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Length: 4hrs 33mins
“Breakthrough” was to prove a prophetic title for the UFC’s first ever visit to the state of Georgia on 6 September 2008. Whilst conventional wisdom had primary wrestler Rashad Evans as ideal fodder for Chuck Liddell’s sprawl and counterpunch game, thus putting the former 205lb champion on the fasttrack to a rematch for the strap, “Sugar” Rashad’s seemingly intangible inability to actually lose fights up to this point, which coupled with the presence of strategic demi-god Greg Jackson in his corner (who had previously mapped out Keith Jardine’s route to victory over “The Iceman”), meant a metaphoric breakthrough for the TUF 2 Heavyweight champion on this night was far from out of the question.
- Chuck Liddell vs. Rashad Evans
- Rich Franklin vs. Matt Hamill
- Dan Henderson vs. Rousimar Palhares
- Martin Kampmann vs. Nate Marquardt
- Thiago Tavares vs. Kurt Pellegrino
- Tim Boetsch vs. Michael Patt
- Doug Hyun Kim vs. Matt Brown
- Jason Lambert vs. Jason MacDonald
- Roan Carneiro vs. Ryo Chonan
- Countdown to UFC 88
- UFC 88 Weigh Ins
- UFC 88 Behind The Scenes
- Fighter Interviews
Colour me despondent that Jason McDonald had recently been released from his contract with Zuffa. Whereas “The Athlete” admittedly had stumbled into a win one- lose one- rinse- repeat strategy/glass ceiling, it cannot be denied that the amiable Canadian never failed to bring the entertaining fight goods. McDonald survived a deep guillotine from namesake Lambert, with the aid of the first round clock, to rebound in the second by taking the back of “The Punisher” from mount and sinking in a Rear Naked Choke to win by tapout in the pick of the preliminary offerings.
Tim “The Barbarian” Boetsch threw wild leather, prompting Herb Dean to step between him and debutant Mike Patt at the midway point of the opening round, a display of heavy hands to please the Budweiser-swilling fraternity, no doubt. Elsewhere, there were decision victories for Kurt Pellegrino and Ryo Chonan- over Thiago Tavares and Roan Carniero respectively- to round out a perfectly piquant batch of pre-show fights, albeit a shorter lineup than usual. I struggle to recall why this was, but am sure that one fight was dropped from the card a week or so prior.
Welterweights Dong Hyun “Stun Gun” Kim and Matt “The Immortal” Brown are two gents who also bring the goodness, as a general rule, so mark up one happy camper here when their meeting was slated to open the main card. The Korean judoka displayed an awesomely unorthodox tenacity in trying to secure the back of Georgia native Brown throughout the opening round, actually leaping onto his back to secure a body triangle while Brown was standing, and working to secure a prone limb, later sweeping “The Immortal” from guard to take the back once again and attempt an armbar.
Brown did a better of job of establishing distance in the second period, using this to work the torso of Kim with strikes and even things up on the scorecards, escaping rubber guard and surviving a couple of neat, Rory Singer-style upkicks into the bargain. Indeed, as the final minutes of the fight approached, Brown appeared to be in the ascedency and en route to the decision win, courtesy of some calculated counterstriking, but likely fell short in that “Stun Gun” rallied to score a significant late takedown to put the scoring back in the balance, before capitalising on this position with a pair of short elbow strikes which bust the American open. Post fight, Joe Rogan told Brown that he thought he had won…alas, I must concur with the two judges that scored this one in Kim’s favour. Nonetheless, this was fun.
Check out my review of UFC 85 for the lowdown on the controversy that marred Nate Marquardt vs Thales Leites…said shenanagins in London must’ve lit the proverbial fire under Marquardt, who had been in truly astounding form ever since. Nate “The Great” is a beast at 185lbs, and put on a veritable striking clinic to pick apart Martin Kampmann in Atlanta, and with change from 90 seconds to boot. Stunning stuff. Regrettably, proceedings were to take a subsequent swing south, as an awkward appearing on paper bout between Dan Henderson and Rousimar Palhares proved precisely so in practice. “Decision” Dan earned his cruel unofficial moniker on this night, controlling the BJJ-reliant Brazilian on the mat from top position, and amassing ponderous points with left jabs and stiffer right shots while standing, a position where he was always going to enjoy a gargantuan advantage. Easily ahead, “Hendo” assumed damage limitation mode across the final five minutes, circling at will and picking off the occasional shot with Palhares at a visible loss as to how to turn the tide. The former PRIDE double-champion put the exclamation mark on an academic victory with a right to drop Palhares and follow-up strike in the final seconds. A comprehensive win for the Team Quest man, but hardly a pulsating spectacle.
I actually fancied Matt Hamill’s chances of pulling the upset in the evening’s co-headliner- a lot of talk around this fight concerned the effects of Rich Franklin’s cutting to Middleweight, and based on the evidence here within, some genuine foundation there, as “Ace” looked positively reinvigorated in his first fight at 205lbs in three and a bit years, securing a third round TKO over fellow Ohio based contender Hamill. Franklin was clearly weary of the superior wrestling of “The Hammer” in the opening stretch, continually working angles and throwing leg kicks to effectively negate any spring behind Hamill’s shooting in the latter stages. Although the younger Hamill was able to negotiate a single takedown, the veteran Franklin was able to capitalise on his attempt to posture up by securing the right arm and working an armbar. A heavy left by Hamill in the first cut Franklin, causing the fight to be halted for a doctor’s verdict in the second. Mario Yamasaki called for a restart, and Franklin continued to deftly stuff all of Hamill’s shots while ghosting into the pocket and scoring with more strikes. The former maths teacher closed affairs off early in the third with a stiff kick to the body, and a knee strike and right to bookend a counter-uppercut by Hamill and take victory. Overall, an encouraging return to top form from a name fighter.
Originally scheduled for the aforementioned UFC 85 (when it was first supposed to be Liddell vs “Shogun” Rua), the focal point of “Breakthrough” was surely intended as the reascension of one “Iceman” in theory, yet in practice, Rashad Evans propelled his own personal juggernaut into the main event, becoming the last man to beat Liddell while such an accolade still carried a semblance of meaning (which isn’t a total knock on Chuck, but any connoisseur of boxing will tell you that career counterpunchers typically endure a dramatic late fall from grace as their natural reflexes diminish, so it’s just the nature of the beast). Evans danced dexterously around “The Iceman” throughout the initial minutes, inviting Liddell to stalk him and attempt to strike with little success. Chuck continued to work the left jab, yet a single foraging (and slightly ironic) counter-right from Rashad saw the ageing warrior end the round with a significant mouse beneath his eye. Despite this, Liddell likely began the second round ahead on aggression alone, however the pieces were not long in falling into place for Evans, who coolly withdrew from a couple of exchanges to allow Liddell to pursue again, before unleashing an unholy exocet on right hook to knock Liddell down and out. Cue manic celebrations from the Jackson camp, compounded by a constant barrage of heathen screaming from Evans’ wife at octagonside. As usual, a faultless strategic display from Evans, in what has to be considered a sententious watershed in the continuing evolution of Mixed Martial Arts.
Boasting both star power and symbolic moments, with only one genuinely trying offering to be found in the form of Henderson vs Palhares, UFC 88 sits comfortably in the upper echelons of the group’s 2008 event resume, and as such is well worth checking out, if you haven’t already.
Points: 8 / 10