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The Ultimate 100 Recap - Fights 30-11

Thomas Gerbasi, UFC - Wednesday night, Spike TV continued 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 30 to 11 on the list.

By Thomas Gerbasi

Wednesday night, Spike TV continued 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 30 to 11 on the list.

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

After his win over Hayato ‘Mach’ Sakurai, Matt Hughes went on a four fight tear that saw him defeat Carlos Newton (in a rematch), skilled grappler Gil Castillo, mirror image Sean Sherk, and trash-talking rival Frank Trigg. In the process, he became a legitimate star for the UFC, and one expected to roll over former lightweight title challenger BJ Penn in Penn’s welterweight debut. It didn’t quite go that way for Hughes.

From the opening bell, Penn dictated the action and even appeared to be bigger physically than the champion. Soon, Hughes found himself on the mat – a bad place to be against the skilled Jiu-Jitsu ace. To his credit, Hughes fought like a champion, striking Penn efficiently while avoiding any serious danger.

Yet as the final minute of the first round got underway, it was a strike by Penn that turned the tide of the fight. Stunned by a blow that bloodied his nose, Hughes instinctively turned to the side, giving Penn his back. With breakneck speed, Penn took his back and immediately sunk in a rear naked choke. The tap by Hughes seconds later was a mere formality, and a new champion had been crowned.

“I don’t even know what I did today,” exclaimed the emotional new champion. Hughes probably felt the same way, and when I asked him before their rematch if he had watched the first fight to prepare for the second one, he responded, “No I haven’t, and to be honest, I don’t even know that I watched it that once. I know what I did wrong. I remember that fight pretty well, so I don’t have to go back and watch the fight to tell anybody what I did wrong.”

FIGHT RECAP - “Karate’s back,” shouted Lyoto Machida, and it’s hard to argue with him now that the words “UFC Light Heavyweight Champion” precede his name after a spectacular second round knockout of Rashad Evans in the main event of UFC 98 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena Saturday night.

“I tried all my life to be champion and I am very, very happy,” said the new title holder. “Now I want to keep this belt for a long time.”

“It was a good fight,” said a gracious Evans. “He was very difficult to solve, very fast and explosive.”

As expected, the two 205-pound stalwarts searched for openings from a distance as the bout started, feinting to see the reaction coming back from each other. With 90 seconds gone, the two got within striking range, and with two minutes gone, it was Machida who landed the first strike, a kick to the head that knocked Evans off balance. The champion fired back a flurry but missed, and the two calmly went back to their tactical chess match. As the round entered its final stages, Machida’s kicks were finding a home, and with under a minute left, one landed, and a follow up left hand dropped Evans. Machida moved in for the finish, but Evans quickly recovered, got back to his feet, and made it to the bell.

The first offense of the second round came from Machida’s feet again, but the Brazilian was rebuffed on his takedown attempt. Moments later, Machida landed a hard punch, but Evans responded with a flurry that put the challenger on the defensive for the first time in the fight. And though they were blocked, Evans started throwing back his kicks in the second half of the stanza. With 1:30 left, Machida hurt Evans with a straight left to the head and dropped him. Evans got up and courageously fired back, trying to get back into the fight, but Machida’s pinpoint accuracy was too much for the New York native to handle, and after a ferocious overhand right followed by a left hook, Evans was sent to the canvas for good, prompting referee Mario Yamasaki to halt the bout at the 3:57 mark and begin a new era in light heavyweight mixed martial arts.

“If you have a dream, go hard, it’s possible,” said Belem, Brazil’s Machida, now 15-0.

Evans falls to 18-1-1

“This is my first time on the other side,” said Evans. “You got to take it how you give it. Maybe next time I’ll do better.”

Despite the one-sided nature of their first bout, by the time the rematch between Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz was signed, the entire MMA world was eager to see if Ortiz could reverse the result the second time around. He couldn’t, but in defeat Ortiz showed a ton of heart and he even made it to the third round. But Liddell’s ability to keep his rival on the end of his punches made it impossible for Ortiz to implement his gameplan.

FIGHT RECAP - Tito Ortiz came to fight tonight, and as he admitted afterwards, he brought his ‘A’ game. But when you’re facing the best light heavyweight on the planet, sometimes that’s just not enough, as Chuck Liddell defended his UFC crown for the fourth time with a third round TKO of Ortiz before a sell-out crowd of 14,607 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in their long-awaited rematch.

“This is the most satisfying win of my career,” said Liddell who knocked Ortiz out in two rounds in their first bout on April 2, 2004.

But even though Ortiz, a former UFC light heavyweight champion, showed courage and improved stand up in the UFC 66 main event, it just wasn’t enough to answer to the power of Liddell.

“I’m kind of disgusted with myself because I let my fans down,” said Ortiz. “Chuck’s the best pound for pound fighter in the world and I’ve got to give that to him.”

Ortiz opened the action 30 seconds in with a leg kick, and seconds later ate his first thunder from Liddell, who shook off a follow-up takedown attempt. Ortiz continued to move forward, but Liddell calmly countered his offensive rushes. Midway through the round, Ortiz found success with his leg kicks and Liddell began to move forward more purposefully, drawing a roar from the crowd as he cut a retreating Ortiz over the left eye and closed in for the kill. Moments later, it appeared that the end had arrived as Liddell put the challenger on the canvas with a left to the temple and pounded away furiously with both hands as referee Mario Yamasaki watched the action closely. Incredibly though, Ortiz survived the onslaught and made it to his feet, the crowd erupting as the bell rang.

Almost immediately going for the takedown to begin the second, Ortiz was again rebuked as Liddell avoided the mat with chants of “Chuck, Chuck” reverberating through the arena. Perhaps looking to conserve energy for the later rounds, the fighters’ pace soon became more measured, though each punch was still being thrown with fight-ending intent. With under a minute to go, Ortiz finally got Liddell to the mat, but ‘The Iceman’ easily made it back to his feet and out of danger to ride out the round.

Ortiz’ customary early round takedown attempt in the third was turned away yet again, but this time Liddell jumped in and flurried on the grounded challenger. ‘The Huntington Beach Bad Boy’ again showed no fear of the champion as he swung back with a hard haymaker, but Ortiz’ ineffectiveness securing takedowns was proving to be his downfall though, as Liddell took every opportunity to make the challenger pay every time he missed one. With under two minutes to go, Ortiz made his final mistake as he attempted to get into a firefight with Liddell and paid for it, as the champion sent his challenger to the canvas, where a final barrage forced Yamasaki to halt the bout at 3:59 of the third stanza.

“I had him hurt and I just kept throwing punches,” said Liddell, who led on one scorecard 20-18 at the end of two rounds, with the other two judges seeing the bout even at 19-19.

How do you top an upset win over Chuck Liddell in your first light heavyweight fight? With a win over the sport’s acknowledged superstar at the time, Tito Ortiz. Having sidestepped a match with Liddell, Ortiz knew that a win over the man who beat Liddell would settle a lot of arguments. Couture wasn’t playing along though, and in September of 2003, ‘The Natural’ went from elite fighter to icon over the space of his 25 minute domination of ‘The Huntington Beach Bad Boy’, who had no answers for the future UFC Hall of Famer.

After the first round and a half of this championship bout, it looked like Jon Fitch was just going to get run out of the Target Center by welterweight boss Georges St-Pierre. But towards the end of the second stanza, Fitch stuffed a takedown, started to land some punches, and let GSP and the world know that he wasn’t going anywhere. And he didn’t, lasting the five round distance with St-Pierre. And despite losing every round on the judges’ scorecards, Fitch made this fight memorable because of his unyielding heart under the assault of a champion at the top of his game, whose own stellar performance made this fight worthy of inclusion on this list.

FIGHT RECAP - It’s an old fight game adage that it’s harder to defend a title than win one. Tonight, in the main event of UFC 87 at Target Center, UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre got things right in his second reign as champion, defending his crown for the first time with a shutout five round decision win over number one contender Jon Fitch.

And no one in the crowd of 15,082 cheered louder for St-Pierre than UFC lightweight champion BJ Penn, who is now looking to move back up to 170 pounds for a shot at redemption against the man who decisioned him in March of 2006.

“Let’s put the fight together, let’s do it,” said Penn.

“I’m a proud champion and I’m ready to fight everybody who deserves a shot,” said St-Pierre. “I know BJ Penn wants a shot, and I’m ready for him. “

Scores were 50-43, and 50-44 twice for St-Pierre, whose first reign as champion ended at the hands of Matt Serra in April of 2007. St-Pierre went on to regain the belt at UFC 83 in April of this year.

The bout hit the mat immediately, with St-Pierre in Fitch’s guard, but the challenger did good work from the bottom, even though he ate his share of thudding strikes. Crowd chants of “USA” and “GSP” alternated in the crowd, drowning out St-Pierre’s increasingly dominating attack. And when Fitch was able to get back to his feet, the champion dropped him almost immediately with a right hand and followed up with a ferocious series of strikes that bruised Fitch’s face. With less than 1:30 left in the round, Fitch gamely rose again, but with his legs rubbery, St-Pierre opened fire on the feet and the ground, keeping the Indiana native in serious trouble. By the end of the round though, Fitch appeared to have cleared his head, leaving him 60 seconds to make the adjustments necessary to get back in the fight.

Fitch looked to stand with St-Pierre in round two, but the Canadian’s speed, accuracy and footwork not only bloodied the challenger, but also allowed him to scoot out of danger before any of Fitch’s wild strikes hit home. As the round progressed, Fitch stayed out of trouble and seemed to be gaining confidence as some of his punches hit home, and after he stuffed a St-Pierre takedown attempt and followed up with a knee, it looked like he was getting himself back into the fight, even though his face wasn’t showing it.

If there was any renewed confidence from Fitch, it was probably removed seconds into the third round as he got his mouthpiece knocked out by a St-Pierre right hand. The ensuing trip to the canvas saw St-Pierre try to work for a rear naked choke, but Fitch fought his way free and into the champion’s guard. While there, Fitch tried to stay busy as St-Pierre appeared to be looking to force a standup. But instead, St-Pierre reversed position and landed

some ground strikes before the two stood again. St-Pierre opened up with some kicks to keep Fitch guessing, and in close range exchanges, St-Pierre’s deadly accuracy was on display, but so was Fitch’s heart as he took some hellacious shots but kept fighting.

As the championship rounds began, Fitch drew blood from over St-Pierre’s left eye, but the Montreal native was undaunted as he remained in the pocket, pecking away at Fitch and denying a takedown attempt. Fitch did land some punches of his own in retaliation, but another takedown try was rebuffed by the champion, who instead put Fitch on his back to end the round.

Fitch opened the fifth and final round with a couple of solid shots as he looked to rescue the fight for himself, but St-Pierre answered with a thudding back fist and a takedown, impressively refusing to sit on his lead. And though the pace in the final five minutes didn’t match that of the previous 20, the packed house still showed their appreciation for the champion and his courageous challenger.

A bout overshadowed by the post-fight retirement by the legendary Couture, Liddell’s knockout win over ‘The Natural’ not only put a definitive stamp on the UFC’s first great trilogy (in the Iceman’s favor), but it became a true changing of the guard for the organization and Liddell, who became not only the biggest star in mixed martial arts, but also one that transcended the sport into the realm of mainstream acceptance.

FIGHT RECAP - Chuck Liddell won the battle and the war.

Before a sold-out Mandalay Bay Events Center Saturday night, ‘The Iceman’ retained his UFC light heavyweight crown with a second round TKO of Randy Couture, giving him the final 2-1 edge in the trilogy between the light heavyweight greats. After the bout, Couture, 42, the only fighter in UFC history to win the heavyweight and light heavyweight titles, announced his retirement, leaving barely a dry eye in the house.

“I’m retiring tonight,” said Couture. “This is it for me. I feel blessed to have been able to come in here and compete.”

As for the fight itself, after a pair of unforgettable openings (Couture to AC/DC’s ‘Thunderstruck’ and Liddell to DMX’s ‘Intro’) that put the crowd on their feet and kept them there, the two future hall of famers circled each other warily, looking for openings as the crowd alternately cheered for their favorite fighter. Each brief exchange brought a roar, but neither was willing to commit to a sustained attack. Liddell was the more active of the two though as Couture looked to counter the strikes of ‘The Iceman’. Couture continued to stalk behind a high guard, and his sporadic strikes seemed to take Liddell out of his rhythm. Liddell quickly recovered though, rocking Couture briefly with a right to the head. But as Liddell moved in for the kill, Couture, his nose now bloodied, was able to recover and take the champion to the mat for the remainder of the round.

Couture refused to deviate from his fight plan in the second round, as he followed Liddell around the Octagon while throwing in the occasional counter to Liddell’s heavier shots. But soon, Couture’s luck ran out, and as he shot in with a left hand, Liddell landed the same short right hand that ended the pair’s second fight, and Couture again crashed limply to the mat. Liddell’s follow-up shots on the fallen Couture were exclamation marks on the victory, and referee John McCarthy called a stop to the bout at 1:28 of the second stanza.

“We knew Randy was gonna try to make me over commit,” said Liddell. “But you stand in front of me for that long, eventually one will get through.”

Couture won the first bout between the two, stopping Liddell in three rounds in 2003. Liddell knocked Couture out in a single round last April to even the score, with Liddell breaking the tie tonight.

It wasn’t the final of the first UFC tournament in 1993, but it’s probably the fight that most associate with the inaugural event, a clash of future Hall of Famers that put the UFC on the map. Shamrock, a veteran of Japan’s Pancrase organization, knew the ground game, and he certainly looked the part of the hybrid fighter who could walk through walls. Gracie, the skinny Brazilian kid in the gi, was definitely the underdog, despite his win earlier that night over Art Jimmerson. Yet when the smoke cleared, it was Gracie who submitted Shamrock with a rear naked choke in less than a minute, adding to a resume that would make him a legend.

After losing his first title fight against Matt Hughes in 2004, Georges St-Pierre more than earned a second title shot after five straight wins against top-notch competition, and he was a different fighter than he was two years earlier. Hughes, one of the strongest fighters ever to step into the Octagon, found that out early on when he tried to lock the challenger up and St-Pierre tossed him away with little if any effort. By round two, the result was academic, and when the Montrealer dropped Hughes with a kick to the head in round two, seconds later a new champ was crowned.

FIGHT RECAP - Georges St. Pierre has never been shy in proclaiming Matt Hughes as his mixed martial arts idol, even citing it as a reason for his 2004 loss to the longtime champion. But tonight before a packed house at Arco Arena, St. Pierre showed no respect to his hero in their rematch, scoring a one-sided second round TKO to win the UFC Welterweight Championship.

“I don’t know what to say,” said Hughes. “I really didn’t expect it to go down like that.”

Neither did most MMA observers, who figured the bout would be one of the most competitive of 2006. In the end though, it was St. Pierre who ran through Hughes with extreme prejudice.

St. Pierre (13-1) pushed the pace early behind leg kicks and the occasional punch as Hughes (42-5) took his time looking for an opening. At the one minute mark of the round, it was St. Pierre picking the action up even more emphatically as he put Hughes on his heels with his impressive standup, which nonetheless brought a smile from the champion. Two low kicks from St. Pierre halted his momentum though as Hughes was forced to take a short break to recover. The Canadian kept his focus upon the restart and went right back to working his faster hands and feet on Hughes and tossing off the Illinois native’s first half-hearted takedown attempt. With under 1:20 to go, St. Pierre opted to take the fight to the canvas and landed some strikes before standing and scoring with a knee. Hughes looked to get back into the scoring column by committing to a takedown, but St. Pierre brushed him off and finished with a right hand that dropped the champion just before the bell intervened.

Hughes began the second round with a smirk, but this was no laughing matter, as St. Pierre was not only winning the standup game, he was showing the physical strength to keep the champion at bay. With 3:45 left, St. Pierre hit paydirt, landing a high left kick that put Hughes on the mat again, this time, the bell wouldn’t save the longtime champion, and with referee John McCarthy’s stoppage at 1:25 of the second, a new king was crowned.

To be considered great, a fight has to have more than frantic action and back and forth momentum swings, though those attributes don’t hurt. What a fight truly needs to enter the realm of the classics is drama, and the bout between Huerta and Guida lived up to that end of the bargain spectacularly. Down two rounds to none on all three judges’ scorecards, Huerta needed to stop or submit Guida in the final round to win. Guida, his warrior spirit never wavering, could have run out the clock in the third to secure his win – but he didn’t and he came right at Huerta. Huerta, wrongly ridiculed for being all hype, gritted his teeth and had the look on his face that said ‘I’m not leaving here without a win.’ These two trains met in the center of the Octagon and collided, with Huerta’s knee knocking Guida off track. ‘The Carpenter’ gamely and frantically looked for the takedown that would save the fight for him, but Huerta wouldn’t allow it, and eventually he got Guida’s back and sunk in the fight-ending rear naked choke. It was a fight that saw everybody in The Palms rise in unison to salute the most memorable battle of 2007.

FIGHT RECAP – Roger Huerta didn’t think getting his fifth victory of 2007 was going to be easy, but he didn’t think beating fellow lightweight contender Clay Guida was going to be this hard either. But after losing the first ten minutes of the action-packed main event at The Palms Resort and Casino tonight, Huerta won the next 51 seconds, and those were the ones that counted, as ‘El Matador’ remained unbeaten in the UFC with a third round submission victory.

“That’s a Mexican for you,” said Huerta, who trailed 20-18 twice, and 20-17 on the judges’ scorecards entering the final round.

Guida got off to a good start early on the mat, putting Huerta on his back and working his strikes while trying to improve his position. Huerta refused to stay still though, as he continually tried to turn the tables. With a little over two minutes left, an inadvertent knee by Guida while Huerta was on the ground brought a halt to the action, but when action resumed, ‘The Carpenter’ got right back to business on the feet and on the ground, drawing a roar from the crowd. Before the bell tolled though, both fighters took turns trading the dominant position, displaying the type of action fight fans expected going into the bout.

The exchanges were sharp to start round two, with Guida being a little faster and more accurate. Huerta gritted his teeth and moved forward to try to take control, prompting Guida to put him on his back with a takedown. Soon, both were back on their feet and Huerta started to open up a bit more, only to be taken to the mat again by Guida. With under three minutes left, the dervish from Illinois got Huerta’s back briefly, only to have ‘El Matador’ scurry out of trouble. Again they stood, and this time Huerta got rocked by Guida’s punches before being put on the canvas. After the fighters rose, Guida’s punches were doing more and more damage, this time dropping the Minnesotan and almost putting him out in the final 30 seconds, but by the end of the round, Huerta was fighting back and ready for the final five minutes.

With the fight on the line, Huerta came out with a single-minded determination and walked right at Guida. Guida met him with the same hard punches that he had thrown and landed in the early rounds, but this time Huerta walked through them and let loose with his own bombs. And after landing a couple of big shots, Guida was visibly dazed. Huerta moved in for the kill with abandon as Guida desperately tried to get a takedown and weather the storm. Huerta wouldn’t be denied though, and as the bout hit the mat, he sunk in a rear naked choke that ended the bout via tap out at 51 seconds of the final round.

Talk about a trial by fire. In Couture’s first bout at 205 pounds, he gets matched up with Liddell, a fighter who hadn’t lost in four years. But then the former heavyweight champ goes out and not only beats ‘The Iceman’, he stops him. It was one of the great comeback stories of the game and a costly lesson for ‘The Iceman’, who learned never to read your press clippings and enter a bout overconfident.

Stepping in on short notice for an injured Matt Serra against Matt Hughes was a risky and gutsy move for Georges St-Pierre at UFC 79. If he lost, he was losing the trilogy against the future Hall of Famer and also giving up a guaranteed title shot in 2008, not to mention that he would have to deal with the vultures pecking at him again about not being able to consistently perform in the big fights. All that speculation went out the window once the bell rang, and GSP was even sharper and more dominant than he was in his second fight against Hughes. The end came in the second round, and not only did St-Pierre ensure his rematch against Serra, he re-established himself as one of the sport’s best, pound for pound.

FIGHT RECAP - April seems so long ago right about now. After a forgettable Spring that saw him go through personal and professional turmoil which culminated in a knockout loss to Matt Serra, Georges St-Pierre rebounded spectacularly in the second half of 2007, beating Josh Koscheck in August and then ending the year tonight at the Mandalay Bay Events Center with a second round submission win over Matt Hughes to win the interim UFC Welterweight title and end their trilogy with a 2-1 edge.

Now it’s on to Serra.

“It’s a good honor, but Matt Serra is the target,” said St-Pierre of his interim title win. “Until I get my belt back, I’m not gonna consider myself a real champion.”

“No excuses,” said a gracious Hughes, who defeated St-Pierre in their first fight in 2004; St-Pierre returned the favor in November of 2006. “I came in 120% and really trained hard for this fight and had a great gameplan. Georges is the better fighter.”

The crowd engaged more than the fighters in the opening 90 seconds, dueling with chants of “USA” and “GSP”. But then the action picked up, with St-Pierre putting Hughes on his back. Hughes, in fairly unfamiliar territory, got pushed to the fence by the Montreal resident, who fired away with ground strikes on the two-time welterweight king. Hughes tried to stem the tide by holding St-Pierre close in order to force a standup, but a series of short slams diluted that plan quickly, and with seconds left St-Pierre looked to be close to a finish before the bell rang.

St-Pierre’s domination continued in the second round as he again took the wrestler down to the canvas. While there, St-Pierre’s work rate was relentless as he fired away with strikes while looking to improve his position. Hughes, while game, was getting outhustled and outfought at every turn. And with under two minutes left, St-Pierre got his foe’s back for a moment before the two stood. In the final minute Hughes tried for a slam but was instead tripped and thrown to the mat. The end followed, with St-Pierre sinking in an armbar that produced a verbal tap out at 4:54 of the round.

Okay, he had scored highlight reel-worthy knockouts, submitted a jiu-jitsu black belt, and was universally recognized as THE state of the art mixed martial artist. So how did Anderson Silva top that? Rebound from a shaky first round against a future Hall of Famer to win by submission in the second frame. And that’s just what Silva did against Dan Henderson, taking out the PRIDE 183-pound champ in round two with a rear naked choke

FIGHT RECAP - After his sixth straight UFC victory without a loss, a string that has seen him show new wrinkles to his game with each passing outing (none of which have gone past the second round), UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva has reached the point in his career where competition is not measured by how many fights he wins or loses, but by how many rounds he loses, because ultimately, it seems that the Brazilian will always find a way to win.

Tonight in the highly anticipated UFC 82 main event at the Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, Silva lost the first round to PRIDE 183-pound champion Dan Henderson. In round two, Silva turned up the heat and finished Henderson with a rear naked choke.

Game over and another victory for the most dominant fighter in the game today.

“My hat’s off to Anderson Silva,” said a gracious Henderson. “He was definitely the better fighter tonight. I controlled him well and beat him up a little bit in that first round and he came back ready to get after me in that second round. He dazed me a little bit on the ground and he got me in the choke.”

The opening seconds were tense as Henderson moved forward behind probing kicks to the leg. Silva fired back with a leg kick of his own 70 seconds into the bout, but a brief follow-up exchange produced no fireworks. As the bout approached the three minute mark, Silva was trying to work his kicks, but it was Henderson who broke the ice scoring wise with a takedown. Silva did his best to keep Henderson tied up as the Californian fired off a series of hammerfists at close range, and with under 30 seconds left Henderson briefly got into side control before ending up in Silva’s guard by round’s end.

Silva came out with more urgency in the second round, firing off kicks that Henderson was able to brush off with little difficulty. Henderson fired back with some haymakers, but while Silva waved his foe on, the close exchanges allowed Henderson to grab hold of ‘The Spider’ and tie him up against the fence. Once the two separated, Henderson landed with a couple of hard strikes, but Silva responded with a right knee to the head that appeared to jar ‘Hendo’. Henderson looked for the takedown, but Silva jumped into the top position and tried to land a finisher. As the round entered its final two minutes, Henderson’s head was clear, but Silva was actively working, and with under a minute to go, the UFC champion got his foe’s back and sunk in a rear naked choke. Henderson valiantly tried to fight it off and make it to the end of the round, but at the 4:52 mark he was forced to tap out.

If Chuck Liddell never won another mixed martial arts match after April 2, 2004, he would always be remembered for this bout – a one-sided beatdown of his former buddy Tito Ortiz - which was one of the sport’s most anticipated fights, even with the dilution of both fighters having lost to Randy Couture in 2003. In the process, Liddell showed an ability to not only handle his business inside the Octagon, but outside of it, as he became a much-requested interviewee among the media in the weeks leading up to the bout, and in the years since.

FIGHT RECAP - It was the grudge match to end all grudge matches, and on April 2, a packed house at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas saw Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz finally get it on in the main event of UFC 47.

Yet after only five minutes and 38 seconds, it was ‘The Iceman’ who was left standing, as he emphatically stopped the former light heavyweight champion in the second round.

For Liddell, it was the biggest victory of his mixed martial arts career, a win that put a heated rivalry to rest; and for Ortiz, it was the classic case of ego getting in the way of a solid game plan, as he abandoned his wrestling skills to strike with the striker.

“I give him a lot of respect because he did stand with me,” said Liddell. “I didn’t think he would.”

“I felt like I had to prove something,” added Ortiz. “I fought my heart out.”

The action didn’t stray to the ground once during the match, with two Ortiz takedown attempts easily foiled by Liddell. But even though Liddell was in his element while standing, he was unable to penetrate Ortiz’ tight defense for much of the opening round, as both men tentatively pawed at each other, not wanting to make a fatal mistake.

Late in the first, Liddell finally landed one of his patented bombs, exploding a right hand on Ortiz’ jaw that staggered him. ‘The Iceman’ followed with a kick to the head, and Ortiz’ legs were rubbery at the bell, even as he jawed defiantly at Liddell.

Capitalizing on his good fortune, Liddell moved right in on Ortiz as the second round commenced, and once he landed a 1-2 combination to the jaw of ‘The Huntington Beach Bad Boy’ the end was just moments away.

Pinned to the cage by Liddell’s furious barrages, Ortiz blocked most of the punches, but then got drilled with a right to the jaw followed by a quick left that bloodied his face and put him down on the mat, forcing referee John McCarthy to halt the bout just 38 seconds into round two.

When Randy Couture announced he was coming out of retirement in 2007, not only to fight as a heavyweight, but to fight the biggest heavyweight of them all in 6-8, 260 pound Tim Sylvia, many sighed, hoping that ‘The Natural’ simply wouldn’t get hurt. But the second Couture landed a right hand in the first round that floored Sylvia, the packed house at Columbus, Ohio’s Nationwide Arena stood and cheered and barely sat down for the ensuing 24 minutes of action. Couture dominated Sylvia from bell to bell for five rounds, and when it was over, as the fans roared, the 43-year old Hall of Famer simply said “Not bad for an old man.”

FIGHT RECAP - After losing two out of three fights to UFC light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell and a tearful retirement in 2006, most believed that Randy Couture had run out of miracles. But before a packed house at the Nationwide Arena, the 43-year old UFC Hall of Famer shocked the world once again, dominating Tim Sylvia for five rounds, en route to a shutout five round decision that earned Couture a third UFC heavyweight championship.

“Not bad for an old man,” said Couture, whose three belts are now added to two UFC light heavyweight championships, giving him five total belts.

“He kept me off balance all night,” said Sylvia, a two-time champion himself. “He kept me guessing the whole 25 minutes.”

Entering the Octagon for the UFC 68 main event to the strains of Aerosmith singing ‘Back in the Saddle’, Couture smiled from ear to ear, seemingly overjoyed to be back in action as an active fighter. Conversely, Sylvia was all business – for him, this wasn’t a celebration; it was an affirmation that he was the UFC heavyweight champion and that an aging legend wasn’t going to change that fact in the next 25 minutes or less.

Then again, the former two-time heavyweight and light heavyweight champion never operated by anyone else’s plans, and with the first right hand he threw, Couture dropped the 6-8, 263 pound champion and pounced on him, looking to end the fight as the arena erupted. Soon, Couture had Sylvia’s back, but the champion took his time calmly as he tried to escape ‘The Natural’s clutches. Couture continued to work for the finish throughout the rest of the round though, as Sylvia arched backwards in an effort to weigh down and tire the challenger until the bell rang.

Couture quickly closed the distance to open the second, and despite being tossed back by Sylvia on his first attempt, his next try was more successful as he drove ‘The Maine-iac’ to the fence in an effort to get the takedown, which he got with 3:30 left. On the ground, Couture was active with both hands in order to not only score points but to keep his dominant position, and it wasn’t until there were 30 seconds left in the round that referee John McCarthy stood the fighters up. But it didn’t matter, as Couture landed with a solid left and took Sylvia to the mat yet again before the end of the stanza.

Sylvia pressed the action to begun round three, but Couture still amazed with his crisper standup and his impressive defense, complete with quick head movement and bobbing and weaving while he potshotted the 30-year old champion. Soon, his right hand was finding a permanent home on Sylvia’s left cheek, which began to swell, but he was still fighting with the discipline of a fighter who knew that one overeager mistake could mean the end of his night. Sylvia knew this too, and he kept trudging forward, hoping for the one right hand that would put him back in the fight.

Visibly winded between rounds, Couture had built enough of a lead that he could conceivably run out the clock for the next two rounds, but that’s just not his style, so he immediately sought – and obtained – another takedown of Sylvia to begin the fourth frame. From the ground, Couture conserved some energy while continuing to potshot Sylvia, who held the challenger until McCarthy stood them up with under three minutes to go. But again, it was Couture dominating the standup until he could put Sylvia on his back once again with just under two minutes left. As the one minute mark approached, Couture got into the full mount briefly before Sylvia escaped and started to put his own offensive together, but it was too little too late, and suddenly Couture was five minutes away from an unprecedented third heavyweight championship.

With his title slipping away, Sylvia again tried to land the equalizer on his opponent’s chin, but Couture would not be denied as he took the champion down and worked his way into side control. Sylvia had no answers on the bottom as Couture fired knees into his side and dropped forearms on his head, and then moved into the full mount with a minute and a half left in an improbable comeback that few believed he could realistically pull off. But in the final 30 seconds, the crowd that had been behind him from the opening bell roared and stood in unison for the new king.

Fisher took this UFC 58 fight against young gun Stout on just three days notice, was forced to drop 20 pounds in two days, and still put on a gritty and entertaining performance against the hard-hitting Canadian, who pulled ahead late in the bout as Fisher tired to win a close three round split decision.

FIGHT RECAP - In the first lightweight bout in the UFC since 2004, Sam Stout showed his ‘Hands of Stone’ as he pounded out a close three round split decision over Spencer Fisher in a bout that showed why the lightweight division has the most exciting fighters in mixed martial arts.

Scores were 29-28 twice, and 28-29 for Stout, who was scheduled to fight Kenny Florian until a back injury forced Florian out and brought Fisher in on three days notice.

The bombs went flying instantly, landing with a thud, and after a brief trip to the mat, the lightweight bombers got back to throwing heavy shots. One minute in, Fisher scored a beautiful takedown, but Stout immediately jumped up to this feet. Fisher walked forward with little regard for Stout’s punching power and landed a couple of flush shots before scoring another takedown. Fisher effectively worked his ground and pound on the mat, but Stout hung tough as he worked to better his position. Fisher stood and scored with a kick to the chest, but that decision also allowed Stout to get back to his feet and trade with his foe until the bell.

Stout opened the second round effectively, mixing in punches and kicks from long range as Fisher pursued. Fisher’s face started to show the wear of battle and he seemed to also be showing the effects of being forced to drop to the 155 pound weight limit from welterweight in just two days. ‘The King’ kept moving forward though, scoring well with a knee on the inside that caught Stout by surprise. The action didn’t let up throughout the round, and Stout’s strong round brought the first chants of ‘Canada, Canada.’ In the final minute, Fisher got Stout to the mat again and almost sunk in a heel hook, but the London, Ontario native escaped.

With the fight's result hanging in the balance, both fighters stood and looked for the shot that would turn the tide. Stout worked punches and kicks well from long range, and Fisher tried for the takedown but paid for getting inside by getting nailed with quick 1-2s. With a little under three minutes left in the fight, Fisher got his takedown, with Stout working his way out by the two minute mark. When the fight went to the mat again with 1:30 left, Stout scored with some strikes, but Fisher soon worked his way into side control. A move to full mount was avoided as Stout pushed his tired foe off and jumped to his feet, where the bout ended with a rousing cheer from the crowd.

Alves’ knockout of Karo Parisyan started the ball rolling on his road to the top, and his win over Josh Koscheck showed the evolution of his game, but it was the fight in between these two that showed just why Thiago Alves is considered the top contender to Georges St-Pierre’s crown as he knocked out Hughes in the second round of the UFC 85 main event.

FIGHT RECAP - Entering his UFC 85 main event against Matt Hughes, Thiago Alves’ right ankle was sprained and heavily taped, but apparently his left knee was just fine as he used it to score a stunning second round TKO over the former two-time UFC welterweight champion in front of 15,327 fans at the O2 Arena Saturday night.

“He’s a good fighter, he got me, no doubt about it,” said a gracious Hughes, who took the bout on short notice after two main events fell out due to injury, and agreed to go ahead with the bout with Alves at a catchweight of 175 pounds after the Brazilian was unable to make weight.

“I want to apologize for not making weight,” said Alves. “I had a sprained ankle a few days before the fight and wasn’t able to train.”

He was able to perform when the bell rang though.

The gameplans were cut and dried in this one – Hughes wanted it on the mat, Alves wanted to keep it standing, and Hughes immediately looked for the takedown. He was rebuffed the first time, and the second time saw him pull guard to get Alves down. While there, Alves was able to draw blood from Hughes’ nose and get back to his feet. By the midway point of the round though, Hughes had Alves down again; this time, he was controlling matters from the top. No real telling blows were landed there, but Hughes was working Alves, undoubtedly weakening a fighter who was drained from trying to make weight. By the end of the round though, Alves had turned the tables, landing with some ground strikes until the bell sounded.

Hughes’s first takedown attempt of the second round was greeted by a knee to the head, and the blood began flowing again as Hughes went to his back. Alves scored with a couple of ground strikes and the fight resumed on the feet again. Hughes tried to get Alves back down but couldn’t and as they stood apart, Alves shot in himself – this time it was with a flying left knee that caught Hughes flush. Hughes fell to the canvas, with Alves’ follow-up forcing a stoppage from referee Herb Dean at 1:02 of the round.

“I’ve been a good boy, I never choose my opponents,” smiled Alves while addressing UFC President Dana White. “Please give me a title shot.”

As for the 34-year old Hughes’ future after losing three of his last four bouts, the future Hall of Famer still has plans on stepping into the Octagon at least one more time.

“I’ve got one more fight in me,” said Hughes. “That’s Matt Serra. My wife wants it, I want it, and all these fans want it.”

A charismatic and dynamic fighter who was fresh off a submission win over Pat Miletich that earned him the welterweight title, Carlos Newton was seen by many as someone who could carry the UFC’s welterweight division over the ensuing years. The UFC apparently agreed, as the UFC 34 event poster displayed main eventers Randy Couture and Pedro Rizzo, along with Newton and a blurb that read “Carlos Newton Defends UFC Welterweight Title”. There was no mention of Hughes at all, so when the Illinois native knocked Newton out in the second round to take the belt, it was a huge upset.

But the bout, which was dominated by Hughes, was not without a dose of controversy. Hughes, like Newton 5-9 and 169 pounds, used his freakish strength to establish control from the outset. With slams, knees, and strikes, Hughes easily won the first round, and was dominating the second, when Newton was able to nab the Miletich team member in a triangle choke. The oohs and aahs could be heard throughout the MGM Grand when Hughes lifted Newton over his head and drove him into the fence.

The champion grabbed the top of the fence, but soon let go after being admonished by referee ‘Big’ John McCarthy. With Newton still over his head, and still sinking in the choke, Hughes took a step back and dropped his foe to the mat. Slamming his head on the canvas, Newton was out and McCarthy stopped the bout. Simple enough, but Hughes was dazed as well and needed to be told that he won the fight and the title. So who was out first? In Newton's post-fight interview, he stated that he believed he had choked Hughes out. The way I saw it that night, I believe that it was Newton who went out first because upon viewing different replay angles of the final slam, Hughes obviously had the presence of mind to take a step back, thus removing Newton from the cage and allowing him to fall. Regardless, the call stood.

FIGHT RECAP - On paper, it should have been a war to remember. In reality, it was, as Diego Sanchez and Clay Guida put on a Fight of The Year candidate at The Palms Saturday night. When it was all over, someone had to take home the victory, and it was Sanchez pounding out the split decision win.

Scores were 29-28, 29-27, and 28-29 for Sanchez.

The walk-ins alone were more intense than some fights, with Guida and Sanchez both getting themselves and the fans amped up for the opening bell. And from the start, the two went toe-to-toe with a furious barrage of punches that got the crowd on their feet. It was Sanchez though who took the early lead with more accurate blows and the occasional knee to the head. With a minute gone, the bloodied Guida cleared his head and took Sanchez to the mat and fired off elbows in an effort to extract his own form of revenge. Sanchez, not used to being in this predicament, stayed cool nonetheless, and got back to his feet, landing a hard kick that dropped Guida. ‘The Carpenter’ rose immediately and swung back aggressively, but Sanchez’ harder shots were doing all the damage, and a takedown with under a minute left punctuated the round for the ‘Nightmare.’

“The guy has a tremendous chin,” said Sanchez of his courageous foe. “He is an animal.”

Guida got the takedown early in round two, and he fired off with any limb he had free. Sanchez did the same from the bottom position, but it was clear that Guida was having more luck on the mat than when he was standing, and the fans chanting his name only pushed him further. Sanchez was not about to let Guida get the round that easy though, and he reeled off a series of elbows from his back that bloodied Guida on his forehead.

The opening minute of the final round was a tense one, and when the two started to flurry at each other, it was Sanchez again being the crisper puncher. That’s not to say Guida wasn’t getting his licks in, and he certainly landed enough shots to get Sanchez’ respect. With two minutes left, Guida shot for a takedown, but Sanchez eluded it and went for the fight-ending choke. Guida escaped, but Sanchez now went to finish him via kimura, only to see ‘The Carpenter’ escape and land a ground strike seconds before the final bell sounded.

“Are you not entertained?” smiled Sanchez.

After the TUF2 finale bouts between Rashad Evans and Brad Imes and Joe Stevenson and Luke Cummo, Diego Sanchez and Nick Diaz had a pair of tough acts to follow, but they delivered with a connoisseur’s treat – a battle of bad blood and jiu-jitsu that saw Sanchez prove that he belonged among the contenders at 170 pounds, while Diaz showed MMA fans that you don’t need to be on top to have an effective ground attack. And though the judges’ scores of 30-27 would make observers think this match was a blowout, it was anything but that.

FIGHT RECAP - In the card’s main event, Diego Sanchez proved that he is a legitimate contender to the welterweight crown held by Matt Hughes as he scored a shutout three round decision over heated rival Nick Diaz.

Scores for ‘The Nightmare’ were 30-27 across the board.

“I believe I was in control the whole way,” said Sanchez, who is unbeaten in the UFC®. “There’s no messing around for Diego Sanchez, I’m on my way to the top.”

Avoiding Diaz’ superior standup skills from the opening bell, Sanchez dominated the action on the ground with a mixture of well-placed strikes, frenetic grapples, and side control. Diaz, who never seemed to get into a rhythm in the bout, kept trying to lock in submissions on Sanchez, but ‘The Nightmare’ was too fast and slick.

In the second round, Diaz landed his only damaging strike of the night, a flush kick to the face from the ground, but Sanchez quickly recovered and got back to business, which wasn’t pretty – but it was effective.

By round three, the heated turf war finally kicked into gear when both suffered cuts – Diaz to his forehead, Sanchez over his eye. The fists started flying with more desperation, and the attempts by both men to finish the fight increased. But by the end of the bout, Diaz’ inability to get his shots off before getting taken down proved to be his downfall. Not that he’s about to give his opponent credit.

“No, I don’t,” said Diaz when asked if he thought Sanchez belonged where he currently stands in the 170 lbs. division.

Sanchez, victory in hand, had a simple response. “He can think what he wants.”

What hasn’t been said about this fight already? It was everything you hope a championship fight is, and for five rounds, Griffin and Jackson fought as if more than just a belt was on the line. Filled with knockdowns, tactical stalemates, bone rattling power shots, submission attempts, and drama, this fight had it all. And though there were rumblings in certain sectors about the decision, the point is that this was a close fight that could have gone either way, and Forrest Griffin shouldn’t have to explain himself for winning, and Quinton Jackson shouldn’t have to hang his head for losing. Both men did the sport proud.

FIGHT RECAP - In the days leading up to the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship bout between Forrest Griffin and Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson, fans and pundits almost unanimously agreed that, on paper, the champion, Jackson, should win. Yet those comments were always followed by the word ‘but’ and some way of describing how you could never count Griffin out.

Tonight, at the sold out Mandalay Bay Events Center, Griffin took all the ‘buts’ out of the equation, overturning the odds and pounding out a thrilling unanimous five round decision win over Jackson to win the 205-pound world championship and etch his name in the history books.

“This is the greatest night of my life,” said Griffin, the first winner of The Ultimate Fighter reality show and now the second TUF winner to earn a world title, following former welterweight boss Matt Serra. “I want to thank Quinton Jackson. It was close and I think we’re gonna have to do it again.”

“He whupped my ass,” said a gracious Jackson. “Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. He deserves it.”

Scores were 48-46 twice and 49-46 for Griffin who engaged in the frontrunner for 2008 Fight of The Year with Jackson.

And this one will be tough to top.

Griffin took the fight to the champion immediately, working behind his jab and some quick kicks to the head and legs. The challenger’s handspeed was impressive early, catching Jackson off guard. When the two would exchange at close range though, Jackson was in his element and he was able to land with more consistency, and with under three minutes left he was able to jar Griffin briefly with a left hook. The challenger recovered quickly and flurried back, but a right uppercut by Jackson with a little over a minute left dropped Griffin. Jackson pounced on his foe, but Griffin got his wits back and fought his way back up, where he continued to move forward and engage until the bell rang.

Continuing to be the aggressor, Griffin opened the second with more leg kicks, this time buckling Jackson’s left leg.

“He jacked my leg up,” said Jackson. “I’m not that good at acting. He knew he hurt me.”

As the champion staggered backward, Griffin moved in, clinching and landing knees at close range before trying to sink in a guillotine. Jackson escaped that trouble but wound up in more as the bout subsequently moved to the mat, with Griffin working for submissions and grounding and pounding Jackson steadily for the remainder of the round.

“You’ve got to make him fight you,” trainer Juanito Ibarra told Jackson between rounds two and three as the champion’s left knee was iced, and ‘Rampage’ showed his heart as he entered the fray again for round three. Griffin, not getting overly aggressive, pecked away from long range as Jackson concentrated on avoiding more leg kicks and on catching the challenger with haymakers as he came into range. As the round entered its final two minutes, Jackson appeared to be back in business as he scored with body shots and hard counters to the head when Griffin tried to open up. By the end of the round Griffin was landing his flurries though, and the crowd roared as the bell sounded.

As the fight entered the championship rounds, Jackson’s urgency was evident as he stalked Griffin and landed with heavy shots to the head.

“Every punch he threw hurt,” said Griffin.

Griffin responded with a takedown, with Jackson ending up in his challenger’s guard. With 3:40 left, Griffin, bow bleeding from over his right eye, locked in a triangle choke, and the response from Jackson was what you would expect – a slam that broke the hold and allowed Jackson to resume his ground and pound attack. The two fighters rose with two minutes remaining, and Jackson again jarred Griffin with shots to the side of the head. Griffin didn’t shrink under the attack, and he fired back with kicks and his own haymakers. Predictably, the round ended with a toe-to-toe exchange.

Griffin opened the final round with more leg kicks, hoping to repeat his second round success and 90 seconds in, he added pinpoint strikes to the head. That seemed to wake Jackson back up as he landed flush shots to the head and body, but Griffin took everything in stride and kept moving forward, jarring the champion with his own return fire. The final minute saw the packed house rise in appreciation for the efforts of both men, and neither stopped swinging until the final bell ended, putting an exclamation point on an unforgettable night.