Over the last few years, UFC has made the late-December pay-per-view into a must-see. This year’s effort, UFC 92, lived up to the hype. The matches were filled with surprises, redemption, and a certain fighter looking like he’s back. The Rashad Evans/Forrest Griffin main event was worth the buy, but fights like Mir/Nogueira and Jackson/Silva were main-event worthy as well.
The night started off with some nice under-card bouts. Patrick Berry defeated Dan Evenson pretty easy in the first round and Brad Blackburn had the crowd on his side against Ryo Chonan in a unanimous decision for Blackburn. The rest of the early under-card fights could have been mid-card bouts in any other pay-pre-view.
Matt Hamill, who has been on his game lately, faced Reese Andy. Hamill started out very aggressive, but looked like he hit a wall at the end of the first round. Andy took advantage of Hamill’s fatigue and landed some major blows toward the end of the round. After a short breather, Hamill regained his stamina and took the fight to the mat. Hamill took over and broke Andy’s guard and delivered a fury of punches to end the fight. This was a nice win to get Hamill’s career back on track after a loss to Rich Franklin back in September.
Antoni Hardonk faced Mike Wessel in the next match. This was Wessel’s first fight in the UFC and Hardonk has been in the UFC for a couple years. Hardonk took a loss to Frank Mir late last year and has strung up a few wins to get his confidence back up. Wessel started out the fight by out-wrestling Hardonk in the first round. Hardonk did connect with some nice knee shots, but it wasn’t until the second round until he took control of the fight. Wessel ran out of gas and couldn’t defend the barrage of fists he was being delivered. Hardonk won by TKO in the middle of the second round.
Dean Lister had his hands full with Yushin Okami. Okami has a nice resume, he has wins over Anderson Silva, Mick Swick, Evan Tanner. He took over this fight from the beginning and Lister looked lost for most of the fight. Okami won via unanimous decision, he looks like he could be a contender in the middleweight division.
Cheick Kongo, one of my sleeper picks to have a great 2009, faced a newcomer to UFC, Mostapha Al-Turk. This match pits a submission wrestler (Al-Turk) versus a tradition kickboxer (Kongo). Kongo has a long limbs and can really bother fighters who work best on the mat. The fight was marred with low blows by both fighters and a cat-an-mouse atmosphere, luckily it ended early. After a couple restarts, Kongo landed a couple punches that took out Al-Turk. At the end of the match, Al-Turk was bleeding all over the mat while Kongo finished him off with a seven-course meal of punches and elbows.
Quinton “Rampage” Jackson has had a tough year. He lost his title and had a mental breakdown that lead to an arrest. He faced Wanderlei Silva who he has lost to twice before and needed to win tonight to officially declare a comeback. There wasn’t any love lost between the guys, they didn’t touch gloves. Jackson looked like he wanted to get Silva on the ground, but he wasn’t able to get him down the traditional way. It took a hard left for Silva to hit the mat, but this time, he was out cold. It only took a little more than three minutes for Jackson to prove that he is back.
The interim Heavyweight title was being defended in the Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira/Frank Mir fight. Mir and Nogueira have both looked like monsters in the octagon and it was a perfect pairing of fighters. Mir has been around for awhile and looked really good in his last fight against Brock Lesner, while Nogueira hasn’t lost in the UFC. Mir dominated the fight and Nogueira couldn’t compete with him on any level. Mir took this fight into the middle of the second round until he finished Nogueira with some left hands to become the new champion.
The final fight of the night was hyped up to be the fight of the year. Forrest Griffin won the Light Heavyweight title from “Rampage” Jackson in July and Rashad Evans was the clear pick for his first title defense. Evans hasn’t lost a fight in his professional MMA career, with his only draw coming against Tito Ortiz. This was a nice fight from the start, with Griffin controlling the tempo of the fight. Over the first two round, Griffin contained Evans with controlled kicks and punches. It looked like Griffin was going to win this fight in the cards if it kept at this pace. The third round was when it went bad for Griffin. Evans took him down and thunderstorm of pain was delivered to Griffin. It looked like Griffin was actually knocked out well before the fight was stopped. It was amazing that the referee let the beating go on as long as it did. Evans won the Light Heavyweight title and it will be very difficult to get the title away from this elite fighter.
UFC 92 was one of the best pay-per-views in a few years. The Ortiz/Lidell pay-per-views two years ago could only top UFC 92, this is a high compliment. Wvans and Mir look like they are legit champions, while Jackson and Okami look like possible contenders. Dana White has done a great job with these pay-per-views and I can’t wait until the next one.