Photo by Ed Pollard.
Georges St. Pierre came closer to cementing his status as the top welterweight in the world when he gave future UFC hall-of-famer Matt Hughes a drubbing over the course of two rounds before submitting his idol with an armbar during the main event of last night’s UFC 79: Nemesis.
Hughes was originally slated to face fellow Ultimate Fighter 6 coach and current welterweight champ Matt Serra but Serra was forced to pull out of the bout after suffering herniated discs in his lower back during training. Hughes was then given a selective list of opponents that agreed to step in and the former nine-time champion picked St. Pierre in an attempt to try and avenge a prior loss to “Rush” at UFC 65 last year.
However it was obvious from the start of the fight that it was only a matter of time before St. Pierre was going to come away with a win. The Canadian took Hughes down at will throughout the first round, mounting his opponent and connecting with a number of unanswered punches while his opponent held on for dear life.
Hughes found his way back to his feet a couple of times but St. Pierre quickly put an end to that with wrestling skills that have made him consider possibly trying out for the Canadian Olympic wrestling squad next year.
The second round started off much like the first and after mounting and taking his opponent’s back, St. Pierre locked in an armbar that caused Hughes’ face to grimace in pain. The Hillsboro, Illinois native then verbally submitted to referee Steve Mazzagatti, ending the fight.
Many fans showed concern when St. Pierre took the fight on short notice as he would only have a little over a month to prepare for the bout. Training wasn’t an excuse for Hughes during a post-fight interview with UFC color commentator Joe Rogan.
“I came in 120 percent,” Hughes said. “I really trained hard for this fight. I brought in some of the best people and we really had a good game plan. Georges is just a better fighter.”
Hughes also acknowledged that he “had some thinking to do” in terms of continuing his career.
With the win, St. Pierre becomes the interim UFC welterweight champion. He will now wait for Serra to fully recover from his injury and the two will unify the belts at some point next year.
Even though he deserved the win with a show of complete domination, St. Pierre refused to consider himself the welterweight champion, as that distinction is held by the last man to defeat St. Pierre inside the Octagon.
“That’s why I’m going to take off this belt,” St. Pierre said after the fight. “Thanks to the UFC for giving me that; it’s a good honor, but the real champion is Matt Serra. Until I get my belt back, I’m not going to consider myself champion. Matt Serra that night beat me fair and square. He was the better man and I made many mistakes and had a lot of issues that night. Next time when I fight him, it might be a different story and people will understand what I’m talking about.”
The sold-out crowd at the Mandalay Bay Events Center also witnessed one of the biggest fights in mixed martial arts history when long-time light heavyweight rivals Chuck Liddell and Wanderlei Silva finally clashed in a fight that was years in the making.
After multiple attempts to try to match the two up while Silva was a member of PRIDE Fighting Championship, UFC President Dana White was able to sign Silva after UFC parent company Zuffa purchased PRIDE in March.
Many expected a slug-fest between the two potent strikers and that’s exactly what they got.
After an initial feeling-out process, Liddell and Silva went toe-to-toe with a fast-paced exchange at the mid-point of the first round. Each fighter was able to land a shot that rocked the other and it seemed like the fight could end at any time with the force of punches being thrown. The second stanza saw much of the same. While Silva seemed to get the better of the striking, “The Iceman” cut his opponent open over his eye and scored a take-down for the first time in recent memory.
With both fighters breathing heavily, Liddell scored yet another surprising take-down at the start of the final round. While the action on the ground ended relatively quickly, Liddell was still able to control the pace on the feet and out-strike his opponent en route to a unanimous decision victory according to the judge’s scorecards.
Quite possibly the biggest fight in mixed martial arts to date certainly lived up to the hype. Both men were glad it was finally able to happen.
“It would have been a travesty if both of us didn’t fight because it was a great fight for the fans,” Liddell said to Joe Rogan after the fight. “We were just swinging. That’s just good old fashioned stand there and bang. He had a lot better chin than I thought he did. I hit him with a lot of shots real hard but he still kept coming.”
Even though Silva failed to win in his return to the UFC, he was still gracious in defeat.
“He’s a very tough guy,” said Silva. “I gave my best. Win or lose, I like to give my emotion to the fans, here and everywhere. Thank you for coming. Next time I’ll train harder and come out on top in my next fight.”
Eddie Sanchez and newcomer Soa Palelei duked it out over three slow-paced but heavy rounds before Sanchez caused enough damage to Palelei’s right eye to have the native Hawaiian more concerned about his injury than the fight, thus forcing referee Mario Yamasaki to move in and wave things off.
The fight wasn’t very aesthetically pleasing, but Sanchez earned the first two rounds on the scorecards relatively easily by out-landing his opponent. The uppercut seemed to be Sanchez’s bread and butter in the fight as he connected with it numerous times throughout the fight, including four straight uppercuts during the final moments before the fight was stopped.
Lyoto Machida kept his undefeated streak in the UFC and MMA alive as he controlled PRIDE convert Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou over three rounds before submitting him with an arm-triangle.
You would have never known that Sokoudjou scored two of the biggest upsets in MMA history earlier this year as he experienced much difficulty in stopping Machida from connecting with punches and kicks throughout the first round. Machida also scored a takedown during the first five minutes but was unable to do much with it.
When the fight went to the ground in the second round, it was a different story. Machida peppered Sokoudjou with unanswered bomb after unanswered bomb. Sokoudjou found his way back up to his feet but was dropped by a straight right from Machida. From there, Machida worked for an arm-triangle multiple times before finally securing the submission. Sokoudjou gave a mini-tapout before going unconscious.
Machida’s win is just another one over a big name that he has defeated over the course of his career. The undefeated karate black belt now finds himself in line for a potential title shot down the line.
The first televised fight of the night saw former training partners turned enemies Rich Clementi and Melvin Guillard spill their personal hatred into the cage.
Guillard had Clementi on edge throughout the first round as he swung away with overhand punches and hooks that missed the target but forced “No Love” to back away from the shots. Guillard stunned Clementi with a straight right but Clementi was able to pick Guillard up and slam him down after Guillard charged at his opponent, hoping to take advantage of his daze.
Clementi was quick to secure Guillard’s back. For possibly the first time ever in a sanctioned bout, Clementi attempted to submit Guillard with a full nelson. After that didn’t work, Clementi shifted his focus to securing a rear naked choke and did so after a minute. Guillard tried to fight the hold but was eventually forced to tap out before he was put to sleep.
Referee Herb Dean stopped the fight and Clementi told Guillard to “suck it” with a patented D-Generation-X crotch chop before walking back to his corner. Guillard took exception and started charging at Clementi but was restrained by Dean who tackled him against the cage.
James Irvin was awarded a win over Luis Cane by disqualification after Cane knocked Irvin out with an illegal knee in the first round of their bout.
The two both connected with punches that rocked the other during the opening minute of the fight. After clinching, Irvin locked in a standing guillotine choke. Cane slammed Irvin down to the mat in a successful attempt to break the hold but ended up delivering a knee to Irvin’s head while he was down, which is illegal under the unfied rules of mixed martial arts. Irvin was knocked out cold and deemed unable to continue, giving Cane his first loss inside the confines of the UFC.
Manny Gamburyan defeated Nate Mohr in just 90 seconds in their preliminary bout. Gamburyan scored an early takedown after an exchange on the feet and then dropped back for an ankle lock. Gamburyan secure the hold, Mohr tapped out and ended up suffering a broken ankle according to a post-fight examination by NSAC doctors.
Roan Carneiro attempted submission after submission before finally stopping veteran Tony DeSouza with strikes.
In the first preliminary bout of the evening, Mark Bocek gave wrestler Doug Evans a taste of his own medicine by scoring key takedowns en route to a unanimous decision win.
Notes: UFC President Dana White announced that Tim Sylvia will meet Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira for the interim UFC heavyweight title at UFC 81 during the PPV broadcast. Chuck Liddell and Wanderlei Silva received “Fight of the Night” honors. Eddie Sanchez was awarded “Knockout of the Night”; Georges St. Pierre “Submission of the Night”. Wanderlei Silva was transported to a local hospital for observation after his fight. The official attendance was announced as 11,075. The live gate for the event was $4.9 million. Luis Cane’s disqualification was the first in the UFC since Wes Sims was disqualified for stomping Frank Mir at UFC 43.
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