Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) tonight (Jan. 2, 2010) presented its first major pay-per-view (PPV) event of the 2010 fight season from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
And even though it was more than likely the least star-studded "year-end" show in recent years, as well as the most injury-riddled perhaps ever, it somehow managed to deliver the goods.
Light heavyweights Rashad Evans and Thiago Silva battled in the main event, both of whom were looking to get on the fast track to a rematch with UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Lyoto Machida.
"Sugar" went back to basics, relying on his strong wrestling background to frustrate the much bigger, and more powerful, Silva. Perhaps it was the knockout loss to Machida, or the respect he had for Silva's one-punch finishing power, or both, but he did what he had to do to bring home the win.
Relentless takedowns, ground and pound, clench work -- you name it and Evans did almost everything in his power to close the distance for 15 full minutes. Silva even baited him with his chin in the third and final round, and it almost worked, clipping Evans with a flush right and nearly finishing him with strikes.
But for some reason Silva let him off the hook, did some Muhammad Ali jukes, and that was all that Evans needed to recover and hang on for the unanimous decision victory. Evans was hurt bad, but Silva just couldn't put the nail in the coffin.
He'll likely regret that strategy for a very, very long time.
Our co featured fight of the evening the "classic" striker, Paul Daley, versus grappler, Dustin Hazelett. So we pretty much knew it was either going to end with a knockout or submission.
Unfortunately for "McLovin," it was the former.
Daley and Hazelett didn't do much for the first half of the first round, but that all changed when both fighters uncorked opposite punches -- Hazelett with a straight right and "Semtex" with a looping left hook. Let's just say it was clear once again what Daley has packed into his mitts as his nickname suggests.
Hazelett crashed to the canvas and the Brit followed up with about three big head bouncers ... it was like Daley was working a speed bag. Other than that final moment, the fight never made it to the ground, which was ultimately Hazelett's downfall.
With two highlight-reel knockouts in just as many appearances inside the Octagon, it's safe to say that Daley has established himself as a dangerous player in the 170-pound division. Can he hang with the more well-rounded, top fighters in the division in 2010 and beyond?
There's only one way to find out. Joe Silva, make us a high-level match next, please. Josh Koscheck, perhaps?
Joe Lauzon, returning from major reconstructive knee surgery and nearly a year-long layoff, was looking to re-establish himself as a major player on the division against Sam Stout to kickoff the New Year.
It didn't happen.
Despite a good effort in the first half of the first round, which included a nearly fight-ending submission, Lauzon just didn't have it tonight. He faded early and simply had no answer for the energy and bounce of the Canadian.
Stout knew that his key to victory was to keep things standing ... and he did just that.
"Hands of Stone," who was cut open early when Lauzon was fresh, floated in and out, mixing up the punches and kicks to keep "J-Lau" guessing and off balance for basically three rounds. He was clearly the better conditioned fighter. And he showed much-improved takedown and submission defense.
Lauzon, whether it was because of the layoff or Stout's strength (or both), simply could not keep him down long enough to impose his will. In fact, toward the end of the match it appeared that Lauzon couldn't even keep his hands up because he was so exhausted.
Nonetheless, it was an impressive performance for Stout and a disappointing one for Lauzon.
Tonight was supposed to be a coming out party for lightweight Jim Miller as he stepped up the competition level to try and assert himself as a top player in the crowded 155-pound division. But then Tyson Griffin, as well as former division champion, Sean Sherk, were forced off the card because of injuries.
Enter Duane Ludwig.
"Bang" is certainly no chump, taking on several of the best in the business in a very busy career. He is a very accomplished fighter who poses a threat to virtually anyone who steps inside the cage with him.
Miller was up to the challenge.
He dropped Ludwig with a straight right hand early in the first round and pounced on his wounded prey as soon as possible. Ludwig rolled and appeared to almost escape the onslaught, but the savvy Miller caught his arm and was able to secure a fight-ending armbar submission.
Great win for the New Jersey native -- his third straight. Don't be surprised to see him back in action sooner rather than later ... maybe even in front of his hometown crowd at UFC 111 on March 27.
Hopefully, this time he gets the top dog who alluded him this evening that could propel him to the top of the stack early in 2010.
UFC President Dana White indicated before the show that he considered putting the heavyweight clash between talented up-and-comer Junior dos Santos and striking specialist Gilbert Yvel as the co main event because it would be exciting.
He was right.
Both fighters came out slugging from the opening bell, exchanging big shots to try and end things early. Yvel landed several solid blows, but none of them appeared to slow the Brazilian.
"Cigano," on the other hand, dropped a huge left that sent "Hurricane" swirling to the canvas. It was a monster punch -- he looked like he was hurling a discus fist right onto Yvel's face. Dos Santos went in for the kill and the referee in charge of the action had no choice but to step in and stop it before it got ugly.
White remarked that with an emphatic win over Yvel, dos Santos would earn instant status as a title contender. Well, mission accomplished.
However, with Brock Lesnar still on the mend, and Frank Mir and Shane Carwin fighting for the interim title in March, dos Santos will more than likely have to take (and win) at least one more fight before earning a title shot.
Something tells me that most fans won't mind that one bit ... he's one helluva a fighter. And certainly a treat to watch.
That’s enough from us — now it’s your turn to discuss "Evans vs. Silva" in the comments section below. Sound off, Maniacs.
Did the injury-plagued event live up to your expectations? Or do you need bigger names -- not devastating knockouts, crafty submissions and great fights overall -- to be truly impressed?
Let’s hear what you have to say in the comments section below.
For complete UFC 108 results and detailed blow-by-blow commentary of the televised main card fights click here.