LAS VEGAS – Forrest Griffin has managed to recover from devastating first-round knockouts before. And he showed on Saturday in the main event of UFC 106 that he had not forgotten how.
Coming off an embarrassing defeat to Anderson Silva at UFC 101, Griffin controlled his bout against Tito Ortiz here Saturday, keeping the fight on his feet and pulling off a split-decision victory. Griffin won by scores of 30-27 and 29-28, while judge Glenn Trowbridge had it 29-28 for Ortiz. Yahoo! Sports scored it 29-28 for Griffin.
Griffin had lost by first-round knockout to Keith Jardine at UFC 66 before reeling off three consecutive wins, culminating with a victory over Quinton "Rampage" Jackson at UFC 86 for the UFC light heavyweight title.
Griffin may not have started another championship run on Saturday, but he did establish that he remains among the elite light heavyweights.
"This was a great fight to come back," said Griffin, who lost a decision to Ortiz at UFC 59 in 2006. "We'll have to do a third. That's No. 1, man."
Griffin, who said he broke a foot in training, managed to stuff most of Ortiz's takedowns. Ortiz was coming off spinal fusion surgery and fought with a black eye – he said he has a cracked skull – and a bulging disk in his neck.
Ortiz put Griffin down and pounded him in his traditional style, once in the first and again in the second, but appeared to run completely out of gas in the third, when he did next to nothing.
"It sucks losing, but Forrest was the better guy tonight," said Ortiz, who now has lost two in a row and is 0-3-1 in his last four.
As Ortiz rattled off his injuries in the post-fight interview, the crowd booed. Griffin grabbed the microphone and said, "You guys are booing, but you train to fight people and you get hurt training."
In the co-main event, Josh Koscheck scored an impressive submission victory over Anthony Johnson in a strange welterweight fight. Johnson inexplicably kneed Koscheck in the face while Koscheck was down in the first round, then Koscheck poked Johnson in the eye in the second.
Koscheck's wrestling proved to be the difference in the hard-fought victory. He took down Johnson, who appeared massive in the cage and had a substantial weight advantage, and maneuvered his way into position for a rear naked choke.
After the bout, he called out Dan Hardy, who defeated Mike Swick at UFC 105 in Manchester, England, a week earlier. Hardy is in line to face Georges St. Pierre for the welterweight title, likely in February.
Koscheck, though, tried to make a case for himself as the No. 1 contender.
"There is someone here who thinks he's the No. 1 contender," Koscheck said. "He hasn't fought anyone. He's sitting over there. His name is Dan Hardy. He hasn't fought anyone like me. I'm the No. 1 contender."
Light heavyweight Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, the brother of UFC heavyweight Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, was impressive in his UFC debut, scoring a first-round knockout of Luiz Cane.
Nogueira landed a series of lefts that hurt Cane, at one point making him run away across the cage. Nogueira ended the fight with a looping left that landed on the button and knocked Cane down.
Phil Baroni didn't do much in his return to the UFC, as he was dominated by Amir Sadollah, the winner of Season 7 of "The Ultimate Fighter." Sadollah weathered a brief early storm from Baroni and then used a series of lethal knees and strikes to win a unanimous decision.
Ben Saunders had a devastating knockout of Marcus Davis, becoming the first man to ever knock Davis out. Saunders ripped Davis with a pair of knees, the second of which moved Davis' nose several inches across his face and knocked him out.