UFC 103: "Franklin vs. Belfort" went off tonight (Sat., Sept. 19) from the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas, featuring a main event between Rich Franklin and Vitor Belfort at a 195-pound catchweight.
It was the first fight for "The Phenom" under the UFC banner since 2005. And he made a statement tonight that he is indeed back and ready to take care of business.
Belfort was able to land an awkward barrage of punches that crumbled "Ace" to the ground early in the first. It didn't appear to be anything too hard, grazing, in fact, but is was fast, accurate and apparently too much for Franklin to handle.
Franklin was clearly out, and in the post-fight interview, admitted that he himself wasn't really sure what happened.
What we can be be sure of is that Belfort certainly set himself up nicely for a possible run at UFC Middleweight Champion, Anderson Silva. It's a match up that the promotion wants and will likely have an easier time selling after tonight's quick result.
Franklin, meanwhile, will have to pick up the pieces and start making some headway in the 205-pound division. He hasn't made much progress on that front because of his recent spate of catchweight fights, but that needs to change.
Sooner rather than later.
Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic and Junior dos Santos hooked 'em up in a hard-hitting heavyweight attraction that was billed as the old guard versus the new. Cro Cop wanted to re-establish himself as one of the most dangerous strikers in the sport and "Cigano" wanted remind everyone that he, too, can pack a powerful punch.
Let's just say that the division now has a new young lion leading its pride.
Both fighters traded vicious blows for 10 minutes straight. The first round was close, but dos Santos began to pull away as time ticked down, doing his most damage in round two. He even weathered a hard low blow to the nuts toward the tail end of the second frame, which didn't stop him from coming out guns blazing in the third.
The Croatian couldn't find a home for his trademark left high kick despite repeated efforts to create distance. And that very well could have been the difference maker.
"Cigano" closed the gap and nailed Cro Cop with a hard knee to the face, signaling the end for the 2006 Pride FC Open Weight Grand Prix winner. He ate a few more shots, but then informed his opponent in the heat of battle that he could no longer continue because he could not see.
Naturally, dos Santos began to celebrate, confusing the in-ring official. But it was confirmed shortly thereafter and Cro Cop was immediately bum rushed by medical personnel.
Can't say enough about "Cigano" -- he's a very talented and fearless force in a competitive division. If he keeps this up he'll earn the fight of his life sooner rather than later.
And perhaps we've said too much about Cro Cop returning to his old self. His best days are clearly behind him.
Heavy-handed promotional newcomer Paul Daley knew that his best chance to defeat the more well-rounded Martin Kampmann was to keep the welterweight showdown upright.
He was right.
"Semtex" picked apart the "Hitman" -- who had title-challenging hopes on the line -- as soon as the horn blared to start the bout. Kampmann's corner screamed for him to take the fight to the mat, where Daley is not nearly as good, when things weren't going his way early, but he just couldn't do it.
In the meantime, Daley continued to find a home for his powerful left hook, which eventually led to the finish via strikes. Kampmann never went down, but he was clearly punch drunk and in major trouble before the referee, Yves LaVigne, intervened.
Tough loss for the Danish kickboxer. Huge win for the British brawler.
Mike Swick, the man who Kampmann was supposed to challenge tonight to determine the next 170-pound contender, appeared to want Daley next based on his ringside reaction.
Josh Koscheck welcomed Frank Trigg back to the Octagon for the first time since 2005. And if he expected warm milk and cookies he was sorely mistaken.
"Kos" and "Twinkle Toes" -- both decorated wrestlers -- went toe-to-toe from the get-go. It never hit the floor until Trigg went ass over tin cups courtesy of a clean straight right hand. Koscheck followed it up on the ground with several powerful punches that forced the referee in charge of the action to step in and stop it in the first round.
Trigg immediately disputed the stoppage -- even pushing the official -- but the replays showed that he was hurt and in trouble, and it appeared his homecoming was only going to get worse if it continued.
Koscheck called out another decorated wrestler, Matt Hughes, in his post-fight interview. It's too early to tell if that will happen in the near future, but it's safe to say that most fans will want to see it if the fight is ever booked.
As for Trigg, who knows, Martin Kampmann, perhaps?
Former number one lightweight contender, Hermes Franca, was out to put together back-to-back wins for the first time in two years when he collided with Tyson Griffin in the first fight of the pay-per-view (PPV) telecast.
He came into the 155-pound showdown four pounds too heavy at the weigh in, leading many to believe that he was not in the kind of shape required to take on a top, tireless fighter like Griffin.
After tonight's sluggish performance, that now seems like a fair assessment.
Franca looked slow and out of shape. The faded, unkept lilac-colored mop top certainly didn't help change any of those perceptions. And Griffin made him pay, registering his first stoppage since 2006 (that's not a typo) with a brutal second round technical knockout of the portly Brazilian.
It was great to see Griffin score such a convincing win over a relatively big name. He needed it. Franca -- even though he looked like a bag lady -- is very hard to put away. Griffin simply picked him apart with crisp punches and fancy footwork.
Hopefully, he gets a tougher test his next time out -- one that puts him closer to an eventual title berth sometime in 2010 if he keeps winning. Franca, on the other hand, hopefully earned enough to get haircut.
All of 'em.
That’s enough from us -- now it’s your turn to discuss "Franklin vs. Belfort" in the comments section below.
Sound off, Maniacs. Let’s hear what you have to say.
To check out complete UFC 103 results, coverage and detailed blow-by-blow commentary of the televised main card fights click here.