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UFC 96 recap and final thoughts

UFC 96: "Jackson vs. Jardine" from the Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, has come to a close.

And WrestleMania it wasn't with Matt Hamill and Gray Maynard on the televised main card, coming out swinging against their respective opponents.

And so, too, did Quinton "Rampage" Jackson.

The Memphis, Tenn., native came out againt Keith Jardine in the main event with a lot on the line -- an opportunity to reclaim his 205-pound title to be exact. He didn't disappoint, holding his own against Rashad Evans' good friend and training partner for three full rounds.

Jackson dropped Jardine in the second and third rounds, which essentially clinched the big win. But, it wasn't a cake walk -- Jardine came to fight. And he didn't crumble when Jackson landed a few shots on the button. He was game all night, but it just wasn't enough.

Now Jackson is set to headline UFC 98 on May 23 against Evans, making it yet another quick turnaround for the former champion. But he appears to be hungry and motivated to get back on top, which could work for or against him on fight night.

Time will tell.

But if the post-fight jawing with Evans is any indication of things to come then this scrap is going to be one for the record books. Classic stuff.

The co main event of the evening was billed as Shane Carwin's "coming out party." Well, he came out, blasting former number one division contender Gabriel Gonzaga with a short hook that dropped the Brazilian hard in the first round.

Carwin followed it up with a few head bouncers, which put "Napao" out for the count. That's now 11 professional fights for Carwin and not one of them has made it past the opening frame. That's impressive. But he did look a little shaky before the stoppage -- Gonzaga did well before going out.

The final verdict on Carwin, therefore, may still be out. But boy, it's going to be real interesting to see how he fairs against the top fighters in the division in 2009 and beyond.

Regardless, Carwin has certainly arrived ... now let's just see how long he can stick around.

Pete Sell didn't last very long in his fight against Matt Brown. "Drago" was the victim of a blistering assault as soon as the horn sounded to start the action, getting creamed by a mix of punches and kicks that had the Long Islander dazed and confused.

So, too, was the normally very serviceable referee in charge of the action, Yves LaVigne, who appeared to want to stop the fight as soon as Sell was being abused. But he changed his mind and Brown was free to continue pouring it on.

It just delaying the inevitable -- Brown went on to finish Sell shortly thereafter under protest. It was a very impressive performance from the former contestant on "The Ultimate Fighter" and one that will keep him busy inside the Octagon for the near future.

The same can't be said for Sell -- he could not be on the chopping block with yet another loss.

Matt Hamill certainly isn't after nearly decapitating the collegiate wrestling champion from Oklahoma State University, Mark Munoz, in the first round of their light heavyweight tilt.

Munoz appeared to be very concerned about the takedown, which eventually ended up being his undoing because "The Hammer" dropped it with a devastating head kick.

To add insult to injury, Munoz was out before he hit the ground and drilled his grill with his own knee on the way down to the canvas. Ouch.

In the opening bout of the evening, Gray Maynard did everyone a favor, including himself and excluding his opponent Jim Miller a favor, by standing and trading for three straight rounds.

"The Bully" has earned a reputation as a "Lay and Pray" fighter, which he apparently attempted to diffuse this evening against the very tough fighter out of New Jersey.

It still wasn't pretty; however, Maynard got the job done with a unanimous decision and did some pretty good damage when all was said and done. Hopefully, it's more of the same the next time he takes to the big stage.

UFC 96 was a pleasant surprise, which is common for most events that fans lament before they happen. All in all it was an entertaining night that has some huge implications moving forward.

What did you think?

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