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The Ultimate 100 Recap - Fights 75-51

Thomas Gerbasi, UFC - Monday 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 75 to 51 on the list.

By Thomas Gerbasi

Monday 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 75 to 51 on the list.

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

I’ve said it a hundred times and I’ll say it again – if Royce Gracie didn’t win UFC I, we’re probably not talking about mixed martial arts today. Let’s go back for a second…No one knew what MMA was at the time that the show debuted in 1993, but everyone wanted to see it. And if a guy like Ken Shamrock – who looked the role – won the tournament, everyone would have said, ‘okay, that was pretty cool. Next.’ But when skinny Royce Gracie went in there and dominated three opponents in a row, including Gerard Gordeau in the final, people said ‘damn, what did that guy just do, and when can I see it again?’ I even think that if Royce’s brother Rickson won the tournament, it wouldn’t have been as big a deal to the mainstream fight fan as Royce’s victory was. This was simply Royce’s show.

“It was just the right time,” said Gracie when I asked him why he was chosen to be the family’s rep in the UFC. “I was the right size. I wasn’t bulked up and big and I didn’t look very scary, so to speak. It was just the right timing for me.”

And it made a sport. Plus, say what you will about the level of competition in the early UFC days, but the fact that you had to prepare for three opponents on the fly certainly added a degree of difficulty not seen these days, and makes Gracie’s feat of winning three one night tournaments even more impressive.

“It was very different from the way it is now,” said Gracie. “You draw the fighter right before the fight and your strategy is done right there on the spot. You train for everybody. When you’re in training camp you train for a big guy, little guy, fast guy, slow guy, heavy guy, strong guy, everybody. So when you get an opponent, you say, ‘okay, that’s the guy – here’s the strategy for him. He’s a boxer, so I’m gonna shoot.’ It was a lot more on the fly. You have to be prepared for everybody. Now, you get an opponent, you know who he is, you have the footage, and you train for him. It’s different.”

Sometimes the best fights are the ones where fighters are forced to ask questions of themselves that most of us couldn’t even fathom. Could you fight with cuts and your eyes nearly swollen shut? How about with a broken hand? These are the questions Franklin and Loiseau had to answer in their middleweight title bout at UFC 58 in 2006. And though Franklin emerged with the clear-cut victory after breaking his hand, Loiseau was just as gutsy in defeat after a 25 minute war of attrition.

FIGHT RECAP - Tonight was supposed to be Rich Franklin’s toughest test yet, but after a five round battering of courageous challenger David Loiseau at UFC 58 – USA vs Canada before 10,362 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center, the only question has to be, who has a legitimate shot to challenge the UFC middleweight champion?

The unanimous five round decision read 50-42 twice and 50-43 for Franklin, who defended his crown for the second time and did it with a broken left hand - and possibly a broken foot and right hand - from the second round on.

“It’s the first fight where I’ve gone to a decision, so I’m very displeased with myself,” said Franklin, who could now be dubbed ‘The Punisher’ after his dominating performance.

Kicking was the weapon of choice early on. Loiseau missed his first high kick, but landed his second, producing nary a pause from Franklin, who responded with a kick of his own that was in turn answered by ‘The Crow’. Both decided to test their hands moments later, and though Loiseau’s handspeed was superior, it was Franklin who jarred the challenger and sent him sprawling into the fence briefly. Loiseau answered with a flush shot of his own, but Franklin took it well. With under 1:30 to go, Franklin picked up his pace a bit, though many of his shots were deflected or avoided by Loiseau. The respect both fighters had for each other was obvious though, and it appeared that the combatants were settling in for a long battle, something that almost didn’t happen when Franklin put Loiseau on the deck at the bell with a right to the jaw.

Looking to follow-up on his good fortune from the previous round, Franklin aggressively pursued Loiseau, who refused to engage when the champion attacked. Loiseau then suffered a delayed reaction to a punch from Franklin and the champ pounced and put the challenger on the mat. Once the two rose, Loiseau, with a nasty knot over his right eye and a bloody nose, was even less amenable to trading with the champ, even turning his back on Franklin on a few occasions. With under two minutes left, Franklin continued to dominate from corner to corner as Loiseau’s legs didn’t even seem to want to hold him anymore. With less than 30 seconds left, Franklin went for the finish, slamming Loiseau and pounding him, but the bell intervened.

Loiseau opened up with some kicks to start the third round and make a charge for the title, but again it was Franklin with a quick takedown that turned into a sequence where he got Loiseau’s back and looked to end the bout. ‘The Crow’ survived, but when he rose, the knot over his right eye worsened and he was cut over both eyes. After the doctor allowed the fight to continue, Loiseau finally struck paydirt, knocking Franklin to the mat with a left hook and suddenly putting the Cincinnati native in trouble.

“I wasn’t hurt, I wanted to create a little drama,” joked Franklin. “That’s a lie. Dave clipped me.”

Franklin was able to buy some time along the fence though, and he again put it on the Montreal native, whose face was battered beyond recognition. Loiseau, who was obviously having trouble seeing, started to paw with his arm to at least touch Franklin and know where he was, undoubtedly a bad sign, but he was able to survive the third stanza.

At the start of the fourth, the two combatants again touched gloves, this time even smiling at each other in appreciation of the courage both were showing. By the end of the opening minute, Franklin again got Loiseau’s back and battered the courageous Canadian, who refused to give in. A slam by ‘Ace’ at the three minute mark didn’t help matters, and referee John McCarthy was watching the fight closely, but when Loiseau rose, he was ready to fight again. Franklin, way ahead at this point, took the pace back a bit as looked to reload his guns for another run in the final round.

Far behind, Loiseau went for broke in the fifth, still throwing leg kicks with brutal power. Franklin was just too strong at this point in the fight, and he easily took ‘The Crow’ down again. Loiseau tried to fight his way out of trouble, but Franklin put him right back in a precarious spot and got his back once again – usually a sure way to end a fight, but it was as if Loiseau got it in his head that he would not give in at any cost.

He didn’t. And even though he lost his fight for the UFC middleweight title, David Loiseau definitely earned the crown as the toughest fighter in the world.

QUOTABLE - “I don’t know what it is, I just have this drive. I was a kid that didn’t have a whole lot growing up. I was from divorced parents, kinda poor, and we had to make do with what we had and fight for what we got. And I think the Lord kinda put me in that situation, so I grew up with that kind of mentality that you’re willing to do whatever it takes to get what you need. This is the path that I’ve chosen in life, God’s granted me with the talent to fight, so I’m willing to do whatever it takes to get what I need, and in Saturday’s case, that was a victory.” – Rich Franklin

Two young welterweight stars battled it out in this 2005 scrap, and it was GSP, in his first UFC bout since losing his first fight to Matt Hughes, scoring the shutout win in a bout that was more competitive than those scores would indicate.

FIGHT RECAP - In the pay-per-view opener, welterweight star in waiting Georges St. Pierre pounded out a dominating three round decision over jiu-jitsu ace Jason “Mayhem” Miller.

Scores were 30-27 across the board for the 23-year-old St. Pierre.

Showing no ill effects from his losing title challenge to Matt Hughes last October, St. Pierre struck first with a hard right that dropped his foe seconds into the first round. The charismatic Miller immediately rose, but the technically solid St. Pierre continued to patiently drill the Atlanta native from the standup position, before opting to take Miller to the mat with under three minutes left. Rising to his feet after for a brief moment after bloodying his opponent’s nose, St. Pierre jumped right back on Miller and pounded him on the mat before locking in a kimura lock. Miller slipped out of the submission lock and gamely fought back, but the Canadian’s superior skills were dominating the action.

Miller took the fight to St. Pierre to kick off the second round and try to get back into the fight, but the Canadian wouldn’t budge from his fight plan, and as the three minute mark approached, St. Pierre was back in a control position on the ground, where he continued to pound his way to a substantial lead on the scorecards. Yet despite the dominating performance from St. Pierre, Miller was gaining fans by the second with his gutsy performance, which included escaping from an armbar in the waning seconds of the round.

The third round was more of the same, with St. Pierre dishing out punishment as Miller tried to find a submission that never came. That’s not to say the entertaining “Mayhem” didn’t go down fighting – a trait that’s always worth another shot in the Octagon.

This fight was memorable for a number of reasons, the most prominent being Frank Mir’s amazing full circle comeback from the motorcycle accident that forced him to give up his UFC heavyweight championship belt and almost took his life. Mir was understandably emotional after the bout, and if you were writing a Hollywood script, that night last December would be where you ended it. As for the other intriguing storyline, it had to do with the legendary Nogueira, and how he finally reached into his comeback bag and came up empty. It was a fight of contrasts, and an example of why this game is so intriguing.

FIGHT RECAP - Take the word “former” away from Frank Mir’s name, as the Las Vegas native completed an amazing career comeback Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena by dominating and stopping Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in the second round to regain a portion of the UFC heavyweight title he never lost in the Octagon.

“I faced such demons after my wreck,” said an emotional Mir, who came back from a devastating motorcycle wreck in 2004 that broke his leg in two places and forced him to the sidelines for almost two years, getting his title stripped in the process. “To come back from that, I’m proof you can do things. I didn’t even think I could beat Nogueira.”

But he did, and in addition to winning the interim UFC heavyweight title, he became the first fighter to finish Nogueira, the former PRIDE heavyweight champion and a future Hall of Famer.

Mir was busy with his kicks to start the fight, and he tossed in a jarring right uppercut for good measure, eventually taking the fight to the mat. After some ground strikes, Mir even chose to let the fight go back to the feet, so confident was he in his striking. Once standing, Mir continued to score effectively, eventually dropping Nogueira with a straight left with under two minutes left. Again, Mir followed up briefly before stepping back and standing the fight up again. By the closing moments of the round, Mir was loose and looking like he was having fun as he put Nogueira down just as the round ended.

Needing to get back in the fight, Nogueira came out aggressively in the second, only to continue getting tagged by Mir. And less than two minutes into the round, lowered the boom with two left hooks to the jaw that put the Brazilian legend on the mat again. A follow up barrage was a mere formality, as referee Herb Dean rescued Nogueira from further punishment at 1:54 of round two.

In the early days of the UFC, Don ‘The Predator’ Frye was one bad hombre, walking through guys like Gary Goodridge, Amaury Bitetti, and Brian Johnston, with his only loss coming to equally fearsome Mark Coleman at UFC 10. Tank Abbott was no shrinking violet either, thanks to his wins over John Matua, Paul Varelans, Steve Jennum, and Cal Worsham. So when Abbott and Frye locked horns in the Ultimate Ultimate show in 1996, it was going to be Armageddon in short pants, but Frye had other ideas as he made short work of Tank via rear naked choke in just 82 seconds.

Despite all his accomplishments before and after this UFC 17 bout in 1998, Mark Coleman will always be immortalized in highlight reels by Pete Williams’ devastating one kick knockout. And while the ending was spectacular, what the bout continued to showcase was Coleman’s stamina issues, which had started in his previous fight – a loss to Maurice Smith – and seemed to get even more prominent against the Lions Den’s Williams. Coleman would fight in the UFC once more ( a loss to Pedro Rizzo) before embarking on a successful career in Japan’s PRIDE organization and then returning to the UFC in 2009.

Penn burst on the UFC scene in May of 2001, when he made his pro debut with a first round stoppage of Joey Gilbert at UFC 31. After following that win up with a stoppage of legitimate contender Din Thomas in the first round at UFC 32, he was pitted against Japanese star Caol Uno in what was seen as yet another test. Penn - who admitted staying up nights with a nervous energy while waiting for the fight to come - tore out of his corner at the opening bell, and 11 seconds later, he was victorious after a vicious striking demonstration. What most may remember from the fight though is Penn sprinting out of the Octagon and back to his locker room after the fight, showing that there is no one in the fight game quite like him.

FIGHT RECAP - It was supposed to be the fight of the night, and for pure excitement it was – for the 11 seconds it lasted. Caol Uno and BJ Penn squared off for the right to face UFC lightweight champ Jens Pulver at UFC 35 in January, and it was Penn who continues to be frighteningly effective in the Octagon.

Uno, the Japanese star who battled on nearly even terms with Pulver in their match for the vacant title, opened the bout with an attempted flying kick that captivated the crowd but did little to deter the focused Penn. Uno came at Penn again, only to be greeted with a barrage of punches. As Uno backpedaled with Penn in pursuit, ‘The Prodigy’ landed a short right hand that sent his foe reeling into the fence. Penn pounced, landing right hand after right hand until a nearly unconscious Uno was rescued by referee Larry Landless at the 11-second mark. Penn will now face Pulver for the lightweight crown, and the 22 year old, who told the champ, “I want my belt”, looks nearly unbeatable now.

Tito Ortiz’ war of words with UFC President Dana White was no secret, and as Ortiz signed for the last fight of his contract against Machida, this feud practically overshadowed the fight. Yet once the bell ring, Machida put on a clinic against the former light heavyweight champ. And though he was dominated for most of the bout, Ortiz kept looking to turn things around and he almost did in the last 30 seconds with a triangle choke that almost allowed him to pull off the miracle finish. But it was not to be, as Machida sailed to victory.

FIGHT RECAP - It was an emotional night for former UFC light heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz in the final fight of his current contract with the organization, but it was equally so for unbeaten Lyoto Machida, who scored the biggest win of his career with an almost technically flawless three round decision that was only spoiled by a late fight submission attempt by Ortiz that almost pulled things out for ‘The Huntington Beach Bad Boy’.

Scores were 30-27 across the board for Machida, who improves to 13-0. Ortiz falls to 16-6-1.

“I’m very happy with this fight,” said Machida. “Tito is a tough guy and a legend of fighting for the UFC.”

“He’s very elusive and it was tough to chase him down,” said Ortiz. “He’s a great fighter.”

With flashbulbs lighting up the arena, Machida and Ortiz circled tentatively, trading range finding kicks. Ortiz looked to close the gap for a takedown, but Machida kept him at bay and worked his kicks to the legs. Ortiz kept stalking, trying to put his foe on the mat, but Machida fought off the takedown attempts at the round entered its second half. With under 1:30 to go, Machida continued to score with sporadic kicks, while Ortiz’ advances continued to be rebuffed, drawing a frustrated drop of the hands by Ortiz, who was then thrown to the canvas and pounded by ‘The Dragon’ late in the round until the bell sounded.

Ortiz was undeterred in his forward march to begin round two, but there was little significant action in the opening minute of the stanza. Ortiz’ first takedown attempt was turned away, punctuated by a quick flurry from Machida. With two minutes gone, Machida started to loosen up with his hands and feet, and Ortiz’ inability to cut off the Octagon was beginning to become a major issue. The fight finally hit the mat with a little over a minute left, but Machida quickly turned the position to an advantage before standing and resuming his stick and move strategy. As the round neared to a close, Ortiz dropped his hands and challenged Machida. Machida answered with a quick flurry just before the bell, cutting the former UFC light heavyweight champion over the eye.

An angered Ortiz came out aggressively to start the final round, but just as he would get set to attack, Machida would be gone. Ortiz did get close with a little over a minute gone, landing some strikes in the clinch before Machida broke free. It was Ortiz’ best moment of the fight thus far, and with under three minutes remaining, he was able to push Machida to the fence and score more consistently. Machida escaped danger though, and as the two minute mark approached, Machida had Ortiz against the fence, drawing a restart from referee Yves Lavigne. That restart was all Machida needed, as he knocked Ortiz down with a perfectly placed left knee to the body. Machida roared into action on the mat, trying to finish Ortiz, but the Californian almost pulled off a miracle finish with a triangle choke attempt followed by an armbar attempt.

“I thought I had him for a second,” said Ortiz, who is mainly known for his ground and pound, not his jiu-jitsu game. “I have submissions but I never used them before.”

“It was a big surprise for me,” admitted Machida, “I was thinking, I’m gonna die, but I’m not gonna tap.”

He didn’t tap, and as the bell rang, the two combatants knelt in the middle of the Octagon and faced each other respectfully, with Ortiz thanking Machida for the bout, and the fans thanking both for their efforts with a thunderous ovation.

QUOTABLE - “There was a lot more pressure. That was the hardest part. There was a fight going on between Dana and Tito, and I didn’t want to get involved, but at the same time, I was in the middle of it. Either way I was able to stay relaxed.” – Lyoto Machida

You’ve seen the finish a thousand times, and for Matt Serra, it probably feels like he’s seen the ending of his UFC debut against Shonie Carter a million times. But what is lost when discussing Carter’s spinning backfist knockout of Serra at UFC 31 almost seven years ago is that the previous 14:51 seconds of the bout contained some of the best back and forth action seen in a UFC fight before or since, and that if Serra would have been able to get up from the second backfist he took (he was also rocked by one in the opening round), the final decision was up to debate and he could have walked away with a win. Regardless, Serra, even in defeat, defined himself as an aggressive and talented competitor who would always come to fight.

FIGHT RECAP - In a night of great fights, Shonie Carter and Matt Serra may have fought the best one, with Carter ending the bout suddenly with a spinning back fist at the 4:51 mark of the third and final round. Serra, dropped hard by the blow, left the ring under his own power after a thorough check by the ringside physicians.

At the time of the knockout, the winner of the bout was in doubt, as the match had a myriad of twists and turns, with each man having his moments.

Serra attacked at the opening bell, and Carter responded to every action with an equally impressive reaction. Holds and reversals by both men dominated, with some acrobatic work from the combatants drawing oohs and aahs from the crowd. Late in the first, Carter sent Serra a preview of the final round, landing a backfist which stunned the local hero.

The pace slowed a bit in the second, but both men still worked constantly to gain an advantage. Serra, a Renzo Gracie student, landed some strong blows of his own, but was unable to submit the versatile Carter, who repeatedly had an answer for whatever the aggressive Long Islander threw at him.

Regardless of the outcome, this match calls for a return. Expect Serra to watch for that spinning backfist next time.

QUOTABLE - “I look at it like, I’m coming to fight and I’m leaving it out there. I have no regrets. In hindsight everything is 20/20. The (Shonie) Carter fight set the stage for who I am. I could have stayed in the guard and rode the clock out. Why did I get up and go after him? That was just an instinct. Of course technically it wasn’t the best thing in the world, but I don’t regret it. I went out like a warrior. I don’t regret the intentions of what I was doing.” – Matt Serra

It was supposed to be the fight of the century for the UFC, but instead, the UFC 94 rematch between St-Pierre and Penn turned out to be a masterful display of fighting dominance by the pride of Montreal. In control from the opening bell, GSP established himself as one of the sport’s best, pound for pound, with his win over lightweight champ Penn.

FIGHT RECAP - It was the biggest fight of Georges St-Pierre’s career, and against BJ Penn, the UFC welterweight champion delivered a Master Class, shutting down the lightweight champion completely before forcing a stoppage at the end of the fourth round in the UFC 94 main event at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

It was a sweet victory for St-Pierre, who had scored a close split decision win over Penn in their first fight in 2006.

This one wasn’t nearly as close.

“The last time I won by decision,” said St-Pierre, who retained his title for the second time. “I really wanted to take him out and I’m glad I did it.”

The crowd roared as soon as the lights came down for the main event, and got even louder as Hilo, Hawaii’s Penn made his way to the Octagon. But the loudest cheers were reserved for the welterweight champion from Montreal, who looked more focused than ever. Flashbulbs lit up the arena in the moments before the opening bell with chants of “GSP” and “BJ Penn” melting into one eruption of noise.

The two champions locked up at the bell, with St-Pierre bulling his smaller foe into the fence while throwing the occasional short-range strike. While the two moved around the perimeter of the cage, St-Pierre looked for a takedown, but despite having Penn’s leg locked up, he couldn’t get him down. As the bout entered its third minute, St-Pierre released the leg and the two exchanged blows, with St-Pierre briefly jarring Penn with a right hand. Shortly afterwards, St-Pierre again went for the single leg takedown but was rebuffed, and a 1-2 by Penn got GSP’s attention. St-Pierre responded with another sharp right hand, and while the champion couldn’t take Penn down, his crisp strikes and busy workrate gave him an early edge.

Between rounds one and two, there was some commotion in the St-Pierre corner as a member of the Nevada State Athletic Commission reprimanded one of the champion's cornermen for allegedly wiping vaseline on the back of St-Pierre, a rules violation that was quickly addressed as the fighter was toweled down before the bell rang.

The second stanza opened with some brief exchanges, but the crowd booed as St-Pierre pushed Penn to the fence and sought another takedown. This time St-Pierre got it though, and the two commenced their first battle on the mat. St-Pierre’s ground strikes were effective, and he quickly worked into side control, putting Penn in trouble as he fired away with punches to the head and knees to the side as the crowd chanted for him. Penn tried to land punches from his back, but St-Pierre shook them off and kept firing his own heavy artillery. With under a minute left, St-Pierre remained in control, bruising Penn under the left eye as he continued to punch until the bell sounded.

St-Pierre raced out of his corner to start the third round and his strikes sent blood spurting from Penn’s nose. Moments later, St-Pierre took Penn down and looked to continue the ground assault he instituted in the previous round. And he succeeded, pounding away as Penn tried to find an opening for a submission from his back. With two minutes left, after eating a series of shots to the face, Penn rose and looked for his own takedown as he pinned St-Pierre to the fence. GSP reversed the position though and got yet another takedown, this one the most emphatic of the fight thus far. Now Penn was stuck against the fence, and St-Pierre began to tee off with punches to the head and body with the bell eventually intervening.

The left jab was St-Pierre’s primary weapon in the beginning of round four, and after landing a few of those, he took Penn to the mat and landed in side control, where the punches started to rain down again. Pinned to the canvas, Penn was unable to get out of the way of St-Pierre’s blows, and the end seemed to be near for the lightweight champion. And while Penn wouldn’t surrender, the fight was now one-sided in St-Pierre’s favor, with little light at the end of the tunnel for Penn, who was watched closely by referee Herb Dean in the closing seconds of the round.

There wouldn’t be a fifth round for Penn, who was wisely kept in his corner by Octagonside physician William Berliner, as well as his own cornermen.

The scores at the time of the stoppage were 40-35 and 40-34 twice for St-Pierre, who improves to 18-2. Penn, a former welterweight champion who currently holds the 155-pound belt, was attempting to become the first man in UFC history to simultaneously hold titles in two weight classes. He falls to 13-5-1.

When the rematch between lightweight standouts Fisher and Stout made their exciting first fight look like a boring three round waltz, you know it was good. Think of Forrest Griffin-Stephan Bonnar I sped up and with even more flush shots landed. Both fighters left it all in the Octagon that June 2007 night in Florida, and had the bruises and cuts to show for it. Simply put, I’ve been covering the fight game since 1996 and this was one of the greatest fights I’ve ever seen live – boxing or MMA.

FIGHT RECAP - They were lightweights on the scale only. When the bell rang tonight at the Seminole Hard Rock Live Arena, and for the next 15 minutes of torrid give and take, Spencer Fisher and Sam Stout were heavyweights in heart, determination, and relentless action, and when it was all said and done, Fisher had scored a unanimous three round decision victory to even his series with Stout at one apiece and set the stage for a rubber match that would be welcomed by any mixed martial arts fan.

Scores for Fisher, 21-3, which didn’t reflect the closeness of the bout, were 30-27 across the board. Stout, who scored a split decision win over Fisher at UFC 58 in March of 2006, falls to 12-3-1.

The leather was flying from the outset, and Fisher immediately made an impression with a series of flush shots to the face. And while Stout stood in the pocket and fired back, his looping punches weren’t quick enough to land before Fisher’s straight blows, which reddened the Ontario native’s face and cut him in the side of his head. Stout wouldn’t fold though, and he cut Fisher over the right eye and appeared to jar him briefly. But in this classic round of ebb and flow, just when it appeared Stout had turned the corner and taken control, Fisher came firing back, putting the crowd on its feet when the bell ending the round finally intervened.

If you thought the fighters were going to take a breather in round two, you would be wrong, as the non-stop action picked up right where it left off, with Fisher and Stout starting to add more kicks and knees to their arsenal of bad intentioned punches to the head and body. Throughout the frame, it was dead even, with both taking turns leading the attack, and though Fisher’s face continued to show the scars of battle from ‘Hands of Stone’s onslaught, ‘The King’ continued to press and score enough to keep Stout honest and the fight too close to call.

With the fight possibly on the line, Fisher and Stout continued to fight at an inhuman pace, taking turns drilling each other with shots that would have dropped lesser fighters. But as the round progressed, it was Fisher starting to take control, and his punches knocked his tiring foe back at various points in the round. Midway through the final stanza, a right hand dropped Stout to a knee briefly, but the 23-year old battler came back firing despite the fact that his left eye was beginning to swell shut. And as the fight ticked down its final minute, with the crowd standing and cheering, both fighters gave whatever they had left, and it was more than enough to stamp this one a classic.

QUOTABLE - “I wanted people to remember that fight. People want to see a fight. They don’t want to see two guys laying on top of each other, or pinpointing, boxing, and jabbing each other to death; they want to see a fight and that’s exactly what I wanted to leave in people’s minds. I wanted people to go ‘wow, that was a helluva fight,’ and I think that’s what they got.” – Spencer Fisher

His wins over Randy Couture and Tito Ortiz may have gotten more ink, but Chuck Liddell’s blowout of Babalu Sobral at UFC 62 in 2006 may well have captured ‘The Iceman’ in his prime. And there’s not much more you can add to it than that.

FIGHT RECAP - UFC Light Heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell was in fearsome form tonight in the main event of UFC 62 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center, stopping Brazil’s Renato ‘Babalu’ Sobral for the second time in four years, this time pulling off the feat in just 95 seconds.

Liddell had previously knocked out Sobral in 2:55 at UFC 40 in 2002. This time was quicker and even more decisive.

The early moments were tense, as both fighters looked for an opening, but once Sobral initiated the action with a series of strikes, Liddell landed an overhand right and followed up with a right uppercut, jarring Sobral and sending him to the canvas. It was just a matter of time after that, as Liddell opened up with a fierce barrage that Sobral was unable to recover from, forcing referee John McCarthy to halt the one-sided bout.

“He was coming after me hard,” said Liddell, who defended his light heavyweight title for the third time. “You can’t do that, I’ll catch you sooner or later.”

The fresh-faced kid from Montreal made quite a name for himself in his first UFC fights, decisioning fellow young gun Karo Parisyan at UFC 46 and then stopping Jay Hieron at UFC 48. But just four months after the Hieron fight, St-Pierre, just 7-0, found himself in the Octagon with his fighting hero, Matt Hughes. As he told me before his second bout with Hughes, “The first time I fought him, I was fighting my idol,” he admitted. “It was the first time I had done something like that, he was in front of me, and for me in my mind, it was impossible to do anything to him because he was too good.” GSP held his own for much of the first round though, until Hughes was able to lock in an armbar with seconds left in the opening frame. St-Pierre immediately tapped, unaware that if he held on for one more second, he would have gotten a reprieve. It was a move that made people question his resolve, and a decision he regretted almost instantly. “The moment I saw the replay of the fight, I realized I was doing pretty well,” he said. “I totally realized that I could beat that guy.” He would have to wait two years for that opportunity.

FIGHT RECAP - In the co-feature, Matt Hughes regained the UFC welterweight crown vacated by BJ Penn by showing a new wrinkle in his arsenal, submitting game Georges St. Pierre with an armbar at 4:59 of the first round.

After setting things up with a good jab, St. Pierre used an effective single leg takedown to put Hughes to the mat seconds into the fight. Both quickly stood, and it was Hughes who used his left hand to work his opponent to the fence. Of course, moments later Hughes lifted St. Pierre and dropped him to the mat. St. Pierre worked his way out of trouble and used a left kick to the midsection to stun the former champion.

With a little over a minute to go, Hughes was able to take St. Pierre down and he tried to work his ground and pound from the Canadian’s guard. Suddenly though, with the round ticking away, Hughes swung into an armbar, and just when an upset seemed possible by the 23-year-old, the veteran had won the bout via tapout with a single second to go in the opening round.

The next time one of your Neanderthal buddies thinks ground fighting is just two guys laying on each other, show them this war between Griffin and Guida and let them see what happens when two skilled and aggressive fighters lock horns and battle it out on the mat. A fight fought at a torrid pace for practically all three rounds, there was some dispute about the final decision in Griffin’s favor, but this was the type of bout where there truly were no losers.

FIGHT RECAP - In an action-packed lightweight bout that lived up to the hype, Tyson Griffin (9-1) pounded out pounded out a close three round split decision over Clay Guida (21-5)

Scores were 29-28 twice and 28-29 for Griffin, a verdict that was booed by the fans in attendance who believed Guida had pulled out the win.

After a few tense early moments, the fight began in earnest in the second minute, with Griffin able to lock in a guillotine choke as the two fell to the mat. Guida eventually worked his way free and back to his feet, but Griffin kept the Illinois native locked up against the fence until deciding to let go and trade punches with under a minute left. Griffin’s standup was crisp and varied, with Guida game, but a step behind.

Guida turned things around in round two, immediately rushing Griffin into the fence. The Californian wasn’t rattled though, and his superior strength allowed him to free himself and continue with his standup attack, which was eagerly met and responded to by Guida. With under three minutes left, Griffin took Guida to the mat and got his back, but Guida escaped and went for Griffin’s ankle. Griffin attempted to pound his way out, and eventually got loose, only to give up his back. With Guida on his back attempting a choke, Griffin stood, only to fall back down and break the hold while making it out of the round.

With the fight on the line, Griffin came out firing with punches, knees, and kicks in round three as Guida looked for the takedown. Eventually the fight went there, with both fighters looking to finish the bout, whether by submission or via strikes. Both had their moments, making the round difficult to judge, but Guida’s superior positioning and a late choke attempt seemed to be enough to sway the scores and give ‘The Carpenter’ a victory, but it was not to be.

It took him six years, but Penn finally won the UFC lightweight title when he submitted Joe Stevenson in the second round. It was a satisfying victory for him, and one that got him even more excited for the fights to come in the next few years. “Something just awoke inside of me where I said ‘what are you doing? You can beat every one of these people. You’ve been doing it half-assed all this time and it’s time to finally step up and let’s see it.’ If you can’t, you can’t, but at least you know you tried. Words can’t explain how pumped I am about fighting right now. It’s what I am, it’s who I am, and it’s what I want to be.”

FIGHT RECAP - It took BJ Penn more than 11 rounds – 59 minutes and two seconds to be exact. But finally, in his third try, BJ Penn made history, submitting Joe Stevenson in the second round tonight at the Metro Radio Arena to become the UFC Lightweight Champion and join Randy Couture as the only two men in UFC history to win titles in two different weight classes.

“Joe is a great guy,” said Penn, who fought Stevenson for the title vacated by the suspension of Sean Sherk. “I knew he was gonna be tough, but I put everything into this. I wanted to make sure it was three times the charm and not three strikes you're out."

Penn had fallen short in two previous 155-pound title tries, losing to Jens Pulver 2002 and drawing with Caol Uno in 2003. He held the UFC welterweight title briefly in 2004, submitting Matt Hughes to win the belt.

Not surprisingly, Penn’s next opponent, Sherk - who was stripped of his title after a positive test for nandrolone after a win over Hermes Franca last July – took issue with Penn’s claim to the belt.

“That belt belongs to me,” said Sherk. “(Addressing Penn) You’ve got one more fight before you can be called UFC lightweight champ.”

The packed house of 8,412, which set a box office record of $1.25 million, beating the previous record held by Luciano Pavarotti, roared.

And while that bout will obviously be one that will have its day in front of the world, tonight was all about the world-class effort by Penn and the grit and determination of the 25-year old Stevenson, who gamely battled through a nasty cut suffered in the first round to still give Penn a fight.

It was a fight that almost ended as soon as it began though, as Penn rocked and dropped Stevenson with a right hand that finished his opening barrage of the bout. He immediately looked for an opening on the mat to finish, but Stevenson’s 40 fights of experience kicked in and he got his way out of danger. Penn never stopped working though, and his subsequent ground and pound attack scored points and kept Stevenson from mounting an offensive, and with under two minutes left, it looked like Penn was starting to inch closer to victory. But just when the outlook seemed bleak, Stevenson fought back with strikes from the bottom, letting Penn know that he was still in the fight. This only seemed to wake up Penn, who opened up a nasty cut on his opponent’s forehead with a right elbow moments before the bell rang to end the round.

With blood streaming down his forehead, Stevenson came out with a sense of urgency to begin the second, closing the gap quickly and attempting to land with big shots when inside. The heavy-handed Penn kept his cool, countering Stevenson well and trying to keep him at the end of his punches. After a short break two minutes in for the Octagonside physician to check on Stevenson’s cut, the action resumed and Penn tried to make sure the outcome wouldn’t be decided by anyone but him, and after jarring Stevenson and following him to the mat, he got in the full mount position and began to rain blows on the Californian, who showed the heart of a lion in continuing to battle against the odds. The fight would end shortly thereafter though, as Stevenson gave up his back and Penn sunk in a rear naked choke, producing the tap out and the victory at 4:02 of the second round.

Another one of the future welterweight champ’s formative UFC bouts, GSP made his Octagon debut against fellow hot prospect Parisyan at UFC 46 in 2004, and while still raw, St-Pierre definitely showed glimpses of what we would be seeing from him in the coming years.

FIGHT RECAP - Canada’s George’s St. Pierre, coming off a submission win over Pete Spratt, continued his hot streak with a unanimous three round decision over fellow welterweight prospect Karo Parisyan.

Effectively working his striking game while in Parisyan’s guard, St. Pierre pounded his foe throughout, bloodying him in the process. The courageous Parisyan had his moments in the bout as he attempted to secure a submission lock on the Canadian, but St.Pierre’s strength and ring savvy allowed him to stay out of serious danger and easily take the bout on the scorecards.

You can’t teach youth, size, or athleticism, yet despite all of these attributes in his favor Brock Lesnar found himself as an underdog when he faced Randy Couture – not as far as oddsmakers were concerned, but among fans and fellow fighters who believed Lesnar’s inexperience was going to be his downfall. It wasn’t, and like Couture, Lesnar won the UFC heavyweight title in his fourth professional bout, and he did it in sudden fashion as he rocked, dropped, and then stopped ‘The Natural’ in the second round.

FIGHT RECAP - The first man in UFC history to win the heavyweight championship in his fourth fight was Randy Couture. Tonight, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, Couture was forced to make room in the history books for the second man to achieve the monumental feat – Brock Lesnar, who stopped Couture in the second round to take the belt and begin a new era in the UFC heavyweight division.

“I can’t believe it,” said Lesnar I want to thank (UFC President) Dana (White), the UFC, and especially Randy Couture. It takes a lot of balls to come back after a year off and fight a young buck like me.”

Couture – a five-time UFC champion and a member of the organization’s Hall of Fame -has made a career of overcoming the odds, and though he had his moments in the scheduled five rounder, in the end, the power and size of the 6-3 1/2, 265 pounder was too much for the 220-pound Couture to overcome, especially at 45. But Couture, fighting for the first time since August of 2007, didn’t blame ring rust or age for the loss. Instead, all praise went to the new king.

“Those were some big hamhocks coming at me,” laughed Couture after the fight. “He’s a big guy and he caught me with a big shot.”

With the crowd chanting ‘Randy, Randy’, the bell rang for what was dubbed “the biggest fight in UFC history.” Couture scored with a quick right hand and Lesnar attempted a couple of knees before tying the champion up against the fence, trying to wear Couture down with his 265 pounds. After a brief stalemate, the two separated and circled before Lesnar shot in for a takedown. Couture fought it off , but wound up pinned against the fence briefly before Lesnar finally finished the takedown and put Couture on his back. But just as soon as he was down, Couture reversed position and the crowd erupted. Lesnar quickly regained control though and again tried to use his size to exhaust Couture. With under a minute left, Couture made his move and got back to his feet. The two traded knees and Couture looked for the takedown, but the bell intervened.

The second began with Couture landing a couple of quick punches, which were answered by a right from Lesnar that briefly wobbled the champion. The two reconvened at the fence, and both fighters landed with hard shots as they separated. The ensuing exchange saw Lesnar get cut over the right eye, but as Couture moved in, the fighters locked up at the fence again. After they broke, a right hand behind the ear dropped Couture, and Lesnar immediately pounced, landing a series of hammerfists to the head that forced referee Mario Yamasaki to halt the bout at 3:07 of the second round.

“I may come off like a cocky SOB, but I just believe in hard work,” said the new champ, who improves to 3-1. Couture, who fell to 16-9, was non-committal about his future in the Octagon.

“We’ll let things settle down. I still feel like I’m getting better as a fighter, and we’ll see what happens.”

After the controversial ending to their first fight at UFC 34 in 2001, Hughes wanted to clean the slate by dominating his rematch with Newton at UFC 38 in 2002, the main event of the first UFC card in England. And Hughes didn’t disappoint the London fans as he pounded out a fourth round TKO win over “The Ronin.”

57 – Roger Huerta vs. Leonard Garcia
From start to finish, this one was fought at a breakneck pace, and Latin warriors Huerta and Garcia did their combat sports predecessors – like Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales, Bobby Chacon, and Bazooka Limon – proud with an all-out war that may have been one-sided in Huerta’s favor on the scorecards, but that had no one in the arena complaining. The bout even landed Huerta on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

FIGHT RECAP - Roger Huerta and Leonard Garcia put it all on the line in their lightweight swing bout, and though Huerta emerged with the decision win, there were no losers in one of the best 155-pound battles of recent years.

There was simply no feeling out process between the two Texans, as they came out in a fast and furious fashion as soon as they were waved out of their corners and barely let up for the next 15 minutes. As the bout entered its second minute, both were on the mat, with Huerta briefly getting Garcia’s back. The ‘Bad Boy’ got back to his feet though and he let his fists fly until Huerta slammed him back to the canvas. But just when it seemed Huerta was closing in on a win, Garcia would roar back and earn his respect once again.

The war truly broke out in round two, as both fighters teed off with whatever weapons they had at their command, much to the delight of the crowd, and even the fighters, who smiled at each other in recognition of the fight they were putting on.

What was amazing as the bout entered the final round was not how Huerta and Garcia were able to keep such a pace up, but how no one had fallen yet. But just as in the previous two frames, both fighters went for broke, with Huerta’s strikes crisper, more varied and more accurate. Garcia’s best chance for victory came in the middle of the round as he got Huerta’s back, but it was only a brief window of opportunity as ‘El Matador’ turned the tables and unleashed a barrage of strikes on the courageous Lubbock fighter, who made it to the final round with simply nothing more left to give.

QUOTABLE – “The day that it (Sports Illustrated) came out I got a copy at the airport. I was flying out to Vegas to watch the Chuck and Rampage fight. I picked one up and it was really weird. But it goes back to God, it goes back to being grateful for everything that’s happening, and the truth is, I always go back to working hard. When I found out I was on the cover of Sports Illustrated, I rode my spin bike for 45 minutes, then went running. I stick to the basics, keep working hard, and I’m never gonna change.” – Roger Huerta

Evan Tanner’s reign at the top of the middleweight division was short lived, but maybe more than in any victory, his true warrior spirit came out in his loss to Franklin in their rematch.

The fight was fast paced from the start, with Tanner immediately taking the fight to his challenger. Both fighters traded heavy shots with some surprised by Tanner’s willingness to keep the fight standing. Franklin jarred Tanner briefly with a high left kick, and Tanner quickly recovered, only to get rocked by an uppercut seconds later. Franklin’s superior standup skills were evident, but Tanner kept moving forward, looking for an opening – an opening which came with 40 seconds left in the round as he dropped the challenger with a right hand to the jaw. Tanner got Franklin’s back and briefly had an arm for an armbar, but Franklin cleared his head and was back in the fight by the bell.

“I don’t remember that, so apparently I was hurt pretty bad,” said Franklin of the left hand that floored him.

As Tanner went to his corner, he was bleeding from his ear, and things would only get worse as the fight progressed.

Tanner came out confidently in the second, but Franklin easily eluded any danger. The pace dipped a bit in the second stanza, but Franklin did manage to cut Tanner over the eye, and his fast counters were beating the champion to the punch and leaving their mark on his face.

The pattern continued in the third round, with Franklin now mixing kicks and knees in with his accurate punches. In the second minute, Tanner got nailed and staggered by a left hand but quickly regained his bearings. Another left hurt Tanner a few moments later, and when Franklin got Tanner on the mat, it looked like the end was near, but the courageous Tanner once again fought his way out of danger. Yet when Tanner rose, his face was a mask of blood and bruises.

Despite the fact that the fight was becoming one-sided, Tanner kept coming forward as he refused to give up his title without a fierce struggle, but by the fourth round the outcome was no longer in doubt, and after a series of shots by Franklin with 1:35 to go in the round, referee Herb Dean halted the bout to allow the ringside physicians to check Tanner, and the fight was immediately stopped.

Ironically, the fight took place the same night as the high-profile boxing match between Ricky Hatton and longtime junior welterweight champion Kostya Tszyu. Tszyu retired in his corner before the 12th round, a move for which he was criticized by some. After the bout, in a column for, I wrote the following:

“After an 11 round streetfight, Tszyu, face and body battered and bruised, thought of his family, thought of his future, and decided he would not be a trophy for the bloodthirsty.

UFC middleweight champion Evan Tanner thought of none of those options. As he faced a young, aggressive, well-conditioned challenger in Rich Franklin, Tanner thought only of defending the title he had worked so hard for and of avenging his loss to this same opponent. He withstood punch after punch as his face swelled and burst open with cuts, and he kept upright, hoping that an opening would show itself where he could turn the fight around and get the victory. And in a sport where there’s no stigma attached to tapping out of a fight, Tanner kept fighting until he wasn’t allowed to fight anymore.”

Less than four months later, I spoke to Tanner before his comeback fight against David Loiseau and asked him what kept him going through that fight as the odds mounted against him.

“I knew that I was taking some damage and it was really unpleasant,” admitted Tanner. “But I was thinking if I can just get him, hit him, get a hold of him, I can make something happen. I just kept believing that I could make something happen, but it didn’t turn out that time.”

That’s what separates champions from everyone else, regardless of whether they still hold a belt or not.

Once ridiculed for his reliance on his wrestling background and tendency to keep his opponents under control for three rounds – which was effective, but not necessarily fun to watch – Rashad Evans opened up his game in 2008, showing new dimensions in his striking that led to a highlight reel knockout of former light heavyweight boss Chuck Liddell, and a year-ending stoppage of Forrest Griffin that earned “Sugar” the UFC light heavyweight championship.

FIGHT RECAP - For two rounds in Saturday’s UFC 92 main event at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, it looked like Forrest Griffin’s height and reach advantage was going to be too much for Rashad Evans to deal with. But when you haven’t lost in your previous 18 pro fights, you find a way to win, and that’s what Evans did, roaring back in the third round to stop Griffin and win the UFC light heavyweight championship.

“It was a great fight,” said Evans, now 18-0-1. “It took me a while to get warmed up, but I got there. I didn’t want to go in there with one mindset because sometimes when you do that, you get messed up.”

And after ten minutes of sporadic success, Evans – winner of The Ultimate Fighter’s second season – attacked. Less than three minutes later, he was a world champion.

Both fighters got their ranges in the opening minute, with Evans opening up minute number two with a haymaker that likely would have ended the fight had it landed. But it didn’t, and the two combatants continued to circle each other at close range, adding tension to each exchange, as both fighters had their moments of success. Griffin and especially had success with low kicks, and though Evans was the faster puncher of the two, he appeared to be having difficulty getting inside on his taller opponent.

Griffin continued to stalk in round two, briefly jarring Evans and pinning him against the fence. The flurry got the crowd chanting “For-rest, For-rest”, but it also re-focused Evans, who now made a concerted effort to close the distance on Griffin. Each step closer caused Evans to pay a price though, whether with kicks low or punches high. But when Evans did score, with a crisp 1-2 or a thudding body kick, it drew a roar. It was Griffin ending the round with the hardest shot, a right to the head at the bell.

In round three, Evans finally found his opening as he grabbed one of Griffin’s kicks and sent the champion to the canvas with a flurry of punches. Evans tried to finish matters on the ground, but Griffin weathered the storm and quickly recovered. Evans remained in control on the ground though, periodically erupting with hard strikes to the head. Griffin appeared to take the shots well until one ferocious barrage that began with a right hand stunned Griffin and put him out, with referee Steve Mazzagatti halting the contest at 2:46 of round three.

“I’m fine, I’ll be back,” said a gracious Griffin, now 16-5. “Congratulations Rashad.”

While the diehards knew who Anderson Silva was after the UFC signed him in 2006, to the casual fan, The Ultimate Fighter season one’s Chris Leben – then on a five fight winning streak – was truly the one moving in on a shot at middleweight boss Rich Franklin. But as soon as the bell rang, it was clear that this was a new kind of striker, one who easily avoided Leben’s crude attacks and fired back with blistering combos that left ‘The Crippler’ defenseless. The end came at the 49 second mark of the first round, and Franklin had himself a new prospective contender.

FIGHT RECAP - UFC middleweight champion Rich Franklin has a new challenger to look out for, and his name is Anderson Silva.

Tonight, the world-class Brazilian bomber, who was making his long-awaited UFC debut, walked through the usually durable Chris Leben in a mere 49 seconds, stunning the crowd at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino and announcing his arrival with a flourish – a loud one.

Immediately establishing his striking dominance, Silva pumped a couple of jabs in Leben’s face, and after a right hand by ‘The Crippler’ grazed the Brazilian and opened a small cut over his eye, ‘The Spider’ pounced with extreme prejudice, stunning Leben with a left kick and a three punch combination that put him down and apparently out.

Leben regained his senses as he hit the mat, but instead of looking to clear his head with a takedown or some movement, he immediately tried to trade with Silva and after getting hit with a right uppercut, a thudding right knee put Leben down again, with the follow-up barrage bringing in referee John McCarthy to halt the bout.

It was Leben’s first loss in six UFC fights.

QUOTABLE - “He rung my bell pretty good. I do remember the first time he knocked me down, going ‘Okay, I’m going to get up.’ But I knew that after I got up I was gonna be so punch drunk I wasn’t going to have any sort of way to defend myself, but I figured, he caught me clean, he deserves a clean knockout, so I stood up for him and let him hit me a few more times. (Laughs) That’s the only thing I remember of the fight.” – Chris Leben

It was a bloody five round scrap, one that saw both Sherk and Florian show why they deserved to be fighting for a lightweight title that had been vacant for four years, and in the end it was Sherk who put the gold around his waist, even though Florian showed enough heart and talent that it was inevitable that he would one day challenge for another world title. That day is on August 8th, when Florian takes on current 155-pound champ BJ Penn.

FIGHT RECAP - In UFC 64’s second title fight, it was a long time coming, but for the first time since 2002, the UFC has a lightweight champion, and his name is Sean Sherk, who grounded and pounded his way to a five round unanimous decision victory over a courageous Kenny Florian, who has come a long way from his days on ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ reality show, but was unable to stop the charges of the ‘Muscle Shark’.

“I’ve been working for this moment my whole life,” said Sherk, the first UFC lightweight champion since Jens Pulver abandoned the belt in 2002. “Nothing was gonna stop me.”

Scores were 49-46 twice and 50-48 for Sherk, now 35-2-1.

Sherk immediately took Florian (7-3) to the mat, obviously intent on ending the fight early. Florian patiently regrouped while looking for an opening to land a submission, but Sherk was focused and stayed in control. Soon though, Florian saw his opening and sunk in a guillotine that looked dangerous for a bit until Sherk muscled his way out and almost got an armbar on Florian a few moments later before grounding and pounding his way to the bell.

Florian opened the second round with a couple of hard kicks, only to be put on his back by another Sherk takedown. But once on the mat, blood was evident from a cut on the side of Sherk’s forehead due to an elbow, and Florian was bleeding as well. After a visit from the ringside doctor, the action resumed on the mat with Sherk doing whatever he could to impose his will on Florian. Florian eventually fought his way out of trouble and reversed position on the Minnesotan with the two soon standing up and squaring off and finishing the round at a stalemate.

The third began with Florian working his Muay Thai, but in the blink of an eye, Sherk threw a left and shot in for a takedown and he again tried to manhandle the Massachusetts native on the mat. With a minute and a half to go, Florian gave up his back to Sherk briefly, but the ‘Muscle Shark’ was unable to capitalize and the two rolled back into the guard until stood up with 35 seconds left. That’s when the fun began as Sherk scored with some big punches and Florian answered with a couple of kicks at the bell that jarred Sherk and brought a huge roar from the crowd.

With blood staining the trunks of both men, the fourth round began with more solid kicks by Florian before a takedown by Sherk and more ground and pound from the former welterweight title challenger. With a little over two minutes remaining, the crowd chanted ‘Kenny, Kenny’ but Florian was unable to escape the smothering onslaught of Sherk who was doing enough damage to punish Florian and score points, but not enough to finish the fight, prompting a standup from referee Steve Mazzagatti with just seconds left in the round.

Sherk got his biggest takedown of the night to punctuate the start of the fifth and final round, and the pattern of the previous rounds continued as Florian was simply not strong enough to keep Sherk off him. But ‘KenFlo’ got new life with 3:30 left in the fight as Mazzagatti stood the fighters and he opened up again with the kicks. And in keeping to form, Sherk again looked for the takedown, but Florian sunk in a guillotine choke on Sherk in a last ditch effort to pull off the upset. Sherk escaped though and proceeded to pick Florian up and slam him with a huge thump, and that’s where the fight ended as the clock ran out, with Sherk earning a world title and Florian earning respect from the skeptics.

“Everybody underestimated Kenny except me,” said Sherk. “He’s a tough guy and we had a great fight.”

With Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock fighting in the UFC 40 main event that night, you would think that Liddell-Sobral I would have been ignored. But to the diehard fans, Liddell was the undisputed number one challenger to the 205-pound title, with a shot at the belt almost guaranteed if he got by Sobral. Well, it took less than three minutes for Liddell to send Sobral to defeat via head kick, but he would still have to wait a year and a half to get his fight with Ortiz, who was no longer champion by then.

QUOTABLE - “The first thing I learned is that if you don’t want to fight, stay home. If you don’t really want to fight, stay away from the cage because it’s dangerous. After I lost to Chuck I felt the worst I had in my whole life. People told me not to fight, to go change my life, do another job. But one day I just looked at myself and said, ‘what are you doing? You were born to fight.’”

Considering Evans’ record and skill level, those in the industry weren’t surprised when he pulled off the victory over the legendary ‘Iceman’ at UFC 88. What shocked most observers is the way he pulled it off, by fighting a perfect fight for the first round, frustrating Liddell in the process, and then lowering the boom with a picture-perfect right hand. And while the former light heavyweight boss had been stopped before, he never was taken out like this, and it stunned his legion of followers while propelling Evans to a 205-pound title shot.

FIGHT RECAP - Rashad Evans fought the perfect fight tonight in the UFC 88 main event against former light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell, and at 1:51 of the second round, he finished the perfect fight with the perfect punch, stunning a packed house at Philips Arena with a one punch knockout of ‘The Iceman’.

“You’ve got to go straight for the horns,” said Evans, still unbeaten at 17-0-1. “You can’t fight him going for takedowns all night. That’s the way you get knocked out. I wanted to beat him at his own game.”

Evans appeared loose before the opening bell, undaunted by the task ahead of him, and once the fight began, he used movement and angles to make Liddell use his legs. ‘The Iceman’ simply stalked, waiting for the opportunity to unleash his right hand. With a little over three minutes left, he grazed Evans, knocking him off balance briefly. The crowd roared and Evans danced away, showing that he was unhurt. What really proved his readiness though was a hard kick to Liddell’s leg in retaliation. As the round entered its final two minutes, the crowd started to get restless at the lack of sustained action, and Liddell seemed to be getting impatient as well as he picked up his forward march in pursuit of his elusive foe. Evans stayed out of trouble though, and it was Liddell walking back to his corner at the end of the round with a cut under his right eye.

Liddell continued to stalk as round two began, but this time, when he closed in, Evans would fire back in flurries that weren’t doing damage but were keeping the former light heavyweight champ honest. But moments later, Liddell, with his fist cocked and looking to be unworried by incoming fire, shot off a right uppercut from long range at the same time Evans blasted a right hand. Evans landed first, and Liddell, knocked unconscious instantly, fell hard to the canvas, where he remained for a few tense moments until he was able to make it up and out of the Octagon under his own power.

As for Evans, there’s a new player in the race for a shot at light heavyweight boss Forrest Griffin, but the man of the hour is in no rush.

“I’m a patient man, and I’m just enjoying the ride,” said Evans when asked about a title shot. “However long it takes.”

QUOTABLE - “My intention when I threw the punch was to throw it as fast as I can. And I threw it, it went through, and I was gonna follow up with the left hook, but he was already going down. And after the left hook went by, I was like ‘oh no, he fell down. I’ve gotta hurry up and finish him.’ But it seemed like it took forever for me to come out of that left hook to turn around and get on him. It was so quiet in there, I could hear a pin drop. The fight was over, Herb Dean had stopped it, and I was in shock because everybody was so quiet.” – Rashad Evans