PORTLAND, Ore. – A battle of two of the greatest heavyweights in the history of mixed martial arts was everything that it was billed to be, as Randy Couture and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira went toe-to-toe and back and forth in an entertaining three-round bout in the main event of UFC 102 on Saturday at the Rose Garden.
Nogueira (32-5-1) was just a bit busier and more effective and pulled out a unanimous decision. He won by scores of 30-27 twice and 29-28. Yahoo! Sports had it 29-28 for Nogueira as well.
"He's one of my idols," Nogueira said following the victory.
They traded power shots for much of the fight, but Nogueira knocked Couture (16-10) down several times and came close on several submission attempts.
Couture, fighting for the first time since losing the heavyweight title to Brock Lesnar at UFC 91, was in the fight all the way, though he was never able to put together the shots he needed to get Nogueira in trouble.
"What keeps me going is guys like Nogueira, interesting fights," the 46-year-old Couture said.
Couture, who indicated he would continue to fight, was cheered on loudly by his hometown crowd, but he never delivered the blow they, or he, were looking for.
In the co-main event between a pair of light heavyweights who badly needed a win, Thiago Silva (13-1) caught Keith Jardine (14-7-1) with a left hook and finished him on the ground with a series of hard shots.
Jardine has had an up-and-down career, defeating some of the UFC's biggest stars, such as Forrest Griffin and Chuck Liddell, but he's never been able to get consistency.
As they were fighting in the center of the cage, Silva simply beat Jardine to the punch and landed a big left. Jardine was essentially out when he hit the mat. Silva made sure of it with a few hard shots before referee Herb Dean stopped it at 1:35.
Nate Marquardt (32-8-2) may have moved closer to another shot at the middleweight championship held by Anderson Silva by knocking out Demian Maia (11-1) in just 21 seconds of the first round of their bout.
Maia appeared as if he was going to throw a kick at Marquardt's head, but Marquardt had a huge opening and took advantage of it. He drilled Maia with a one-punch, which put him down and out.
"I want that belt and I don't know who's going to get the next shot, but if you want someone who's going to kick Anderson Silva's butt, you're going to give that shot to me," a jubilant Marquardt said.
Jake Rosholt (6-1) managed to avoid Chris Leben's (18-6) power shots and finished him in the third round with an arm triangle choke.
Brandon Vera (11-3) opened the main card with a tight decision over Krzysztof Soszynski (19-10-1). Much of the fight was spent in the clinch and lacked the explosive action many expected.
The highlight of the preliminary card was Todd Duffee's seven-second knockout of Tim Hague (10-2), a kindergarten teacher from Canada. Duffee (6-0) landed a jab that knocked Hague down and finished the fight with a crunching right while Hague was on his side.