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UFC 88: Breakthrough

PREVIEW
Chuck Liddell looks to continue his winning ways and earn a shot at regaining the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship, currently held by Georgia native and winner of the inaugural season of The Ultimate Fighter, Forrest Griffin. In order to do so, he’ll have to further prove his worth against the undefeated Rashad Evans. Also tonight: Rich “Ace” Franklin runs screaming and crying from 185 moves up in weight to fight at 205 against Matt Hamill, who is a legitimately good all-around fighter that is also legitimately deaf. Not also tonight: Karo Parisyan, who hurt his back in training at the eleventh hour and had his fight with Yoshida scratched from the card. Which is a shame, because I was really looking forward to him not being able to finish his opponent and then talking talking talking while being wholly unable to break the upper-echelon of the Welterweight Division.

Joining us this evening – chrusty, dreg4life, Ed and Dave Bro.

THE FIGHTS

Dong Hyun Kim def. Matt Brown via Split Decision
Brown gave Kim a lot more trouble than I would’ve thought. I had the fight scored 29-28 for Kim, although I stay that with the knowledge that it means jack and shit. The one judge who split was – surprise! – Cecil fucking Peoples. who gave the fight 29-28 to Matt Brown. The crowd booed the Hell out of the decision, and Rogan talked as if Brown was robbed. People of Atlanta and Joe Rogan: you can never be on the correct side of an argument if it means agreeing with Cecil Peoples, Mixed Martial Arts judge appointed by the Bizarro World Athletic Comission. “Me Bizarro Peoples judge based on standing still, being dominated on ground, and not having control of Octagon!”

Nate Marquardt def. Martin Kampmann via Ref Stoppage (1st Round; Strikes)
Nate Marquardt has thankfully dropped that awful “Dark Heart” nickname, and instead gone with…Nate the Great. Jesus Christ. MMA fighters give themselves the same nicknames that kids in High School give each other when they play kickball in gym class. Regardless, Marquardt looked great here and was all over Kampmann. I’ll give credit where it’s due, though – Kampmann took uppercuts reminiscent of Houston Alexander, yet stayed on his feet for quite some time. MOXY! Kid’s got it.

Dan Henderson def. Rousimar Palhares via Unanimous Decision
Back to back losses to Quinton Jackson and Anderson Silva can make you forget how goddamn good Hendo is. There were highlight-worthy moments where Palhares gave him a fight, but it still wasn’t enough to win a single round. Well, not to me anyway, or two of the three judges, or anybody but the one judge who scored it 29-28. Shockingly it was not Cecil Peoples! I KNOW. Go figure.

Rich Franklin def. Matt Hamill via Ref Stoppage (3rd Round; body kick)
Franklin’s move up in weight is better suited for him. Not because he has to cut less weight since his “walking weight” is probably around 210, or that he’s less dehydrated going into a fight, or that his naturally lanky build still gives him a reach advantage. 205 is a better weight for him because Anderson Silva is the champion at 185. In other words, 205 is a better weight for everybody. Hamill looked good enough when the fight started to warrant giving him the first round, but Franklin won the cardio battle and out-boxed him.

Tim Boetsch def. Michael Patt via Ref Stoppage (1st Round; strikes)
One of the fights from earlier in the night before the pay-per-view feed started, where Boetsch absolutely mauled Patt.

Rashad Evans def. Chuck Liddell via KO (2nd Round)
This was as true of a Knockout as you’ll get in MMA. In the first round Evans just showboated, danced around, and took shots from Liddell. “A sound strategy,” I thought, “if your goal is to expend unnecessary energy and annoy Chuck Liddell.” But Evans knew something the rest of us didn’t, and when Liddell tried to connect with an uppercut, Evans unleashed one of Liddell’s own trademark wayward right haymakers that immediately dropped him to the mat. Liddell was knocked out cold and didn’t get up for awhile, but was on his feet after the result was announced and walked out of the Octagon of his own volition. The crowd was absolutely stunned and fell silent the moment they saw Liddell go down.

In another fight from earlier in the evening that aired after the main event, Jason “The Athlete” MacDonald defeated Jason Lambert with a rear naked choke. The highlights took place in my living room, where we tried to come up with nicknames more generic and uninspiring than MacDonald’s and announcing them with the Bruce Buffer voice. Examples:
* “Jason…THE M.M.A. COMPETITORRRRRRRRR….MAAAAAACDONALLLLLD”
* “Jason…THE FIGHTER UNDER CONTRACT WITH THE UFC….MAAAAAACDONALLLLLD”
* “Jason…THE MIDDLEWEIGHHHHHHHHHT….MAAAAAACDONALLLLLD”
Mine would be “Kevin…CAUCASIAAAAAAANNNNNNNNN…MARRRRRSHALLLLLLLL.”

Still, it’s better to have a hilariously generic nickname than a nickname that not only isn’t pronouncable but also looks more like a message board handle

CLOSING THOUGHTS
There were a lot of stoppages via striking, and yet this was still a largely uneventful show until the main event. It was still a decent enough card…it was just sort of weak by the standards set by the last few pay-per-views. I think the crowd in Atlanta hurt it more than anything because man, were they ever weird all night.

I’ll go further. That crowd was shitty with a capital poo stain. They didn’t react to anything and were way too quick to boo fighters. It’s understandable when two guys are dancing around each other without so much as throwing a single strike, but this crowd got on them after flurries ended. How dare those fighters in the Octagon not be video game characters and actually not keep a ninety mile an hour pace throughout the entirety of a fight? The nerve.

Coming off the hot Minnesota crowd, it was definitely jarring and had a negative effect on the viewing experience. They were also hampered by production problems all night, with various missed cues and the feed cutting out several times (albeit momentarily). Even Goldberg and Rogan seemed (further) off their game than usual. Everyone had an off night except good old Bruce Buffer, who continued to use his tried and true tactic of walking towards a fighter and holding his blue card out towards him, only to sneakily turn around quickly to face the other fighter as he shouted “INTRODUCING FIRST.” Oh Bruce, Norse trickster god Loki has nothing on you!

Oh, and almost every fighter’s choice of entrance song was freaking weird and/or depressing. Especially Matt Hamill, who came out to “Simple Man” by Lynyrd Skynyrd instead of a constant low-pitched hum. Get it? Because he’s deaf.

AFTERMATH
Rich Franklin surprised me – in a good way – with his performance, and one has to think that the move to 205 will be a permanent one. With a couple more wins, he could provide even more shine and star power to an already loaded division and put himself in line for a title shot against somebody not named Silva (unless Wanderlei gets the title in the next year). If I were running the UFC, I’d make Franklin’s next fight at 205 against Anderson Silva…just because I’m EEEEEVIL.

Speaking of which, Dan Henderson proved that he’s still a top five Middleweight with his performance tonight. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the UFC put him up against Nate Marquardt to determine Anderson Silva’s next defense after his destruction of poor, poor Patrick Cote in October. If there’s anyone under contract right now at 185 that can beat Anderson Silva, it’s Hendo. He had him figured out that first round, and with better cardio might have made something happen. I’m thinking at the very least he could make a good fight out of it the second time around.

In a weird way I feel bad for Rashad Evans, because once again he wins a fight that people are invariably going to talk more about who lost it. For the second time in as many years, we find ourselves asking the same question: is Chuck Liddell done as a major player in terms of pure competitiveness in the UFC? I’ll say the same thing I said after his loss to Jardine, but with a bit more finality: yes. He’s done as a top contender, and the sooner the fans and the UFC come to terms with it, the better. He can still make the organization big money by fighting “name” fighters and settling old grudges, but the top of the division has a newer crop of fighters who aren’t completely perplexed by his striking style and who, for the most part, have him figured out.

NEXT MONTH:
As mentioned, Anderson Silva is going to knock Patrick Cote out with a kick so fast it’ll take weeks of scientific experimentation in order for people to actually see photographic evidence that proves it actually happened. Don’t believe me? Bodog has Silva’s betting line at -1150. Granted, that’s ridiculous, but so’s grabbing a man’s ankle with one hand when he tries to kick you and knocking him out with the other hand.

Also: Diego Sanchez and Thiago Alves in one of the most anticipated Welterweight fights of the year, Sean Sherk reaches a crossroads with Tyson Griffin, and more. Rumored full card here, though I think I remember reading that Rich Clementi won’t be fight anymore. I know, I’m as sarcastically disappointed as you are.

…AND THE MONTH AFTER THAT:
Captain America is back! Randy Couture is once again a contracted UFC fighter and its Heavyweight Champion. He’ll step in the ring with former NCAA Division 1 wrestling champion Brock Lesnar, a comes off an impressive win over former #1 Contender Heath Herring and doesn’t like gays. Put that in your little notebook – he doesn’t like gays. Some are criticizing the UFC for making this fight so soon, but those are the people who still haven’t figured out that any one-on-one competition is going to be run as equal parts sport and business. The UFC would have been crazy not to make that fight for two reasons. One, it’s probably going to be one of the biggest fights in terms of money in the organization’s history. Two, Brock Lesnar’s legitimate personality quirks extend beyond his inclination towards portraying himself as a professional wrestling heel to the media and is a potential PR disaster waiting to happen. They have to do it while they can.

On that same card, we also might see Quinton “Rampage” Jackson make an ill-advised early return to competition after his “traffic incident” to fight top ten lightweight Wanderlei de Silva. If this fight does happen, let’s just hope that Jackson doesn’t read anything on the internet while preparing for this fight that says there’s a liquid diet that can expel demons from your body. True fucking story.

More later…

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  1. September 7, 2008 at 7:14 pm

    “Franklin won the cardio battle and out-boxed him.” And kicked him in the nuts.

    “The crowd was absolutely stunned and fell silent the moment they saw Liddell go down.” Except for Evans’ wife, who wouldn’t stop screaming.

    It’s a good thing that someone DOES have that awful, unpronounceable nickname, otherwise Jason MacDonald would surely be Jason MMAcDonald.

    Matt Hammill should come out to Dirty Boyz.

    So… wait… did you mean “yes” instead of “no” in that Liddell analysis?

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