by Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com
On Saturday night at UFC 66, UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell proved once again why he is widely considered the best 205-pound fighter in the world when he stopped Tito Ortiz with strikes for the second time in his career.

The fight that is expected to go down as the biggest in UFC history ended when Chuck Liddell’s superior striking once again floored Tito Ortiz, leaving the “Huntington Beach Bad Boy” on the ground and being greeted with punches as they rained down from Liddell. The first round saw Liddell pursue Ortiz and after some good back and forth exchanges the defending champion landed a shot that put Ortiz on his back. Liddell followed up with strikes on the ground that almost stopped the fight, but Tito endured and made it out of the first round.

The 2nd round saw Ortiz land some very solid shots, a few of which seemed to stun Liddell. At one point Ortiz was finally able to secure a takedown on Liddell but he was unable to keep him there for very long. Liddell did turn away to get back to his feet and Ortiz briefly gained back control but only for a matter of seconds before “The Iceman” turned back around and put distance between himself and Ortiz.

The 3rd round saw more of the striking exchanges and eventually Liddell landed some good punches when Ortiz shot in for a takedown. After knocking Ortiz down Ortiz one last time, Liddell relentlessly pursued his opponent and referee Steve Mazzagatti called a stop to the action in somewhat questionable fashion. Ortiz didn’t seem to be in any real danger, but he was also in the fetal position and wasn’t doing much to improve his position, either.

With his fourth successful title defense, Chuck Liddell has once again proven himself to be one of the best pound for pound fighters in the world, and he may have finally dispatched of his famed rivalry with Tito Ortiz with this 2nd victory over him. Now “The Iceman” will likely get some time off while he waits for his chance to avenge the last loss on his record with Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, who will make his UFC debut in February against Marvin Eastman. Assuming that Jackson can beat Eastman, a title shot against Liddell can’t be far behind.

Many people were expecting a slugfest between former Ultimate Fighter alums Forrest Griffin and Keith Jardine and nobody was let down (well, maybe Griffin was when it was all said and done.) The two light heavyweights were more than comfortable trading punches and kicks for much of the opening round. Forrest seemed to be controlling the pace of the fight, landing the cleaner punches while doing his best to avoid any big strikes from Jardine.

It was late in the round when Jardine clipped Griffin with a good punch that staggered the Georgia native and when he saw that his opponent was wobbled, Jardine charged forward and opened up a flurry of punches. Instead of backing away or trying to pull for a clinch, Griffin tried to punch right along with Jardine but got the short end of the exchange and landed flush on the mat. Jardine quickly jumped down and absolutely blasted Griffin in the face and continued until the bout was stopped. Forrest Griffin was visibly upset about the loss after the fight was over, while Keith Jardine picks up the biggest win of his career and takes a huge leap forward in the light heavyweight division.

Ultimate Fighter season 3 champion Michael “The Count” Bisping finally made his long awaited debut against a very game Eric Schafer in what could be considered fight of the night for UFC 66. Bisping came out and instantly started to throw some heavy strikes, which Schafer answered with multiple takedown attempts. At one point during the first round, Schafer actually took Bisping’s back and while he was trying to secure the position the English fighter took a very unorthodox approach to defense by jumping forward and driving his opponent’s head into the mat. Eventually, after allowing Bisping to stand up from an exchange, Schafer landed on his back and the British fighter rained down some devastating strikes from above, forcing the referee to stop the fight and declare Michael Bisping the winner.

Andrei Arlovski returned to his winning ways by finishing former Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu champion Marcio “Pe De Pano” Cruz by strikes on the ground in the 1st round of their match-up. To no one’s surprise, Pe De Pano instantly tried to get a takedown on the former UFC heavyweight champion and did eventually get the fight to the ground, where he tried to secure a heel hook or leg lock but was unable to keep Arlovski in position.

While both fighters grasped for a leg on the ground, referee Herb Dean stopped the action due to Arlovski kicking Pe De Pano’s face on the ground, which is of course an illegal maneuver. After offering to stand the fight up, Pe De Pano declined and requested to be left in the same position. When the referee called for the action to resume, a big punch from Arlovski put Cruz out of the fight for good. The former champ capitalized on Cruz’ stunned state with a huge flurry of punches on the ground, leading to the TKO victory.

Jason “The Athlete” McDonald proved that his first victory in the UFC was no fluke by stepping up and taking out former Ultimate Fighter veteran Chris Leben in the 2nd round of their match-up. A back and forth battle ended when McDonald secured a guillotine choke that was sunk in deeply under Leben’s chin. After getting his legs wrapped around Leben it was only a matter of time until the bout ended. To Leben’s credit he struggled to get free and refused to tap out, but the blood loss to his head was too extreme and the referee stepped in and stopped the fight and Jason McDonald now moves to 2-0 in the UFC.

UFC 66 will likely go down as the most successful pay-per-view to date in the company’s history and the fights on the card did not disappoint. Michael Bisping and Eric Schafer deserve a lot of credit for putting on such a phenomenal bout, which I feel was the Fight of the Night. It was truly a toss up for who should receive Fighter of the Night in my book, but at the end of the day the fighter that probably gained the most respect at UFC 66 was “The Dean of Mean” Keith Jardine. He was able to finish Forrest Griffin in very impressive fashion while also giving himself a huge boost in a newly rejuvenated 205 lb division in the UFC. Chuck Liddell once again proved that he deserves all of the accolades that he receives, while Tito Ortiz has to sit back and truly ponder what is next for him after a 2nd loss to the UFC light heavyweight champion.

Overall, this was a top notch show that will likely go down in history, and the fights definitely lived up to the hype.

UFC 66 Full Results

-Chuck Liddell def. Tito Ortiz by TKO (referee stoppage due to strikes) at 3:59 of Round 3

-Keith Jardine def. Forrest Griffin by TKO (referee stoppage due to strikes) at 4:41 of Round 1

-Jason MacDonald def. Chris Leben by technical submission (choked unconscious with a guillotine choke) at 4:03 of Round 2

-Andrei Arlovski def. Marcio “Pe de Pano” Cruz by KO (strikes on the ground) at 3:15 of Round 1

-Michael Bisping def. Eric Schafer by TKO (referee stoppage due to strikes) at 4:24 of Round 1

-Thiago Alves def. Tony DeSouza by KO at 1:10 of Round 2

-Gabriel Gonzaga def. Carmelo Marrero by submission (armbar) at 3:22 of Round 1

-Yushin Okami def. Rory Singer by submission (strikes) at 4:03 of Round 3

-Christian Wellisch def. Anthony Perosh by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-27)