The two rivals locked horns Saturday in the co-main event of UFC 123, fighting for a third time in front of a raucous crowd at The Palace of Auburn Hills in Auburn Hills, Mich.
In the pair’s first meeting, heavy underdog Penn (Pictured) shocked the world by choking out the dominant champion in the opening round at UFC 46 in 2004. The rematch nearly three years later belonged to Hughes, who outlasted Penn’s early offense to finish the fight in the third period by TKO. Tonight, the rubber match was over before it started, as the Hawaiian unleashed a dynamite counter right hand, flooring Hughes before following up with punches from top position to seal the deal.
At the post-fight press conference, the jiu-jitsu black belt was humble in victory.
“I felt fired up as soon as I got the phone call to fight Matt. Me and Matt put on great fights, and I’m just happy it went that way [tonight],” said Penn. “Matt Hughes is my idol, and he’ll always be my idol.”
When asked to describe how he set up the lighting-quick right hand that spelled the beginning of the end for his opponent, the former two-division UFC champion was frank in his reply.
“I don’t think that I really even set it up. I was just in there to fight. I wanted him to hit me, and I wanted to hit him,” he said. “I just wanted to go out there and fight like a kid.”
It’s been nearly seven years since Penn first clashed with Hughes. Over the course of that time, says Penn, a lot has changed for both men.
“I think we both evolved very much over the years,” he said. “When a fight goes the way it did tonight, it’s just one of those things. Who knows how it would have played out if it had gone longer. I’m sure Matt was in great shape.”
After the fight, Hughes was clearly upset by the outcome and the manner in which he was defeated. UFC president Dana White chimed in regarding Hughes’ commitment to the bout at the post-fight presser.
“I know Matt Hughes trained hard for this fight and he was motivated. It’s very rare for him to go train somewhere away from his family, and he trained for this fight in Utah with Jeremy Horn,” said White. “He took this fight very seriously. This is a big win for B.J.”
Regarding Hughes’ future, White would not comment other than to remind the press in attendance how important the hall of famer has been in developing White’s brand.
“Listen, there are guys I’ve talked about for years who helped build this company, and Matt is one of those guys,” said White. “We’ll talk and we’ll figure it out.”
Following the jaw-dropping knockout, Penn exited the cage almost immediately and began heading back toward the locker room, sparking the memory of his 11-second knockout over Caol Uno at UFC 34 in 2001.
“For the last 10 years, I was trying to recreate the Caol Uno fight,” said Penn. “But [after I ran out of the cage], I thought, ‘I can’t be disrespectful to Matt. I gotta go back in there and give Matt the honors.’”
In regards to the remainder of his UFC career, the Hawaiian is leaving the big decisions up to the powers that be.
“I want to get back in as soon as possible. I’m 31 and want to fight a lot more until I’m 35 and then maybe call it quits,” said Penn. “For the first time in my career, I’m going to let Dana make that call. Whatever Dana says, we’ll go with that.”
White looked on with approval, saying “it only took 10 years.”
Quinton “Rampage” Jackson had a serious problem before his fight.
“Man, I was horse as hell. I couldn’t even get my howl out the way I wanted to. It was rough.”
Jackson, who defeated Lyoto Machida in the main event of UFC 123 at The Palace of Auburn Hills in suburban Detroit, Mich., on Saturday night, caught an illness from his son prior to the bout. At the post-fight news conference, Jackson claimed he was thankful just to have fought that night.
“I’m just happy I made it to the fight. The fight was almost canceled a couple of days ago. I caught a fever from my son, and I was throwing up, and then I had to cut the weight,” said Jackson. “But I didn’t want to let my fans down. We don’t always see eye-to-eye, but [UFC president Dana White] has always been there for me. I just couldn’t tell Dana that I was pulling out of this fight. He probably would have cussed me the f–k out.”
The former light heavyweight champion barely got by Machida, earning a razor-thin split decision. In fact, after the fight Jackson even raised his opponent’s hand, figuratively admitting defeat.
“To be honest, me and Rampage are getting along again, but he pissed me off tonight. I scored that fight for Rampage. He was acting like he lost and was slumping down,” said White. “Machida put on that burst and then took him down, but you don’t win a fight by landing four of five punches. Rampage was the aggressor the whole time.”
Jackson, who unified the UFC and Pride 205-pound titles in 2007, entered the arena backed by a soundtrack that hardcore fans know well. As the iconic drums and strings of the Pride Fighting Championships theme poured in over the loudspeaker, Jackson stalked toward the cage with an intense look in his eyes.
“I just recently went to Japan on the ‘The A-Team‘ tour. One of the people interviewing me remembered me from Pride. Back in Pride I used to fight a different style, and he asked me why I didn’t fight like that anymore,” said Jackson. “When I first came to the UFC, I felt like an outsider. In Pride, everybody knew me and loved me. Honestly, I make more money now than I did in Pride. I think I kind of got greedy, so I wanted to come out with that old spirit. I almost slammed Machida, so I think it kind of worked.”
Once both men were in the cage, it was a game of cat and mouse. Machida, ever circling, generally avoided the powerful Tennessean, all the while landing kicks to Jackson’s legs and ribcage as “Rampage” moved forward unfazed. In round two, Jackson was even more aggressive and connected with a hard uppercut to Machida’s jaw. In the final frame, the Brazilian found a home for a hard counter-straight, followed by an ambush of punches before finally ending the sequence with a takedown. After talking a considerable amount of trash regarding his opponent’s fighting style, Jackson readily acknowledged Machida’s skill following the contest.
“I just had a one track mind trying to knock him out. It was really tough to stay on my game plan. I was focusing on cutting off the cage and staying close to him, but he’s really elusive and very tricky,” said Jackson. “It’s different fighting Machida than [it is to watch him fight]. I remember trying to punch him, and he was already over on my other side. I got more respect for his style, because I wish I could move a little better like that. I wouldn’t want to watch it, but I have more respect for it.”
UFC 125 “Resolution”
Saturday, Jan. 1
MGM Grand Garden Arena
Shane Carwin vs. Roy Nelson
Chris Leben vs. Brian Stann
Thiago Silva vs. Brandon Vera
Clay Guida vs. Takanori Gomi
Nate Diaz vs. Dong Hyun Kim
Antonio McKee vs. Jacob Volkmann
* Phil Baroni vs. Brad Tavares
Current Maximum Fighting Championship lightweight titleholder Antonio McKee will make his promotional debut in a preliminary matchup against Jacob Volkmann at UFC 125 “Resolution” on Jan. 1 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Seven fights are now official for the event, which will air live on pay-per-view.
McKee will carry an 11-fight winning streak into the match. An International Fight League veteran, he stopped Luciano Azevedo — the only man to defeat current World Extreme Cagefighting featherweight champion Jose Aldo — on first-round strikes at MFC 26 in September. McKee has not lost a fight in nearly eight years and owns other notable victories against former Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion Delson Heleno, UFC veteran Marcus Aurelio and two-time Bellator Fighting Championships lightweight tournament finalist Toby Imada.
Spawned by the Minnesota Martial Arts Academy, Volkmann last appeared at UFC Live 2 in August, when he defeated Paul Kelly by unanimous decision at the San Diego Sports Arena in San Diego. A decorated amateur wrestler, the 30-year-old was a Big Ten conference champion and three-time Div. I All-American at the University of Minnesota. Volkmann, who once held the Victory Fighting Championship welterweight crown, has secured more than half (six) of his 11 career wins by submission. He has been finished only once — by the world-ranked Martin Kampmann — in 13 professional appearances.
A lightweight title bout pairing champion Frankie Edgar with undefeated challenger Gray Maynard will headline UFC 125, along with a pivotal heavyweight tilt between the once-beaten Shane Carwin and “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 10 winner Roy Nelson. In addition, the oft-injured Thiago Silva will toe the line against Brandon Vera in a featured duel at 205 pounds. A lightweight duel pitting former Pride Fighting Championships titleholder Takanori Gomi against Clay Guida and a middleweight battle pairing former WEC champion Brian Stann with Chris Leben will round out the main card.
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Eddie Alvarez had a hotel room, but he decided to go home Wednesday and sleep in his own bed.
He woke Thursday morning and had a cup of coffee with his wife. Come afternoon he met with his coaches at the Fight Factory and watched footage of Roger Huerta. Come night he went down to the Liacouras Center and battered Huerta until the doctor stopped their entertaining lightweight bout after the second round.
“Now I’m gonna go home. It’s perfect,” Alvarez said of headlining Bellator 33 in his hometown of Philadelphia.
Huerta was gutsy, as always. He scored a flash knockdown in the first round, a slam in the second. Mostly, though, he absorbed punishment. Alvarez landed with his hands regularly, swelling Huerta’s left eye, but his kicks might have done the most damage.
“Every single thing worked tonight. Every single thing,” said Alvarez, Bellator’s lightweight champion. “It was sort of like [my coaches] plugged the remote control into the back of me, told me what to do and played with a paddle just like a video game.”
The uppercuts Huerta ate were ordered earlier that day when Alvarez studied footage with his coaches. Muay Thai trainer Ricky Lee pointed out that Huerta was open to the strikes. Alvarez used them relentlessly on the inside when he wasn’t crippling Huerta with kicks on the outside.
“He fought a hugely motivated Roger Huerta tonight, a guy who had everything to lose in this fight and everything to gain at the exact same time,” said Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney. “And [Alvarez] literally dominated from start to finish.”
At the postfight news conference both Rebney and Alvarez turned to pushing for a co-promotional bout against Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez. Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker told Sherdog.com earlier this month he was interested in making the match, but he cited various obstacles, most notably television.
Strikeforce has a deal with Showtime. Bellator has deals with Fox Sports Net and NBC. Coker called television a “big issue,” but Rebney dismissed it Thursday.
“There aren’t promotional issues,” Rebney said. “There aren’t any barriers to entry. There aren’t any hurdles.”
In fact, Rebney said the fight could take place on Strikeforce’s network and on the San Jose-based promotion’s home turf.
“What television network is it going to be on? We’ll do it on Showtime,” Rebney said. “Where will the fight happen? Well, let’s do it in San Jose. The answers to the questions are very simple.”
Rebney was careful to express his respect for Coker and Strikeforce, but he also blamed the promoter for preventing an Alvarez-Melendez matchup.
“There’s no reason that fight shouldn’t happen but for the fact that the promoter of Gilbert Melendez doesn’t want it to occur,” Rebney said.
“Scott Coker doesn’t want it to happen,” Alvarez echoed. “He’s trying to obviously protect his champion. I guess he has every right to. He has a business to run, so whatever.”
Coker has referenced other factors impeding the bout. Rebney’s stated willingness to send it to Showtime and San Jose might move the fight a little closer to reality, though. Alvarez would be far from his own bed and his Philly brethren, but he says a matchup in Melendez’s backyard would be worth it.
“I want to be number one in the world, and the only way to do that is to fight people like Gilbert,” Alvarez said. “If we can get our hands on him and the contracts work out, then that’s what we’ll do. But until then, it’s just talk. The paper’s gotta be signed. Let’s make it happen.”
Detroit will be infused with adrenaline on Saturday, November 20, as the Ultimate Fighting Championship® returns to the Motor City for the first time since UFC IX in 1996. In the main event, two former UFC® light heavyweight champions collide as Quinton “Rampage” Jackson takes on Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida at UFC 123: RAMPAGE vs. MACHIDA, presented by Bud Light and live from the Palace at Auburn Hills in Detroit, Michigan.
Also on this stacked UFC 123 card, former welterweight champions will settle their score as UFC Hall of Famer Matt Hughes and former two-division champion BJ Penn face off in the rubber match of one of the greatest trilogies in fight history.
“When you think of Detroit, the first names that come to mind are legends like Joe Louis and Tommy Hearns,” UFC President Dana White said. “This is a real fight town with diehard fight fans, so I’m happy to be the guy bringing big fights to the Motor City.”
“We’re bringing the best UFC fighters here on November 20th,” added White, who is heading to Detroit on Thursday, September 16th, to meet with the media and officially announce UFC 123. “Rampage Jackson and Lyoto Machida are two of the top light heavyweights in the world. I expect this fight to be a war, as both of these guys want to get back in the title run. The co-main event is Matt Hughes vs. BJ Penn, two of the best fighters in UFC history. They have both beat each other and jumped at the opportunity to fight a third time.”
“We’ve stayed in constant touch with the UFC for several years now in working together to develop an opportunity to place one of their electrifying events at The Palace of Auburn Hills,” said Stu Mayer, Senior Vice President, Sports & Events for Palace Sports & Entertainment. “We’re both extremely pleased that it’s finally become a reality. UFC 123 will no doubt be embraced by the greater Detroit area and throughout the state of Michigan.”
Tickets for UFC 123 will go on sale Monday, September 20 at 10 a.m. ET and will be priced at $400, $300, $200, $150, $100 and $50. Tickets are available at Palacenet.com, Ticketmaster.com, charge-by-phone (800.745.3000) and all Ticketmaster retail locations.
UFC® Fight Club™ members will have the opportunity to purchase tickets to this event Friday, September 17 starting at 10 a.m. ET via UFCFightClub.com. A special internet ticket pre-sale will be available to UFC newsletter subscribers on Saturday, September 18 starting at 10a.m. ET. To access this presale, users must register for the UFC newsletter through UFC.com.
UFC 123 will be available live on Pay-Per-View on iN DEMAND, DIRECTV, DISH Network, TVN, BellTV, Shaw Communications, Sasktel, and Viewer’s Choice Canada for a suggested retail price of $44.99 US/$49.99 CAN for standard definition or high-definition broadcasts (where available). UFC 121 will also be available on Pay-Per-View in Spanish in the United States.
A ferocious competitor known for his aggressive slams and knockout power, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson (fighting out of Memphis, Tenn. / professional record: 30-8) has been in there with the best and has beaten the best. A former Pride® veteran and UFC light heavyweight champion, the Memphis native’s UFC stint has seen him score knockout victories over Chuck Liddell and Wanderlei Silva and decision wins over Dan Henderson and Keith Jardine, making it clear that the 32-year-old can stand in the Octagon with anyone.
“I started this camp very early,” Jackson said. “I stayed in shape from the last fight and the weight hasn’t been an issue this time. Every single minute of this camp will be focused on technique, not getting back in shape or shaking the ring rust after a long time off.
“If Machida decides to fight me, it will be an exciting fight for one round before he goes to sleep. I am expecting him to run from me, though. He’d wear sneakers into the Octagon if he could! But don’t worry, I will hunt him down and get him anyway.”
A black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and Machida Karate, Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida (fighting out of Belem, Brazil / 16-1) has proved he is dangerous anywhere the fight goes. The former UFC light heavyweight champion won his first 16 professional fights and is focused on getting back into the title picture. Winning five of his first six fights in the UFC, the 32-year-old has finished three bouts, including a submission win over Rameau Sokoudjou and knock out victories against Thiago Silva and Rashad Evans.
“I know what it’s like to be the champion and I want to be the champion again,” Machida said. “I respect Rampage and I think he is an incredible fighter, but I’m going to expose his weaknesses – I’m going to win this fight on November 20 and go after the light heavyweight title.”
A fighter that is seeing a renaissance during an already brilliant career, Matt Hughes (fighting out of Hillsboro, Ill. / 46-7) has won his last three fights, putting himself back in the title picture once again. After a unanimous decision win against Matt Serra, a KO victory over Renzo Gracie and a submission victory over Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Ricardo Almeida, the 36-year-old has cemented his UFC Hall Of Fame status as he looks to get his welterweight title back.
In a move back to the 170-pound class after a very successful run as champion at 155 pounds, former UFC lightweight and welterweight champion BJ Penn (fighting out of Hilo, Hawaii / 15-7-1) will meet Hughes in a highly-anticipated rubber match. After Penn won their first fight via submission at UFC 46 and Hughes evened the score via TKO at UFC 63, both fighters are hungry to break the tie. Penn, a highly decorated Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, has always been known as a finisher, and with fighters such as Kenny Florian, Diego Sanchez, Sean Sherk, Joe Stevenson, Jens Pulver and even Hughes on that list, the 31-year-old Hawaiian is one of the sport’s most dangerous competitors.