UFC 98: Full circle

UFC 98 in some ways was an example of fighting going full circle.

At UFC 1, the overriding theme was that everything people knew about fighting, such as the effectiveness of martial arts like karate and kung fu, was hogwash.

At UFC 98, Lyoto Machida used karate as his offensive base and won the sport’s highest-profile championship. Machida beat Rashad Evans in the first UFC title bout in history that matched up undefeated fighters on May 23, 2009, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

Clearly, karate by itself will not get you very far in today’s MMA world. And one could say welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre came from a karate background, but St. Pierre’s offense is largely wrestling-based when he fights. Machida started in karate as a young child through the teachings of his father, Yoshizo Machida, a karate master. But along the way, he trained and/or competed in sports like jiu-jitsu, sumo and wrestling to develop a style that has made him one of the most dominant fighters of modern times.

Machida went to 15-0 when he stopped Evans at 3:57 of the second round in a match that started very slowly. Machida got two knockdowns before finishing after a flurry of punches standing, and a few more on the ground. Machida’s winning the title wasn’t a shock, since he went in as the favorite. But his level of dominance over Evans, who fell to 13-1-1, made people think he could be champion for a long time.

NOTEWORTHY

The other top match, arguably even more anticipated than the main event, was a grudge match involving Matt Hughes and Matt Serra. Serra disliked Hughes ever since Hughes showed up as a guest coach on season four of The Ultimate Fighter, the comeback season in 2006, that Serra won. Serra then followed up by scoring one of the biggest upsets in history when he beat St. Pierre to win the welterweight title.

With the heat between the two already established, they were put as opposing coaches on the reality show in 2007, to build up a championship match. But one thing led to another. Serra suffered disc problems in his back and had to pull out of the fight. St. Pierre beat Hughes to get the title shot, and then beat Serra. Hughes suffered a knee injury against Thiago Alves. One problem after another led to the match being delayed 17 months, but people still cared when they got there.

Hughes won a 29-28 across the board decision that came down to the final round. Hughes got the first takedown and worked on Serra’s ribs. A stand-up was called with 1:37 left because the pace had slowed. Hughes went for another body lock takedown, but Serra tripped him, landing on top, and did more damage in his short period of advantage than Hughes had done in the round. But in having more advantage time, all three judges gave the round to Hughes.

Frank Edgar scored the biggest win of his career by scoring a unanimous decision win over former lightweight champion Sean Sherk. Sherk caused a minor panic by storming out of the building in his fight shorts and glove, and was spotted near the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino down the street. Sherk later explained he went for a run and was simply blowing off steam after a disappointing loss.

Quoteworthy: “My style is difficult. Itâs hard to match with Machida Karate.” – Machida states the obvious.

RESULTS

George Roop def. Dave Kaplan, split decision
Yoshiyuki Yoshida def. Brandon Wolff, submission (guillotine choke), 2:24
Krzysztof Soszynski def. Andre Guamao, KO, 3:17 R1
Kyle Bradley def. Phillipe Nover, TKO, 1:03 R1
Tim Hague def. Pat Barry, submission (guillotine choke), 1:49 R1
Brock Larson def. Mike Pyle, submission (arm triangle), 3:06 R1
Frank Edgar def. Sean Sherk, unanimous decision
Chael Sonnen def. Jim Miller, unanimous decision
Drew McFedries def. Xavier Foupa-Poukam, TKO, 0:37 R1
Matt Hughes def. Matt Serra, unanimous decision
UFC light heavyweight championship: Lyoto Machida def. Rashad Evans, KO, 3:57 R2 (Machida wins title).