(Photo courtesy of UFC.com)
The MGM Grand is abuzz as the start time for UFC 92 closes in. Tapout t-shirts flood the casino floor and bored girlfriends in halter-tops linger near the slot machines, popping their gum and sipping Michelob Ultras as part of their continued vigilance against carbs. Truly, it is a magnificent scene. And though it may not be officially the main event, all over town you can hear people talking about Wanderlei Silva and “Rampage” Jackson. The consensus seems to be that short of one man growing wings and flying out of the Octagon, nothing that happens in this fight will be too great a surprise. That’s how volatile and unpredictable it is.
Your favorite liveblogger is live and on the scene at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, so stick with me all night for news, results, wisecracks and analysis. Prelims are scheduled to get started at around 5:15 PST. If you’re holding out hope of seeing Antoni Hardonk and Mike Wessel broadcasted tonight, you might want to skip over that so as not to have it spoiled for you. Or not. Your choice.
I would remind you to hit refresh often, but you already know to do that. You sharp devil, you.
Barry comes out to the Aerosmith/Run DMC “Walk This Way” mash-up. It’s been so long since I’ve heard this song, I actually forgot how awesome it is. Consider me officially pumped. The fans who got here in time (aka the real fans) seem to agree.
Barry throws a couple looping rights. Evensen tries for a clinch and Barry flings him to the mat, then backs off to let him stand. A couple high kicks from Barry are blocked. Evensen clinches against the cage, but can’t do anything with it. Barry lands some damaging leg kicks and a good left. Evensen clinches again and manages to get Barry in his guard briefly before the kickboxer extricates himself and they’re back on their feet. More leg kicks from Barry and Evensen makes a face like he’s just had it with this stuff. He limps away and waves it off. No mas.
TKO victory for Barry. Welcome to the UFC, says Rogan. Indeed. Evensen may have just signed his walking papers with that poor display. He may also want to get some ice on that leg.
Ryo Chonan makes his entrance wearing a mask. At least he’ll take it off to fight. Blackburn comes out to Michael Jackson’s “Bad.”
Hold up, there’s a new UFC Octagon girl. WTF? Where did she come from? Wherever it is, there must be a famine there, because she is skiiiiiny.
Blackburn is pressing the action to start, forcing Chonan back with punches and body kicks. Chonan is really getting the worst of these exchanges. Blackburn is outworking him, and all Chonan has landed with any effectiveness so far is a few body kicks. Chonan attempts a flying knee or kick of some sort and ends up flat on his back. Blackburn lets him up and continues to pick him apart, landing a nice right uppercut at the end of a combination. Another left hook, right uppercut combo stings Chonan in the final seconds of the round. The horn sounds, and Chonan has some figuring to do if he’s going to get back in this one.
Chonan tries some leg kicks, ‘cause why not? Blackburn times one of them perfectly and counters with a straight right that drops Chonan. He follows into Chonan’s guard, but there’s nothing happening for him there so he gets back up. Blackburn lands a nice right hand. Chonan appears to be bleeding above his left eye. The round comes to a close and this one is looking like it’s all Blackburn going into the final round.
More of the Brad Blackburn striking clinic in the final frame. He’s landing well on Chonan, but can’t seem to hurt Chonan or put him in real trouble. Now Chonan is stalking Blackburn for a change, growing more desperate, but still eating punches for his trouble. A takedown attempt from Chonan fails. A good right from Chonan, then another. Blackburn is bleeding and his legs look wobbly. Another hard right uppercut from Chonan in the final ten seconds. Blackburn is on the run, probably wondering who this guy is and thinking it’s a good thing he wasn’t around for the first two rounds.
The round comes to a close. Chonan clearly won the final round, but lost the first two easily. If there were two more minutes of fighting Chonan might pull it off. But there’s not. Brad Blackburn takes the unanimous decision, 29-28. The fans don’t like it, but what do they want? You can’t just win the last round and expect to win the fight. Blackburn tries to explain this in his talk with Rogan. The fans seem unconvinced.
Reese Andy vs. Matt Hamill
They exchange jabs in the center of the Octagon. Hamill presses forward and manages a takedown, but Andy is back up in a hurry. Andy pins Hamill against the cage with a flurry of punches. Hamill circles out, but he looks to be cut beneath his right eye. Hamill stuffs an Andy shot. That cut is bleeding pretty good now, though Andy also seems to have some swelling around his left eye. Good uppercut from Hamill. The round comes to a close, and this one is hard to call. If forced to make a decision, I’d have to say it belonged to Hamill on the basis of the takedown and “Octagon control.”
Hamill starts round two with renewed aggression. He lands some good punches and even a knee to Andy’s head. A body shot from Hamill makes Andy wince. Andy is looking for takedowns now, a sign he’s tired of exchanging punches, but he can’t even come close to getting Hamill down. Another body shot and Andy is really looking hurt. He tries to grab a leg but Hamill just shoves him against the cage and commences to pounding on him. Andy tries to cover up, but Hamill keeps pouring it on. The ref stops this one, and it’s the right call.
Matt Hamill defeats Reese Andy via TKO (punches) at 2:19 of round two.
Antoni Hardonk vs. Mike Wessel
Wessel comes right after Hardonk and catches a break as the Dutchman slips and falls flat on his back in the opening seconds. Wessel tries some frantic ground-and-pound and almost gets himself caught in something that is not quite a triangle a choke and yet not quite an armbar attempt. A nice sweep from Hardonk puts Wessel down and then they get back to their feet. Wessel is starting to look a little gassed, like a guy who stepped in on short notice without his cardio being 100% there.
Hardonk lands some hard knees to Wessel’s face in the clinch. Wessel takes them and keeps coming, eventually getting a takedown and a moment’s reprieve from the punishment. Hardonk is using a high guard to largely nullify Wessel’s ground game, hoping for a standup. Hardonk tries another half-assed triangle and Wessel slips out, then gains full mount. Alas, the round is over just as he does so.
Clinch and leg trip by Wessel to start things off. This is clearly where he wants to be after eating those knees from Hardonk. Wessel lands some good blows inside Hardonk’s guard. Hardonk slips to the side though and proceeds to take Wessel’s back. Some huge punches and elbows from Hardonk, and Wessel is just covering up he rolls into the mount and the beating only gets worse. Yves Lavigne takes a close look and decides to stop it. Wessel ought to be grateful for that tender mercy.
Antoni Hardonk defeats Mike Wessel via TKO (punches) at 2:09 of round two.
Lister already has a black eye as he comes down to the Octagon. Has he been training with Rich Franklin or something?
A tentative high kick from Lister and a right hand that misses by a mile. God, Lister always looks so uncomfortable on his feet. And there’s the inevitable single-leg shot from Lister. Okami defends and Lister pulls half-guard. Okami gets back up rather than playing Lister’s game. A wise decision. Almost as soon as they’re back on their feet Lister tries another single-leg, with similar results. Okami motions him back up. The crowd grows restless. Okami moves in to strike and Lister clinches, then jumps into guard. It’s like he’s a poor man’s Demian Maia, just nowhere near as slick. Lister rolls for a kneebar, but it only succeeds in earning him a pounding from Okami, who is not at all concerned. The round ends; the crowd voices their displeasure.
Lister looks for another clinch, but can’t do anything with it. He tries jumping into guard again. And again. Now Lister is sitting on the mat, asking Okami pretty please to come down there. The crowd lets him have it, deservedly so. He finally gets Okami into his half-guard but only gets punched in the head several times for his trouble. The round ends with Lister unable to do anything on the mat, and unwilling to do anything on his feet. Okami has this two rounds to none so far, mainly because Lister is giving away the fight.
Lister is trying to fight on his feet to start this round, and Okami is getting the better of the striking. Lister tries a leg kick and spins around awkwardly. He attempts to slide in on his knees for a takedown and Okami easily pushes him over on his back. Okami follows into his guard, picking his spots and landing clean punches. Lister lays on his back and tries to control Okami’s hands. They’re stood up for the final minute. Another single-leg, another stuff, more boos. I am suddenly very glad the UFC decided not to broadcast this fight. I was wrong, you were right, UFC. There it is.
Yushin Okami defeats Dean Lister via unanimous decision, 30-27.
We are just about to go live with the pay-per-view portion of the card. A quick walk through the concessions area during the intermission reveals that there are more porn stars here than at Jenna Jameson’s baby shower. Zing! But seriously. Lots of porn stars. I think they’d like me if they got to know me.
These are some big boys. Kongo has the wingspan of a Pterodactyl.
A tentative start to this one, but Al Turk tries a leg kick and Kongo catches it and follows up with a right hand that puts his man down. Al Turk gets back to his feet and they clinch against the cage. Al Turk is looking for a takedown but Kongo hammers him with elbows. A knee from Al Turk catches Kongo in the pills, so we’ll take a minute and let him breathe. Uh-oh, Kongo is pissed. He wants back at Al Turk, and after the restart catches him a decent right hand. Al Turk looks for another takedown, and we’re back to the clinch. Now Kongo knees Al Turk low, and he does not appear apologetic about it, either. Wasn’t this a Hemingway short story?
After the second restart Kongo wastes no time. He drops Al Turk with a right hand and then swarms him with elbows and hammer fists. You can hear these shots at Octagon-side and the sound they make hitting Al Turk’s bloodied face is like someone hitting a wet rag with a hammer. The ref mercifully stops this one.
Cheick Kongo defeats Mostapha Al Turk via TKO (strikes), round 1.
Wanderlei Silva vs. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson
Wanderlei’s entrance music just turned this arena into a gay dance club for a couple of minutes. I mean, what I imagine a gay dance club to be like. ‘Cause I wouldn’t know what kind of music they play or how strong the drinks are or what one might do after having too many. Oh God, this explanation is going horribly. Back to the fights.
Is it me, or does Rampage always look like he’s wearing a Rampage mask? It’s some weird quality his face has. A full 180-degree Buffer turn during Wanderlei’s introduction. That’s rarely seen. What a treat.
Rampage charges forward at the start and Wanderlei circles away. A quick exchange of punches. You get the sense this could end any second. The crowd chants ‘Silva,’ then ‘Rampage.’ You see, this is why mob rule doesn’t work. A couple leg kicks from Silva, one of which cracks off Rampage’s thigh. A left hook from Rampage drops Silva. He is out cold with his arms over his head. Rampage adds a few right hands before Yves Lavinge can shove him off.
“Rampage” Jackson defeats Wanderlei Silva via KO (punch) at 3:21 of round 1.
Jackson celebrates by lifting matchmaker Joe Silva into the air. Silva is still out.
Mike Massenzio vs. C.B. Dollaway
Just in case you were wondering whether Dollaway is really a jerk, he goes ahead and confirms it during the pre-fight interview, predicting that his win over Massenzio will send him into a depression, and sounding pretty happy about that.
Massenzio has a heavily bandaged left knee. Let’s see if Dollaway is the kind of jerk who would target something like that.
They exchange knees in the clinch, with Dollaway getting the better of it. Massenzio lands a nice uppercut that hurts Dollaway. He tries to capitalize but Dollaway grabs a single-leg. Massenzio has a guillotine from the half-guard, but Dollaway slips out. Massenzio tries to work some submissions from the guard, but ends up letting Dollaway get to mount. Massenzio gives up his back and Dollaway lands enough perfunctory punches to the side of Massenzio’s head to get the ref to stop it.
C.B. Dollaway defeats Mike Massenzio via TKO (punches) at 3:01 of round 1.
C.B. would like to know if you want to party with him tonight. Feel free. Me, I’m busy. Doing anything else. Anything at all.
Mir looks a little chunky as he enters the Octagon. Not the full-on fat Frank we’ve seen in the past, but also not the guy who was on the cover of Muscle & Fitness so many years ago. Is he really prepared to go five rounds with Nogueira? His belly suggests no, but we’ll see.
Okay, Nogueira looks a little soft too, but he always looks like that. Until he gasses out or even gets stopped in a fight, he gets a free pass on that shit.
A right hand gets through from Mir. He trips Nogueira down and looks to work out of his open guard, then thinks better of it. An uppercut stings Nogueira. Mir ix mixing up his strikes well, but Nog is taking them and still coming forward. Another uppercut from Mir. A solid punch drops Nogueira. Mir tries some GnP, but then gets his wits about him and forces Nog to stand. Good body kick from Mir, then Nog comes on with a combination while Mir covers up. Mir drops Nogueira one more time with a left hand at the end of the round.
Mir continues to land solid punches, particularly the left hand. Nogueira tries some low kicks, to no avail. A big punch from Mir drops Nogueira again. This time Mir jumps on him with a flurry of punches. Nogueira may have gone limp, but he still seems conscious. Herb Dean steps in and stops it, perhaps just a tad early, but Nog staggers as he tries to get up, perhaps justifying the stoppage.
Frank Mir defeats Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (!!!) via TKO (punches) at 1:54 of round two.
Mir walks over to the side of the Octagon and points at Lesnar. The big man just smiles and nods. Oh my God, it just hit me. We’re going to see Mir-Lesnar II for the unified UFC heavyweight title. And it’s going to be a huge fight. The world is a strange place tonight. Now I might have to go to C.B.’s after-party, just to top it off.
Rashad Evans vs. Forrest Griffin
Keep an eye out for Rashad’s “variation” on the nipple-tweak during his intro. Meanhwhile, enjoy some Dropkick Murphys, courtesy of the light heavyweight champ.
Did I miss it, or did Rashad not nipple-tweak at all? Is he trying to make a fool of me, or just trying to jinx himself? I am bewildered.
Both men are taking some time to size one another up, exchanging kicks and tentative jabs. Evans throws the overhand right with positively evil intentions, but Griffin avoids it well. Kicks from Griffin are keeping Evans at bay, but Evans lands a good leg kick himself. A right hand from Griffin stings Evans. They exchange leg kicks, and Griffin seems to be moving gingerly on his right leg. Griffin tries a bit of a Superman punch to end the round. Tough one to call. 10-9 Griffin?
Griffin is chopping away at Evans with leg kicks. He adds a hard right, then more kicks, then knees in the clinch. Evans takes it all, blows him a kiss, and follows that with a left hook. It’s back and forth in round two. Evans’ punches are starting to get through, but Griffin’s leg kicks may be adding up. A big right hand Superman punch lands for Griffin just before the end of the round, and may have titled it in his favor.
A leg kick from Griffin and Evans catches it and puts him down with a punch, then follows with a series of strong hammer fists that seem to come down from the ceiling. Griffin gets his bearings and looks to sit up in the guard, but Evans stops him and moves to half-guard. Griffin regains guard but Evans is pounding him with rights. Griffin is stunned and on his side and Evans is on his feet, pouring it on. Griffin is out. Mazzagatti finally realizes it. Another new champ.
Rashad Evans defeats Forrest Griffin via TKO (punches) at 2:46 of round three.
Griffin gets to his feet and shoves away doctors and arena officials just to get to Evans and embrace him. What a fight between two warriors. What a goddamned night.
That’s all for me. I’m off to the press conference. Hope it was good for you.