UFC 92 Recap

December 30, 2008

Former UFC Light Heavyweight champ Quinton "Rampage" Jackson started Saturday night's packed card with a stunning KO victory against long-time nemesis Wanderlei Silva. The win came via strikes, as Jackson knocked Silva out cold with a picture-perfect left hook at the 3:21 mark of the opening round.

By dropping Silva in such fashion, the 30 year-old Rampage improved his career record to 29-7 with 21 KO's. Perhaps more important to Jackson was the fact that he was able to exorcise some long-standing demons and exact some revenge upon "The Axe Murderer." Silva owned two prior victories over Rampage, courtesy of some unrelenting knees to the face.

Jackson showed no ill-effects from his recent split with long-time trainer Juanito Ibarra, as he fought at a decidedly relaxed and measured pace. Jackson calmly and steadily stalked his opponent, while Silva surprisingly seemed intent to stand and trade with the taller and heavier American. The patient Jackson simply waited for the Brazilian to present him with an opportunity to strike, and when that opportunity knocked, Rampage pounced with a combination of punches.

Rampage countered the Brazilian's wide attack by unleashing a perfectly-placed left hook that landed right on the button. The hook was so hellacious and well-timed that Silva was clearly unconscious before he even hit the ground.

Now the loser of four out of his last five fights, Silva dropped to 32-9-1, and it may just be time for the proud champion to permenantly exit the Octagon. Meanwhile, for Jackson, another shot at the title can't be too far away. But until that shot arrives, expect UFC President Dana White to first set up a rematch between the newly resurgent Rampage and Forrest Griffin, the man who took away Jackson's UFC light heavy title in a disputed decision.

Saturday's electrifying card produced another dominant performance and surprising outcome, as former Heavyweight kingpin Frank Mir signaled his return to the top of the UFC Heavyweight ranks by stopping Antonio "Minotauro" Nogueira in the second round. In becoming the first man ever to defeat the legendary Nogueira by TKO stoppage, Mir not only won himself recognition as the UFC "Interim" Heavyweight champion, but unquestionably positioned himself as the de facto number one challenger to the alpha dog of the Heavyweight ranks, WWF refugee and NFL cast-off, Brock Lesnar.

In dropping the legendary Brazilian three times over the course of two rounds, Mir showed that he has finally put the mental and emotional damage caused by his horrific motorcycle accident behind him. Surprisingly, he also demonstrated a much-improved stand-up striking game. The confidence in those new skills was seen when Mir intentionally backed off a prone and on-his-back Nogueira, allowing him to rise to his feet uncontested.

In the leadup to the fight, Mir showed a newfound maturity as well as a hunger in honing his striking skills to complement his already legendary submission hold attack. All in Mir's camp reported that Mir had a commitment to excellence that they had always wanted from him, but had not yet seen with any regularity. The fact that he performed better than at any other time has got to be seen as a delicious treat for his fans, as the time couldn't be better for a winner-takes-all clash between MMA's two baddest behemoths, Mir and Lesnar. This fight could occur in the spring or summer of 2009.

In the heavily-anticipated Main Event, undefeated "Sugar" Rashad Evans wrested Forrest Griffin's newly-won UFC Light Heavyweight Title from him, with a stunning 3rd-round TKO. Although Griffin calmly controlled the center of the Octagon with well-placed kicks in the first two rounds, he showed an alarmingly ineffective guard. That poor defense allowed Evans, 18-0-1, to repeatedly register numerous unanswered blows.

In winning, the charming and charismatic Evans endeared himself to MMA fans -- most of whom are still not sold on his legitimacy as a a top-tier fighter, since he has yet to win via submission, despite an amateur wrestling background. In fact, Evans likely produced the night's most exciting moment when he playfully smacked his palm to his own "kisser" during a Griffin attack, and then proceeded to gesture to his own "manhood." This brazen, mid-battle act of machismo was considered by many to be the turning point of the scrap, and perhaps announced Evans' arrival as a main attraction, pay-per-view draw and elite-level fighter.

If nothing else, the UFC braintrust must know that they have a marquee man they can market, as Evans' undefeated record makes him a draw in a sport where even an 80 percent winning percentage can turn you into a hot commodity. Reportedly Evans will now take on Rampage Jackson in his first title defense.

By Kweku Turkson
Staff Reporter for TheDailySportsHerald

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