Thomas Gerbasi, UFC - He’s Baaaaaack! With his trademark ferocity on full display, former PRIDE legend Wanderlei Silva broke a three fight losing streak and won his first UFC fight since 1999, stopping highly-regarded light heavyweight contender Keith Jardine in just 36 seconds in their UFC 84 bout at the MGM Grand Garden Arena tonight.
By Thomas Gerbasi
LAS VEGAS, May 24 – He’s Baaaaaack! With his trademark ferocity on full display, former PRIDE legend Wanderlei Silva broke a three fight losing streak and won his first UFC fight since 1999, stopping highly-regarded light heavyweight contender Keith Jardine in just 36 seconds in their UFC 84 bout at the MGM Grand Garden Arena tonight.
“I’m very emotional now and it’s a great moment for me,” said Silva, who lost to Chuck Liddell in his return to the UFC last December. “I’m very happy.”
There was no feeling out process in this one, and Silva and Jardine engaged with haymakers almost immediately. It was a left-right-left that first put Jardine in trouble, with a left putting him on the canvas. While on the mat, Silva was relentless with his attack, eventually landing two right hands that knocked Jardine out and forced referee Steve Mazzagatti to halt the bout.
After a few minutes on the mat after the fight was stopped, Jardine left the ring under his own power.
With the win, Silva ups his record to 32-8-1; Jardine falls to 13-5-1.
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.
UFC newcomer Goran Reljic made plenty of fans in his Octagon debut, halting Wilson Gouveia in the second round of an entertaining light heavyweight clash.
After some heated pre-fight trash talking, Gouveia (10-5) and Reljic (8-0) both came out with bad intentions behind their kicks, with the Croatian showing some kicks that his countryman and friend Mirko Cro Cop would approve of. Unfortunately for Gouveia, it was Reljic doing most of the scoring, with most of the Brazilian’s attempts finding dead air. With under a minute though Gouveia started to hit paydirt with his punches, forcing Reljic to backpedal and then pull guard. Reljic did fight well off his back until the bell rang though.
By round two, the two were touching gloves, obviously earning each other’s respect in the previous five minutes. Reljic continued to score with his kicks, but Gouveia was even more effective with his punches, and the fight went back to the mat, where it was Gouveia in control against the fence. With 2:20 left, the fighters rose, and though Reljic was now sporting a mouse under his eye, he was not shying away from battle, and a left hand to the face dropped Gouveia to the canvas. From there, Reljic would not be denied, and his follow-up barrage brought in referee Herb Dean to call the bout at 3:15 of round two.
“The left hand is my strongest weapon,” said Reljic. “I worked with Cro Cop on that. He was rocked big time and I realized I had to finish him off before he did the same to me.”
Unbeaten light heavyweight contender Thiago Silva made it to 13 the hard way, rising from an early knockdown to force newcomer Antonio ‘Samuray’ Mendes to tap out due to strikes in the first round.
“He was stronger than I expected, but I trained real hard and was able to come back,” said Silva, now 13-0.
Mendes (14-3) showed his power immediately with a kick to the head that dropped Silva. The unbeaten Sao Paulo native rose, but he went down again as the two countrymen traded kicks. After the two stood, Silva got his legs back under him and scored a takedown, transitioning quickly into the mount position. Mendes ate a left hook but was able to momentarily free himself. It was his last glimmer of hope as Silva re-established position and lowered the boom with a series of lefts to the head that forced Mendes to tap out at the 2:24 mark.