From December 27, 2008
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 “Rampage” 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.
Middleweight hopeful CB Dollaway made it 2-0 against Mike Massenzio as he halted his former college wrestling opponent in the first round. Dollaway defeated Massenzio in the junior college wrestling nationals in 2003.
Heavyweight contender Cheick Kongo moved a step further up the ranks, progressively picking up speed before emphatically stopping Octagon newcomer Mostapha Al Turk in the first round.
Heavyweight prospect Antoni Hardonk got a spirited effort out of late replacement Mike Wessel in their UFC 92 preliminary bout, but in the end, the experience and stamina of Hardonk won out as he TKOed Wessel in the second round.
Former kickboxing standout Patrick Barry promised a spectacular showing in his UFC debut, and he delivered, moving to 4-0 with a first round stoppage of Dan Evensen in their heavyweight bout.
Middleweight contender Yushin Okami continued his steady, but unspectacular, rise up the 185-pound ranks with an uneventful three round unanimous decision win over Dean Lister.
Light heavyweight prospect Matt Hamill bounced back from his UFC 88 loss to Rich Franklin, halting Reese Andy in the second round.
Brad Blackburn survived a furious late rally from Ryo Chonan to take a close three round unanimous decision.