(Courtesy of UFC)
Matt Hughes won his first UFC welterweight championship in one of the most controversial title fight finishes in UFC history. Hughes took the belt from Carlos Newton in a bout filled with slams and takedowns, but it was a finish shrouded in the cloud of controversy that signaled UFC gold changing hands.
Hughes took Newton to the canvas several times in the UFC 34 co-main event bout on Nov. 2, 2001, in Las Vegas. As the second round got underway, Hughes again put Newton on his back, but this time, Newton threw his legs up around Hughes’ neck, attempting a triangle choke.
Not one to give in, Hughes used his tremendous strength to lift Newton up off the canvas and carried him over to the Octagon fencing. Hughes stood there for a few moments, Newton with his back to the fence and Hughes holding him up in the air.
A short time later, the two went crashing to the canvas. It was immediately clear that Newton was out cold, unconscious on the Octagon floor. Looking at the replay, however, Hughes also appeared bleary eyed and unaware.
When the dust settled, it was ruled that Hughes had won the bout via knockout, as it took some time for Newton to wake up from the slam. Did Hughes pass out from the triangle choke, thus dropping Newton to the canvas because he was already out? Or did Hughes get dazed as he slammed Newton down to claim the UFC welterweight title?
Regardless of how the situation unfolded, Hughes was the fighter to walk out of the Octagon with gold around his waist, avenging coach and teammate Pat Miletich’s loss to Newton at UFC 31. Much of the controversy was erased when Hughes finished Newton in a flurry of ground and pound in their rematch at UFC 38 on July 13, 2002, in London.