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.”
Great Dubstep … Great Highlight
The fight wasn’t close, as Velasquez showed vastly superior technique and unloaded on Lesnar on the ground until Lesnar’s face was a bloody mess and referee Herb Dean stepped in to stop the fight.
“I trained for a five-round fight and that’s what I was hoping for,” Velasquez said afterward. “I wasn’t expecting this. You can’t expect a first-round stoppage.”
Lesnar went on the attack from the get-go, tying Velasquez up, going for a takedown and getting Velasquez on his back 30 seconds into the first round. But Velasquez didn’t have any trouble shrugging Lesnar off and getting back up to his feet and against the cage. Both Velasquez and Lesnar are former NCAA All-American wrestlers, and it was clear that they both felt like they could be successful grappling with the other.
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Episode six of “The Ultimate Fighter 12” netted 1.7 million viewers this week, a decline from last week’s 1.9 million who tuned in to watch the show. The episode earned a 1.3 household rating, also a modest decline from the previous episode’s rating on 1.34.
The show also captured a 1.71 rating in the male 18-49 demographic and a 1.94 in males aged 18-34. Both numbers are down from last week.
Episode six followed a similar trend to this season’s past installments, starting slow with a 1.14 in the first fifteen minutes and finishing strong in the last quarter hour with a 1.42.
Two fights were featured this week, as Team GSP swept both bouts and improved to 5-1 on the season. In the first contest, Cody McKenzie caught Marc Stevens in his trademark guillotine, causing Team Koscheck’s number one pick to lose consciousness early in round one. In fight two, Jonathan Brookins submitted Sevak Magakian by rear naked choke in equally impressive fashion.
Additionally, the final installment of the UFC’s three-part series hyping the UFC 121 main event between Brock Lesnar and Cain Velasquez earned an average of 1.2 million viewers, an improvement over the previous episode’s 1.1 million and the debut’s 974,000 viewers.
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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.”