Mondays? Terrible. Quarantined Mondays? Terrible. Quarantined Mondays where you get to yell at each other about old fights? Not as terrible.
That’s right, March MMAdness is here to stay ...
- Forrest Griffin vs. Stephan Bonnar 1 (#2) defeats Junior dos Santos vs. Stipe Miocic 1 (#63) with 87 percent of Maniac votes
- Dustin Poirier vs. Justin Gaethje (#31) defeats Brock Lesnar vs. Shane Carwin (#34) with 69 percent of Maniac votes
- Michael Chandler vs. Eddie Alvarez 1 (#18) defeats Roger Huerta vs. Clay Guida (#47) with 60 percent of Maniac votes
- Robert Whittaker vs. Yoel Romero 2 (#13) vs. Dustin Poirier vs. Max Holloway 2 (#50) with 65 percent of Maniac votes
Four matches, four clean wins for the favorites. Do spare a thought for the terribly under-seeded Poirier-Holloway 2, though ... it deserved better.
Match 21: Zhang Weili vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk (#10) vs. Georges St-Pierre vs. B.J. Penn 1 (#55)
A late-notice substitution by popular demand, the greatest women’s fight of all time gets the comfy seed it deserves.
Zhang Weili’s utter obliteration of the heretofore indestructible Jessica Andrade remains one of the most brutal title changes in recent memory, a feat so impressive it installed her as a favorite over former Strawweight queen Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Her fearsome power looked like more than Jedrzejczyk, who’d suffered knockdowns against Rose Namajunas, Claudia Gadelha and Karolina Kowalkiewicz, could handle if she wanted to impose her high-volume offense. At the same time, Zhang’s inexperience in championship rounds was a dangerous unknown in what promised to be a high-tempo slugfest.
Jedrzejczyk’s chin and Zhang’s cardio both held up admirably, producing 25 minutes of high-skill, high-intensity, high-drama striking (watch highlights). Zhang proved able to match Jedrzejczyk’s wilting pace and Jedrzejczyk fought through some genuinely horrifying swelling to keep the pressure on. They ultimately combined to land a staggering 366 strikes en route to a split decision that could have gone either way and absolutely demands a rematch.
Before they were legends, “GSP” and “The Prodigy” were young standouts with a lot to prove. St-Pierre was on the warpath after falling to Matt Hughes, demolishing “Mayhem” Miller, Frank Trigg and Sean Sherk, while Penn was making his UFC return after two years away. While Hughes prepared to defend his title against Royce Gracie, these two duked it out at UFC 58: “USA vs. Canada” to determine a suitable challenger.
Penn’s lashing jab carried the show for the first round, busting St-Pierre’s nose and forcing him to lean on his wrestling to start the second. Though Penn managed to get back to his feet, he struggled to reclaim that striking dominance in the face of St-Pierre’s persistence. Grinding clinchwork from St-Pierre erased the early deficit and carried him to a split decision win.
Though Mike Swick and Rich Franklin closed the show for the Yanks, the Great White North enjoyed its moment of triumph.
Who wins Match 21?
This poll is closed
Zhang Weili vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk
Georges St. Pierre vs. BJ Penn I
Match 22: Matt Hughes vs. Frank Trigg 2 (#23) vs. Forrest Griffin vs. Rampage Jackson (#42)
This is the fight that Dana White himself tabbed as his favorite of all time. Even if you haven’t seen it in its entirety, Hughes’ iconic slam will remain a staple of the UFC’s highlight package until the heat death of the universe.
Trigg nearly claimed the title in decidedly ungentlemanly fashion right off the bat, hurting Hughes with a knee to the jewels and swarming with punches as the stricken champion tried to signal to the referee. Meanwhile, Trigg swiftly latched onto Hughes’ back and attempted to hoist him by the same rear-naked choke petard that felled “Twinkle Toes” in their first meeting. Instead, Hughes spun into guard, latched onto a rising Trigg, and hauled him across the ring to Mike Golberg’s bellow of, “AND HERE WE GO.”
One slam, some passing, and one choke later, the second verse wound up the same as the first.
In one corner, UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, the man who’d cracked Chuck Liddell’s indestructible chin and handily defeated fellow PRIDE legend Dan Henderson in his previous effort. In the other, Forrest Griffin, the vaguely simian scrapper just three fights removed from a knockout loss to Keith Jardine.
Amazingly, this fight didn’t end with Jackson punching Griffin’s mutton chops clean off his face, though a massive uppercut in the first round certainly sent those whiskers a-wigglin.’ Instead, the inaugural The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) used crushing leg kicks and lethal grappling to win the second round in dominant fashion. Jackson never managed to floor Griffin again, though he landed his fair share of telling blows, while Griffin’s persistence and targeting of the lead leg carried him to a unanimous decision and a wholly unexpected title.
Who wins Match 22?
This poll is closed
Matt Hughes vs. Frank Trigg 2
Forrest Griffin vs. Rampage Jackson
Match 23: Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard 3 (#26) vs. Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Royce Gracie (#39)
This bracket has its fair share of sequels on it, but none of those series produced a third installment quite this stunning.
Preceded by yet another amazing commercial, Edgar and Maynard met in Houston, Texas, with a hefty pair of chips on their shoulders, each eager to put the ambiguous ending of their second meeting behind them. Maynard once again took the initiative, badly hurting “The Answer” in the first round. Once the deja vu wore off, though, Edgar came back with a vengeance. And rather than simply keeping things competitive, he actively took it to “The Bully,” ultimately clipping him in the fourth and putting a stamp on their rivalry with a show-stopping knockout.
MMA’s proliferation dispelled much of the mysticism around no-holds-barred fighting, the sort you’d see in flicks like Enter the Dragon or Bloodsport. Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Royce Gracie, though, was straight out of a classic martial arts drama.
Sakuraba, the undersized catch wrestler, handed the Gracies their first submission loss in MMA, beating Royler Gracie by kimura in a spot of delightful irony. Unwilling to let this stand, the Gracies sent UFC legend Royce to avenge their honor in PRIDE, complete with modified rules to allow gi usage and unlimited time.
This fight wasn’t exactly action-packed, but you could cut the tension with a knife as Sakuraba gradually wore down Gracie from top position. It took 90 minutes of this for Helio Gracie to finally throw the towel, leaving Sakuraba to advance to the same-night tournament finals and fight Igor Vovchanchyn to a draw before forfeiting because of fatigue.
Who wins Match 23?
This poll is closed
Frnakie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard III
Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Royce Gracie
Match 24: Mark Hunt vs. Bigfoot Silva (#7) vs. Andrei Arlovski vs. Travis Browne (#58)
Everything about this match up screamed “early finish” — both men were reeling from recent knockout losses and each had the power to inflict a repeat on the other. Nobody expected one of the most grueling five rounds of Heavyweight action in MMA history.
Despite having very different reputations for durability, Silva scored the first knockdown with a winging right hand, but was unable to capitalize as Hunt’s legendary resilience brought him back into the fight. Now struggling with Hunt’s cleaner striking, Silva focused his attack on Hunt’s lead leg; even stumbling, though, Hunt consistently found the mark and scored a knockdown of his own with a straight right in the third. “The Super Samoan” then initiated the wrestling, prompting Silva to score his own takedown and unleash his signature ground-an-pound from mount.
Despite barely escaping the fourth round, Hunt took complete control down the stretch, bouncing punches and elbows off the Brazilian’s giant jaw with impunity. It wasn’t enough to get the win, but it did secure a draw for the ages.
This one also screamed “early finish,” and this time the universe listened. Five minutes of pure, undiluted slobber knocking from the big boys.
Arlovski — looking more like the his champion self than he had in years — came out hurling right hands with reckless abandon, repeatedly hurting Browne as the latter’s Tarverdyan-trained boxing struggled to keep up. With his back to the literal and metaphorical wall, though, Browne unleashed a winging right of his own that sent “The Pitbull” crashing to the mat.
Ignoring his legendary fragility, Arlovski got back to his feet and continued to pour on the hurt, ultimately forcing the referee into action with a crippling uppercut and right cross.
Who wins Match 24?
This poll is closed
Mark Hunt vs. Bigfoot Silva 1
Andrei Arlovski vs. Travis Browne
Also, to reiterate, spread the word, share socially ... do whatever grassroots / viral “Get Out The Vote” campaign needed to ensure your favorite fights advance to the next round. Complaining in the comments section about seeding and whatnot will not impact the results and will just make you look like an unappreciative dick.
Same time tomorrow, Maniacs.
Be sure to also check out our March MMAdness archive — which includes the entire bracket — to catch up on the tournament right here.