Thomas Gerbasi, UFC - For two rounds in Saturday’s 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.
By Thomas Gerbasi
LAS VEGAS, December 27 – For two rounds in Saturday’s 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, now 18-0-1. “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.
“I’m fine, I’ll be back,” said a gracious Griffin, now 16-5. “Congratulations Rashad.”
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