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The Ultimate 100 Recap - Fights 100-76

Thomas Gerbasi, UFC - Sunday night, Spike TV began counting down the greatest fights in UFC history, as voted by the fans, on The Ultimate 100 Greatest Fights series. Click below for a recap of fights 100 to 76 on the list.

By Thomas Gerbasi

Sunday night, Spike TV began counting down the greatest fights in UFC history, as voted by the fans, on The Ultimate 100 Greatest Fights series. Click below for a recap of fights 100 to 76 on the list.

Note that the ‘fight recap’ section after each fight consists of reports that were filed on fight night.

You hear fighters talk about laying it all on the line and going to war all the time, but rarely does the talk match what goes on when the bell rings. Kelly and Taylor delivered on their pre-fight promises though, letting the world know that British MMA was alive, well, and about to make its mark in the UFC. The first minute of this fight was classic, with both guys just letting loose with both hands in a phone booth battle that got the crowd on its feet. Good stuff from both guys.

FIGHT RECAP - Liverpool’s Paul Kelly and Walsall’s Paul Taylor did the British Isles proud in their welterweight battle tonight, battling it out for three closely contested rounds, with Octagon debutant Kelly emerging victorious via a unanimous decision on the UFC 80 undercard at the Metro Radio Arena.

Scores were 30-27 for the unbeaten Kelly, 8-0, in a bout that was a lot closer than those scores would indicate, hence its award for UFC 80 Fight of The Night.

Both fighters went toe-to-toe at the bell, immediately igniting the crowd. After a brief respite at the fence, where Taylor (8-3-1) fired away with close range strikes, there was another firefight before the bout hit the mat. On the ground, Kelly worked his ground and pound as Taylor – now bleeding from the nose - focused on improving his position and locking in a submission until the bell sounded.

20 seconds into the second, the two fighters resumed their ground fighting, with Kelly working his way back into the top position after a brief spell on the bottom. While on the bottom, Taylor drew a roar when he locked up his opponent’s arm, but Kelly battled his way free and resumed his striking from the top, opening up a huge cut on his opponent’s forehead.

The toe to toe slugging commenced once again at the start of the third, and Taylor was staggered briefly by a left before the two tumbled to the canvas. Kelly soon took side control, but again Taylor would find a way to get back into a better position. With under three minutes left, referee Herb Dean stood the fight up, and Taylor scored well with his strikes before Kelly took him back down. For the remainder of the bout, the two fatigued battlers fired away, Kelly from the top, Taylor from the bottom, a fitting end to the evenly fought contest.

One of the great parts of mixed martial arts is that at any given moment, a tactical fight can erupt in a flurry of action that ends the bout immediately. That was the case in the welterweight title bout between champion Pat Miletich and challenger Carlos Newton. Leading up to the fight, Miletich’s first priority was clear – he was there to win and defend his title, and putting on a blood and guts brawl was far from a concern

"The only person I have to impress is the person I'm fighting, and the judges," Miletich told me. "That's the way I look at it. I'd rather keep my title and collect the money. If they're booing, that's tough luck because they're not the ones that have to come home and pay my bills. That's just the way it is. I'll fight my fight. If Carlos pushes the pace with me, that's fine with me. I'm in shape to go. I don't remember him ever fighting at 170 pounds, so I think if he pushes the pace with me, he's going to gas."

Miletich and Newton did put on a tactical fight, but “The Ronin” didn’t gas out, and in the third round, he took the belt.

FIGHT RECAP - Carlos Newton and Pat Miletich waged the expected tactical battle, with Newton winning the war and the UFC welterweight title by choking out “The Croation Sensation” at 2:50 of the third round. “Somebody’s got to go for broke,” said the new champ. “I just waited and snuck in there.”

Newton and Miletich kept it standing in the first round, with Miletich’s strong striking skills winning him the round. Newton got Miletich to the ground late in the first, and he repeated his good fortune in the second. Once Miletich was able to get back up, his opponent made him pay with some strong head kicks.

The champion looked to be a bit winded at the end of the second, but he came out strong in the third, landing 1-2’s to the head, which didn’t hurt Newton, but scored points. The two combatants tumbled to the ground again, and as Miletich rose, the Canadian grabbed him in a standing side choke. It was academic at that point. Miletich tapped, and a new champion was crowned.

How do two New England standouts wind up headlining a show in Colorado? I don’t know, but regardless of locale, Florian and Lauzon both did Massachusetts proud with their fast-paced battle. And early on, it looked like Lauzon might pull off the upset over his more experienced foe, but a cut on his head and a smothering mount by Florian put those thoughts to rest. It was a good learning experience for Lauzon, who has won two in a row since the bout.

FIGHT RECAP - In all sports, local rivalries tend to bring out the best in competitors. That was the case at the Broomfield Event center Wednesday night, as New England standouts Kenny Florian and Joe Lauzon battled tooth and nail in their fast-paced UFC Fight Night main event until Florian broke the fight open in the second round, stopping Lauzon with a series of strikes at the 3:28 mark.

“Joe’s a great competitor and I knew it was gonna be a tough fight,” said Florian. “That’s what I wanted.”

Lauzon had the crowd in his corner from the opening bell, chanting ‘J-Lau, J-Lau’, but it was Florian who drew first blood with a series of elbows to the head when the two New Englanders hit the mat. The barrage caused a stoppage of the action and drew a warning from referee Herb Dean to Florian for using strikes that strayed to the back of the head. When the action resumed, Lauzon, bleeding from the top of his head, secured a takedown and worked well on the mat, looking to secure a submission that Florian escaped, getting back to his feet in the process. With under a minute left, the frantic action continued, with Lauzon securing another takedown and almost getting Florian’s ankle a second time before ‘Ken-Flo’ turned the tables and pounded away from the top position until the bell intervened.

Florian pressed the action while standing early in the second, and as the first minute wound down, he got a takedown and moved into the mount position, where he fired away with his right hand and left elbow. Lauzon escaped the mount, drawing a roar from the crowd, but Florian fought back into the dominant position, firing strikes all the while. By the midway point of the round, Florian was still pounding away, but Lauzon wouldn’t give in as he tried to find some breathing room from the onslaught. Eventually though, the series of unanswered blows was too much, and referee Herb Dean was forced to halt the bout.

QUOTABLE - “Above all, Kenny’s awesome. You can’t win every single fight and I have no shame in losing to someone like Kenny. The guy’s very talented, and he works hard. But win or lose, I’m gonna go a hundred percent the entire time. I would rather lose pushing the pace, then win a boring fight that goes to a decision. I hate watching a fight where someone gets a takedown and stalls, or where a guy is running the entire time. I want to be the guy that goes after it, and I’m either gonna beat that guy or he’s gonna beat me, and it’s gonna be clear cut who the better guy is.” – Joe Lauzon

With less than scintillating wins over Sam Hoger and Stephan Bonnar, Rashad Evans had a bit of an image problem in his early days in the UFC. A knockout of Jason Lambert helped his case, but it was his one kick knockout of Sean Salmon on national television that brought “Suga” to the masses. This one was scary and emphatic, and no one was going to sleep on Evans again.

FIGHT RECAP - With a perfectly timed kick to the head of Sean Salmon tonight at the Seminole Hard Rock Live Arena, light heavyweight contender Rashad Evans may have permanently erased the notion that he is not a finisher, as he knocked out the former Ohio State wrestler in the second round to remain unbeaten and earn his second straight devastating knockout victory.

The end of the UFC Fight Night main event came at the 1:06 mark of round two.

The two former Division I wrestlers traded punches in the early going, with Evans – who was coming off a second round knockout of Jason Lambert at UFC 63 - holding the edge thanks to his faster hands. Two minutes in, Salmon was able to get Evans to the mat and he worked quickly to get into side control. Evans fought his way back up, only to get tagged by a left-right by Salmon, and a few seconds later, the Ohio resident got another takedown. Once standing again, the two scored evenly, with Evans getting the last shot in via a kick just before the bell.

Early in the second, Evans got back in gear, hurting Salmon briefly with strikes to the head and a follow-up flurry. Smelling blood, Evans moved in carefully and threw a perfect right kick to the head. Salmon was out before he hit the mat and he hit the canvas in a frightening manner. Referee Troy Waugh jumped in to halt the fight, and luckily, medical personnel were on the scene immediately after. After a few tense moments, Salmon was alert and speaking before being taken from the Octagon on a stretcher as a precautionary measure. He was sent to a local hospital, but is doing well and at press time is scheduled to be released.

QUOTABLE - “The positives are hard to find. I went into that fight with the only expectation of winning. So I guess the positives I take from it is everything I was able to learn from the fight. I don’t watch the first round and say ‘yeah, I really had him.’ I watch the round and actually get more sick to my stomach watching him get out from the bottom twice than I do getting kicked in the head. To me, that was a much bigger mistake. Nobody’s ever gotten off bottom with me. I train with guys that I think are better on the ground than him, and they don’t get off bottom against me.” – Sean Salmon

Diehard followers of mixed martial arts weren’t too surprised with the final outcome, but for casual observers, the return of UFC legend Royce Gracie to the Octagon was truly a big deal, and in the great scheme of things it was an interesting meeting of the old school vs. the new school in the modern UFC. And though Hughes was respectful of Gracie, if you talked to him long enough before the fight, he made it clear that there was no way that he was going to lose this fight.

“A great ground guy,” said Hughes when asked his impressions of Gracie. “To be honest, I grew up watching the UFC before I was a competitor, and I always thought I could beat him. Before I was even training in fighting, I thought ‘I could beat that guy.’ I’ve got to respect his ground game, but besides that, he doesn’t have anything, I don’t think.”

“I think he’s really rolling the dice,” Hughes continued. “I think he’s gambling and he thinks he has a shot – and he does have a shot - at submitting me. But I’d have to make quite a few mistakes in a row for him to submit me. He’s not a quick submission artist.”

Once the bell rang, it was clear that Hughes had too much for the Hall of Famer, but Gracie’s heart kept him in the bout until the finish came at 4:39 of the first round.

FIGHT RECAP - The party line before the UFC 60 main event between Matt Hughes and Royce Gracie was that the sport of mixed martial arts had passed the Brazilian legend by and that he couldn’t compete with the new breed of mixed martial artist. Yet while Hughes was dominant in a first round stoppage victory before a packed house at STAPLES Center, there is no doubting the toughness of Gracie, who not only made his return to the Octagon for the first time in over ten years, he did it against the premier welterweight in the game.

And you’ve got to respect him for that.

But the night truly belonged to Hughes, who may not have had his UFC welterweight crown on the line, but who fought as if it was his last bout as he dominated from start to finish against the jiu-jitsu ace from Rio De Janeiro.

With father Helio, the founder of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, directly behind him, Gracie made his way into the Octagon for the first time since 1995 to a rousing ovation from the assembled crowd. Conversely – and surprisingly – Hughes’ entrance was met with boos scattered among the cheers. But the crowd wasn’t going to decide this one – the UFC’s first superstar and a modern day one were going to, and there was a thick tension in the air before the opening bell.

Gracie opened the fight with a couple of range-finding kicks. Hughes answered with an overhand left that briefly jarred the Brazilian. Gracie quickly regained his bearings though and kept kicking at Hughes, who drove him into the fence. With 3:45 left in the round, the fight went to the mat, with the crowd erupting as Gracie looked for a submission. Hughes kept his cool though and worked his strikes from the top position, eventually locking up Gracie’s left arm. After some tense moments, Gracie escaped, but soon Hughes got his back and opened up with elbows and strikes. Seconds later, after a series of unanswered blows to the head, referee John McCarthy had no choice but to halt the bout at 4:39 of the frame.

And then the boos turned to cheers for Hughes, and rightfully so.

Having covered boxing for a number of years, sometimes the best fights are the ones where you’re sitting ringside before the arena or club fills up and you can actually hear the punches being landed. When Sherk and Griffin fought, the Allstate Arena in Illinois was packed and the fans were screaming, but at Octagonside, you could still hear the punches of Sherk and Griffin landing. This was high-quality stuff and one of the better fights I’ve had the pleasure of seeing live.

FIGHT RECAP - Lightweight contenders Sean Sherk and Tyson Griffin fought at a torrid pace in the UFC main card opener, and after 15 minutes of war, it was Sherk, the former lightweight champion, emerging victorious via a close but unanimous decision.

Scores were 30-27, and 29-28 twice for Sherk, who improves to 37-3-1. Griffin falls to 12-2.

Both fighters approached each other warily, and after a crisp standup exchange, Sherk took Griffin to the mat and quickly got his back. Griffin stood up and walked Sherk off and the two resumed

their standup battle, with each man getting his shots in. Sherk scored another takedown, but Griffin again stood up and tagged Sherk with a hard right hand. The two men continued to trade fast punches and kicks, almost mirroring each other in method of attack. Griffin’s first takedown attempt was stuffed with a little over a minute left, and Sherk again got his foe’s back before letting the grip go. The finals seconds were punctuated by even more toe-to-toe exchanges, with Griffin going back to his corner with a cut over he left eye.

The standup war continued in round two, with both fighters landing flush shots that would have crumbled other lightweights. Midway through the round, the two upped the ante again, with Griffin even lowering his hands and calling Sherk in for more. Sherk obliged, but Griffin fired back just as hard, delighting the crowd.

Griffin roared out of his corner in the third round, jarring Sherk with a right to the head. Griffin, looking extremely confident with his standup, was firing off combinations while Sherk threw back, but without the same frequency or variety he had earlier. Both fighters had basically given up on their wrestling, choosing to bang it out. Sherk got busy again in the final minute though, securing the hard-fought win.

“I felt like I was a little more active and landed more punches, and I had a couple of takedowns and I got his back twice,” said Sherk. It was a close fight, but I was convinced that I won the fight.”

With just a 1-0 pro record, BJ Penn was garnering serious buzz around the MMA world, but most observers expected Din Thomas to push him to the limit in their UFC 32 bout in June of 2001. And with good reason. Thomas was 12-1 with wins over Jens Pulver and Dokonjonosuke Mishima, with his only loss coming to Caol Uno. But Penn took only 2:42 to finish off Thomas, and any non-believers were certainly converted to the ‘Prodigy’s side after that first round TKO.

FIGHT RECAP - A young man who is doing plenty of stompin’ is Hawaiian wunderkind BJ Penn. In the co-main event, the 22-year-old drilled highly regarded Din Thomas with a right knee to the chin, followed up with three hooks on his fallen opponent, and scored a first round TKO, his second in as many UFC appearances.

Perceived by many to be a pick-em matchup, in the 2:42 the match lasted, the crowd was captivated by the speed and technique of Penn, and the striking power and ring smarts of the veteran Thomas, who while making his Octagon debut, is a well traveled fighter who holds a victory over current UFC lightweight champion Jens Pulver.

In the end it was the versatility and surprising power of Penn that led ‘The Prodigy’ to victory.

This was one of those fights you wished were scheduled for five rounds, just so you can enjoy more of it, but as it turns out, we weren’t even able to get three full rounds due to cuts that prevented Lytle from continuing. At the time of the doctor’s stoppage, a torrid third round was expected between the two welterweight bangers, but it was not to be.

FIGHT RECAP - The welterweight war between Thiago Alves and Chris Lytle lived up to expectations for the first ten minutes at the Prudential Center Saturday night, but two cuts suffered by Lytle prevented the final five minutes from being fought, allowing Alves to leave the Octagon with a second round TKO victory on the UFC 78 undercard.

“I can still see,” said Lytle after the stoppage. “Let it go.”

Alves agreed, saying, “I think they should have let it go on,” but with cuts both on Lytle’s brow and eyelid, Octagonside doctor Erik Wurmser had no qualms about advising the bout to be halted.

Lytle pressed the action from the outset as Alves calmly looked to counter. That opportunity came 90 seconds in when a left to the jaw dropped Lytle. Alves tried to finish the bout on the mat, but Lytle survived, albeit with a cut over his left eye. Once the fight resumed on the feet, Lytle continued to score well with combinations, but Alves also made his presence known with crisp counters that halted ‘Lights Out’s forward march.

Great back and forth action on the feet was evident throughout the second stanza, but by the second half of the round, Alves was starting to dent Lytle’s resolve with brutal kicks to the legs that were visibly bothering the Indiana native, who was also dealing with the blood flowing from the cut over his eye. Eventually, that cut, along with a second cut on Lytle’s lid, would be his downfall, as the bout was wisely halted on the doctor’s advice after the second round, much to the chagrin of the fighter and the crowd.

Entering the final round, Alves led 20-18 on one judge’s scorecard, with the other two judges seeing the bout even at 19-19.

“The fight was beautiful,” said Alves. “I knew he was hurt, his leg was messed up and he got two cuts on the eye so I was saving everything for the last round. I know I was going to catch him in the last round.”

This is one of those fights that show up better when looking back than it may have on fight night. Leading up to this bout, an all-out war was expected between Penn and Serra. It didn’t turn out that way, with the bout eventually becoming a showcase for technique and Octagon control. I remember agreeing with the judges’ 29-28 verdict for Penn, but also believing that if it went the other way, there wouldn’t have been much of an argument. Given where the two fighters went in the future, this is definitely one of the time capsule.

FIGHT RECAP - It wasn't the fight of the night as many expected, but BJ Penn still managed to earn his second shot at the UFC lightweight title with a razor thin unanimous decision victory over Matt Serra.

All three judges scored it 29-28 for Penn.

There were precious few explosions in the first round, but the tactical battle between the two made for compelling viewing. Unfortunately for Serra, Penn met his numerous takedown attempts with amazing strength and balance. Serra adjusted by forcing Penn to the fence, where BJ stayed active with punches and knees.

"I knew he had great balance and he was tough as hell," said a disappointed Serra, who nonetheless showed great dignity in defeat. "He's the man tonight."

In the second round, Serra changed up his game plan a bit, meeting Penn's takedown defense with some of his underrated strikes. Unfortunately for the fans, the fight rarely strayed to the floor, where both Jiu-Jitsu aces could have dazzled the sold out crowd. A couple of flush right hands from Serra did produce a roar, though.

Continuing to use the fence, Serra controlled the second round action, while Penn seemed unable to get out of first gear, a patient strategy that cost him against Jens Pulver, and that almost cost him tonight.

"I fought real bad tonight," admitted Penn.

In the third round, Serra looked to be fatigued, but still attempted to make the fight happen with a number of takedown attempts. Penn varied his strikes with his stellar defense, and while he didn't land any telling blows, his activity level may have allowed him to eke out the fight. "The Prodigy" will next meet Caol Uno in a rematch of a bout won by Penn in 11 seconds. It's a fight in which Penn assures that "You'll see a different BJ Penn."

I didn’t cover this fight live, but like the rest of the MMA world, I was parked in front of my TV for The Ultimate Fighter season one finale and the classic between Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar. And while it may have been impossible for Franklin vs Shamrock to live up to the fight that came before it, there was still plenty of intrigue here and to many, this bout marked a changing of the guard from Shamrock to Franklin. Before the fight though, Franklin wasn’t going to count his chickens before they hatched, saying, “Possibly, if I were to win the fight I guess it could be viewed that way, but I have to win first before there’s a changing of the guard,” said a respectful Franklin. “Shamrock is no slouch. I’ve got a fight on my hands here and possibly that’s what the UFC is thinking, but if they thought they were going to give me an easy fight they sure didn’t make it that easy for me.”

Franklin would win the fight by TKO in the first round after some dicey moments when Shamrock tried to lock his ankle up, and he then dropped to middleweight and won the title there.

QUOTABLE - “When I was watching the first couple of UFC’s, he came out and he was the one fighter that walked out looking like a gladiator. That was my first impression – that he was the one guy that looked like a fighter, with the physique of an athlete.” Rich Franklin before the fight.

When you’re fighting someone who knocked you out in 11 seconds, not much is really expected from you, but then again, Caol Uno is no ordinary fighter, and despite his draw with Penn in their rematch, he was the one most people were talking about after their five round battle that may have just killed the UFC lightweight division for a spell because of the fight’s inability to crown a new champion to replace Jens Pulver.

FIGHT RECAP - In UFC 41’s other championship bout, the lightweight title vacated by Jens Pulver was up for grabs between two fighters who had already lost to ‘Lil’ Evil’- BJ Penn and Caol Uno. And after five rounds that showed the best that the division had to offer, there was still no champion, as the ringside judges declared a five round draw. Scores were 48-47 Uno, 48-46 Penn, and 48-48.

Penn, the Hawaiian wunderkind who tore through the lightweight division (including a brutal first round KO of Uno) before losing to Pulver, has shown little fire since the 2002 loss. It was this measured patience that may have cost him against Uno, who was aggressive throughout the contest, despite being outgunned by the heavy hands of ‘The Prodigy’.

Relying on this punching power, Penn looked to repeat his first victory over Uno, and this emphasis on right hands showed on Uno’s face by the end of the fight. But Uno hung in the fight, and after a poor showing in the first round, came back to dominate the second with a series of kicks and takedowns, and by round three, Uno had take control of the bout, much to the dismay of Penn’s cornermen, who screamed their pleas from cageside.

Penn awoke in the fourth round, and Uno showed signs of physical wear for the first time in the match. Penn took over standing and on the ground, evening up the bout, and like all great championship matches, leaving it all up to the final round.

The final round was tough to score, with Penn holding a standup edge early in the round, but Uno finishing strong. The judges were split on the fifth as well, with Tony Mullinax calling it for Uno 10-9, Douglas Crosby giving Penn the edge 10-9, and Steve Wright calling it a stalemate, 10-10. And in what is undoubtedly the tightest division in the UFC in terms of talent, there will be a lot of nights like this.

Following season two of The Ultimate Fighter, Keith Jardine built a solid 3-1 record before stepping in as an underdog against Griffin, who’s only Octagon loss was a razor-thin decision to Tito Ortiz. A win over Jardine was probably getting Griffin a title shot, but ‘The Dean of Mean’ intervened with a first round stoppage that devastated the Ultimate Fighter season one winner.

FIGHT RECAP - In a featured light heavyweight bout, Keith Jardine loudly announced his arrival to the top ten at 205 pounds, scoring a stirring first round TKO of Forrest Griffin in a fight that lived up to its explosive billing despite its brevity.

Griffin took an early edge in the bout behind his faster and more accurate strikes, but Albuquerque’s Jardine stayed in the pocket and gave as good as he got, eventually noticing that Griffin was putting his head down when the two would get into heated exchanges.

“I knew I’d catch him with the uppercut sooner or later,” said Jardine, and he was right, as landed a flush right uppercut and followed with a left cross that visibly staggered Griffin. Jardine jumped in and fired off a furious barrage as both fighters hit the mat. ‘The Dean of Mean’s assault on Griffin continued unabated, and referee John McCarthy had no choice but to stop the fight at the 4:41 mark in what can be considered a minor upset.

“I was so nervous for this fight but I know I belong here and I knew I was the better man tonight,” said Jardine.

QUOTABLE – “I’ve never been dazed by a punch before. I’ve been knocked out cold quite a few times, but I’ve never been dazed and hurt in a fight where I was on Queer Street, which I was against Keith and just couldn’t get composed. It’s just a scary feeling, knowing that I could feel like that again, that maybe I’m not who I thought I was. I always thought I had a solid, solid chin, and there’s a lot of doubts in my mind, questions about the way I’m gonna fight.” - Forrest Griffin

If your heavyweight loving friends ever ask you why they should get excited over watching the 155-pound lightweight class, pop this fight from UFC 67 into the DVD player and don’t say a word. By the end of 15 minutes, they’ll understand.

FIGHT RECAP - Unbeaten but unheralded lightweight Frankie Edgar handed highly regarded Tyson Griffin his first loss in their preliminary bout, winning a hard fought three round unanimous decision.

Scores were 29-28 (twice) and 30-27 for the 6-0 Edgar. Griffin falls to 8-1.

Though fairly unknown in UFC circles, Edgar made it obvious that he came to win as he took the favored Griffin to the mat and survived a thunderous slam to rack up an impressive first round in the Octagon.

Griffin stunned Edgar on two occasions early in round two, with the New Jersey fighter opting for the takedown

to get out of trouble. And while Griffin appeared to be controlling the action on the mat, just when Edgar seemed to be fading, he would come back, ending the round in the full mount position as he attempted to ground and pound his way to victory.

With the crowd firmly in his corner, Edgar again took a visibly winded Griffin down and also opened up with both hands while standing in an attempt to close the show in style. And though Griffin attempted to finish with a submission in the final seconds, as the round ticked away, it was Edgar pounding on Griffin’s leg in time with the clock, drawing a roar with each shot.

QUOTABLE - “I was nervous, because when he got that kneebar in there, it was tight. It kinda caught me, and I don’t know if he was playing possum, because I really didn’t expect him to do much. I felt like I was dominating in the last little bit of the third round, and when he went for it, it really surprised me. I usually don’t get caught with stuff like that, so I was nervous, but I fought through it. I hate to lose. I put so much on the line in that fight, it was balls to the wall the whole way, and then with 45 seconds left I get caught in that. But there was no way I could tap. It did pop a couple of times, but once it popped once, I said, ‘hey, the hell with it.’ I’d rather limp around for a while and get this ‘W’, then take a loss.” – Frankie Edgar

Jeremy Horn beat Chuck Liddell once, and I was convinced he was going to do it a second time in their UFC 54 rematch, but ‘The Iceman’ shut me up with a master class on precision power punching. As I wrote in a post-fight report, “I thought Jeremy Horn was going to win last Saturday’s fight, and I wasn’t alone, but Liddell was at perhaps his most devastating against the first man who beat him. When you look at Liddell throwing punches, the blows don’t seem to have anything on them, the technique borders on bizarre, and you wonder just how this guy became the premier 205-pounder in the UFC. To tell you the truth, I was kind of unconvinced until Saturday night when he took apart a 100-fight veteran with precision and power that you rarely see in any combat sport. The first big right hand that dropped Horn shot between a miniscule opening in the challenger’s defense. To get a punch through an opening that small and still have KO power behind it was nothing short of brilliant. After that, every time Liddell landed that right hand it seemed to hurt Horn, and the result was academic. But Liddell didn’t lose his cool, he didn’t gas out, and he refused to go to the ground in an over eager attempt to finish the bout. He knew the slightest mistake could be fatal against Horn and he took his time to take him out standing. It was a brilliant tactical display from Liddell, who may have had his finest hour.”

If you’re a writer and don’t love Phil Baroni, you’re in the wrong line of work. A quote machine of the highest order, Baroni was at his best during a UFC tenure that may have seen him only go 3-5, but ‘The New York Bad Ass’ was always entertaining. Leading up to his fight with Tanner, Baroni was coming off a torn pectoral muscle, and when I asked him about it, he simply said, “When Evan Tanner’s picking up his jaw off the floor, ask him how my rehab went.” That’s Phil Baroni, and the fight was just as memorable, as you’ll read below.

FIGHT RECAP - More post-fight antics marred an otherwise compelling four minutes and forty-two seconds of action between middleweights Evan Tanner and Phil Baroni.

Using his patented hand speed and power, Baroni stunned Tanner with a right hand seconds into the scheduled three rounder, and follow-up bombs by the “NY Bad Ass” had Tanner stumbling, cut, and in deep trouble. As it turns out, the cut under Tanner’s left eye may have been his saving grace. With a halt to the action called by referee Larry Landless in order for the ringside doctor to check Tanner’s cut, the Team Quest standout gained enough time to recover his senses and get back into the fight.

After he ate another Baroni right hand, Tanner used some effective knees in the clinch and finally took the Long Island native to the mat. As the seconds ticked away on the first round, Tanner gained a full mount position and rained elbows on his foe. Landless leaned in and repeatedly asked Baroni if he wanted the fight stopped. Baroni, thinking that the referee was asking if he was fit to continue, answered ‘yes’. The bout was halted at 4:42 of the first, and immediately Baroni took a swipe at Landless and had to be restrained as he tried to get at the official.

“Everyone that has ever seen me fight knows I would never give up,” said Baroni.

The New Yorker later apologized to Landless, and Tanner was happy to get out of the Octagon with the victory.

“That guy hits hard,” said the Texan. “That hurt.”

A battle between two of the welterweight division’s finest young guns, this was a fight that showed just what the future of MMA was going to look like. And though the bout saw both fighters’ stock go up, Diaz wasn’t happy with the third loss on his record. As he told me a year later before his bout with Diego Sanchez, “I hate it that I have three losses on my record. One I was robbed in Japan (Kuniyoshi Hironaka). The other one I came back and beat the guy twice (Jeremy Jackson). (In the Jackson fight) I didn’t know anything about him and I had already fought two people that night before I fought that guy. So that’s two losses right there, and the Karo Parisyan fight, I beat him up and I still lost the fight. Come on.”

Winner of five out of six UFC bouts, including wins over Mark Coleman, Tank Abbott, and Dan Severn, Pedro Rizzo was the UFC’s heavyweight Golden Boy, the one expected to ascend to the heights of the division and rule for as long as he wanted to. But first, he had to get past young gun Josh Barnett, who was unbeaten in seven fights and coming off a three-fight string that saw him beat Bobby Hoffman, Severn, and Gan McGee. On paper, this was going to be a war, and in reality, it was, with both big men going at it until Rizzo finished things off in the second round. ‘The Rock’ would go on to fight Randy Couture for the title twice, but was turned back both times, leaving the Brazilian less than golden in the UFC.

FIGHT RECAP - The fight of the night was staged between the big boys, heavyweights Josh Barnett and Pedro Rizzo. In 9:21 of some of the best striking attacks seen in a while in the UFC, the two combatants slugged it out on even terms until a vicious right hand by the Brazilian stunned Barnett. A follow-up right by Rizzo on his defenseless opponent left Barnett KO’ed at the 4:21 mark of Round Two. “I’m sorry to the fans, I fought really bad,” said Rizzo after the match. “But I brought my power.” One person not disappointed with the performance was Rizzo’s ecstatic cornerman, Marco Ruas. I didn’t know that the ‘King of the Streets’ had teeth.

“To be honest, I really don’t know what hit me,” said Barnett, who lost for the first time in 25 mixed martial arts bouts. The Seattle resident, who is one of the few to stand and trade with Rizzo for any length of time, will definitely be heard from again. As for ‘The Rock’, Rizzo will get his chance at heavyweight champion Randy Couture in UFC XXXI, also at Atlantic City’s Taj Mahal.

Beating someone you chased for a couple of years has to be a high most of us never could experience. Fighting off the inevitable letdown of such a win has to be even tougher. That was what Liddell faced in his first post-Ortiz fight against the always tough Vernon White, who helped motivate his foe with plenty of pre-fight trash talk. What resulted was four minutes and five seconds of war, with Liddell showing not only his punching power (which resulted in a KO victory), but a solid beard, which allowed him to take White’s bombs and continue firing. The only thing left was to get that title belt.

FIGHT RECAP - In the UFC 49 co-feature, Chuck Liddell earned another shot at Couture with an exciting first round stoppage of a game Vernon White, who continually battled back from concussive blows in that opening frame to give Liddell hell, only to be sent to defeat with a big right hand that ended matters conclusively at the 4:05 mark.

Before Georges St-Pierre fought Frank Trigg, only two people had ever beaten ‘Twinkle Toes’ – Mach Sakurai and Matt Hughes (twice). To join that select group was impressive; to do it the way GSP did in their UFC 54 bout was kind of shocking. Here’s what I wrote in a post-fight breakdown: “Trigg, undoubtedly one of the top 170-pounders in the world, looked like me in Octagon Saturday night. In other words, he appeared lost and unable to do anything against the primed and ready St. Pierre. In my brief foray in the boxing ring, I found out that the worst thing to deal with was not getting punched or hurt, but of being in there with someone who you had no answers for, who made you feel helpless. That’s the way Trigg fought against St. Pierre, and that’s not an indictment of the two-time title challenger, that’s a heaping dose of praise for the 24-year-old “Rush”, who has to be given a better than even chance of upsetting welterweight king Matt Hughes in what has to be the most logical rematch in the game today. Plainly put, this kid is a star, and the fact that he’s only getting better is frightening.”

When friends fight, one of two scenarios occur – they either circle each other and refuse to engage, or they throw down like bitter enemies. The Ultimate Fighter season six’ Koppenhaver and Rollins chose the latter option, producing one of 2007’s top fights in the process.

FIGHT REPORT - In an action-packed and back and forth battle that caused the Palms crowd to erupt on a number of occasions, Jon Koppenhaver survived some rocky moments to pull out a stirring third round stoppage victory over fellow Californian Jared Rollins.

“J-Roc’s my friend, I didn’t want to have to fight him,” said an emotional Koppenhaver after the fight.

Koppenhaver (6-1) controlled much of the first round on the mat behind a steady ground and pound attack that left Rollins (9-4) with a nasty cut over his right eye, and ‘War Machine’ with a cut on the top of his head.

Keeping the pressure on in round two, Koppenhaver again came forward, and Rollins responded with a series of elbows from the bottom position. After a lull in the action, referee Steve Mazzagatti stood the combatants up and they traded heavy shots before Rollins shot in and secured a takedown, which allowed him to work his own ground attack, which included a rear naked choke attempt and some ferocious strikes, drawing a standing ovation at the bell.

In the third, the two picked up where they left off, with Koppenhaver pulling into the lead with his ground strikes. After a re-start of the action, Rollins’ strikes appeared to put Koppenhaver down and out, but amazingly ‘War Machine’ again turned the tide, reversing position on the ground and then raining down a series of punches that caused Mazzagatti to call a halt to the action at 2:01 of the final round, sending the crowd into a frenzy again.

In their first bout, Franklin – then a light heavyweight - was unbeaten and three years into a career that had now brought him to the UFC Octagon. And while you could tell that his complete game hadn’t yet been fully developed, it was obvious from his accurate striking that he was on his way to the top. This accuracy kept Tanner off balance and left him relegated to lunging knees from long range and sloppy clinch attempts. By the midway point of the round, Franklin found his rhythm, buzzed Tanner and stopped him seconds later. The late Tanner would go on to win the middleweight title, but lost it in his first defense to – you guessed it – Franklin.

If you listened to pundits and fans before this fight, Serra didn’t even need to show up against the ultra-talented GSP, whose reign was expected to last as long as he wanted it to. All this did was fire up Serra, who went into the bout with no expectations on him, and thus, no pressure. The result? He came out loose, confident, and ready for war, and when he tagged St-Pierre and took his legs out from him, he wasn’t the wild swinging brawler that exhausted himself against Karo Parisyan. Instead, Serra picked his shots as St-Pierre stumbled in an effort to get his legs back, and landed practically all of them until the bout was halted at 3:25 of the first round. There was a new UFC welterweight champion, and his name was Matt Serra.

FIGHT RECAP - Odds mean nothing. The past means nothing. In mixed martial arts, what matters is what happens when the bell rings. And when the bell rang at the Toyota Center tonight, Matt Serra came to fight. When you do that, good things can happen, and they did for the Long Island native, who stunned the mixed martial arts world with a first round TKO win over Georges St-Pierre to win the UFC Welterweight Championship in the UFC 69 main event tonight.

Serra had earned his title shot by winning season four of The Ultimate Fighter reality show. St-Pierre, in his first fight since taking the 170-pound title from Matt Hughes last November, was expected to roll over his challenger en route to bigger and better things.

It was not to be.

A smiling and relaxed Serra (16-4) showed no fear of the champion as he met him in the middle of the Octagon to start the bout, but St-Pierre was sharp as he shot out kicks and the occasional quick flurry. The challenger responded with kicks of his own to the champion’s legs, but St-Pierre (13-2) appeared to be too fast for his foe, apparently just biding his time until he decided to pounce.

But that’s why they fight the fights, and just as soon as those words were written, Serra threw a looping right hand that grazed the back of St-Pierre’s head, forcing him to lose his balance and stumble twice. It was all the underrated Serra needed, as he swung for the fences and landed on the still recovering champion, who got into deeper and deeper trouble with each shot the New Yorker landed.

Suddenly, St-Pierre was on the mat, and Serra followed him, never letting his hands stop moving until referee John McCarthy pulled him off at the 3:25 mark and declared him the new welterweight champion of the world.

“Tonight I got beat by a better fighter than myself,” said the always gracious St-Pierre. “He beat me fair and square. I’m very sad right now, but I will come back.”

Undoubtedly. But for now, there’s a new boss at 170 pounds.

When Chuck Liddell fought Keith Jardine in Anaheim in September of 2007, it was assumed that a Liddell win would lead to a showdown with PRIDE import Wanderlei Silva. The afternoon of the fight, I sat down with Silva and discussed that evening’s bout and wondered if ‘The Axe Murderer’ was nervous about the possibility that Liddell would lose. “Nervous?” asked Silva. “Of course. I want to fight him (Liddell). I’ve waited so long for this fight and everyone wants to see it. But a fight is a fight and this guy (Jardine) is a strong guy. But they have a movie out now, I see it many times on the TV, it says ‘Good Luck Chuck.’ (Laughs) That’s the message I give for him – good luck Chuck.” It wasn’t enough, as Liddell dropped the decision to Jardine, but three months later, we still got our Liddell vs Silva matchup.

FIGHT RECAP - Following a knockout loss in May, some observers expected Keith Jardine to be an easy mark for the return of another UFC 71 KO victim, former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Chuck Liddell. But in tonight’s UFC 76 main event at the Honda Center, Jardine made it clear that there is no such thing as a sure thing in mixed martial arts, using an effective striking mix of kicks and punches to win a three round split decision over ‘The Iceman’.

Scores were 29-28 twice and 28-29 for Jardine, who rebounded from his loss to Houston Alexander in a big way. Liddell was looking to come back from the loss of his title to Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson on the same May card. Jardine opened up hostilities with one of his patented leg kicks, with Liddell shaking it off and moving forward in stark contrast to his previous fight with Jackson, where he backpedaled and tried to use all of the Octagon real estate. And though Jardine would stay busy and fire back whenever Liddell would throw, the strikes from ‘The Iceman’ had considerably more heat on them, and soon Jardine had a knot on the right side of his head that shortly after began showing blood.

With a little over two minutes left, Jardine did score with a series of consecutive rights, one apparently catching a blinking Liddell in the eye, and ‘The Dean of Mean’ seemed to have gotten his legs under him as he confidently strode forward. The final 30 seconds of the round got the crowd roaring as a firefight broke out, with neither man holding a decided edge.

Liddell’s left jab was accurate in the early going of round two, but it was Jardine who made the biggest impression with a right hand that dropped the former champion. Liddell quickly jumped up, but the tone of the fight had changed, and Jardine’s kicks to the body bruised ‘The Iceman’ considerably. Jardine was fairly marked up too, with blood streaming down the right side of his face. With 1:40 left, Liddell got back on track with a short punch that staggered Jardine, but a follow-up knee and spinning backfist didn’t end the night for the Albuquerque resident.

With both fighters intent on ending matters before the judges had their say, the bombs kept flying in the third and final round, and Jardine continued to score with his kicks and punches, which had to be taking a toll on the 37-year old, who was starting to get hit more because he was looking to defend Jardine’s kicks. It was Liddell though who poured it on at the end, but it was too little too late for the former champion.

Now it seems like a result that was academic, but whenever a fighter moves up in weight, you wonder whether he can bring his power 20 pounds north while being able to take a bigger man’s punch. And following an eight second demolition of Houston Alexander three months earlier, James Irvin seemed to be a live underdog against the middleweight champ. Then the bell rang, and Silva threw all the questions out the window with a 61 second victory.

FIGHT RECAP - UFC middleweight champion Anderson didn’t see his pound for pound crown tarnished at all in his UFC light heavyweight debut against James Irvin tonight at The Pearl at The Palms. Instead, his 61 second knockout win showed that if anything, he’s getting better and more fearsome with each outing.

“I’m a Muay Thai fighter, I’ve been doing it since I was a kid,” said Silva. “I didn’t come up to the 205-pound division to disrespect any fighters, but if you stand up and exchange Muay Thai, this is what happens.”

After the ritual touch of gloves, both fighters traded kicks to start the festivities. A few tense moments later, Irvin fired a right kick to the side which Silva caught. ‘The Spider’ proceeded to fire a right hand straight down the pipe at Irvin that landed flush and put him on his back. Silva pounced with a series of shots, but just when ‘The Sandman’ appeared to be weathering the storm, a final right hand knocked him out at the 1:01 mark.

It was yet another clip for Silva’s highlight reel, but when it comes to a permanent stay at light heavyweight, the pride of Curitiba still wants to take care of business at 185 pounds unless bigger fights present themselves.

“This was my first time coming up here and it was a good experience,” said Silva. “But my responsibility is to defend the 185-pound title.”

With the win, Silva improves to 22-4. Irvin falls to 14-5 with 1 no contest.

This was a battle of mirror images of each other, and not surprisingly, it took the full championship distance of 25 minutes to decide it. For Hughes, the win came during his first title reign, but after this fourth defense, he would lose the belt two fights later to BJ Penn. As for Sherk, he wouldn’t be seen in the UFC again for another two years, and after a return loss to St-Pierre and a win over Nick Diaz, he dropped to the lightweight division, where he won the vacant championship belt with a win over Kenny Florian in 2006.