UFC 96 in Columbus, Ohio, turned out to be an exciting night for UFC fans. Every match of the night seemed to bring some element of shock and awe.
We also learned that Frank Mir had sustained an injury during training that would postpone the title match between himself and Brock Lesnar at UFC 98. The disappointing news was however candy-coated when it was announced that either "Rampage" Jackson or Lyoto Machida would face Rashad Evans and headline UFC 98 in place of Lesnar and Mir, which will be moved to UFC 100 on Independence Day.
If Rampage could pull off the win over Keith Jardine, he would have a shot. If Jardine pulled it out, Lyoto Machida would get the fight. So, this made the main event at the sold-out Nationwide Arena even more exciting.
First, we saw America's inspiration Matt "The Hammer" Hamill virtually decapitate Mark Munoz with a brutal head kick late in the first round, adding his second win since losing to Rich Franklin.
Matt Brown also added a win to his record by destroying the Serra Jiu Jitsu protege Pete Sell in just over a 1:30 in the first round. Brown, an Ultimate Fighter 7 alum, came after Sell like a wild Banshee throwing a flurry of head kicks and missile-like fists that dazed Pete Sell so badly that his knees were as wobbly as a bowl of jello. Towards the end of the fight, Brown was literally begging the ref to stop the fight as he felt no further damage needed to be inflicted upon his opponent.
On to the Heavyweights!
We saw the undefeated Shane Carwin face his toughest opponent yet, Gabriel Gonzaga. The two giants, both over 250 pounds, wasted no time as they engaged in a stand-up battle. Gonzaga initially landed some big shots that had Carwin dazed momentarily. Carwin regained his composure and slipped a right hand counter that was only thrown from half-cock to earn a KO over Gonzaga.
With a win over Gonzaga, Carwin has placed himself in the top pool of fighters, which is shaping the heavyweight division into something great. He also has earned himself some credit as being the only UFC fighter that has larger gloves than Brock Lesnar.
The main event of the night also proved to be a nail biter as legend Quinton "Rampage" Jackson squared off with the man that many consider "The Legend Killer," Keith "The Dean of Mean" Jardine, in a three-round chess match.
In Jackson fashion, most of his game was waiting for big counters and timing that infamous drop, swoop, and heavy overhand right. Jardine, however, made this difficult for the ex-light heavyweight champ with his unorthodox, hands down-hit-and-scramble style. Both men were landing some big blows, and Jardine was finding a home for his well-known leg kicks. We even got to see Rampage shoot in a couple times for takedown attempts, although the attempts were stuffed and resulted in both men being back on their feet.
Although Jardine showed he was a worthy opponent and a top fighter in the light heavyweight division, his wild style and lucky nipple twisting could not pull out the victory for the Greg Jackson student. This result opens the door for Rampage to try and repossess the title from his best friend, training partner, and current champ "Sugar" Rashad Evans.
Other notable wins of the night went to Kendal Grove, Tamdan McCory, Gray Maynard, Brandon Vera, Jason Brilz, and Shane Neslon. Not one submission was chalked up the whole evening as the board was spread with seven knockouts and only three decisions. UFC's matchmaker Joe Silva probably felt pretty good after another great night of impressive fights in Columbus.