Shogun, Liddell Disappoint as Griffin, Tavares Steal The Show

It was definitely not the night that Dana White was expecting. Chuck Liddell was handed his second loss of 2007, this one via decision at the hands of Keith Jardine putting his fight with Wanderlei Silva in question (at least this year anyway). The fight could be called a war of attrition whose marks were all too clear on the body of Liddell and the face of Jardine by the time fifteen minutes had passed.

Luckily for UFC, it seems as though its judges have learned their lesson from the Bisping/Hamill fiasco a few weeks ago by awarding Jardine a rightly earned victory. I’m sure that everyone in the Honda Center was holding its breath with the possibility that controversy would tarnish another great night of fighting for UFC. Thankfully, it didn’t as Jardine won via split decision with the critical third round going his way.

Truly, it was Chuck’s fight to lose and his lack of persistence offensively is what cost him Saturday night. It did not look like the same Chuck Liddell as his punches seemed a bit sloppier, his offense not quite as fast or intense whereas Jardine got his a-game going after a lackluster opening by bruising Chuck’s body with multiple kicks and knocked Liddell down and nearly out in the second round.

This was the first time in Chuck’s career that he did not bounce back from a loss with a win. After losing to Jeremy Horn at UFC 19 in 1999, Liddell racked up ten straight wins before losing to Randy Couture in 2003. After that loss, he beat Alistair Overeem in the opening round of Pride’s middleweight grand prix before losing to Quinton Jackson in the semi-finals. After that loss, Chuck won seven straight while avenging his losses to Couture and Horn.

The other shocker of the night was the lackluster performance of Pride veteran Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in his octagon debut. Rua came into his fight with Forrest Griffin sporting a 16-2 record and was widely known as the best 205-pound fighter on the planet. All that changed as Griffin fought probably the best fight of his career totally eliminating Shogun’s offense before submitting a spent and gassed Rua with just fifteen seconds left in the fight.

Shogun did show heart in continuing to fight despite being gassed after round one, but his performance is calling a lot into question. My guess: every fighter needs a wakeup call. I equate Shogun’s defeat Saturday to George St. Pierre’s title loss earlier this year. St. Pierre bounced back, who’s to say Shogun can’t?

As for Griffin, a title shot at Quinton Jackson seems to be the most likely outcome of his win Saturday. Griffin showed that he was a lot more than just the great warrior that battled Stephan Bonnar twice. Griffin put on a great defensive display early, one that became almost sad in how dominant Griffin was able to handled Rua on the ground by the end of the fight. Griffin improved to 16-4 with the win.

Jon Fitch stayed unbeaten in UFC while “Lyoto” Machida stayed unbeaten with convincing victories over Diego Sanchez and Kazuhiro Nakamura respectively. These victories however, couldn’t have been polar opposites. In the case of Fitch, it was a convincing victory despite the fact that Fitch was never overly dominating during the fight. What he did that Sanchez didn’t do what control the fight and exact effective strikes and groundwork while Sanchez stayed active, but didn’t look for a moment like he was going to win. The same could be said about Nakamura who was dominated in his UFC debut, but this was a somewhat hollow victory for the now 11-0 Machida as he had several opportunities throughout to finish Nakamura even having him in a Rear Naked Choke at one point, but having to settle for a unanimous decision.

Still, it was the opener of UFC’s pay-per-view telecast—Tyson Griffin vs. Thiago Tavares—that stole the show and earned match of the night honors. The fight, like seven of the nine fights on the card, went the distance and provided fans with almost non-stop action with both men fighting great fights showing great athleticism and heart. At one point Griffin was on the wrong end of a ground mount position, picked up Tavares who stayed in the position on his back, continued to go on the offensive, and did so again under a minute later when he was forced to pick Tavares up for the second time. It would be three 10-9 rounds (on my card) that allowed Griffin to come away with the win improving to 10-1 after a fight of the year candidate.

Overall, it was another great show for UFC making September 2007 one of their best months in years with two major shows that did not disappoint in the least. It was a month that saw Pride take a beating, the upsets continue, a unified champion crowned, and the future of the sport colliding with only one of those men looking like it, for the moment at least.

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