Despite what many called a lackluster main event between Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Keith “The Dean of Mean” Jardine, UFC 96 proved to be a night of many story lines, and a night of finishes, with 7 of the 10 bouts ending by either KO or TKO.

It was supposed to be one sided and it was predicted to be over within a couple of minutes of the first round. It turned into a back and forth battle between former UFC Light Heavyweight champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, and the upset specialist Keith Jardine.

Jardine survived the first minute of the fight, and several big shots from Jackson, and used his “herky-jerky” style to slow down “Rampage” at times, in addition to using his leg kicks that he is famous for. In the end it was not enough, but Jardine once again proved his gameness and toughness pushing the fight to the judges. Jackson used his patented left hook to put an exclamation point on the fight, dropping Jardine at the bell in the final round.

Jackson earned the unanimous decision victory and a date with “Sugar” Rashad Evans for a shot at regaining his Light Heavyweight strap. Following the victory, Rashad Evans and “Rampage” squared off in the center of the Octagon for some trash talking.

With all the drama surrounding the latest on Frank Mir’s injured knee, Gabriel Gonzaga and Shane Carwin squared off with top contender status in the UFC’s Heavyweight division on the line. The fight started with Gonzaga in control, and as he scored a take down and a dominant top position, it seemed that Carwin’s rise to 10-0 and all of the first round finishes may have been over hyped.

Carwin proved everybody wrong, escaping from a bad position and working back to his feet. He then caught Gonzaga with a left, followed by a very short but powerful right that folded Gonzaga up on his own feet and ending his night. It was just another dramatic and devastating first round victory for the up and coming freight train Shane Carwin.

There were two fighters on the under card that were literally fighting for their futures in the UFC. Dana White had publicly let Kendall Grove and the world know that there was a real chance that the “The Ultimate Figher Season 3” winner would be escorted out of the UFC with a loss at UFC 96.

Grove responded by taking the fight to an aggressive Jason Day (17-8, 1-2 UFC), by landing a stiff right hand, and followed up with another strong right hand that sent Day to the canvas. “Da Spyda” jumped all over the dazed Day forcing a stoppage at 1:32 of the first round.

Brandon Vera was in a similar situation coming in trying to establish some consistency in his Octagon appearances. Despite recently signing a new contract with the UFC, Vera needed a good showing to cement his footing in the organization. Vera delivered, looking much like his old self featuring his strong Muay-Thai skills in “chopping” down Mike Patt.

Vera went back to what he called “old school Muay-Thai”, devastating the legs of Patt with low kicks. By the 2nd round it was apparent that Mike Patt wouldn’t survive to see a 3rd. Vera finally looked like “The Truth” and appeared to be in great shape adjusting to his new home at 205.

I was amazed to see how many people from multiple MMA news sites were predicting that Munoz’s wrestling would prove too strong for Hamill. “The Hammer” shook off Munoz’a take downs pretty easily and controlled the fight with his boxing before delivering the “Knockout of the Night”, going upstairs with a kick that put Munoz to sleep where he stood.

It was a stellar and dominating victory for Mat Hamill, and showed that he is indeed improving every time he steps into the Octagon, despite his lackluster showing against Rich “Ace” Franklin. With his showing at UFC 96, the LHW division in the UFC is just getting deeper and deeper.

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