LAS VEGAS — The press conferences are over, the weigh-ins weighed, the stare-downs stared and now all that's left is the action. We're a couple hours away from the first bout at UFC 126 and a few more hours away from UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva's cataclysmic clash with challenger Vitor Belfort.
Fight fans can't wait.
Though most of the national hype has surrounded some piddling little football game in Dallas, the mixed martial arts community has been focused on tonight's event and it alone.
Not only will the Spider—arguably the most dominant gladiator on the planet—get his stiffest challenge in years from the Phenom, but the rest of the card is also packed with neon-light names and scraps that are sure to please the senses.
Everyone's favorite light heavyweight prospect (Jon Jones) gets another bump in competition as he tangles with the undefeated former Arizona State wrestler Ryan Bader. Additionally, two crowd favorites will battle at 205 pounds when Forrest Griffin and Rich Franklin meet in a matchup of pseudo-doppelgangers.
Oh, but the fun doesn't stop there.
The Mandalay Bay Events Center will host several high profile UFC debuts made by supremely accomplished competitors. Former WEC bantamweight champion Miguel Torres, former WEC lightweight contender Donald Cerrone and Japanese superstar Norifumi Yamamoto all hope to introduce themselves to the organization and its fans in style.
From start to finish, it should be a spectacular night of gladiatorial mayhem and Bleacher Report will be at the edge of the Octagon as your eyes and ears all night long.
So see you back here when the gloves drop.
The lights are down and the Pierce/Robertson hype reel is in midstream so that means the first bout of the preliminary card is about to begin.
Robertson enters first to some country ditty that I actually like and that would've sounded even better had it not been the first intro anthem of the evening (i.e. if we'd been assaulted by several iterations of generic rap first).
Pierce gets us back on the customary track with his nondescript rap intro—not good, not bad, just there.
Pierce is a UFC vet at this point whereas Robertson is making his debut though you couldn't tell from the first round. Not that Kenny dominated Pierce by any means, but he didn't look to be at much of a disadvantage (from what I saw—we're having a few technical difficulties at cageside so I was distracted for several minutes.
Oof, the second round gets off to a very rugged start for the UFC newcomer. After a game first five minutes, he gets tagged with a sweeping left hook right on the chin and goes heavily to the canvas. Pierce wastes little time in pouncing on his victim and landing a few more crushers before he and the ref have seen enough.
Mike Pierce defeats Kenny Robertson by KO (punch) at 0:29 of the second round.
Wow, I’m rendered speechless by Kyle Kingsbury’s selection of “Playing with the Boys” for his intro music. Best. Intro. Ever.
The American is also a huge crowd favorite judging from the reaction and the boos—BOOS—that greeted Romero. OK, the boisterous reception now makes sense as there’s an entire section of the upper deck pulling for Kingsboo (I guess that’s his nickname).
Romero goes by Raging Bull—not original, but effective if he can live up to the moniker.
Kingsbury looks quite a bit bigger and stronger, and the first 30 seconds support the observation. A brief feeling-out process yields to a momentary clinch before a huge right knee to the body spells the beginning of the end.
Three more knees soften up the Raging Bull and then a big left cross puts the Brazilian on Queer Street.
He doesn’t get off it.
Kyle Kingsbury defeats Ricardo Romero by TKO (punches) at 0:21 of the first round.
We’ve got some time to kill after two quick stoppages so it’s time to crowd surf (visually speaking). Not much to see yet since the arena’s still filling up, but I can report that Court McGee was sitting behind me for the first bout.
Plus, we’ve got a Tito Ortiz sighting—in a light gray suit that would be pretty sharp if the jacket didn’t look a couple sizes too long.
It’s also notable that the Huntington Beach Bad Boy is alone.
And I mean ALL alone—no chicks, no entourage, only Tito and his phone.
Apologies folks, but there’s apparently too many users on the WiFi network so the connection has crapped out. As soon as it’s back up, we will be as well.
But the fighting waits for no man or technology so Ruediger and Taylor are making their entrances. Godzilla goes first—he’s a huge fan of mine (sense the sarcasm), so it’ll be interesting to see how this baby unfolds.
So far, so good as he opts from some pretty serious metal. Gabe also looks amped up for the opportunity and in the best shape I’ve seen him. Hey, maybe the potshot I took motivated him.
Taylor is next to the cage and he’s chosen something I don’t recognize—sounds like a poppier version of the Clash. Strange.
Female ref Kim Winslow gets the call.
Godzilla comes out and initiates the action with a kick, but Taylor retaliates with a nice combo that has Ruediger backpedaling.
No more of that as Ruediger jumps in and ties up Taylor in the clinch as the action stagnates against the fence.
The pair comes off it and a big head/shoulder kick lands from Taylor and he follows it up with another combination to Ruediger’s head. So far, Paul is getting the better of the standup and is able to defend against any pretense of a takedown from the American.
They’re back in the clinch and Ruediger tries to pull guard. Taylor follows him to the ground momentarily, but thinks better of it and backs off, then gestures for Ruediger to join him. Gabe does and we’re back in a morass of a clinch as the two struggle for leverage.
Neither is able to get the upper hand so Winslow separates them and they’re back in the middle of the Octagon.
Taylor continues to land his strikes, including a brutal left that lands flush on Godzilla’s face. Give the dude credit, he’s worn a couple unblocked strikes and he’s still on his feet. The horn sounds nanoseconds before another left lands from Taylor.
That’s an easy 10-9 round to the Brit.
The second stanza begins to play out a lot like the first—Taylor is landing combinations by the bunches to Ruediger’s face and even lands a leg kick, but that might be the last we see of those since Godzilla almost catches it and turns it into a takedown.
He can’t, though, so he tries to pull guard again and Taylor’s not having any of it.
Yikes—after a bit more rubbing and bumping in close, the Brit opens up with a savage flurry of rights and lefts to Godzilla’s open mouth/jaw. Ruediger’s staggered badly and Relentless Paul Taylor lives up to his nickname.
A thwacking left kick to the head ends the matter pretty decisively, though Winslow has to expend some real effort to pull the victor of f his prey.
Paul Taylor defeats Gabe Ruediger by TKO (punches and kick) at 1:42 of the second round.
This is unreal—biggest UFC event of the year so far and we’re still without Internet. I’m slightly frustrated.
Anyway, the action keeps going.
We’ve got Mighty Mouse approaching the Octagon to some more generic gangsta rap; the genre is clearly the default if you want to look like a tough guy, but I always prefer the gladiators who employ a little creativity, a little personality.
Kid Yamamoto has both, but still opts for rap with some LARGE bass. At the moment, it feels like I swallowed my phone while it was on vibrate. It bears mentioning that Kid was a national wrestling champion in Japan.
The Land of the Rising Sun isn’t exactly known for its wrestling over here, but that’s still nothing to sneeze at.
The little guys take center stage and begin the process of sizing each other up. So far, nothing but feints until Yamamoto lands a right as Mighty Mouse comes in to deliver a kick.
The duo continues to do nothing much except bob and move, momentarily coming together for striking exchanges before retreating to safe distance. Johnson comes in for the shot and the Japanese fighter defends easily.
Demetrious has been the aggressor thus far, but he hasn’t scored much to answer Yamamoto’s few flurries. A big swing from Norifumi results in Johnson’s first takedown of the evening, but Yamamoto escapes with relative ease and they’re back on their feet.
For about 30 seconds before Mighty Mouse secures his second takedown of the round, but he can’t turn it into an advantage before Kid sneaks out the back door.
Ouch, big right lands from Demetrious and it seems to have the Japanese star on wheels; Johnson chases, but Yamamoto manages to recover before getting taken down yet again. Mighty Mouse doles out a little punishment on the ground before the horn ends a 10-9 round for the American.
The athletes are back in the center of the cage and Yamamoto has to be hoping for a better five minutes because he was pretty much taken to the cleaners in the first.
Leg kick lands from Demetrious as the American’s beginning to look very comfortable with his assignment.
Perhaps Yamamoto senses it because he changes up tactics and goes for a takedown of his own, which he kind of gets since Mighty Mouse is reduced to his knees. However, it’s for a split-second as the two are back on their feet.
Oh dear, Johnson lands a kick STRAIGHT to Yamamoto’s junk—that’s gonna take a few seconds to shake off.
We get our restart and Mighty Mouse resumes his offensive. The American is spending most of his minutes coming forward and he’s been landing at a much better rate in the second. He’s also maintaining his success with his wrestling as he’s scored several more takedowns.
The crowd’s getting restless as the action has cooled considerably except for an illegal knee from Kid Yamamoto that doesn’t really land so no harm, no foul.
The horn ends another 10-9 round for Mighty Mouse.
The fighters come out for the third and it says here that Kid Yamamoto needs a stoppage or an incredibly dominant round to salvage the tussle. If the first 10 minutes are an accurate barometer, that’s probably not happening.
Johnson scores the takedown about a minute into the final stanza, but nothing comes from it before they’re back standing and feinting. The few strikes that are landing are coming from Johnson as Norifumi doesn’t look all that concerned by the scrap’s status quo.
Pretty tepid round to tell you the truth, but you can’t blame Demetrious too much. He’s not showing the same aggression as earlier in the bout (not surprising considering he’s up two rounds to none), but he’s still the aggressor.
Ugh, let’s just get that final horn.
The final 45 seconds are spent on the ground as a bleeding Kid Yamamoto simply has nothing for Johnson. Call it another 10-9 for Johnson who should get the unanimous decision.
Demetrious Johnson defeats Norifumi Yamamoto by unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27).
Not much to report so I’ll check on the fighters/celebrities in the crowd—we’ve got Matt Mitrione, Brendan Schaub, Yushin Okami, Melvin Guillard and Court McGee sitting a row behind the media.
Hey man, where’s the respect?
They don’t even get floor seats? Rough.
Jason “Mayhem” Miller is also back there, but that makes more sense since he’s not in the UFC stable.
The bad news is the web’s still no cooperating; the good news is we’re live on Spike so y’all can see the carnage for yourself. Intros were muted for some reason. Guess Spike doesn’t have time for pomp and circumstance.
Mendes comes out dictating the pace and lands the first meaningful abuse of the night with a combination and leg kick. An overhand right lands and he chases it with a takedown attempt that the Japanese entrant deftly sidesteps.
Chad is basically having his way with Michihiro—he’s not landing stoppers, but he IS landing and that’s more than can be said for Omigawa so far. Another leg kick lands and Mendes follows it with his first successful takedown of the round.
That might’ve been a bit of an error however as the Japanese star looks far more at ease on his back. He’s already landed a few blows from the bottom and he’s worked in a few submission attempts. Consequently, the American backs off after escaping the sub attempt and the final horn sounds before they can re-engage on the feet.
Call it a 10-9 round for Mendes.
Mendes opens up the second round with a vengeance as a low leg kick scores before a looping right hand scatters Omigawa. Chad follows him to the ground and lands a few more heavy shots before Michihiro can recover. He’s out of danger now, but he’s immediately playing catch-up again.
He’s also bleeding as far as I can tell (possibly from the nose), though the glare from the overhead lights makes it touch to see for sure.
Regardless, Mendes continues to dominate the scoring.
It’s all not working for the American, however, as a determined takedown attempt goes wanting courtesy of some outstanding balance and defense from the Japanese gladiator.
More leg kicks from Mendes land and he throws a flying knee to Michihiro’s grill for good measure. Omigawa tries to answer with an assault of his own, but he’s too reckless and Chad grabs a driving takedown moments before the final horn.
Another 10-9 for him.
Omigawa’s corner immediately starts working on a cut, but it’s over his left eye (and it’s horrendous) rather than the nose.
Here we go again—another Japanese fighter enters the final round behind on points, but Michihiro looks sincerely interested in turning the tide as opposed to his countryman Yamamoto.
He comes out aggressively and actually controls the early exchanges before the two competitors end up on the ground. Omigawa tries to roll Mendes into a what might’ve been a D’arce choke, but it backfires badly.
Now Mendes is on top and dictating matters; he’s not scoring much, but my scorecard says he doesn’t have to...unless, of course, he doesn’t trust the judges (perish the thought).
They’re back standing now and Mendes looks a bit gassed as Omigawa continues to press forward. With only about 80 seconds remaining, that might not matter. Michihiro lands a right and then a left jab that snaps Chad’s head back, but now they’re on the canvas again with Mendes on top i.e. not good for Michi.
Talk about insult to injury—with about 12 seconds left, the American backs off his prone adversary and delivers three more stinging blows to Omigawa’s face before the horn sounds.
Even so, give that last round to Omigawa, but I’ve still got Mendes by unanimous decision.
Chad Mendes defeats Michihiro Omigawa by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27).
I hate to beat a dead horse here, but does that bout end 30-27 on all three scorecards while Kid Yamamoto inexplicably took a round on one judge’s sheet?
We’ve got Cowboy Cerrone taking on Tellys Kelly (I’d still like that one explained please) approaching the Octagon as the preliminary card winds down. Tellys is the first into the cage and I might need to start re-familiarizing myself with mainstream music because he opts for yet another mystery tune.
Cerrone uses his trademark song, Kid Rock’s “Cowboy.”
It’s fitting for the former pro on the rodeo circuit.
The English entrant looks thicker, but Cowboy’s got the range and the crowd on his side.
Wow, Cerrone goes in to touch glove and Kelly kind of punches at it to which Cowboy responds by shooting for/securing a takedown. Odd start.
Anyway, the men free themselves and we’re back standing.
Tellys comes in and lands some heavy hitters, but Cowboy shrugs them off, lands a knee of his own to the body and smiles. The fight has equalized after that strange start as Cerrone begins to mix in punches with the ones he’s absorbing.
Body kick is blocked by the Brit as the American is struggling to find an answer for Kelly’s game. Another kick is blocked by Tellys, but he seems to have slowed down a tad. Donald takes advantage and secures his first takedown of the match. He’s on top, but Kelly is controlling Cerrone’s posture with underhooks.
Cowboy finally breaks free and begins grinding elbows into Paul’s face. One sharp ‘bow opens up a gusher over Kelly’s right eye, much to the delight of the crowd. Horn ends a close 10-9 round for Kelly.
The pair trades near misses for about a minute to open the second stanza before Cerrone lands a left kick to the body and follows it with a nice straight right that slightly wings its mark. Cowboy’s Muay Thais is starting to pay dividends, but Kelly’s not going anywhere.
Cowboy thuds home a takedown and Tellys retaliates with an attempted guillotine that’s not gonna work. Instead, Cerrone maintains his composure and the dominant position. He eventually moves to full mount and then takes the Brit’s back as he’s thrashing in defense.
The bloods starting to flow into Paul’s eye as Cerrone goes to work on it. The strategy works as Kelly opens a window for the rear-naked choke and Cowboy obliges, sinking it in deep and forcing the tap.
Donald Cerrone defeats Paul Taylor by submission (rear-naked choke) at 3:48 of the second round (Fight of the Night).
Paul Kelly tries to explain the opening touching of gloves/pseudo-punch and it’s tough to decipher what the Liverpool native said, but the crowd didn’t like it in any event as boos cascade down on him.
Cerrone shrugs and carries on with Joe Rogan’s interview.
Impressive showing by the UFC debutee.
Alright, we’re now into the pay-per-view portion of the show and still NO INTERNET.
Frustrated no longer describes how I’m feeling.
Anyhoo, the main card kicks off with the most dangerous of the UFC newcomers Torres taking on Chuck Liddell’s buddy. The former WEC champ at 135 pounds is no joke—he got that title training himself and, since losing it, has cranked his training up a notch by bringing in some of the best prep guys in the sport.
Kinda feels like they’re tossing Banuelos to the wolves here, but we shall find out if that’s the case.
Both Torres and Banuelos are Mexican so the hype reels are breaking out the old “battle for pride” chestnut. Gotta love the promos.
In the first real upset of the evening, Banuelos enters to Rancid’s “Black Coat, White Shoes, Top Hat”—that’s not the tune I would’ve expected from him (you know, Brown pride and all that), but it’s a welcome addition.
On the other hand, Torres uses mariachi music. Classic.
We’ve also got a Nate Diaz and Junior dos Santos sighting—Nate is behind the media (and just shook hands with Guillard—awkward) while JDS gets floor seats. Oh, and Mayhem Miller is getting kicked out of his seats.
Guess he really doesn’t belong in the UFC.
We’ve got some amazing hairstyles in the Octagon at the moment—Torres is rocking his usual mullet while Banuelos has opted for something out of New Jack City or a Kid ‘n’ Play movie. Pretty sweet.
And yes, I’m discussing ‘dos because the action has yet to start in earnest. We’re on the second minute of the feeling-out process as Torres figures how best to use his edge in reach and Banuelos tries to close the distance.
To nobody’s surprise, the crowd is unhappy and begins to boo.
Miguel continues to focus on the jab, though he slips and momentarily goes to the ground. Still not much to report...
Still nothing but empty jabs and feints...
How do you score a round where neither fighter engages or lands?
Banuelos solves that particular dilemma by landing a loud left hook, but it doesn’t seem to bother Torres.
The horn sounds and is almost drowned out by the boos; call it a 10-9 round for Banuelos thanks to that loud left and aggression.
Rampage Jackson stalks by the cage and turns the crowd’s mood around.
Torres still seems loathe to get closer than the range of his jab, but he’s gonna have to do SOMETHING soon because this hesitance is out of character for him. A low blow requires a few seconds for Banuelos to recompose himself and then we’re back to the empty action.
More boos from the crowd as the first high kick comes from Torres; it doesn’t land.
Torres begins to let his hands go a bit in combination, but Banuelos is up to the task and answers back.
Rampage passes behind the media and causes considerably more stir than the ongoing fight in the Octagon.
Miguel has started to impose his will, but it’s a weak will from the looks of it. A straight right has joined the fray, paired with his lead jab and it’s paying marginal dividends. A kick to the body lands and Antonio responds with a bunch of wild punches.
Another series of wild punches actually lands a couple head-snappers. I’ll give the 10-9 round to Torres, but I’m not committed to it.
A close, strange tête-à-tête enters the final five minutes and it’s anyone’s fight as far as I’m concerned. Torres is certainly the smoother combatant, yet Banuelos’ bursts of movement have been effective.
The boos are getting louder despite more action in the third than the previous 10 minutes and most of it is coming from Miguel Torres. Still, it’s an uncharacteristically boring bout considering what we’ve come to expect from the Chicago native.
One thing is for sure—Banuelos has NOT been thrown to the wolves tonight. He’s been up to the challenge and you’d have to say he’s got Torres out of sorts.
Nevertheless, Miguel appears to be using the left jab-straight right combo to put this one on ice. He’s not winning any fans, but the third round should win him the clash.
Banuelos takes on a sense of urgency as power bombs are coming fast and furiously, not to mention a spinning back kick that lands. The final 10 seconds feature both fighters hell bent for leather, but most of the dangerous stuff misses.
I’d give that round (10-9) and the contest to Torres.
However, I am not a judge.
Miguel Torres defeats Antonio Banuelos by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27).
Torres relates that he fought to his game plan and dodges Rogan’s question about how he’d rate his performance. Seems reasonable.
But not to the crowd.
Man, people still LOVE “Ice Ice Baby.”
Ta Danado opts for Vanilla Ice’s one-hit wonder as his entrance music and the whole place is dancing, including the Octagon Girls and the female Brazilian, ahem, journalists (though they’re working on a difference dress code...not that I’m complaining).
Jake the Juggernaut waltzes up to what passes for metal these days; I recognize it, but I can’t place it for sure. Sounds a bit like Alice in Chains crossed with Nirvana and a bass boost. The title appears to be “Back to the Remedy.”
In stark contrast to the last bout, this one’s off to a furious start.
Ellenberger goes for the takedown and Rocha immediately reverses, but the Juggernaut is able to scramble back to his feet and out of the deep water considering Rocha’s a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt. However, Ta Danado is quick to bring the pleasantries back to the canvas and, this time, he’s not letting Jake go anywhere.
The Brazilian switches fluidly from north south to side control and back, which makes for an intimate visual yet not much leverage for the Brazilian.
Now Rocha is essentially sitting on Ellenberger’s face while punching him in the gut as he tries to set up possibly a leg lock. He lets it go and resets himself.
The Juggernaut seizes the opportunity and reverses positions by threatening a choke. They’re back on the feet now and Ta Danado throws a high kick that finishes with him flat on his back after a slip.
Oh well, he gets right back up and takes Jake back to the ground where he threatens a kimura and uses it roll his opponent over. Ellenberger isn’t panicking, though he is grimacing. The horn ends the round before anything more can come from the position.
I’d call that an easy 10-9 for Rocha.
Hmm, the second round starts as quickly as the first with the Juggernaut firing knees to Rocha’s midsection. The Brazilian seems to have tired. Either that or he’s playing possum in hopes of convincing Jake to follow him to the ground. Not happening—Jake stands over him and powders him from above before backing away and allowing Ta Danado back to his feet.
High kick is blocked by Ellenberger and he answer with a flying knee that lands, but not flush enough to be much trouble.
Rocha’s mouth is now hanging open so it’s a good bet the Brazilian is at least a little winded. Ellenberger is suffering from no such problem as the fresher participant.
Jake almost ducks right into a flying knee from the Brazilian, but misses it and scores some striking points of his own.
Body kick lands from Carlos, but Jake erases the momentary positivity with a takedown to finish his 10-9 round.
This one’s for all the marbles as my scorecard says each man has one round.
With the fight hanging in the balance, both men come out a little more tentatively and Rocha starts to utilize leg kicks to keep the more dangerous striker at bay. He breaks out a spinning high kick and Jake ducks under it easily.
Still, those kicks are keeping the Juggernaut out of his own range so he’s been unable to land much in the third. In fact, he lands his first real substantive shot at the 2:30 mark of the round.
Jake tries for takedown, but the Brazilian shirks him off with ease.
With about 90 seconds left, they trade knees in the clinch and neither competitor gains a clear advantage.
Until, that is, Jake essentially throws Rocha to the ground. The American wants no part of Ta Danado on the ground so he relents and Rocha lands a few more leg kicks once he stands back up.
Uh oh, Ellenberger scores a big takedown with less than a minute left and finishes the round on top of his opponent. That might’ve been enough to steal the round. Tough one to call, but I’ll give the last round (10-9) to Rocha for controlling the majority of the third.
That means he should be the winner, but this one’s really too close for a novice like me to score with much conviction.
Jake Ellenberger defeats Carlos Eduardo Rocha by split decision (27-30, 29-28, 29-28).
Again, who the hell have all three rounds to Rocha? There is NO WAY he won the second round; that’s absurd.
Here comes the first main course—with all due respect to Forrest Griffin and Rich Franklin—THIS is really the co-main event.
Darth Bader approaches the cage first to something that sounds a lot like a black Ozzie Ozbourne, maybe a Living Colour resurrection? No clue, but it’s all over the place.
Bones enters to 50 Cent; where the hell’s that guy been? Talk about a meteoric rise and almost equally shocking disappearance. Or maybe the latter’s only true on my radar.
Damn, these guys are all physical specimens, but Jon Jones is terrifying—he’s so shredded up, rangy and does a perfect cartwheel as he enters the cage.
Fight that dude? No thanks.
What’s this? A “Bad-er, Bad-er” chant breaks out.
They touch gloves and we’re off.
Bader is the first to engage, but it’s with winging, wild punches that do nothing. He backs Bones into the cage, but Jon springs forward with a flying knee and then shoots in for the takedown. Bader is almost able to reverse using a guillotine attempt, but Jones maintains his top position by latching onto one of Bader’s legs and now he’s in trouble.
Jones has him in an inverted side choke and Ryan can’t seem to wriggle free at first. Luckily, Jones isn’t in ideal position to finish with the move and Bader is able to escape, eventually retaking his feet much to the surprisingly pro-Bader crowd’s delight.
Already, Darth Bader is proving himself a worthier challenge than any of Jones’ previous victims.
A kick from Jones backs Bader into the cage and he doesn’t like that so he shoots for takedown of his own. Bones stuffs it without problem and Bones goes to work with elbows.
Oh my, Jon Jones just leaped from his knees, cleared Bader as the latter was getting to his feet in the process and immediately took his opponents back. He couldn’t turn it into anything before the horn, but damn...
That’s a 10-9 round for Jon Jones.
Ryan Bader hasn’t been able to do much of anything against Bones, but he’s still in there and that’s something. Jones seems to acknowledge this by taking a more deliberate approach to stalking down his prey.
And then he throws caution to the wind with a Superman punch that Bader answers with a firm punch to Jones’ face. Jon walks right through it Bader is game, though, as a big overhand right narrowly misses a ducking Jon Jones.
Now, Bones goes to work on Bader’s legs with kicks that are sending Darth pirouetting out of the way in a belated attempt to check the worst of the carnage.
A body kick lands from Jones and Bader seems to pull guard, but that doesn’t seem to make sense. Regardless, the fight’s on the ground now and pushed up against the fence. Tough to see what’s happening, but it looks like Jones has Darth in a choke from Ryan’s half-guard.
Yep, that’s the case as Ryan Bader has just tapped.
Strange ending because the arena couldn’t really tell what was happening.
Jon Jones defeats Ryan Bader by submission (guillotine choke) at 4:20 of the second round (Submission of the Night).
Yeehaw, Joe Rogan drops a nuclear bomb in the post-fight interview.
Turns out Rashad Evans has been injured so the UFC will give Jon Jones an immediate title fight against UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Mauricio Rua.
Shogun’s gonna be quite a test for the shooting star that is Bones Jones, but if anyone can run that gauntlet, it’s probably Jones.
Good grief, now Nick Diaz is in the crowd.
So let’s run this down—both Diaz brothers (both of whom look angry), Yushin Okami, Brendan Schaub, Matt Mitrione, Melvin Guillard, Court McGee, Rampage Jackson, Shogun Rua, Junior dos Santos, Tito Ortiz, Jason Miller and those are just the guys I can see from where I’m sitting.
For instance, I’m almost positive I saw Phil Davis floating around the Mandalay Bay so I’d bet he’s in here somewhere. I just can’t spot him.
Guess this was a big card.
Of course, I’m sure the Super Bowl parties don’t hurt the allure of Sin City this particular weekend.
Forrest Griffin vs. Rich Franklin
OK, now for the salad course before our second main meal—Griffin and Franklin are both exciting, do-or-die athletes. But can you really see either one of them handling a guy like Jon Jones or Shogun at this stage of their careers?
Still, this should be a barnburner even if it won’t have title implications.
Ace enters the cage first to AC/DC’s “For Those About To Rock.”
Forrest comes next, opting for the Dropkick Murphy’s “Shipping Up To Boston” of Departed fame. I’m a punk/metal homer so both combatants did right by me.
Bruce Buffer does his thing and we’re all set for hostilities.
This would qualify as a “don’t go the fridge” fight—could be over in a hurry.
Although even these two adrenaline junkies aren’t immune from the test phase as both use feints and jives to size up the other. Forrest is the first to launch a beautiful high kick, but it amounts to squat. Undeterred, he shoots in a scores a takedown.
From there, he starts weathering Ace with fists and elbows while Franklin tries to control Griffin’s posture. The former middleweight champ is staying active on his back, but it’s mostly in defense and not totally effective defense either as much of Forrest’s offense is getting through to Ace’s head/body.
An undercurrent of boos trickles down from the rafters and I don’t see why—it ain’t pretty, but since when do Griffin’s fight ever answer to that description?
And you certainly can’t stand these two up considering the level of activity. The round ends in that same position and an obvious 10-9 edge goes to the former light heavyweight champ.
A somewhat puffy Rich Franklin comes out for the second and starts throwing in hopes of staying clear of the takedown and so far it’s been effective. Griffin is content to exchange on the feet and starts sniping away with kicks.
Perhaps it was all a ruse, however, as Forrest closes the distance, clinches up and scores the takedown.
And now it’s back to the good ol’ ground ‘n’ pound.
Ace struggles to his feet, gets dragged back to the canvas and then finally climbs back up to stay.
Another leg kick by Forrest draws meat and he follows it with a front kick that doesn’t (or not as much anyway). Franklin starts to fire back and finds a home for his first meaningful punches of the night. The horn sounds as the two are trading kicks (from Griffin) and punches (from Ace).
Better five minutes for Ace, but I’m still giving another 10-9 round to Forrest.
On my sheet, it says Rich Franklin needs a miracle. I’ve been wrong before (see above).
A left hook lands from Ace and he’s having success changing levels in mid-combination—delivering the first couple flurries to the body and then finishing up with strikes to the head. They’re not landing perfectly flush, but they’re definitely getting Forrest’s attention.
Dana White guaranteed this contest wouldn’t go the distance and he predicted it would be Fight of the Night. Unless something drastic happens in the final 150 seconds, he’s gonna be wrong on both accounts.
Straight left lands from Ace in the first significant development since the opening of the stanza.
With about 90 seconds left, Griffin removes any drama from the upcoming decision by securing a takedown and doling out a little punishment. Although Franklin injects some suspense back into the affair by reversing/scoring a takedown of his own.
And now they’re both just scrambling to end up on top with neither man succeeding. The horn ends the final round on disappointingly lackluster performances by both former champs. I might give that last round to Franklin as Forrest seemed to coast, but a 10-9 edge ain’t gonna matter.
Forrest Griffin defeats Rich Franklin by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28).
Griffin admits to ring rust and nerves after a year off.
Gotta love the dude; he is nothing if not candid. As a reward, Rogan mentions both of Forrest’s books (on shelves now) and the victor thanks him for “pushing his product.”
It’s goosebump time—the Phenom approaches first and the crowd responds accordingly. Have no idea what his intro music is as it’s a hip-hop beat, but it’s just some gravelly voice shouting nonsense that can’t be understood.
Randy Couture joins the festivities in an official capacity as a member of Vitor’s corner.
Cue the DMX.
There hasn’t been much sunshine around the Spider of late, for him or his opponents. Between the beatings he’s been handing out in the Octagon and taking outside it from the fans, it seems like a long time since Silva was the universally embraced pound-for-pound favorite.
We’ll see if that changes in the wake of the main event.
There’s a large contingency here from the Brazilian media and they are whole-heartedly enjoying the moment in the spotlight for their countrymen. Can’t blame ‘em one bit.
For those scoring at home, Anderson caught some boos; Vitor did not—the lasting impression for both was love, though.
Whoa Nellie, it’s here.
Why am I nervous?
Dueling chants break out right away as the two legends assess each other from arm’s length. This is Silva’s modus operandi, but not so much for Belfort. That’s probably not relevant, though, given the stakes and caliber of gladiators in the Octagon.
Boos start early and I’m not sure either Brazilian even notices.
The Spider’s starting to loosen up and this is generally where it goes bad for his opponents.
Not a single punch has been thrown with genuine intent through the first 150 seconds. Anderson did break out a hellacious foot stomp attempt, though...
Just as Anderson began a bit of a taunt, Belfort jumps in and lands a big left to Silva’s head. And now it’s on.
Vitor is getting the better of the striking in the early going and even manages a momentary takedown, but Silva’s back to his feet before anything truly amiss goes down.
And then it’s over.
Just like that.
Anderson Silva retains his belt by landing a sinister left front kick directly to the Phenom’s jaw. The Spider waits for the ref to call it, but no call is forthcoming so Anderson puts an exclamation point in the fight with a left-right to his fallen opponent.
Anderson Silva defeats Vitor Belfort by KO (front kick) at 3:25 of the first round.
There’s the old Anderson—immediately after the victory sets in, he goes over to his countryman and embraces him to make sure the damage isn’t catastrophic.
Outside the parameters of the bout, it probably isn’t.
But good LORD, who ends a fight on a front kick?
The man is unreal.
The best fighter in the universe, bar none.
The skeptics will persist, but only because dominant champions must have their detractors.