getting his title stripped in the process. “To come back from that, I’m proof you can do things. I didn’t even think I could beat Nogueira.”
But he did, and in addition to winning the interim UFC heavyweight title, he became the first fighter to finish Nogueira, the former PRIDE heavyweight champion and a future Hall of Famer.
Mir was busy with his kicks to start the fight, and he tossed in a jarring right uppercut for good measure, eventually taking the fight to the mat. After some ground strikes, Mir even chose to let the fight go back to the feet, so confident was he in his striking. Once standing, Mir continued to score effectively, eventually dropping Nogueira with a straight left with under two minutes left. Again, Mir followed up briefly before stepping back and standing the fight up again. By the closing moments of the round, Mir was loose and looking like he was having fun as he put Nogueira down just as the round ended.
Needing to get back in the fight, Nogueira came out aggressively in the second, only to continue getting tagged by Mir. And less than two minutes into the round, lowered the boom with two left hooks to the jaw that put the Brazilian legend on the mat again. A follow up barrage was a mere formality, as referee Herb Dean rescued Nogueira from further punishment at 1:54 of round two.
After a tumultuous 2008 that saw Quinton Jackson lose his light heavyweight title, change his managerial and training teams, and deal with out of the Octagon issues, he finished off the year by knocking out his old nemesis Wanderlei Silva in the first round of their UFC 92 bout.
It was Jackson’s first win in three tries against Silva, who defeated the Memphis native in PRIDE bouts in 2003 and 2004.
Opting to fight without the customary touch of gloves, these fierce rivals engaged almost immediately, with Jackson stalking and Silva looking to counter. A minute in, the crowd started chanting for Silva, followed shortly after by a chant for Rampage, and both men circled, neither wanting to make a fight-ending mistake. That mistake would come with under two minutes left though, as Silva came in wide with a left hook and ate one in return, sending the Brazilian down to the canvas. A follow-up from Jackson was mere window dressing as referee Yves Lavigne intervened at the 3:21 mark.