UFC 88 “Breakthrough” Indeed – Review

Courtesy of UFC.com
Courtesy of UFC.com

By: Denny “The Mad One” Hodge

The crowd at Philips arena was electric. There is no doubt, having been there myself, that Chuck Liddell is still the biggest draw in MMA. Everytime that the multiple big screens in the arena flashed an image of “The Iceman”, the crowd erupted. Leading up to the main event, you could see the excitement build as near the Octagon, celebrities like Randy Couture, Big Boi from Outkast, The Tapout crew, “Rampage” Jackson and others mingled with the crowd, with camera flashes going off like a field full of fireflies. As the lights dimmed, the crowd exploded anticipating the entrance of Chuck and Rashad. Rashad came out first looking confident and bouncing all over the Octagon while awaiting Chuck’s long stroll down the hallway and out into the crowd as he made his way to do battle for a likely shot at LHW champion Forrest Griffin. Rashad appeared really loose, even dancing to Chuck’s entrance music.


Fast forward past the introductions by Bruce Buffer, and Round 1 was underway with Rashad dancing around and backing away from Chuck for most of the Round. In round 2 Chuck started more aggressively stalking Rashad, and what was evident from where I was sitting is that Chuck’s left hand stayed low while looking to engage Evans. Finally Chuck looked to back Rashad up against the fence and start to unload. Chuck loaded up with a big right hand, but with astonishing quickness it was Rashad that connected with a huge right over the top, connecting with Chuck’s chin, while Liddell’s right hand was still on it’s way to it’s mark. Before Liddell’s punch could hit it’s target, the big right delivered from Evans brutally ended the night for Chuck as his arms went limp and he hit the ground completely out from the violent connection. The crowd was stunned as was I, and everything went quiet with everyone in the arena on their feet. It was surreal watching Chuck lay on the canvas for what seemed like an eternity as Rashad celebrated on the other side of the Octagon. It was easily the most shocking event I have witnessed since starting to cover MMA some time ago.

Even today, it’s hard to fathom what happened last night. The repercussions from the upset victory by Evans throws a monkey wrench into the UFC LHW title picture. It was supposed to be Liddell and Griffin, which would have been a huge headline fight for another big UFC show keeping the momentum going for the UFC following Randy’s return. Now with Dana confirming that Rashad is next in line for a shot at Griffin, the entire landscape has changed. What does this do for Machida whom most fans and analysts figured may be next (following Liddell if he had won), for a shot at the title?  Regardless of what happens, and depending on who Rampage faces next, it will be a very interesting couple of months for the the UFC and their LHW division.

RICH FRANKLIN VS. MATT HAMILL
Before the stunning upset of Chuck, friends and former training partners, Rich Franklin and Matt Hamill faced off for another battle in the Light Heavyweight division. It was obvious from all the hugs, handshakes, and touching of gloves before and during the fight, that there was a lot of respect between the two fighters. Franklin was very impressive in his return to LHW, as he peppered Hamill with leg kicks, kicks to the head, and to the body, leaving Hamill grabbing at his ribs during exchanges. Hamill connected a few times with some nice shots to the face of Franklin, but Rich never appeared to be in any type of trouble. Hamill attempted multiple takedowns but never had much success with his wrestling in this match up. Even when he had the clinch against the fence, Franklin used excellent defense and balance to stay on his feet. Eventually Franklin connected with a big body kick that could be heard throughout the arena, that crumpled Hamill to the mat holding his midsection, as the referee stepped in to stop the fight at 39 seconds of the third and final round.

DAN HENDERSON VS. ROUSIMAR PALHARES
Dan Henderson was in need of a win, and took a big risk by facing Rousimar Palhares, a dangerous BJJ specialist. It was obvious throughout the fight that Henderson wanted the fight to stay standing. Palhares was obviously trying to take it to the ground, which was a difficult challenge for Palhares considering that wrestling is one of Henderson’s strengths. Palhares attempted shot after shot in an attempt to get the fight on the ground. Most of the takedown attempts were not set up well and executed from long distance resulting in Dan stuffing most of the trys. Where Palhares was successful is when he used a wide variety of kicks to set up the takedowns. He executed a huge double leg takedown resulting in a monstrous slam of Henderson but that was about the extent of his success against Dan, as Henderson was able to dominate the positioning on the ground and deliver some big ground in pound to Palhares during the exchanges on the mat. There were some boos during the fight but overall a pretty dominating UD victory for Henderson in his quest to climb back into title contention.

MARTIN KAMPMANN VS. NATE MARQUARDT
Coming into this fight, Kampmann was known as the successfull kickboxer, while Marquardt is more well known for his wrestling and submission skills. Not in this one. Nate came out very agressive and connected with a huge kick to the head that Kampmann never recovered from. Marquardt never backed down, stalking Kampmann towards the cage and delivering huge shots to the head and body, mixing in big uppercuts that dazed and hurt Martin Kampmann. Kampmann wilted under the constant onslaught and pressure as finally he dropped leaning against the cage giving Marquardt what would have likely been the knockout of the night if it wasn’t for Rashad’s huge KO of Liddell. Nate looks to be likely next in line for another shot at Anderson Silva’s title (pending the Cote fight) with his first round devastation of Kampmann.

MATT BROWN VS. DONG HYUN KIM
Matt Brown from The Ultimate Fighter opened up the main card, following the pull out of Karo Parisyan in the days leading up to the event. Dong Hyun Kim proved to be a game opponent as he smothered Brown in the first round, as he spent most of the round on Brown’s back looking for chokes, and going for Matt’s arms several times. Brown seemed to turn it around in Round 2, and started to dominate in the clinch with some big knees. Kim’s judo never seemed to be much of a problem for Brown, as he negated the Korean’s strength battling to control the fight. The 3rd round was close as well, with it seeming that Brown may have eeked out a split decision victory over Kim. However, the judges ruled that Kim earned the win, which elicited boos from the crowd at the announcement.

KURT PELLEGRINO VS. THIAGO TAVARES
In what turned out to be the fight of the night, Kurt Pellegrino was impressive in his UD victory over a tough and very game Tavares. Pellegrino started strong nearly closing Tavares eyes with big shots, and looked to finish Tavares with some old fashioned ground and pound. Kurt who entered with blond hair, looked like he dyed it red by the second round from all of the blood loss from Thiago Tavares. Tavares amazingly continued to push the pace in the second round, and even found himself on top with a chance to change the direction of the fight. In a split second from the bottom, Pellegrino transitioned and secured a super tight arm bar, and Tavares looked like he tapped out, resulting in Pellegrino letting go of the arm. Unfortunately the ref didn’t stop the fight, and action resumed. The replay shown several times, appeared to confirm the tap, and the crowd erupted into boos. The fight went the distance with action stalling at times in the third, but Kurt had dominated most of the fight and earned a unanimous decision victory and fight of the night honors for both fighters.

TIM BOETSCH VS. MIKE PATT
Boetsch proved to be a crowd favorite as he received a very warm welcome upon his entrance to the Octagon. The fight itself started a little slowly as both fighters cautiously circled each other. Patt eventually threw a couple of kicks, but made a huge mistake with a lazy leg kick that Boetsch countered with a big right hand dropping Patt immediately. Boetsch followed him as he fell throwing a barrage of punches forcing a stoppage in the action, and earning a 1st round TKO win.

JASON LAMBERT VS. JASON MACDONALD
MacDonald looked impressive fighting the trimmed down Jason Lambert. Jason got the takedown early but found himself fighting off a strong guillotine attempt by Lambert from his back. MacDonald worked his way out, and in the second round secured a takedown, got Lambert’s back and locked a tight body triangle on Lambert. It was the beginning of the end for Lambert, as MacDonald secured a rear naked choke forcing Lambert to tap on the cage in submission at 1:20 of the second round, and earning submission of the night honors in the process.

ROAN CARNEIRO VS. RYO CHONAN
Carneiro and Chonan engaged, with the fight soon going to the ground. Chonan had superior position on top but was unable to connect on much against Roan’s ground defense. Carneiro nearly locked up a triangle choke but Chonan escaped. In the second round the action was much of the same with the fighters clinching and Chonan getting a trip to get the takedown. Much of the rest of the fight ended up with Carneiro on his back and Chonan working some punches but with little success in doing any damage. Chonan earned a split decision victory over Carneiro.

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