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Evans dethrones Griffin for UFC light-heavyweight title
UFC 92 ends year with plenty of fireworks: Mir takes Nog out for interim heavyweight belt; Jackson KOs Silva to end trilogy

Octagonside by Victor Perea and Anthony Springer Jr
Photos by Chris Cozzone

The Ultimate Fighter season one winner vs. The Ultimate Fighter season two winner.

It’s safe to say that with a healthy dose of skepticism following the advent of the reality show among hard core MMA fans, nobody believed that two reality show stars would ever fight for a title—let alone fight each other for the most prestigious title in the UFC.

Griffin shocked the world to capture the belt in July against a heavily favored “Rampage” Jackson.

Evans followed suit, brutally icing Chuck Liddell’s title hopes with an overhand right in September. In addition, “Sugar” rode an undefeated 17-0-1 record into the Octagon last night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, before a sold-out crowd of nearly 15,000 people.

And he would not be denied. In a night of underdog victories, Rashad Evans stopped Forrest Griffin in the third round via TKO.

Rounds one and two saw Griffin utilize his leg kicks, a strategy that helped him claim the light heavyweight title initially. While Evans ate several kicks and checked others, he was not hobbled the way Jackson was. The agile Michigan fighter was never in any serious trouble

After the first two rounds were a seesaw battle, Evans sized the opportunity, when he caught a kick from Griffin, sending the former champion to the mat. Evans attempted to finish with a series of hammer fists, but was unsuccessful.

While Evans claimed to rarely be submitted in practice, the original Ultimate Fighter has a dangerous closed guard. However, several punches prior to tending up Griffin, as Evans was able to easily escape. When Evans rose to his feet, he hit Griffin square from the top position, capturing the title after a series of unanswered punches that sent Griffin’s hands flailing.

The official time was 2:46 in the third round.

With the victory, Evans remains a perfect 18-0-1 and rides into the new year as one of the emerging faces of the world’s biggest mixed martial arts promotion.

–Anthony Springer Jr

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Mir makes statement, destroys Nogueira

Although not nearly the unnecessary and unjustifiably political cluster that is the path to a heavyweight boxing title, the recent state of the UFC’s heavyweight division was so log jammed it needed a set tournament for the right to be king, a tournament that is coming to a head.

The beginning of the “interim” UFC heavyweight champion occurred in 2004 when then champion and rising young star Frank Mir was involved in a motorcycle accident that broke his femur and caused significant ligament damage to his leg. It would be nearly two years before Mir would step into the Octagon. Not only did he survive an injury that would leave most people with one leg, but actually rehabilitated it nearly back to par.

After participating as a coach for the eighth installment of the The Ultimate Fighter Mir faced interim heavyweight champ Antonio “Minotauro” Nogueira to earn the right to take on current champion Brock Lesnar for the undisputed title.

An improbable +300 underdog according to most Vegas sports books, Mir entered the bout against the former Pride champion a lonely man.

A left head kick was the first strike. Although it was blocked, it put Nogueira on notice that his 6’3” high head was not out of reach for the Las Vegas native.

A stiff left hand split the uprights for Mir, then another, followed by a third which got a rise out of the crowd and certainly surprised Nogueira. A sweep from Mir found “Minotauro” on his back while Mir worked from top position for a moment. Casually, and almost arrogantly Mir stood up and looked down upon Nogueira giving him to the nod to get up in a way that was clearly meant to get in the head of the Brazilian.

A stiff left, right uppercut again landed for Mir who had the champion looking confused so far in the first round. Suddenly a stiff left hand sent Nogueira to his back, Mir pounced on the thirty-two year old and after some punishment allowed him to stand up while the crowd eagerly looked on in anticipation of a stoppage.

With less than 30 ticks to go Nogueira unloaded a three-punch combo, his first and only of the round. Like clockwork a double left hand dropped Nogueira again just as the round ended. Inexplicably Mir did not pursue his downed opponent, not even for a slight second instead he simply walked over Nogueira and looked down with a grin and an arrogant nod, rightly so after winning a 10-8.

With the crowd in disbelief of the beating the beloved Nogueira was receiving many onlookers hoped to see what has become almost a routine come from behind finish for Nogueira.  Mir continued to looked incredibly comfortable on his feet. His right uppercut masked by a jab feint had worked wonders up to this point. A straight left tagged Nogueira hard and further showcased Mir’s dominance.

A monster left hook tagged Nogueira followed by a second that sent him falling backwards. Mir jumped on his opponent as referee Herb Dean went to meet him. Mir unloaded some strikes for good measure before Dean stopped the punishment at 1:54 of the second round.

With the TKO victory Mir (12-3) collected the interim heavyweight title along with a-front-of-the-line pass to face Brock Lesnar, whom he has already defeated in February of this year, for the undisputed heavyweight championship.

For the first time in his storied career Nogueira (31-5-1, 1 NC) was stopped, a noteworthy feat for Mir as the legendary fighter has fought a who’s who list of world class fighters.

Showing that it takes a man to cry Mir covered up his face with his hat as he was announced the interim heavyweight champion.

“I didn’t even think I could beat Nogueira,” said Mir, postfight.

“If I was a betting man I wasn’t on Mir’s side tonight,” added the humble new interim champ.

“To come back from what I had to go through and beat the best heavyweight to ever fight in the UFC. I’ve never been more afraid in my life as I was when I walked to the ring tonight.

“I faced such demons after my wreck, to come back and fight the best heavyweight to ever fight in the UFC and get a win over him after what I’ve gone through. It just shows,” Mir had a deep pause and continued, “Everybody right now look at your life, people always say you can’t do shit. I’m proof you can do things. I didn’t even think I could beat Nogueira.”

Immediately after the stoppage Mir ran across the octagon and located ringside observer, his last and next opponent, heavyweight champ Brock Lesnar and made it clear he was ready for a more meaningful meeting than their first.

“We’ll see if he can make it out the first round,” said Mir of Lesnar.

“This time I’ll make him famous on the break that I do to him.”

“Its inevitable, Lesnar has the belt.  We’ll see if this time he makes it out of the first round.” –Victor Perea

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Rampage Avenges Loss, Puts Silva to Sleep

It’s no secret that “Rampage” Jackson and Wanderlei “The Axe Murderer” Silva hate each other. The two had two epic battles in the now defunct Pride organization that saw Silva brutally end Jackson’s night each time.

With the two on U.S. soil in the UFC, it was only a matter of time before the two met again to conclude the legendary trilogy.

Numerous questions surrounded “Rampage” coming into the fight after his decision loss to Forrest Griffin and his pending legal troubles. In addition, Jackson also split from former trainer Juanito Ibarra, and moved his camp across the pond to Wolfslair.

The relocation worked wonders.

In the lead up to the fight, Jackson promised that we’d see a new “Rampage” and he put Silva away with a mean left hook at 3:21 in the first round.

Unlike their first two fights, Jackson didn’t wilt under Silva’s pressure, successfully weaving in and out as Silva attempted to connect with one of his trademark flurries.

Jackson found success early with two straight left hands.  As “The Axe Murderer” attempted to throw a looping punch, Jackson moved out of the way, flooring Silva with the left hook that turned out the lights and sent Silva to dream land.

An extra three punches with Silva on the ground sealed the deal, with Jackson putting his own exclamation point on the rivalry. –Anthony Springer Jr.

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Dollaway stops Massenzio

Holding a victory by way of pin in a junior college wrestling match CB “The Doberman” Dollaway unconsciously held an advantage over his opponent Mike Massenzio. During the pre-fight build-up, Massenzio wore his heart on his sleeve and let it be known he wanted revenge for the unrelated loss to the TUF 7 runner up.

The 26 year old Massenzio clinched to start the middleweight contest. The one year younger Dollaway answered back with hard knees to the body. The two fighters broke away from the clinch and Dollaway threw a hard kick that missed and had him spin around in a 360 tailspin. Dollaway grinned at the awkward miss, but the bad blood would not allow Massenzio to crack a smile.

The two middleweight hopefuls traded with Massenzio finding greater success in that department. Massenzio slapped on a guillotine as the two rivals clinched and after several tense moments Dollaway escaped and the two scrambled for position.

Eventually working his way onto Massenzio’s back, “The Doberman” sunk his hooks in and as Massenzio lay face down covering his head Dollaway pounded away. Shortly after Yves Lavigne jumped in and stopped the contest. Although the stoppage was arguably warranted, Massenzio was not taking direct shots, and was given very little time to improve his position before the stoppage.

At 3:01 of the first round Dollaway (9-2) denied the New Jersey native revenge picking up his second UFC stoppage victory. Massenzio (11-3) was consoled by the crowd as he exited the arena a still promising middleweight. – Victor Perea

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Frenchman TKO’s Red Coat in Vegas

In a battle of European nations that has been fought over a dozen times since the year 1066  Frenchman Cheick Kongo welcomed Britain’s Mostapha Al Turk to the New World of fighting from the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas. Making his UFC debut Lebanon born London schooled Al Turk entered the Octagon fighting for the first time outside his adopted nation.

To start the action a leg kick from Al Turk was caught by Kongo who held on to the foot and tagged his opponent. Al Turk fell back to the mat were he quickly recovered and clinched. Turk pinned Kongo to the fence and was met with a plethora of short elbows to the temple that quickly prompted a change of approach from Al Turk. Still in the clinch, Al Turk threw a right knee towards the 6’4” Kongo that went just a little high and caught the Parisian in the groin. Rolling in pain for several minutes Kongo went to and from a knee until enough obvious adjustments were made for the bout to continue.

As the two faced off to restart Kongo had a devilish look in his eye and very nearly declined a friendly touch of gloves. Eventually tapping the mittens but clearly unhappy about it Kongo was ready to go. Al Turk clinched with under a minute and half to go prompting Kongo to exact revenge with a right knee to the crotch of his own.

Referee Steve Mazzagatti stopped the bout and the crowd had a laugh. A slow motion replay showed Kongo’s revenge was better placed and more painful than Al Turk’s first attempt. The crowd continued to shake their heads and adjust their seats before Mazzagatti brought the two fighters together, giving them a tongue lashing before letting them continue.

Kongo went right after his opponent, straight right-left-double right hand had Al Turk tripping over himself as he fell to his back. Kongo pounced on his hurt adversary and unleashed a slew of right elbows, one of which opened up a nasty gash over the right brow of Al Turk. Grounding and pounding into his opponents face Kongo (23-4-1) finally prompted Mazzagatti to save Al Turk (6-4) at 4:37 of the first round.  –Victor Perea

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Veteran Hardonk too much for debuting Wessel

Had Manny Pacquiao pulled out of his fight with Oscar de la Hoya with less than two weeks before the bout, few unheralded fighters would have stepped up to take his place against the veteran fighter. However when former Arkansas strength and conditioning coach Mike “The Juggernaut” Wessel was offered a position on the fight card for UFC 92 against Antoni Hardonk with less than two weeks to go, the Little Rock resident Wessel jumped at an opportunity to fight in the big leagues after only a year as a professional.

Built like a bulldozer the 6 foot tall, two-hundred sixty pound Wessel came out with ill regard for the power of the veteran kick boxer from Holland. After a sweep Wessel found himself atop the 6’4, two-hundred and forty-five pound Hardonk working some ground and pound. Hardonk stayed cool and tried on an armbar but it didn’t fit and Wessel escaped.

Wessel made his way back to his feet and began to trade with Hardonk at a blistering heavyweight pace. With Ernesto Hoost standing in his corner Hardonk went to his bread and butter and began throwing monster kicks at the stout Wessel. The Weesp born fighter who splits his training camp between Amsterdam and Los Angeles decided to clinch. Try as he might Wessel could not avoid but only survive a sack full of hard knees to the body from the clinch towards the end of the first.

Wessel wrestled his opponent to the ground to avoid further punishment where Hardonk sat very comfortably in full guard. Hardonk attempted to find a home for a triangle choke but fell short. A second failed attempt forced the game Wessel to change positions, after referee Yves Lavigne told the pair to speed it up Hardonk got to his feet and gets swept.

Hardonk weaseled his way around Wessel and took his back, securing both hooks after a brief struggle. Wessel, pinned beneath Hardonk had no choice but to turn face up and leave himself vulnerable to have a chance at escaping. Hardonk unloaded as Wessel tried to squirm his way out but was unable to. Unsuccessful in his attempts to escape Wessel sat defenseless until Yves Lavigne stepped in and stopped the bout at 2:09 of round two.

With the victory the likeable Hardonk (8-4) earned his third straight stoppage victory inside the octagon and climbs one step higher towards a title shot while the game Wessel (8-2) has nothing to be ashamed of in a good showing on very late notice.

“I want to thank him for taking the fight on late notice. It takes courage to come in last minute,” said Hardonk of his opponent. – Victor Perea

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No fireworks as Okami bests Lister in three

At one point, Yushin Okami was the number one contender for Anderson Silva. One loss to Rich Franklin and a broken hand saw Okami’s title hopes slip away, as other fighters moved past the last man to defeat the current champion.

On the flip side, Dean Lister seemed to be riding a wave up the middle weight ladder after the grappler submitted Jeremy Horn in his last UFC outing.

When the two title hopefuls locked horns, the crowd repeatedly grew impatient as Okami earned an uninspired and uneventful unanimous decision victory.

From the outset, Okami looked to keep it standing, while Lister—a decorated grappler—wanted the bout to go to the ground. The result was nothing short of 15 minutes of each fighter, unsuccessfully trying to impose their will.

To Okami’s credit, he was able to make Lister’s ground game a non factor, stuffing every takedown attempt in the first round. When Lister was able to get the fight to the mat, it was due to Okami following him their—and subsequently letting him up.

The boos that showered both men after the first round gave neither man an extra incentive to put on an exciting fight. In a move that can only be described as bizarre, Lister appeared to sit Indian style while inviting Okami to follow him to the mat. The result ended in a referee standup and more boos from the crowd.

In the third round, the pair attempted to swing for the fences, with neither able to land anything definitive. As time threatened to expire, Lister again laid on the canvas, with Okami—who had already locked up the victory—following him. From the top position, “Thunder” was able to land a series of hammer fists and right hands.

With neither Lister nor Okami in danger of finishing the fight, time expired in the third and final round.

All three judges scored the fight 30-27 for Okami. –Anthony Springer Jr.

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The Hammer Pounds Out Andy

 Both Matt “The Hammer” Hamill and Reese Andy were outstanding college wrestlers, and this test of wills would be decided on the feet. Hamill won the battle of attrition, stopping Andy at 2:19 in the second round.

Andy looked to rebound from a disappointing debut which saw him drop a decision to Brandon Vera. The man known as “Riptide” came out swinging in the first round, utilizing his jab to keep nullify Hamill’s reach advantage.

It appeared that Hamill would be picked apart early, as he frequently charged Andy with his hands down. Andy took advantage of his opponent’s suspect boxing skills, connecting with enough shots to bloody Hamill’s right eye.

The former Division III wrestler showed signs of life as the opening round came to a close, finding his range with an uppercut and a jab.

Though Andy got the best of Hamill on the feet, he did not leave the round unscathed and suffered a mouse under the left eye from Hamill’s blows.

Round two was truly Hammer time, as Andy appeared to run out of gas in the early minutes of the round. After stuffing two Andy takedowns, the Loveland, Ohio born fighter went to work, staggering Andy with a knee. The shot proved to be the beginning of the end as Hamill connected with a body punch as Andy was pinned stuck on the side of the Octagon cage. When Andy faltered, Hamill used his right hand to hold Andy’s face in place and proceeded to have target practice with the left.

After securing a full mount and raining a series of unanswered left hands, Steve Mazagatti had seen enough, awarding the TKO victory to Hamill.

Andy drops his second straight in the UFC, while Hamill moves to 7-2 and inches his way up the long light heavyweight ladder. –Anthony Springer Jr.

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Blackburn escapes with decision

After entering the MGM Grand Garden Arena to Michael Jackson’s “Bad”, So Cal son now residing in Seattle, the appropriately nicknamed “Bad” Brad Blackburn seemed to have the fight all but won, at least by the count of cheering in his favor from those in the arena. Yamagata, Japan’s veteran fighter Ryo Chonan most definitely thought otherwise but failed to show it until the last leg of the bout.

Blackburn made it clear he was looking for the stoppage from the get go. Right hand-left kick to the body as soon as the contest started. Early and often Blackburn’s hands left his side and reached towards his opponent, gaining momentum with every stiff jab and left hook that landed. Only a minute into the contest during a moment of silence, Captain Obvious yelled out from the stands that Chonan, had funny hair (See Photo). After a chuckle the two continued to trade, with Blackburn dominating, landing at 2:1 odds in his second UFC appearance since being evicted from the now defunct IFL. Tired of getting tagged Chonan came at Blackburn with what appeared to be a flying knee, instead the hop-skip and jump routine landed him on his back after an embarrassing miss.

After thoroughly out striking the thirty-two year old Chonan during the first round it appeared Blackburn needed only keep up the pace in order to finish the fight. Although moving through the second round at a slightly slower pace than he did the first, Blackburn continued to win the standup battle and gave Chonan fits with the constant tat-tat-tat of strikes.  A Chonan right kick was caught and countered by a stiff right hand and after a very brief visit to the ground Blackburn voluntarily stood up.

A hard right hand saw blood drawn from above Chonan’s left eyebrow. The cut may have come from an earlier strike however Chonan had bleached his eyebrow’s and painted them red in accordance with the rest of his visible hair. Blackburn with his foot easing off the gas pedal, continued to tag his way past Chonan as the second round closed.

Surely aware his lack of success during the first six minutes had left him behind on the scorecards, Chonan came out firing for the third and final round. After missing a flying knee, the Japanese fighter went to town with the 31 year old Blackburn, who wanted to back peddle his way towards a victory ate another and was reminded that he was in a fight not a dance. Chonan landed a second uppercut, then a third that opened up Blackburn’s face getting a rise out of the crowd. With fresh blood pouring down Blackburn’s face “The Piranha” gave further chase, but with less than ten seconds to go, even another monster uppercut would not be enough to bring down “Bad” Brad Blackburn in time to make a difference.

The judges awarded Blackburn the unanimous decision via identical scores of 29-28.  Chonan’s late stretch heroics proved too little too late, while the crowd booed the decision after the third round beat down Blackburn was frank is his assessment.

“I won the first two and I definitely lost the third, it’s a three round fight,” added Blackburn (14-9-1, 1NC) who handed the PRIDE FC veteran Chonan (15-9) his second loss in three UFC outings. – Victor Perea

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Barry Puts “the Viking” on Ice

Pat Barry needed just 2:36 in the first round of his UFC debut to dispense of Dan Evensen. The undefeated kick boxer was the aggressor from the outset, landing a series of punches and leg kicks. From the opening bell, Evensen appeared to be out of the fight, delivering lack luster punches and half hearted takedowns.

After Barry escaped from Evensen’s guard, he delivered a vicious left leg kick that found its mark on “The Vikings” knee. The blow sent Evensen limping to the canvas, prompting referee Yves Lavingne to call the fight.

“This is better than Christmas man!” an excited Barry told Joe Rogan. “Thanks for having me.”

With the win, Barry improves to 4-0. –Anthony Springer Jr.

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