November 20th, 2010 marked the sixth year, one day anniversary of the infamous brawl between the Detroit Pistons and visiting Indiana Pacers inside the Palace of Auburn Hills. It is also the day when sanctioned fighting took place in the form of UFC 123. As mentioned in my preview of the card, four future Hall of Famers were featured in the double main event. In one match one had his worst outing as a mixed martial artist, while his opponent countered with a performance to remember. The other resulted in a rather interesting decision, to say the least.
Penn defeats Hughes via TKO (First Round- :21)
The first of the two headliners saw Matt Hughes, coming of a three fight winning streak, knuckle up with “The Prodigy” BJ Penn, who lost two straight to reigning Lightweight Champion Frankie Edgar. There was a fire in Penn’s eyes during his procession to the octagon that should-be indicated something big was on the way. Penn made a return to the Welterweight division that suggests he never left. As soon as referee Dan Miragliotta called for the two to fight, Penn made his presence felt with an immediate, knee buckling right hand to the head of Hughes. Penn follows up with another right that sent Hughes to the mat. Like a predator, Penn zeroed in on his prey, worked in some ground and pound and :21 into the fight, Miragliotta had seen enough. And the buzz of the night revolved around the knockout that Paul Williams suffered on HBO?
Jackson over Machida via Split Decision (Third Round)
The winner between Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida will go on to become the new number one contender for UFC’s Light Heavyweight title. The bout opens with Jackson pressing the action with charged punches. Machida’s distant style of fighting makes it difficult for any opponent to truly connect strikes. Machida is able to land five chin kicks, but Jackson is able to eat them. Jackson again goes to charge Machida, but the Shotokan Karate specialist moonwalks from Jackson’s advances, drawing more distance between the two. Jackson is able to initiate the clinch against the cage and begins stomping Machida’s feet in hopes of creating space for his punches. He did just that, following up the needed separation with an uppercut. Machida responds with a kick to Jackson’s thigh, leading to another lockup in the clinch. Machida works in a takedown and follows up with a kick to close the round.
In the second round, Machida comes out the gates with a knee and kick on Rampage, which leads him to start another tie up, catching Machida with a low knee. The two separate, meet in the center of the octagon, only for Jackson to land a knee to Machida’s midsection, followed by a takedown. Jackson looks to manipulate him up against the cage, but Machida ends up with the dominant position. The two break and Jackson is able to land a shot in the process. Machida follows up with a liver kick and Rampage retaliated with another one of his upper cuts. The Dragon gets in another kick to the back of Rampage’s thigh and follows up with a takedown. The Dragon lands a kick to Rampage’s head right at the closing bell, which he immediately apologies for.
The last round arrives and Rampage is the one to throw leg kicks. He tries to follow-up with punches, but The Dragon’s elusiveness would not allow them to land anywhere on him. Machida unleashes a flurry of punches, sending Rampage teetering into the cage. The Dragon follows up with some knees, but Rampage found an opening and throws in a flurry of his own. Jackson is tripped to the mat by Machida, who follows up with a half guard. Machida tries to pass guard and work in a submission, but to no avail. Machida is able to pass guard and gets into a full mount. Machida works in an elbow to Jackson’s face and attempts an armbar on Jackson’s right arm. Jackson envelops his spirit from the Pride Fighting Championship days, as he is able to pick up Machida while in the armbar and slam him, which loosened Machida’s grip. The two charge each other with Machida getting the edge in the form of an underhook that forced Jackson into the cage. Machida tries a waistlock and is able to work Jackson into the canvas. Machida goes for a leglock in the final seconds and Jackson holds on.
There are indeed benefits that come with going the distance in a fight when you are the hometown hero, because even though neither fighter made a solid case as to who the winner was, Machida seemed to be the more precise fighter of the two. The judges scored the fight 29-28, 29-28, 28-29 in favor of Jackson. Jackson even walked up to Machida afterwards and told him he won the fight and gladly offered Machida the rematch. UFC President Dana White immediately doused out the fire on that one as he announced that there will be no immediate matchup between the two. Maybe he wants to move ahead in getting his new number one contender in his title match as soon as Rashad Evans and Mauricio Rua decide who the Light Heavyweight champion will be.
Two fighters who were trending in the losing direction redeemed themselves at UFC’s latest Pay Per View. Only time will tell. While the Light Heavyweight division remains the best to date, the return of BJ Penn could add significant value to the Welterweight Division.
By Antoine Hoffman