The stage was set tonight for former UFC light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell to rebound from his loss to Quinton "Rampage" Jackson and get back on the winning track for an eventual showdown with Wanderlei Silva before 2007 expires.
Enter the spoiler: Keith Jardine.
"The Dean of Mean" chopped down the "Iceman" with stinging kicks to the ribs to gut out a hard-fought three-round split-decision win. In fact, Jardine even dropped Liddell in round two with a crushing right hand.
It's hardly what most fans -- and the UFC brass -- expected from the future Hall of Famer.
Jardine, however, clearly won the bout, frustrating Liddell with an awkward style for which he seemed to have no answer. Liddell could simply not land his devastating overhand right with precision.
That's what happens perhaps when a "kickboxer" gets out kickboxed and is able to be gameplanned for effectively. Liddell has come to rely way too much on that devastating overhand right.
For what it's worth, Liddell did not look that bad. Jardine was just up for the challenge. Chuck should still fight Wanderlei on New Year's Eve because fans want to see it. And it might be the last time the UFC can bank on one of its most bankable stars who is on the wrong side of 30.
There were a lot of folks who picked Forrest Griffin to spoil the anticipated debut of Mauricio "Shogun" Rua (ahem, myself included). However, did anyone think he would submit the Brazilian star?
Not even pick maestro Randy Couture could have scripted that one (even though he did pick the Griffin upset).
Griffin is as unpredictable as the outcome of this fight. He's a gamer who fights to the level of his competition. For now on don't put this guy in the cage with anyone outside the top five in the division -- it's not worth it.
Win or lose Griffin puts on a show when he's put to the test. So does Houston Alexander ... hmmm. Then again, I'm not sure Houston is top five. Tough call.
So how about our boy Jon Fitch? Hate to say I told you so, but Fitch delivered. I'm not buying the split-decision even though Cecil Peoples called this one right -- Fitch dominated that fight despite some great submission attempts from Diego Sanchez.
"Nightmare" looked good on the ground ... but who is he? He trained with professional boxer Oscar De La Hoya in his loss to Josh Koscheck. Then he switched camps to train with Brazilian grappling sensation Saul Riberio for this fight.
He was a boxer against Koscheck and a jiu-jitsu guy against Fitch. Somewhere along the line Sanchez lost his identity. He needs to put it all together come fight time ... and if he does watch out.
Diego will be back.
But now what for Fitch? The welterweight division is loaded with talent but seems to be an absolute trainwreck in terms of future matchmaking. Without a doubt Joe Silva will have some sleepless nights sorting it all out.
Not to be outdone Tyson Griffin and Thiago Tavares put on a SHOW. What a great technical battle. Griffin is becoming very adept at earning tough decisions.
It's going to catch up with him sooner or later, however. Granted, the guy fights top dogs, but he has to finish a fight in convincing fashion to get to the number one contender level, no?
All in all this was a FANTASTIC night of fights. In terms if "LIVE blogging" we've never had it so hard -- the action was frenetic and insane as advertised.
UFC 76 is going to be a hard one to top in the next few months ... unless, of course, Rich Franklin can pull off yet another upset at UFC 77.
I can't wait to find out because nothing can surprise me at this point in mixed martial arts.