Despite being part of the PRIDE roster for years, Quinton Jackson and Dan Henderson had never crossed paths when they were paired up back in 2007. At the time, “Rampage” was fresh off a knockout win of Chuck Liddell and held UFC gold, while Henderson had just been brought over in the organization’s acquisition of PRIDE and was holding the company’s equivalent of Jackson’s belt. The two went toe-to-toe for five rounds packed with punches. Though neither of the notoriously tough fighters went down, it was still a very memorable meeting if for no other reason the stakes involved as an uber-rare unification bout. With divisional king Tito Ortiz back in the fold after some time on the sidelines it was clear he was destined to duke it out with interim champion Randy Couture. Unlike Chuck Liddell, who Couture had beaten to bring home the belt a few months earlier, Ortiz posed a different kind of problem for Couture in that he was a well-versed wrestler. Still, Ortiz’s ground-game made little difference in the end, and “The Natural” went on to outpoint the former “Huntington Beach Bad Boy” over a five-round period including a memorable sequence involving a series of spanks to his cowering competitor’s backside. Few people predicted a competitive clash when Quinton Jackson was handed Forrest Griffin as a foe. “Rampage” had scored six straight victories entering the affair including recent wins over Chuck Liddell and Dan Henderson, while Griffin was only two triumphs removed from a knockout loss to Keith Jardine. Of course, the reason fights take place is because winners aren’t determined on paper, and Griffin showed up to scrap. He picked Jackson apart early on, dropping him with a series of leg kicks no less, and held on over the next few rounds to earn the strap with a semi-controversial decision nod. Surging superstar Jon Jones and opponent Alexander Gustafsson painted a masterpiece on the Octagon canvas last weekend when the two tussled in Toronto. Gustafsson dropped jaws by coming out as the superior striker, shrugging off any supposed disadvantage brought on by the difference in reach, and even took Jones down to the mat for the first time in the champion’s career. Jones battled back despite struggling to secure any takedowns of note, landing some stiff kicks to Gustafsson’s body and head along with some other solid shots. When the smoke cleared, a badly beaten Jones had his hand raised due to his output in the final two frames of the fight. Truly, the tilt would have been a 5-star affair even without gold being up for grabs. In the eyes of countless fans, the legend of Randy Couture truly started with his win over Chuck Liddell more than a decade ago. Couture had suffered defeats at heavyweight in back-to-back bouts and decided to step up at 205 pounds to face “The Iceman” for the interim belt after linear champion Tito Ortiz opted to hold out for contractual reasons (or based on his fear of Liddell depending on who you ask). Amazingly, Couture was able to beat Liddell while standing by closing distance and avoiding his fellow icon’s power-punches. “The Natural” eventually got Liddell to the mat and, to the surprise of nearly everyone in attendance, proceeded to pound his foe out to pick up the gold.
Saturday night’s spectacular showdown between
UFC light heavyweight champ Jon Jones and talented contender Alexander Gustafsson will undoubtedly go down as one of the greatest championship clashes in the organization’s history. Action saw each man on top at certain points in the pairing, while bout also had to battle through some serious adversity in order to go the full five rounds. Their fight won’t be forgotten for a long time, adding to the list of title-tilts leaving fans in awe based on the effort put forth in the Octagon. (Photos by USA Today Sports Images) UFC 165