One “TUF” Night: Jardine Defeats Liddell, Griffin Submits “Shogun” at UFC 76
On a UFC 76 card dubbed “Knockout,” tonight’s nine-fight event didn’t contain a single one.
However, the sold-out audience at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. was treated to two of the biggest upsets in UFC history — and both victories belonged to former cast members of the UFC’s reality series, “The Ultimate Fighter.“
Light heavyweights Keith Jardine and Forrest Griffin proved a little too “TUF” for Chuck Liddell and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, their respective opponents, and suddenly find themselves right back in the title hunt in the UFC’s booming 205-pound division.
In the night’s main event, Jardine (13-3-1 MMA, 5-2 UFC) was pitted against Liddell (20-5 MMA, 15-4 UFC), the UFC’s former longtime light-heavyweight champion and a surefire UFC Hall of Famer. Coming off a loss to Quinton Jackson at UFC 71, “The Iceman” desperately needed a victory. When a proposed fight with PRIDE veteran Wanderlei Silva fell apart, Jardine instead got the nod — a decision that had many fans crying foul over what they called a main-event mismatch.
Perceived to be unworthy of the honor of headline status, “The Ultimate Fighter 2” cast member silenced the critics, chopped down his opponent with strategic leg and body kicks, floored Liddell with a right hook in the second round, and eventually scored a split-decision victory over his heavily favored foe. Judges Cecil Peoples and Richard Bertrand scored the fight 29-28 for Jardine, and Marcos Rosales had the same score for Liddell.
Coming off a disappointing 48-second TKO to Houston Alexander at UFC 71, Jardine — a Team Jackson fighter — can put the embarrassing episode behind him, build off tonight’s victory, and continue his climb toward a future title shot.
Joining Jardine in tonight’s celebration will be Griffin (15-4 MMA, 6-2 UFC), who scored a late-fight submission of “Shogun” Rua (16-3 MMA, 0-1 UFC), the world’s top-ranked 205-pound fighter.
Rua’s loss is yet another flop for PRIDE’s stable of athletes. The organization’s fighters, who have been transitioning into the UFC since Zuffa LLC bought the Japanese-based fight promotion earlier this year, have largely been a bust in the Octagon thus far.
Rua’s loss, though, is the most shocking yet. A bloodied Griffin simply wore down the Brazilian, who appeared gassed halfway through the second round. “The Ultimate Fighter 1” light heavyweight winner persevered, transitioned out of trouble on the ground, and eventually locked in a fight-ending rear-naked choke that forced a tap with just 15 seconds remaining in the fight.
Like Jardine, Griffin now finds himself right back in title contention.
Also on the main card was a pivotal fight between welterweight contenders Diego Sanchez (17-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC) and Jon Fitch (15-2 MMA, 7-0 UFC). No upset was possible, though; the fight boasted two evenly matched fighters who are also a couple of the 170-pound division’s best all-around athletes. UFC President Dana White all but promised the winner of a future title shot in pre-event interviews.
Sanchez, a winner from the first season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” nearly submitted his American Kickboxing Academy opponent twice in the final frame, but Fitch set a relentless pace throughout the fight and eventually scored a split-decision victory — his 14th straight.
The scoring, though, was curious; Fitch had winning scores of 30-27 and 29-28, while a third judge had it 28-29 for Sanchez.
In a battle of light heavyweights, Lyoto Machida (11-0 MMA, 3-0 UFC) — long criticized for his counter-striking style — pushed the pace and scored a lopsided unanimous-decision victory over UFC newcomer Kazuhiro Nakamura (11-7 MMA, 0-1 UFC).
Machida effectively worked from the clinch and wore down his Japanese opponent with knees, elbows and punches to the body. The victory pushed Machida’s unbeaten streak to 11 straight fights.
In the night’s first televised fight, Tyson Griffin (10-1 MMA, 3-1 UFC) and Thiago Tavares (13-1 MMA, 2-1 UFC) set a fast and frantic pace to the event. Ultimately, though, Griffin proved too strong and relentless and delivered Tavares the first loss of his professional career.
Tavares put up a good fight, twice nearly submitting Griffin with rear-naked chokes. Griffin survived both attempts — as well as a flying knee early in the second round that sent him staggering into the fence in a daze.
In the end, Griffin earned the unanimous-victory decision with scores of 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28.
After a quick 13-second knockout victory in his UFC debut in June, Anthony Johnson (4-1 MMA, 1-1 UFC) didn’t fare so well against UFC veteran Rich Clementi (26-12-1 MMA, 3-3 UFC). After dominating the first round, Johnson gave up his back and was forced into a submission from a rear-naked choke in the second.
After a brief hiatus from the UFC, Jeremy Stephens (10-2 MMA, 1-1 UFC) returned to the Octagon for a dominating performance over Diego Saraiva (9-6-1 MMA, 0-3 UFC). Relying on effective ground and pound, the 21-year-old won all three rounds for a 30-27 victory on all three judges’ scorecards.
In the night’s lone heavyweight battle, Christian Wellisch (8-3 MMA, 2-1 UFC) forced UFC newcomer and late replacement Scott Junk (6-2 MMA, 0-1 UFC) into submission in the opening frame. At 3:19 of the first round, Junk tapped out when he couldn’t break free from a heel-hook submission.
In the night’s first bout, “The Ultimate Fighter 5” cast member Matt Wiman (8-3 MMA, 2-1 UFC) controlled UFC newcomer Michiro Omigawa (4-5 MMA, 0-1 UFC) while striking and on the ground. After escaping an early guillotine choke, Wiman wore down his opponent for an eventual unanimous-decision victory (30-27, 29-28, 29-28).
Keith Jardine def. Chuck Liddell via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Forrest Griffin def. Mauricio â€śShogunâ€ť Rua via submission (rear-naked choke) â€” Round 3, 4:45
Jon Fitch def. Diego Sanchez via unanimous decision (30-27, 28-29, 29-28)
Lyoto Machida def. Kazuhiro Nakamura via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Tyson Griffin def. Thiago Tavares via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
Rich Clementi def. Anthony Johnson via submission (guillotine choke) â€” Round 2, 3:05
Jeremy Stephens def. Diego Saraiva via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Christian Wellisch def. Scott Junk via submission (heel hook) â€” Round 1, 3:19
Matt Wiman def. Michihiro Omigawa (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
courtesy of MMAJUNKIE