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.”
After Cain Velasquez defeated Brock Lesnar to capture the heavyweight championship atUFC 121 on Saturday at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., talk turned to his first challenger, Junior dos Santos.
The 26-year-old dos Santos earned his shot at the title with a unanimous decision over “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 10 winner Roy Nelson at UFC 117 in August. The Team Nogueira member has 11 finishes among his 12 professional wins and has reeled off seven straight victories.
“[Dos Santos] probably has the best stand-up in the heavyweight division,” said Velasquez. “Plus, he has good takedown defense. He’ll definitely be a tough challenge for me.”
As Velasquez entered his UFC heavyweight title fight against Lesnar, the mixed martial arts community pointed towards his superior conditioning as a potential difference between the two. However, Velasquez did not need the extra gas, as he knocked out Lesnar in the first round and became the first Mexican heavyweight champion in the promotion’s history.
“I was kind of surprised at how hard [Lesnar] was coming forward at the start of the fight,” said Velasquez, who now has six first-round knockouts among his eight stoppages. “I froze up a little bit, but once I got a takedown, I was OK. I feel like my hard work really paid off. I worked really hard in my camp on getting a single-leg [takedown] and did a lot of reps with it, and it worked to a T.”
Winning the title in front of a pro-Hispanic crowd like the one that greeted him at UFC 121 meant a great deal to Velasquez, who remains unbeaten in nine professional MMA fights.
“It feels great to be the first Mexican heavyweight champion of the UFC,” said Velasquez. “I want to dedicate this title to all of the Mexicans here in America, as well as Mexicans in Mexico. I think [Latinos] bring an aggressive fight style. We come forward and don’t stop, and people like that. [Anaheim] was one of the key spots where I’ve wanted to fight, along with Mexico. To win the title here means a lot to me.”
Lesnar came out with guns blazing, but Velasquez stayed calm, even after he was taken down twice in the first two minutes of the fight. Velasquez delivered a takedown of his own and got Lesnar’s back, using punches and hammerfists. Lesnar returned to his feet on two different occasions, but Velasquez — a member of the American Kickboxing Academy — dropped him with a two-punch combination and went in for the finish. Several punches later, referee Herb Dean stopped the fight 4:12 into the first round, and the UFC had a new heavyweight champion.
“I just had to pick my shots,” said Velasquez. “I knew the referee wasn’t going to step in and stop it too early, so I had to keep from going crazy with my punches. I took my time and picked my shots.”
Velasquez said he felt the momentum turn in his favor when he weathered Lesnar’s initial barrage and took down the champion.
“I really felt like the turning point of the fight was when I got his head going back and his legs were open,” said Velasquez. “When I took him down and he couldn’t get up, I could tell I was going to win.”
Velasquez now plans to take a little time to bask in the glory of being a champion.
“This wasn’t a hard camp, but it was a long camp,” said Velasquez. “I’m going to hang out with my family a little. They deserve it.”
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.”
Bellator 33 Weigh-in Results
Wilson Reis (146) vs. Deividas Taurosevicius (145)
Rick Hawn (171) vs. LeVon Maynard (171)
Jamal Patterson (206) vs. Tim Carpenter (206.5)
Tuan Pham (129.5) vs. Nick Cottone (130)
Edward Guedes (159) vs. Luiz Azeredo (159)
Lester Caslow (146) vs. Kenny Foster (146)
Bellator Fighting Championships is only 24 hours away from arguably the biggest fight in the young promotion’s history, as lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez meets Roger “El Matador” Huerta in the featured attraction of Bellator 33.
Both main event combatants hit their marks at Wednesday’s pre-fight weigh-ins, tipping the scales at 155 pounds. The scrap will be a non-title affair, going down on Oct. 21 at the Liacouras Center in Philadelphia.
Originally intended to be a title shot for Bellator’s season two lightweight winner Pat Curran, Huerta is filling in for the fighter who beat him in the tournament semi-final. Huerta is a UFC veteran, and is known for putting on exciting fights. He’s fallen on hard times as of late, however, as he’s lost three of his last four fights.
“I’ve got to redeem myself. I’m facing a great champion and a great opponent. I have to give it my all. Eddie is going to bring the best out in me,” said Huerta.
Alvarez, a product of the Philadelphia Fight Factory, is a veteran of Japan’s Dream promotion and was awarded the Bellator lightweight strap after winning the organization’s inaugural 155-pound tournament last year.
“This is my way to thank all my fans for coming out. Look forward to a high-paced, violent fight. That’s what we’re here for,” said Alvarez.
In the co-main event, Lyman Good  will take on Ben Askren  in a showdown for Good’s welterweight title. Good, winner of Bellator’s season one welterweight tournament, is coming off a 15-month layoff to defend his title against the challenger Askren, who won the organization’s season two welterweight tournament.