Following the review of Cage Rage 23, the mixed martial arts action continues as we step across the pond for the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s 76th show, Knockout, headlined by a light-heavyweight fight between two warriors making their returns after heavy defeats - Chuck “The Iceman” Lidell and “The Dean of Mean” Keith Jardine, and shown on Bravo on a twenty-four hour delay. As usual, our hosts for the evening are Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan, joined later on commentary by Heavyweight Champion Randy Couture.
The evening’s action begins in the lightweight division, with Tyson Griffin taking on Thiago Tavares. This fight began slowly, each fighter feeling each other out until Griffin took Tavares down, and controlled the rest of the round.
The opposite was the case at the beginning of the second, as Tavares connected with a flying knee to the side of the head, and looked like he was going to get a submission when he hooked his legs around Griffin’s back as he stood up, and tried to go for a choke. But Griffin’s defence was outstanding, and he managed to get out of this predicament. But it wasn’t long before Tavares was in the same position, and this time Griffin got out of the hold by dropping his opponent on his head, and the ending the round on top.
The third round saw both fighters show off their grappling skills, with Griffin’s transitions being the best I’ve seen in a UFC fight, or any other MMA fight, for ages. Things began to slow down a little towards the end, but that was understandable given the pace these two had gone at it since the opening bell. In the end, the judges gave the unanimous decision to Griffin, which was a good decision, reward for a great performance. Another example of MMA at it’s finest.
It’s up to the welterweight division next, with Diego Sanchez against Jon Fitch. This one began with Sanchez racing across the octagon in an attempt to take Fitch down, and things slowed down for a while until Fitch took Sanchez down, controlling for the most part, although it looked like Sanchez would get an armbar synched in.
The second round was dead even. Each men went for submission holds, each used strikes, in fact it seemed like there was something happening in every second of the round.
The third round was just as action packed. Sanchez went for a guillotine choke early on, but Fitch managed to escape and fight back, and later in the round, Sanchez went for two more submission attempts. With the second fight of the night going the distance, it was again down to the judges, with the split decision going to Sanchez. Given the performances of both me in this fight, it was shame that there had to be a loser, as both fighters put in great efforts. Two great fights in a row so far.
We go up to the light heavyweight division next, and the highly anticipated fight between Forrest Griffin and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. This was Griffin’s toughest test yet, a test he himself requested. The first round was jam packed with action, with both fighters being on top at times, Rua to begin with as he took Griffin down, with the action going back and forth throughout, with Griffin showing great takedown defence, and a knot developing on Rua’s forehead.
The frantic pace continued as the second round began, and although Griffin was in control, Rua managed to open up a nasty cut near Griffin’s right eye with an elbow. But Griffin’s dominance continued, and it was surprising that given his past tremendous conditioning that Rua was clearly exhausted as the round went on.
The third round began with Rua taking Griffin down, but because he was gassing he couldn’t do much, and Griffin was able to escape, taking Shogun’s back, and as the fight continued, Griffin was once again dominant, and with just twenty seconds left on the clock, Griffin synched in the rear naked choke to get the tap out victory. This was a fantastic performance from Griffin as he dominated one of Pride’s best fighters, and even though the likes of Wanderlai Silva are making the leap over from Pride, Griffin must surely be a top contender for Rampage Jackson’s unified title.
Main event time, with more action in the light heavyweight division, with Keith Jardine facing former champion Chuck Liddell, two fighters on the comeback trail following defeats. The first round saw the fighters going toe to toe with each other, with Liddell’s dangerous left hook opening a cut near Jardine’s right eye, and even though he back peddled for a great deal of the round, Jardine did well with his kicks.
The second saw Jardine catch Liddell with a hard right that sent him crashing to the mat, although he got up straight away, and Jardine’s kicks reddened up the left side of the Iceman’s body as well. The Dean of Mean’s confidence seemed to grow as the round went on, as he avoided Liddell’s punches, but scored with his own punches and kicks. Liddell did manage to cause more damage to Jardine though, opening up a cut on the left side of his face.
Jardine continued with the leg kicks into the third, reddening Liddell’s left leg, and continued to connect with his own punches while avoiding Liddell’s own. In fact I was wondering if this was actually Lidell fighting here, because this clearly wasn’t the same Iceman who’d dominated the division for so long, and as the round ended, both fighters looked utterly shattered. In the end, the split decision went to Jardine in what could be termed an upset. A great effort from Jardine as he stepped up to the plate, and a disappointing performance from Liddell, and you have to wonder if the dream fight with Wanderlai Silva, which Liddell would have had in December had he won, will still go ahead.
In conclusion - another great show from the UFC crew, not one bad fight on the broadcast. I know it may be wrong to compare the UFC to Britain’s Cage Rage, but given that they are in competition with each other with regards to their television and overall product over here, Cage Rage could learn a lot from their American cousins, especially with their main events. Those of you who have seen two certain former professional boxers on their last two shows will know what I mean.