For the first time in the UFC’s relatively brief history, two undefeated fighters clashed with a title up for grabs, at UFC 98 in Las Vegas, Nevada at the MGM. That stat went by the wayside pretty quick, as challenger Lyoto Machida, showing heavier and quicker hands than a man known for his quick and heavy hands, dropped and stopped Rashad Evans to snag the UFC light heavyweight title in the second round. Machida worked in his usually efficient style, and the ref stopped the clash at 3:57 after Machida, "The Ruthless Robot," honed in with strikes and had Evans caught in the roughest part of queer street.
Both hands were flying, and landing, as Machida blasted Evans against the cage. “If you have a dream in your life, go ahead, it’s possible, I can do that,” Machida said after the triumph, his robotically professional demeanor giving way to unfiltered joy.
Evans (from NY; 18-0-1 entering; age 29), who beat Forrest Griffin for the light heavyweight strap, weighed 205, while “The Dragon” Machida (from Brazil; 14-0 coming in; age 30) was 204.
The karate master Machida looked mellow as he got down to business. Evans looked to land his heavy hands, and check Machida’s kicks. Not soon enough for the fans, who booed as they sized each other up for two minutes. Who matched up these two counterpunchers, you had to ask yourself early on? Machida hurt Rashad with a left jab/clip right, and won the round. In the second, the two traded, and Machida’s respect for Rashad’s mitts grew. Rashad backed up, and looked to counter, but Machida is so careful, so smart, that you wondered if Evans would shift strategy. Nope, no time for that. Machida dropped Evans, who'd never been off his feet, at 1:25, and finished him with a violent burst as Evans couldn't gather his marbles, while the Brazilian moved in for the finish.
Tip your cap to Evans, as he ate a buffets-worth of shots, and tried to answer. A straight left times perfectly, and a left hook set the table, as Evans hit the mat. He managed to climb up, but a left sent him back down. Again he scotted up, but Machida's programmers did their job: he moved in and buckled down. Right crosses and left hooks hit Evans clean, and he crumpled onto his back as referee Mario Yamasaki announced the obvious, that Evans was stick-fork-in-em done. "You're a bad man,"UFC president Dana White informed Machida as he awaited the Michael Buffer call. That was atypical understatement from the combustible Mr. White.*
This event was supposed to feature a heavyweight clash, between ex WWEer Brock Lesnar and Frank Mir, who defeated Lesnar at UFC 81 (Feb. 2008). But Mir injured his knee, and will instead tangle with Lesnar on July 11.
In the chief support bout, New York’s Matt “The Terra” Serra engaged Matt “The Bible Thumper” Hughes of Illinois in a mega grudge match. They were coaches in the sixth season (2007) of the Ultimate Fighter, and meshed like Limbaugh and Olberman. Serra called Hughes a “dick,” and Hughes lashed back, calling Serra a loudmouth. This was the sharpest example of a Red State vs. Blue State clash as I can recall. The men refused to touch gloves before the action commenced. Hughes, coming out lefty, was almost out from a Serra strike--an inadvertent headbutt and a right forearm--right away, and desperately tried to take Serra down to buy some time. He clinched to buy time, and then scored a takedown. Serra gave Hughes directions to his corner after the round, and then asked his corner if he’d been knocked down. In the second, Hughes got Serra in half guard, and the New Yorker did well to keep him from passing. But Hughes didn’t do much more than act as a lead weight. One round apiece. In the third, Hughes again took him down. But Serra is a cool customer, and he stayed relaxed and out of danger. Then he got on top with 40 seconds to go, did Serra, and he looked to score. The men hugged after, and Hughes lifted Serra’s arm. We went to the card, and the judges called it 29-28 x 3, Hughes. With the win, Hughes tied Chuck Liddell with 16 wins in the Octagon, tops in the UFC. Hughes after told Joe Rogan he wants to keep fighting, and that he is a free agent, and will talk to Dana White about a new contract. Serra said that Hughes has a good chin, and that he takes his hat off to Hughes. “I haven’t had pasta in three months, I’m frickin’ dying,” he told Joe Rogan. Enjoy the fettucine, Terra, you almost pulled it off.
Franke Edgar met Sean Sherk, the former 155 pound champion in the PPV opener. The action was all standup through two, with Edgar landing a bit more. Frankie had the edge in mobility and hand-speed over the Muscle Shark. Edgar had a guillotine choke locked in, but the horn sounded to end the bout. The judges gave Edgar the nod, 30-27 times 3 . Frankie should get a title shot, real soon.
OCTAGONAL ODDS AND ENDS The wife pointed out Mike Tyson in the front row, sitting next to Rampage Jackson. Oh, the tales those two could tell if they decided to take a trek down memory lane, comparing notes on who has done the craziest stuff outside the ring/cage.
---Stay tuned for David Avila’s ringside report. For more detailed MMA coverage, please go to thesavagescience.com, our sister site.
---MMA fans, you might like to read my story on Dana White in ESPN The Magazine.