Sunday, December 31, 2006

UFC 66: Liddell Wins, Griffin Loses

The night started off well...

At first, all of my choices were winning.

Michael Bisping beat Eric Schafer - This was a first round TKO. I was a little worried about Bisping because he seemed overly excited to be back in the UFC octagon, but he settled down and proved why he ought to be one of the best in the division sooner rather than later.

Andrei Arlovski beat Marcio Cruz - This featured a rather comical ending which highlighted why John McCarthy should referee every fight ('cause the other refs stink). After cautioning Arlovski for a kick to the head of a downed fighter and urging both fighters back to their feet, referee Herb Dean let Cruz talk him out of it. Cruz begged off, claiming he preferred staying on the ground. Dean seemed confused but then called for the fight to resume, at which time Arlovski promptly delivered a brutal punch to the jaw which essentially ended the fight.

Jason MacDonald beat Chris Leben - The Canadian proved his last victory wasn't a fluke by taking out the rather whiny Leben with a sick guillotine choke. This guy looks good, though he has a tendency to drop his head - not a good idea when you're main advantage is your height. He's definitely on the rise in the UFC.

And in the main event, Chuck "The Iceman" Liddell TKO'd Tito Ortiz in the third round. I was actually pretty surprised the fight wasn't stopped in the first when Liddell dropped Ortiz and pounded him until the bell. Although Ortiz claimed after the fight that he brought his A-game, I didn't see it. It looked as though he was taken off his game in the first round and was tentative thereafter. Chuck looked pretty solid despite a slip that led to Ortiz's only momentum swing. Somebody has yet to take this guy down with any consistency. He clearly has the most feared hands in the UFC.

But my night was ruined by the penultimate fight: Forrest Griffin vs. Keith Jardine. Both of these guys were likeable characters from the reality series, but I was against this fight from the get go (see the comments). This was a no-win situation for Griffin. On paper, these guys weren't in the same class. Griffin was in the title hunt while Jardine was still getting his feet wet and coming off a loss to Stephan Bonnar - a fighter Griffin had beaten twice. Griffin had nothing to gain from this fight and everything to lose. Anything can happen in the UFC and tonight it did - Griffin lost. He seemed to be doing well in the first round despite a takedown. He seemed to be cool, calm and collected while Jardine was getting gassed. But when Jardine caught Griffin with a right uppercut and left cross, fans witnessed Griffin getting rocked for the first time in his UFC career. A few punches later, it was over, mere seconds from the end of the first round.

Griffin was visibly distraught and understandably disappointed. I didn't quite catch his brief comments after the fight, but he admitted to being "knocked the f**k out" before quickly leaving the ring. This was very uncharacteristic of Griffin and may affect his previously immense popularity (I'm still not sure how I feel about it). Instead of being on the verge of a title shot, he's now at least a year and a couple of solid fights away from being back in the hunt.

Like I said, he had nothing to gain and everything to lose - and tonight he lost everything. It's hard to say what will be more devastating: losing the fight or losing his composure afterwards.

Ruined my night.

No comments: