by Ken Pishna (Photos by Scott Petersen)
LAS VEGAS – It was 105 degrees Fahrenheit as 11,172 fans (garnering a total gate of $3.3 million) started to filter into the Mandalay Bay Events Center for UFC 86. The only thing hotter was the action in the Octagon during the main event.
Under a rain of chants that battled back and forth between new UFC light heavyweight champion Forrest Griffin and former champion Quinton Jackson, the fighters themselves waged a war in the Octagon in an exciting five-round battle for the belt.
Jackson dropped Griffin with a punch in the first round. Griffin dropped Jackson with a kick to the leg in the second. The see saw effect only grew from there. It was Griffin that seemed more fluid from the opening, being more technical in his striking attack, while Jackson seemed to accumulate more of the power shots.
In the end, Griffin’s face was a battered mess of black and blue with numerous stitches holding his brow together and Jackson’s left leg was severely damaged, leaving the former champion staggering through the post-fight necessities.
It was one of those fights that wowed the crowd and the decision will likely be argued to no end through cyberspace and beyond. The judges deemed Griffin had done enough in their eyes at least, to award him the unanimous decision.
UFC president Dana White deemed both fighters exciting enough to award them both “Fight of the Night” honors accompanied by a $60,000 bonus check for each.
Despite the new hardware around his waist, Griffin was still humble in his assessment of the fight afterwards, saying, “That was pretty close. And although I don’t want to, because he hits pretty hard, but I think we’re going to have to do that again because it was too close.”
Just as humble in defeat, Jackson said after the fight, “I want to congratulate Forrest. He’s going to be an excellent champion. He’s come a long way.”
A fight that most thought would end in either a quick submission or a devastating knockout, Ricardo Almeida and Patrick Cote ended up in a long, drawn out battle of attrition. Almeida could never seem to find a submission to latch onto and neither could Cote find his usual knockout range.
The fight turned into a rather lackluster affair that both felt they had won in the end, but it was Cote that the judges handed a split decision victory to.
Other than a tight omo plata attempt that became more of a control hold than a submission attempt at the end of round one, Gleison Tibau couldn’t overcome the pacing of Joe “Daddy” Stevenson. And in the second round, Stevenson locked on his patented guillotine choke as Tibau tried to take him down, submitting the American Top Team fighter.
If ever there were a moment in time where someone clicked over to an MMA bout and thought they had accidentally clicked on the movie Hellraiser, it would be the Chris Lytle and Josh Koscheck bout. Koscheck controlled the majority of the bout with his takedowns and brutal ground and pound attack, opening up two gruesome gashes on Lytle’s forehead in the second round. Dragging blood across the mat, Lytle toughed it out.
Lytle mounted a comeback in round three, but it was far too little and way too late. Koscheck had brutalized him through most of the fight, en route to a unanimous decision.
“I think it was a good fight,” said Koscheck under a show of boos after the fight. “Chris Lytle is one of the classiest guys in the UFC. I have a lot of respect for him and I just think that tonight I was better.”
Domination. That’s the only way to describe Tyson Griffin’s performance against Marcus Aurelio at UFC 86. His ever-improving striking game leading the way, Griffin battered and bruised Aurelio over the course of their three-round bout, stopping nearly every takedown. Aurelio tried several submission attempts, but never could find a way to lock anything down. He did show tremendous heart, absorbing everything that Griffin threw at him, but it was the Xtreme Couture fighter that walked away with a unanimous decision, 30-27 on all three scorecards.
In the evening’s final preliminary bout, Gabriel Gonzaga wasted no time giving Justin McCully a chance to get any traction in their bout. He quickly put McCully on his back with a cut-kick, followed him down, transitioned to full mount, and submitted him with an Americana shoulder lock.
Jorge Gurgel opted to go back to the drawing board prior to Saturday night’s bout and it showed. He offered up an improved, aggressive standup game – courtesy of Matt Hume – that gave him the upper hand in striking over Cole Miller through most of their bout, despite Miller’s four-inch height advantage.
Following an exciting back and forth battle, it was surprisingly Miller’s ground game that would be Gurgel’s undoing. After being taken down by the Marcus Aurelio trained jiu-jitsu black belt, Miller, an American Top Team purple belt, submitted Gurgel with a triangle choke with 12 ticks left on the clock in the final round.
“Not bad for a purple belt,” said Miller after the bout. “I’m not just some redneck from Georgia. I train with American Top Team and that’s what we put out.”
Not bad indeed, as White awarded Miller “Submission of the Night” honors accompanied by a $60,000 bonus check.
Winning one fight outside the promotion after having gone on a two-fight skid in the Octagon, Melvin Guillard returned to the UFC in stunning fashion. Dennis Siver survived Guillard’s opening salvo, a one-two combination that put the German fighter on his back, but didn’t last much longer. After the two returned to their feet, Guillard utilized his lighting speed to send Siver sprawling from a right cross, then finished him off with a blitzkrieg of five or six unanswered power shots.
Commenting that he is “a force to be reckoned with” in the lightweight division, Guillard summed up his performance saying, “Speed kills… He hits hard, but I hit harder.”
Guillard hit hard enough to score the only, but no less impressive, “Knockout of the Night,” also earning a $60,000 bonus check.
In the evening’s opening bout, Corey Hill almost overcame his inexperience… almost. He utilized his 6’4″, 155-pound lanky frame to outstrike and take down Justin Buchholz throughout the majority of their bout. But as the end of round two was closing in, Buchholz, working off of his back with Hill in side control, transitioned out and took Hill’s back, sinking in a fight-ending rear naked choke.
“That’s Urijah Faber 101 right there,” said Buchholz, the former ICON Sport lightweight champion, about the finish.
-Forrest Griffin def. Quinton Jackson by unanimous decision at 5:00, R5
-Patrick Cote def. Ricardo Almeida by split decision at 5:00, R3.
-Joe Stevenson def. Gleison Tibau by Submission (Guillotine Choke) at 2:57, R2
-Josh Koscheck def. Chris Lytle by unanimous decision at 5:00, R3
-Tyson Griffin def. Marcus Aurelio by unanimous decision at 5:00, R3
-Gabriel Gonzaga def. Justin McCully by Submission (Americana) at 1:57, R1
-Cole Miller def. Jorge Gurgel by Submission (Triangle Choke) at 4:48, R3
-Melvin Guillard def. Dennis Siver by TKO (Strikes) at 0:36, R1
-Justin Buchholz def. Corey Hill by Submission (Rear Naked Choke) at 3:57, R1