Enter 'The Dragon'
Machida remains perfect, dethroning Evans for UFC light-heavy belt
Octagonside by Anthony Springer Jr & David L. Hudson
Photos by Mary Ann Owen
“Sugar” Rashad Evans and Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida’s light heavyweight title match had the makings of a classic battle.
Both fighter’s boasted undefeated records, Evans at 18-0-1 and Machida at 14-0. Both have been impressive as of late—Evans with knockout victories over Chuck Liddell and Forrest Griffin, Machida with a knockout victory over Thiago Silva. Both were highly regarded as two of the world’s best light heavyweights.
However, sometimes pre-fight hype doesn’t translate to the actual fight. Instead of an instant classic, fans were treated to a one side drubbing as Machida overwhelmed, dominated, and eventually knocked out Evans to claim the UFC light heavyweight championship.
Machida stopped Evans with a big left hand at 3:57 in the second round. For the first time since perhaps season two of The Ultimate Fighter, Evans was in danger. The final blow that separated the former champion from consciousness turned his legs into rubber. To the dismay of fans who had big money dreams by betting on the underdog and the delight of those rooting for Machida, Evans folded up like an Origami project, crashing to the canvas and against the cage.
The early going was slow, with Evans slow to engage his challenger. The pace of the fight elicited boos from the crowd who came to see a fight and in atypical fashion, Machida brought the fight to the former champion.
“The Dragon’s” early high kicks echoed throughout the MGM Grand Garden arena, keeping Evans on the defensive. Like so many of the Brazilians, Evans was unable to solve the puzzle that is Lyoto Machida.
Evans landed two noticeable strikes in an exchange with Machida that signaled the beginning of the end of the bout. Moments after, Machida landed a left hand that would’ve put any other fighter on dream street. Sensing blood in the water, “The Dragon” went for the kill rocking Evans with several more punches but was unable to finish the fight on the ground.
Evans last stand came against the side of the cage where one final Machida left hand began a new era in MMA.
“Karate is back!” a happy Machida exclaimed to Joe Rogan.
Machida concluded the high impact pay-per-view with an inspirational speech to all the fans watching.
"If you have a dream, go ahead, it's possible," he added. –Anthony Springer Jr.
Hughes ekes out barn burner, puts stamp on rivalry with Serra
The tale of the two Matt’s—Hughes and Serra goes back two years. The war of words began on season four of The Ultimate Fighter when Hughes made a comment about Gracie jiu-jitsu, of which Serra is a student. Verbal jousting continued on season six of the hit reality show, but the match that was supposed to culminate at the end of the season was not to be.
Injuries forced the delay of what can be deemed “The Ultimate Rivalry.” Matt Serra went on to capture—and later lose—the welterweight title, and Hughes dropped matches to current champion Georges St. Pierre and Thiago Alves.
The hyped co-main event drew considerable press in the run up to the fight, and on Saturday night, all the talking ceased as two former welterweight champions clashed inside the Octagon.
Serra, a +190 underdog, emerged as the clear fan favorite, entering the ring to the theme music from the Rocky franchise—and in many eyes, he was indeed the underdog just as the Italian Stallion was against the likes of Ivan Drago and “Clubber” Lang.
In what may signal the twilight of Matt Hughes’ career, the Midwesterner met a mixed reception from the Las Vegas crowd.
When the final bell sounded, Matt Hughes lived up to his music, proving that a country boy would survive, outlasting archrival Matt “The Terror” Serra to win a 29-28 unanimous decision victory.
Serra dropped Hughes in the first with a body shot but was unable to close the deal. Hughes recovered and went on to score a takedown, gaining the crowd’s approval. The two time welterweight champion nearly finished the bout in the first, but failed to lock in the rear naked choke.
Round two saw Hughes return to his bread and butter, holding Serra down for much of the round and punishing from the top position with body shots. Serra showed signs of life in the final seconds of the round, motioning for Hughes to bring the fight to him.
The third and final round brought the Grand Garden crowd to their feet as the pair matched up for the final five minute stanza of their two year long rivalry. Like the second round, Hughes dominated from the top position. However, Serra used his jiu-jitsu skills to force a standup. To the surprise of everyone, “The Terror” scored the night’s final takedown with 30 seconds left in the round. Serra was active from the top, but was unable to finish the fight as time ticked to a close.
While many thought that Serra may have stolen the round—and thus the fight—all three judges gave the nod to Hughes, who declared that we have not seen the last of Illinois favorite fighting son.
With the win, Hughes improves to an impressive 44-7. –Anthony Springer Jr.
McFedries Massacres Foupa-Bakan
The next bout featured strikers’ extraordinaire Drew “the Massacre” McFedries and Xavier “Professor X” Fouba-Bakan. “Professor X” looked for his first win in the Octagon after losing to the talented Dennis Kang in his last bout. Meanwhile, McFedries also desperately needs a win in the Octagon, as he has lost his last bouts to Mike Massengio and Thales Leites.
The two southpaws started off slowly before McFedries lands a great right hand that drops Foupa-Bakan. He then attacked vigorously throwing powerful right-hand bombs. Yves Lavigne stopped the contest and this time the crowd did not boo as vigorously when Lavigne called a halt to the contest only 37 seconds into the bout.
McFedries lived up to his nickname “the Massacre.” “I come in ready to throw down and go, go, go,” he told Joe Rogan in the post-fight interview. –David L. Hudson
Sonnen puts on clinic
In the battle of student vs. teacher, Chael Sonnen put on a clinic en route to a unanimous decision victory over Dan Miller.
All three rounds proved to be mirror images of each other. Miller got the best of the standup until Oregon’s toughest real estate agent scored with a double leg takedown.
On the canvas, Sonnen—who vowed to punch a hole on Miller’s head—damaged his former pupil with punches and elbows from the dominant position. Twice Miller nearly pulled out the victory, sinking in a tight guillotine in the first round and one in the second before the veteran Sonnen pulled off the Houdini like escape.
Sonnen’s third round tactics drew the ire of the fans who, without a doubt wanted to see some leather exchanged between the pair.
When the final bell sounded, both fighters were greeted to a crowd united by boos.
The match was not without its comedic moments. Referee Yves Lavigne was consistently heckled by fans due to his controversial stoppage of the Nover-Bradley fight. At one point, a fan yelled “Hey ref stop the fight!” drawing laughter from some fans in attendance.
While the match may not have been the most exciting to casual fans, Sonnen successfully rebounded after his UFC 97 loss to Demian Maia.
The victory is a testament to a calculated game plan on the part of the Team Quest member. He’s just a tough guy,” Sonnen said of Miller. “I planned to take him down and keep him there.”
The two escapes from certain loss to the guillotines were also the result of mind over matter it seems.
“I went in there and I knew I wasn’t tapping. I said I’m not tapping tonight. –Anthony Springer Jr.
The first bout of the televised pay-per-view section of UFC 98 featured former UFC 98 lightweight champion Sean “the Muscle Shark” Sherk against once-beaten Frankie “the Answer” Edgar. The winner could be in line for a shot at the lightweight championship.
Edgar led off with a left leg kick. Sherk moved forward – so far we have a boxing match. Sherk pushed Edgar up against the cage.
Edgar shot for a takedown, but Sherk thwarted it. Edgar won the battle of the jabs. Edgar is showing faster hands. The two threw combinations. The two clinch and Sherk landed a left hook.
Sherk kept looking for the overhand right. Sherk threw a right leg kick that Edgar catches and took Sherk to the canvas. It is now a grappling match but the two returned to their feet.
Sherk threw a combination with mean intentions at the end of the round, but Edgar carried the round. Sherk showed no intention of taking the match to the ground.
Fightnews score: Edgar 10-9
Sherk stepped up his aggressiveness, but the match remains a boxing match. Sherk landed a good left hand. Sherk landed another left hook. Edgar connected with a leg kick. The two continued to engage well. Edgar landed a good knee to the midsection, but Sherk recovered quickly. It was only Edgar who appeared to be trying for takedowns.
Sherk still tried to find a home for his overhand right, while Edgar gave lateral movement. Sherk landed a right hand. Edgar then connected with a right hand in response. The two engaged in a furious exchange after Edgar scored with another right hand. A low blow from Edgar temporarily halted the action. Edgar landed a lead right.
This round was closer than the first round, but Sherk has fallen in love with his stand-up.
Fightnews score: Edgar 10-9
Sherk again advanced, perhaps knowing he could be behind two rounds. Sherk shot in for a takedown – finally. Sherk landed a few good shots. Sherk has a cut over his left eye. Edgar has more speed. Sherk stepped up his aggressiveness even more.
Sherk tried for a takedown, but is thwarted effectively. Edgar landed another a right hand. The crowd chanted “Frankie, Frankie.” At the end of the round, Edgar put in a guillotine that might be enough to steal the round.
Fightnews score: Edgar 10-9
Fightnews score: Edgar 30-27
All three judges scored the bout 30-27 for Edgar. “I knew I had to step my game up,” Edgar said. “I want to get a shot at the title. I definitely worked on my movement and my feet.”
For some reason, Sherk seemed content to engage in a boxing match with a younger, quicker opponent. “The Muscle Shark” fought similarly to the way he did at UFC 84 against B.J. Penn, abandoning his potent wrestling attack. While he did not fight badly, one wonders if the outcome could have been different if he had utilized his assets.
Edgar now moves closer to a title shot. –David L. Hudson
Yoshida taps Wolff
Yoshiyuki Yoshida rebounded from the knockout loss to Josh Koscheck, defeating Brandon Wolff in 2:24 of the first round with a guillotine choke.
Both fighters wasted no time trying to impose their will on the other. After trading leather, Wolff and Yoshida found themselves tied up in the corner of the Octagon. As many MMA purists will say, it only takes one mistake to end a fight. A brief slip up from Wolff allowed Yoshida to sink in the choke.
Wolff held out as long as he could, but could not escape the vice grip Yoshida held on his neck and was forced to tap out—twice in fact because referee Steve Mazagatti did not see the first.
With the victory, Yoshida improves to 11-4. –Anthony Springer Jr.
Controversial end mars short-lived Bradley-Nover bout
Kyle Bradley earned a controversial victory, stopping Philippe Nover at 1:04 in the first round.
After a brief feeling out process, both fighters went to work. Nover struck first with a knee and a right hand. However, Bradley, who owned 8 previous KO victories would not be denied, stumbling “The Filipino Assassin” with a hard right hand and that’s where the controversy begins.
Bradley tossed the Ultimate Fighter to the mat and followed up with another hard punch that landed flush on Nover’s jaw, prompting referee Yves Lavigne to take a closer look. When Nover scrambled, Bradley landed another right hand, causing Nover to go limp. At that point, Lavigne had seen enough, stopping the fight to a raucous chorus of boos from the MGM Grand Garden crowd and protests from Nover.
“All I did was go out here and throw punches,” Bradley said in defense of his performance.
While the stoppage may be questionable and controversial, it may be best to err on the side of caution. –Anthony Springer Jr.
Larson too much for Pyle
Brock Larson sunk Mike “Quick Sand” Pyle with an arm triangle, winning his second consecutive UFC fight at 3:04 in the first round.
Pyle took the fight on short notice, but seemed physically up for the challenge. The Xtreme Couture fighter nearly caught Larson with two early submissions, but Larson was able to power out, slamming Pyle to the mat.
After getting the best of Pyle on the ground, Larson advanced to side control, where he sunk in the arm bar, forcing Pyle to tap. –Anthony Springer Jr.
Roop wins split decision
The first bout of the evening featured two former members of The Ultimate Fighter Team Nogueira v. Team Mir, George Roop and “Diamond” Dave Kaplan. Both fighters were looking for their first win in the Octagon, as Kaplan lost his debut against Junie Browning and Roop lost his debut to Shane Nelson.
The shorter and stockier Kaplan advanced, showing good aggressiveness, but ate several punches from the lankier Roop, who showed both fast hands and quick leg kicks. Early in the first round, Kaplan sported a bloody nose.
Roop also displayed a good, effective jab and several more quick leg kicks to the head. Kaplan still moved forward, occasionally landing some good left hooks.
Roop landed a nice uppercut. Later in the round, Kaplan shot for a takedown and got it near the end of the round. However, Roop landed a good upkick. Roop’s effective striking carried him the round.
Fightnews score: 10-9 Roop
Roop again led off with quick leg kicks, while Kaplan displayed good aggressiveness. Roop landed a good body shot and showed good boxing skills over his shorter opponent.
Kaplan threw Roop down, but Roop placed him in guard and remained dangerous from the bottom with elbows. Kaplan obtained two more takedowns and tried mightily to do damage via the ground and pound.
This was a close round, but Kaplan’s multiple takedowns earned him the nod here.
Fightnews score: 10-9 Kaplan
The fight could be in the balance heading into the final round. Roop kept up his effective jab, while Kaplan throwing jabs. Kaplan kept advancing and showed good aggression, but Roop landed a good leg kick.
Kaplan landed a low leg kick and shot for a takedown. Kaplan threw him down and moved for side control. Kaplan attempted a guillotine and then moved back into side control. When the two stood up, Roop again got the better of the action.
Roop landed a lead right leg kick to head. He kept firing punches and landed a good uppercut.
Fightnews score: Roop 10-9
Fightnews final score: 29-28 Roop
Actual verdict: The judges have it a split decision victory for Roop. Boxing judge and referee Tony Weeks has it 29-28 for Kaplan, but the other two judges, Sal D’Amato and Lester Griffin, scored it 30-27 for Roop. –David L. Hudson
Soszynski stops Gusmao
The third bout of the evening featured the tough Krzysztof Soszynski against former IFL fighter Andre Gusmao. Soszynski has won his first two bouts in the Octagon via submission, including a The two southpaws showed good sportsmanship in the Octagon before battle.
Soszynski landed a good right hook and showed extreme aggression. Gusmao landed a good leg kick and appeared to do damage, but Sosynski escaped and recovered very quickly. Sosynski landed a low blow, but apologized. Later in the round, Soszynski landed a devastating right hook and followed it up with two more for good measure, as Gusmao’s body slumped down near the cage. This was a devastating kayo at 3:17 of the first round.
In his post-fight interview with Joe Rogan, Soszynski said it best: “I was hoping for a knockout. ... The boy hits hard, but I hit harder.” It is hard to argue with him after that performance – his third straight win in the Octagon. –David L. Hudson
Barry taps out
The fifth bout of the evening featured the big boys – 237 lb. Pat Barry and 263 lb. Tim Hague. Barry, a kickboxer, entered the Octagon with a perfect 4-0 record with 4 kayoes.
Barry threw a quick left leg kick. Hague lunged in but is tagged with a left that busts his nose. Barry landed another good kick but then Hague took Barry down and moved for side control. Hague landed some backfists and then tried to sink in a guillotine. He then rolled Barry over to sink the guillotine in further. Barry tapped and referee Steve Mazagoti stopped it at 1:42.
“You’ll never see me quit,” said Hague. “You can turn my face into mashed potatoes but I will never quit. … I’m ready to drink some beers.” The man known as “the Thrashing Machine” has earned those beers. –David L. Hudson