Rashad Evans. Photo property of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Rashad Evans scored a third-round stoppage of fellow “Ultimate Fighter” winner Forrest Griffin to claim the UFC light heavyweight title while Frank Mir put on the best performance of his career in defeating Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira to recapture a piece of the UFC heavyweight belt that he once owned at UFC 92.
Evans came into his showdown with Griffin as an extremely slight underdog and the first two rounds of the bout were just as close. Both fighters connected with a mix of punches and kicks with great frequency, but Griffin likely escaped the first ten minutes with an edge on the judge’s scorecards.
A combination of a slip and a grazing right hand from Evans caused Griffin to fall to the canvas at the start of the third round. Evans, a former collegiate wrestler at Michigan State University, pounced on Griffin and landed some punches until the champion was able to tighten things up on the ground.
Griffin (16-5) looked to attempt a couple of submissions during his stay on his back while using good wrist control to prevent Evans (13-0-1) from working any kind of ground-and-pound. However, Evans was eventually able to get free and hurt Griffin with a right hand on the chin. The Greg Jackson-trained fighter then pounded away at a defenseless Griffin, who quickly tapped out from the punishment.
“It was a great fight. Forrest gave me everything I could handle in those first two rounds,” Evans said. “It took a while for me 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, it messes you up.”
After the fight, a classy Griffin congratulated Evans on his victory and promised fans that despite the loss, he would be in action again very soon and was planning on returning to the gym to restart his training next week.
“To clear everything up, I was flailing, not tapping,” Griffin sarcastically said concerning the end of the fight. “I’m fine. I’ll be back. I don’t know who I’m going to fight, but congratulations Rashad. Now, I’m going to go to the hospital, get myself into an after-party, and get my ass back into the gym.”
Frank Mir surprised just about everyone in Las Vegas’ MGM Grand Garden Arena with his striking display against former PRIDE heavyweight title holder Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Mir battered the Brazilian on the feet and knocked him down three times before referee Herb Dean halted the action in the second round, handing Mir the interim UFC heavyweight title and a rematch against reigning champion Brock Lesnar.
The battle between this past season’s coaches on “The Ultimate Fighter” reality show was expected to be relatively one-sided. Prior to Saturday night, Mir had not been the same fighter since nearly losing his life in a 2004 motorcycle accident while Nogueira was continuing to build on his legacy as one of MMA’s best-ever heavyweights.
However it was Mir that put a beating on Nogueira from the start, continually connecting with a barrage of jabs and uppercuts that left Nogueira dazed and confused. Nogueira provided very little offense at all in the first stanza and sulked back to his corner after being knocked down twice during the round.
Mir (12-3) came out on the offensive once again at the start of the second round, blasting Nogueira (31-5-1) with more punches. Nogueira landed a hard kick to the previously-injured leg of Mir at one point, but the World Extreme Cagefighting broadcaster shook off the blow and continued to press the action, eventually putting Nogueira down for a third and final time before finishing him off with strikes on the ground.
“I faced such demons after my wreck,” Mir said after the fight. “To come back and fight the best heavyweight to ever fight in the UFC, and get a win over him, it just shows…. everybody look at your life. They say you can’t do [stuff], but I’m proof that you can do things.
“I didn’t think I could beat Nogueira. If I was a betting man, I wasn’t on Mir’s side tonight. I came through this because of the love of my family, my children, and my wife.”
A potential future opponent for the aforementioned Rashad Evans could end up being former champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, who avenged his two previous losses to Wanderlei Silva by putting the longtime face of the PRIDE Fighting Championships to sleep with a devastating left hook in the first round of their rubber match.
It was Silva that had Jackson’s number in the past, brutally knocking out the Memphis, Tennessee native on two separate occasions during their respective fighting stints over in Japan. As if giving up a psychological edge wasn’t enough, Jackson was fighting for the first time since being arrested after leading California police on a high-speed chase following his loss to Forrest Griffin in May.
The two exchanged evenly on the feet during the fight’s opening minutes until Jackson, after a failed takedown attempt, floored Silva with a left hook and sent him crashing to the mat unconscious. The bad blood between Jackson (29-7) and Silva (32-9-1) then boiled over as Jackson delivered three more unanswered and unnecessary shots to his foe while referee Yves Lavigne was intervening, but Silva was not injured and walked out of the Octagon on his power.
After competing against each other as wrestlers in college, C.B. Dollaway and Mike Massenzio met again, this time as mixed martial artists in the middle bout on UFC 92’s televised main card. Just like in their previous meeting, Dollaway came away the victor and stopped Massenzio with strikes just a hair past three minutes into their middleweight bout.
Massenzio came into the fight with very little enthusiasm and with his left knee heavily bandaged, but managed to nearly finish Dollaway in the first minute after landing a right hand and locking in a tight guillotine choke. Dollaway (8-1) was able to fight his way out of the submission and put Massenzio (11-3) on the floor, where he eventually took Masszenio’s back and finished him off with punches from behind.
The first fight to be shown on the event’s pay-per-view broadcast saw the newest addition to the Wolfslair training team, French striker Cheick Kongo (13-4-1), brutally stop newcomer Mustapha al Turk (6-3) with strikes in the first round of their heavyweight affair.
Yushin Okami (23-4) moved one step closer to a rematch with Anderson Silva in defeating accomplished grappler Dean Lister (11-6) via unanimous decision in UFC 92’s most high-profile preliminary matchup while Antoni Hardonk (8-4) scored his third straight UFC win, a second round TKO win over newcomer Mike Wessel (6-1).
Other dark matches on the fight card saw Matt Hamill (5-2) defeat Reese Andy (7-3) by second-round TKO, Brad Blackburn (13-9-1) earn a hard-fought unanimous decision over Ryo Chonan (15-9), and Patrick Barry (4-0) put his K-1 kickboxing skills on display in injuring and stopping Dan Evensen (10-4).
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