"UFC 84: Ill Will" was loaded with anticipation and pre-fight hype, so much so that it was almost inconceivable that it would live up to expectations. You had the two best lightweights the UFC had to offer battling for the title after a war of words that neither had ever engaged in.
You had a must-win for an MMA legend in a fight that would have definite title implications in the packed light heavyweight division. And, you had the final UFC fight of the most experienced UFC fighter in the company's history against an undefeated enigma.
Could this card possibly live up to all that anticipation? All those storylines? In what clearly ended up being one of the best fight cards the UFC has ever put on, the answer was a resounding YES!
BJ Penn Defeats Sean Sherk
By Technical Knock Out At 5:00 In The 3rd Round
The war of words finally ended when the Octagon door locked and the UFC's current and former Lightweight champions stood across from one another awaiting the referee's instructions to fight. And fight they did ... well, more like box.
For all of three rounds, BJ used his superior stand-up skills to batter the face of his opponent who was, maybe surprisingly, content to go toe to toe rather than make any serious or consistent effort to try to get the fight to the ground. But there's the problem with fighting BJ Penn ... pick your poison. He has great stand-up skills, as was evident in his dominance against Sherk and, oh by the way, he may be the most talented BJJ stylist in all of MMA.
I was a bit surprised that Sean didn't try to wear BJ down with takedowns because conditioning was the one place where Sean had the big advantage over BJ. At least forcing BJ to defend takedowns and get some ground and pound in would have tested BJ's cardio. But "The Prodigy" looked fresh for all 15 minutes right until a flurry of hands and a perfectly executed knee left Sean dazed and confused as the bell sounded ending the third round, just 30 seconds before referee Steve Mazzagatti called the fight.
Wanderlei Silva Defeats Keith Jardine
By Knock Out At 0:36 In The 1st Round
In what many felt was the turning point fight in the storied career of Wanderlei Silva, the "Axe Murderer" silenced the critics, and his opponent, quickly and violently. He instantly landed a combination that rocked Jardine and the killer instinct that made him a legend kicked in.
He held Keith down by the throat and nailed him with three big blows that knocked him out cold. His performance also nabbed the $75,000 Knockout of the Night Bonus. It was a huge night for Silva and a scary one for any Jardine fans who watched him lay motionless for three full minutes before walking out of the Octagon under his own power.
Thankfully, Keith got checked out at the hospital after the fight and is fine, but his future in the division took a big step back. This loss, coupled with his May, 2007 bout with Houston Alexander, put two vicious first round knockout losses on his resume separated by the biggest win of his career when he split decisioned Chuck Liddell.
Does he have a glass jaw or a case of split personality where people will ask which Keith will show up at his next fight? For Wanderlei, this fight could put him one away from a title shot, particularly if Rampage beats Forrest in early July since Silva has destroyed Rampage the two times they have met in Pride. A marketer's dream.
Goran Reljic Defeats Wilson Gouveia
By Technical Knock Out At 3:15 In The 2nd Round
This match scored an extra $75,000 for both combatants when it was named Fight of the Night, and deservedly so. Reljic, who trains with fellow Croatian Mirko Cro Cop, obviously learned his lessons well as he threw several strong high kicks that would have taken Gouveia's head off if he didn't block them.
Reljic then absorbed some serious punishment when Wilson started landing strikes, so much so that he pulled guard to stop it. The first round could have been scored either way.
In the second, Wilson dropped Goran with a left hook and followed it with a flurry of punches that battered him. The Croatian got back to his feet and looked to be in bad shape but then returned the favor, nailing Wilson with a left hook of his own and putting him on the ground.
Reljic was relentless with punches, finally causing the referee to step in and stop it. For Goran, his UFC debut couldn't have gone much better ... an exciting win and a $75,000 bonus!
Lyoto Machida Defeats Tito Ortiz
By Unanimous Decision At 5:00 In The 3rd Round
Even casual fans of the UFC know one thing ... company President Dana White and former light-heavyweight champ Tito Ortiz really do hate each other. It's not staged, not a bunch of hype. To steal the company's tagline, it is "As Real As It Gets."
With this being the last fight on Tito's current UFC contract and the parties not able to agree on a new one, people were as intrigued by all that drama as they were Tito's fight against undefeated Lyoto Machida.
First the fight. Like most of Lyoto's fights, it was rather boring until the third round. In the third, Tito locked in a triangle choke off his back that he transitioned to an armbar that Lyoto was able to escape from. Had he kept the triangle in and forced Lyoto's head down, I'd be writing that Tito exited the UFC just the way he would have wanted to script it ... with a stunning win over a heavily favored opponent. Instead, the ill-advised transition to that armbar allowed Machida to score another unanimous decision, which he deserved.
The problem for the UFC is that while Machida is a skilled, undefeated fighter, he tends to avoid a lot of contact and make his opponents miss a lot.
Yes, he is a great technical fighter, but he is anything but a fan favorite with four of his five UFC fights going the distance and generally lacking significant action. In that respect, he reminds me a lot of middleweight Yushin Okami, rumored to be fighting champ Anderson Silva sometime down the road. We'll see what the promotion has in store for Lyoto.
For Ortiz, no one knows what is in the store for the Huntington Beach Bad Boy. But there was plenty of drama after the fight at the post-fight press conference as he didn't follow certain protocol and was initially told to leave before it even started. Then he was allowed to participate, which gave he and Dana more opportunities to snipe at each other, though neither ruled out that Tito could still end up fighting in the UFC.
Stay tuned and we'll be sure to keep you in the know on Pro MMA Radio as the drama unfolds.
Thiago Silva Defeats Antonio Mendes
By Submission At 2:24 In The 1st Round By Strikes
The undefeated Silva was the biggest favorite of the night by Vegas' standards, but the early going had people wondering if the odds makers knew what they were talking about. Although he absorbed most of the impact of a Mendes head kick with his arm as he blocked it, he still hit the floor from the force alone.
After he recovered, Mendes landed a body kick that put Thiago on the floor again that had him smelling upset. Once Thiago got his bearings, he was able to secure the mount after Mendes' attempt at a hip toss failed.
Just as he did to Houston Alexander in his last fight, Thiago kept the mount and rained down punishment until Mendes tapped. (The victory over Houston was technically by TKO, no pun intended!)
Now 13-0 with four consecutive wins in the UFC, Thiago MUST get a fight against a big-name light heavyweight. He has been impressive with three of those fights ending in the first round and the other ending in round two. Is it time for him to fight a fellow Brazilian, maybe a fellow Silva or a Machida?
The prelims on this card were the best I've EVER seen. Rousimar Palhares displayed phenomenal submission skills in pulling off a sweet arm bar against veteran Ivan Salaverry and was awarded the $75,000 Submission of the Night for his efforts. He was seriously challenged for that award by Yoshiyuki Yoshida who put former Ultimate Fighter contestant Jon Koppenhaver to sleep with a beautiful, and rare anaconda choke in just 56 seconds.
And if you like quick endings, heavyweight prospect Shane Carwin made his UFC debut with a 44-second knockout of Christian Wellisch that should have garnered him KO of the Night honors. Shane is now 9-0 and has won every fight in the first round and has only fought a total of 8 minutes in his entire career! Watch out for this guy ... he may be a major player in the division sooner rather than later.
- Rousimar Palhares def. Ivan Salaverry via submission (arm-bar) - Round 1, 2:36
- Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou def. Kazuhiro Nakamura via TKO (strikes) - Round 1, 5:00
- Rich Clementi def. Terry Etim via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Yoshiyuki Yoshida def. Jon Koppenhaver via submission (anaconda choke) - Round 1, 0:56
- Dong-Hyun Kim def. Jason Tan via TKO (strikes) - Round 3, 0:25
- Shane Carwin def. Christian Wellisch via KO (punch) - Round 1, 0:44