September 24, 2006

by Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com
Some people have called him the most dominant champion of all time. Some have called him the greatest UFC champion of all time. One thing is for sure after UFC 63: Matt Hughes has now proven that all of the accolades that have been laid down at his doorstep are well deserved.

After enduring two very intense rounds in which he struggled against B.J. Penn, Hughes recovered and was able to finish the Hawaiian by TKO in the 3rd round, successfully defending his welterweight championship. As the bout opened, it looked like B.J. Penn was ready for war when he started with a successful stand-up game and then defended Hughes takedown attempts to perfection.

Working hard for the takedown, Hughes eventually gave up his back towards the end of the first round and it looked like Penn might get his second win over the champion by rear naked choke. Unfortunately for Penn, his position was too high on Hughes’ body and he couldn’t negotiate the hold and the round ended but most likely was given to Penn on the judges’ scorecards.

In the 2nd round, again Penn defended well against the takedown but eventually ended up with Hughes on top. The Miletich trained fighter moved cautiously inside Penn’s guard trying not to get caught in a submission and never really landed any solid shots but did eventually get caught in an oma plata shoulder lock that through numerous transitions ended with B.J. Penn on top of Hughes and then ended with a rolling triangle choke/armbar combination that looked to put the champion into some serious trouble.

Hughes survived the round but was now seemingly down 2 rounds to none to the last fighter to put a loss onto his record. The third round was pivotal for Hughes if he hoped not only to survive but to have any chance to win the fight by decision if it went that far. As the round started it looked like B.J. Penn had completely gassed and was out of energy. With his hands almost at his sides, Penn poked at Hughes while standing and eventually ended up on the ground with almost no effort to stop the takedown. While no one doubts Penn’s ground game, his cardio was his downfall as Hughes took minimal effort to pass his opponent’s guard and in doing so, trapped Penn’s arm in a similar position that he had Carlos Newton in during their rematch some years ago.

With Penn’s arm trapped and no easy way to defend or roll out of the position, Hughes started to reign down punches to a basically unguarded face and head of B.J. Penn. After multiple shots that saw Penn wince and shake trying to avoid, referee John McCarthy had no choice but to step in and stop the fight. Matt Hughes, once again proved his dominance and this time his perseverance, in winning his 6th fight in a row and another notch on his championship belt.

The fight that led into the main event featured two top contenders in the middleweight division when Mike “Quick” Swick stepped in to face possibly his toughest opponent to date in Canadian fighter, David “The Crow” Loiseau. This fight was important for different reasons for both men because for Swick, a win could mean a title shot and for Loiseau, it was his chance to regain some confidence after losing to champion Rich Franklin in his last bout.

It seemed throughout a great part of the opening and second rounds that both fighters were being cautious and avoided taking any big chances. Swick did land a couple of good takedowns and opened up some good combinations that while not doing any great damage did have to impress the judges for his aggressive nature in pressing the fight. The only confusing part of Swick’s game plan was his constant motioning to Loiseau trying to bait him into to attacking while also going for what seemed like 10 spinning back kicks, none of which landed.

The third round was really the only time when either fighter seemed to let loose and push the action. Loiseau, who had to know he was down on the scorecards, finally woke up and threw some strong punches that pushed Swick back against the cage and his famous elbows started to fly. Swick eventually ended up in Loiseau’s guard where the Canadian tried to unleash even more elbows but nothing ever really caused any serious damage and the fight made its way back to the feet where the final bell sounded. Mike Swick won a unanimous decision in a fairly uninspired fight but with the win, it most likely will land him a #1 contenders spot in the middleweight division.

In one of the most impressive performances of the night, Rashad Evans solidified himself as a legitimate contender at 205lbs by completely dominating Jason Lambert in their fight at UFC 63. Evans had long been criticized for not finishing previous fights and made a big splash with his pay-per-view debut when he grounded and pounded a TKO victory over Lambert.

The first round saw Evans move as quickly as ever, pushing the pace and then his opponent up against the cage where he landed a great throw that put Lambert on his back. A couple more takedowns followed in the first round and Evans looked extremely confident heading into the second. Another big takedown put Lambert on his back again and this time Evans moved quickly from guard to mount position, where he opened up and started to fire down some very devastating shots. A combination of punches opened up a gash on Lambert’s face causing him to turn away for the last time and the referee stopped the action, declaring Rashad Evans the winner.

Evans was again lightning fast with his takedowns and right now there is simply not a better wrestler at light heavyweight in the UFC. With 4 consecutive wins in the UFC and the fame from the Ultimate Fighter that never hurts, Rashad Evans leaves UFC 63 a contender in the 205lb weight class with a possible showdown in the future with Forrest Griffin and should definitely be considered as fighter of the night.

The biggest shocker of the night came in the opening bout of the PPV broadcast when the triumphant return of Jens Pulver was seriously derailed when UFC newcomer Joe Lauzon put on a show by defeating the only lightweight champion to ever step into the Octagon by TKO at only :48 seconds into the first round. Lauzon was a huge underdog in the fight but came out with a feverish pace that put Pulver on the defensive from the first second of the bout. Never letting up, Lauzon caught Pulver with a knee strike and a big left hand that floored the former champion causing a stop to the action. Joe Lauzon gets a huge victory in what almost everyone had chalked up to a walk through fight for Pulver.

Another exciting lightweight bout took place at UFC 63 between former Ultimate Fighter housemate Melvin Guillard, who has recently been training with Tito Ortiz, and WEC veteran, Gabe Ruediger, making his UFC debut. Guillard has looked much improved as of late and definitely found a great home when he moved down to 155lbs. The fight looked like it might end early when Guillard rocked his opponent but luckily Ruediger was able to recover and he eventually got a dominant position that almost landed him a victory but a choke attempt couldn’t be achieved as the opening round came to a close.

Guillard’s stand-up has never been questioned and now his power can go hand in hand with that because after a feeling out period to start the 2nd round, the New Orleans native threw a big punch straight to the body of Gabe Ruediger causing him to simply buckle and fall to the canvas. Guillard followed up with a quick kick but before much more damage could be inflicted, the referee stopped the fight. With two big wins at lightweight, Guillard has put himself in possible title contention and if the matchmakers at the UFC are listening, Spencer Fisher will be the next fighter to take on Melvin Guillard.

Top to bottom, UFC 63 was a fantastic card on paper, and it didn’t disappoint.

Rashad Evans looked like he’s ready to be considered a top-level fighter in the UFC, and title aspirations have to be on his mind. Mike Swick took another step towards a middleweight championship showdown but struggled to impress against his toughest opposition to date. Melvin Guillard demonstrated exactly why the lightweights are back with his outstanding performance, while Joe Lauzon reminded everyone to never count out an underdog.

BJ Penn looked dominant for two rounds, but a title fight lasts for five rounds and his conditioning definitely cost him. In the end, Matt Hughes once again showed the heart and soul of a champion.

Full Results

-Matt Hughes def. BJ Penn by TKO (strikes) at 3:53 of Round 3 to retain the UFC Welterweight Title

-Mike Swick def. David Loiseau by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)

-Melvin Guillard def. Gabe Ruediger by TKO (strikes) at 1:01 of Round 2

-Rashad Evans def. Jason Lambert by TKO (strikes) at 2:22 of Round 2

-Joe Lauzon def. Jens Pulver by TKO (strikes) at 0:48 of Round 1

-Roger Huerta def. Jason Dent by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)

-Eddie Sanchez def. Mario Neto by KO at 0:17 of Round 2

-Jorge Gurgel def. Danny Abbadi by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)

-Tyson Griffin def. David Lee by submission (rear naked choke) at 1:50 of Round 1