For at least one more night, it was UFC vs PRIDE.
UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and PRIDE Middleweight title holder Dan Henderson clashed last night in order to determine who currently is the best fighter in the world at 205 lbs. It was Jackson that came away victorious after five long and hard fought rounds at the sold out O2 Arena in London, England.
Jackson overcame being down on points earlier in the fight to win the final two rounds in convincing fashion and to give the judges more than enough reason to award him an unanimous decision.
Henderson (22-6) controlled the fight early on, clinching early and often to keep Jackson (28-6) at bay and unable to let his hands go. Jackson fought hard to prevent the two-time U.S. Olympic wrestler from taking him down but Henderson’s skill proved too much in the first few rounds.
However the rounds quickly caught up to Henderson and Jackson used his size and strength to wear down his opponent. The final stages of the fight saw Jackson beat Henderson at his own game, showing off newly polished ground skills that have become yet another weapon in Jackson’s dangerous arsenal. The final round saw both fighters lay everything on the line. Both were content to slug it out until the final bell where Henderson collapsed due to fatigue, allowing Jackson to pound away until the referee was forced to let the fighters know that the bout was over.
After the fight, Jackson let everyone know that his success on the ground wasn’t a fluke.
“A lot of people don’t know but I’ve got Jiu-Jitsu,” exclaimed Jackson.
Even though he was victorious, Jackson still gave Henderson credit and admitted that he put up quite a fight. He also revealed that his left hand was re-injured during the course of the fight, an injury that has bugged Jackson in the past.
“I trained really hard for Dan because I knew he was tough, but I never knew he would beat up my fist with his face,” said Jackson. “My wrist did good, but it was my knuckles going upside his head that hurt. It’s a whole new injury now.”
Jackson now reigns on top of a division without a true contender but that may be solved later this month when top contenders Chuck Liddell and Keith Jardine as well as Forrest Griffin and newcomer Mauricio Rua all compete in 14 days at UFC 76. UFC President Dana White has stated that Henderson may unify his PRIDE Welterweight title against the winner of October’s rematch between Anderson Silva and Rich Franklin.
England’s own Michael Bisping received a gift from the judges when they awarded him a razor-close split decision over fellow Ultimate Fighter 3 alum Matt Hamill.
Bisping (14-0) publicly stated that he would be going up against a far better wrestler in the form of Hamill (3-1). However it was Hamill that neglected to use his superior wrestling against Bisping, opting rather to stay on his feet and use his newly sharpened striking skills, which worked to a tee during the first round.
Bisping mounted a comeback in the second round and was able to score points on the feet, forcing Hamill to switch his strategy and take Bisping to the ground, where he controlled his opponent before allowing Bisping to stand up on more than one occasion. The final stanza saw Bisping out maneuver and out strike at the fatigued Hamill. A final takedown by Hamill during the final minute proved to be not enough to convince the judges at ringside as two of them awarded Bisping the victory.
After the fight Hamill acknowledged that Bisping was the official winner but still felt that his performance was the better one.
“He beat me fair and square and I give him a lot of credit, but I thought I won that fight,” said Hamill.
In the biggest upset of the night, fan favorite Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic fell victim to the superior striking and wrestling of upstart Cheick Kongo, ultimately losing his second straight fight in the UFC and perhaps destroying any chance of receiving a title shot in the foreseeable future.
Cro Cop (22-6-2) stalked Kongo (11-3-1) around the cage during the first five minutes, proving that he remains one of the most feared strikers in MMA. However encouragement from his corner gave Kongo the confidence to move forward and trade with the former kickboxer. Kongo landed numerous knees and body kicks during the final two rounds and even mixed in a few takedowns en route to the biggest win of his career, an unanimous decision victory over the 2006 PRIDE Open-Weight Grand Prix Champion.
Kongo grimaced in pain after the fight, telling UFC color commentator Joe Rogan that he had lingering injuries to his shoulder and back coming into the fight.
“I tried to focus on fighting my fight. It wasn’t easy for me because I have injuries in my shoulder and back,” revealed Kongo.
Marcus Davis and Paul Taylor put on quite the show in their bout, which was an obvious pick for the fight of the night.
Taylor (8-2-1) overcame Davis (13-3) controlling the fight on the ground in the early minutes to blast Davis with a high kick that sent the “The Irish Hand Grenade” stumbling to the canvas. Taylor pounced on top of his opponent and slammed down unanswered hammer fists, nearly prompting referee Yves Lavigne to stop the fight but Davis recovered enough to reverse position in order to wind up on top of Taylor. From there Davis passed his opponent’s guard and locked in a slick armbar that forced Taylor to tap out.
The first televised bout of the night saw Houston Alexander prove that he was anything but a one-fight wonder with a spectular stoppage victory over former professional boxer Alessio Sakara.
Both fighters evenly slugged it out in the opening moments of the fight but things quickly went in Alexander’s favor when he connected with a perfect knee to Sakara’s jaw, sending the native Italian straight to the mat. Alexander (8-1-0-1) jumped on top of Sakara (11-6-0-1) and pumped away with unanswered bombs until Lavigne stepped in to save Sakara from any further damage.
After the fight, Alexander let everyone know that he wanted to prove his prior win over Keith Jardine was no accident.
“I wanted to prove that my win over Jardine wasn’t a fluke. I think I did that,” stated Alexander.
Gleison Tibau continued his winning ways, earning an unanimous decision over England’s Terry Etim. Tibau (15-4) controlled Etim (10-1) on the ground and unleashed a ground and pound assault over three rounds in what turned out to be a dominating performance for the Brazilian.
Thiago Silva and Tomasz Drwal were both effective in putting their renowned striking skills to use but it was Silva that came away with a TKO win, stopping Drwal in the second round with a beautiful left hook. Drwal landed early and often en route to winning the first round. However his conditioning was found to be poor and Silva (11-0) was able to take advantage in the second, ultimately putting Drwal (14-2) down for the count.
Dennis Siver continued the trend of knockout victories when he put Japan’s Naoyuki Kotani (17-7-4) to sleep with a crushing right hand on the ground. Siver (11-4) avoided Kotani’s slick ground game during the first round and used his opponent’s lack of striking knowledge against him when he knocked him down for the final time with a left hook.
The evening’s first bout saw the UK’s Jess Liaudin get back on track with a stoppage victory over fellow welterweight Anthony Torres. Liaudin (12-8) dominated Torres (5-1) throughout the fight, landing multiple strikes on the feet and on the ground. Liaudin finished Torres off with a final flurry up against the cage, forcing referee Mario Yamasaki to halt the festivities when it was obvious that Torres was unable to defend himself any longer.