Zuffa wrapped up their year at the MGM Grand this Saturday night with UFC 92. Quinton Jackson got a monkey off his back, Rashad Evans may very well find himself at the top of many 205 rankings and Frank Mir supplanted his status within the MMA history books.
Expectations were high for “The Ultimate 2008” card, featuring two title fights, one grudge match and an under card featuring some interesting bouts. UFC 92 may not go down as the best in UFC history, however, it certainly did not disappoint.
Overall Grade: B
The televised portion of the card boasted six stoppages via knockout or TKO (seven if you agree with Forrest Griffin’s flailing admission) and one tap out due to strikes. Had there been more active work on the ground this card could have earned a B+/A-. However, for a card to be considered “A” worthy, it needs to show off all facets of MMA.
Rashad Evans: B+
“Sugar” proved to be too quick for the champion en route to a third round stoppage. He worked his angles well, showed off more vibrant striking and worked in Griffin’s guard very well. In his last few fights, Evans has appeared to be content feeling his opponents out on the feet, countering and using his fast hands. A far cry from the near one dimensional wrestler on TUF 2. We will see if this style can continue to be successful against the likes of “Rampage” Jackson, Lyoto Machida or Thiago Silva in 2009.
Forrest Griffin: C-
Forrest looked to be more inclined to take this fight to the score cards, rather than finish the bout. He showed off some good leg kicks and a few flurry’s, but Evans seemed to neutralize any potential opportunity. Joe Rogan pointed out the TUF 1 winner’s ground game had been very underrated, however, he allowed “Sugar” to posture up in his guard repeatedly. This proved to be Griffin’s death nail and lead to the end.
Frank Mir: A
While Matt Serra’s win over Georges St. Pierre may be one of the biggest upsets in MMA, Frank Mir’s win has to be considered as one of MMA’s all time greatest coups. Mir (along with this writer) indicated after the bout that he himself didn’t believe he could defeat Nogueira. Mir’s striking was nothing short of astonishing. He out worked the interim champion in every area on the feet, knocking him down four times. Mir, not the great Fedor Emelianeko, became the first man to ever stop Antonio Rodrigo “Minotauro” Nogueira.
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira: F
The great Nogueira had no answers for Frank Mir whatsoever. “Minotauro” had been a huge favorite and many believed MIr had no chance of submitting or knocking out the former PRIDE FC champion. Nogueira couldn’t land any effective shots and could not control Mir at all when the fight briefly hit the floor. Nogueira looked like a shadow of his former self against Mir.
Quinton Jackson: B+
The third time was the charm for the former Light heavyweight champion. Jackson pursued Silva in the beginning of the round and landed a game changing left hook that put “The Axe Murderer” to sleep. While the two combatants didn’t engage one another much in this bout, Jackson finally had an answer for Silva’s looping punches that seemed to always connect in PRIDE FC.
Wanderlei Silva: D
Silva did not look that bad in this bout, that is until he hit the canvas. His leg kicks appeared to be effective, however, the Brazilian never had the chance to load up with the knees that ended their two previous bouts. Jackson has proven he can counter wild, looping punches at this stage in his career and Silva apparently didn’t take that into consideration.
Cheick Kongo: A-
The most damage that Kongo took in this bout was an unintentional low blow. After an inadvertent low blow of his own, Kongo knocked al-Turk down and unloaded with wicked elbows, punches and hammer fists. After this performance, don’t be surprised to find Kongo on the short list of challengers for the heavyweight title in 2009.
CB Dolloway: C+
Dolloway came away with a win, but he took some shots in the process. Mike Massenzio stunned the ASU wrestler early in the first, but he couldn’t follow up with a stoppage. Dolloway showed off his impressive ground skills, mounted and then took Massenzio’s back before finishing the fight via strikes to the head. Dolloway must avoid taking shots like the ones he did in this bout if he wants to be successful in the UFC middleweight division.
Matt Hamill: C
While Hamill finished his bout with nice ground and pound, he didn’t seem to show much improvement on his feet. Securing top position and pummeling his opponents on the ground is nothing that we haven’t seen from “The Hammer” before. Hamill’s less than stellar stand up game showed he has much to improve on in 2009.
Patrick Barry: A-
Nothing like throwing three devastating low kicks in order to get your opponent to verbally tap out in your UFC debut. Barry showed off his superior stand up against Dan Evensen and needed only half of the first round to secure his first UFC win.
Antoni Hardonk: B+
Hardonk made the case that his game does not revolve solely around his famed low kicks. The Ernesto Hoost disciple showed off some an impressive ground game, working off his back and top positions. The Dutchman handed Mike Wessel his first career loss and won his thrid straight bout in the Octagon.