Mirko "Cro Cop" File Photo: Sherdog.com
The vast majority of fans thought UFC 115 would be a garbage night of fights. Instead we got a night full of tension, drama and violence that made picking just five moments worthy of recognition near impossible.
Here comes my best shot.
Franklin Starches Liddell … with a Broken Arm
Chuck Liddell was starting to come alive, and Rich Franklin was not enjoying the punches crashing into his notoriously fragile chin.
Further complicating matters for Franklin was his left arm, which he later revealed to be broken and was severely altering his offensive output. As he has so many times in his career, Liddell smelled blood and wasn’t about to let Franklin make it to the second round.
Liddell’s trademark blitzkrieg ended with Franklin landing a crunching, compact right on his chin and putting “The Iceman” down and out in gut-wrenching fashion. It was a moment that perfectly synthesized the athletic brilliance of mixed martial artists and the brutal consequences that come with their job description.
Cro Cop Brings Back the Cemetery
Patrick Barry dropped Mirko Filipovic twice in the first round and was on the verge of turning his lead leg into mush. Even the most fervent “Cro Cop” fan had to know that this might be his last stand.
Then something happened that I never thought I would get to see again: Filipovic threw his left high kick of doom, and it changed the fight without even landing. Shades of the Filipovic of old followed, as he started using his underrated boxing skills all the while whipping that left leg with the reckless abandon his fans have been begging for.
“Right leg, hospital. Left leg, cemetery.” It’s the greatest tagline in MMA history for a reason, folks.
Thiago Cage Walks for His Life
Near the end of the first round of his fight with Paulo Thiago, Martin Kampmann locked on his trademark figure-four guillotine. Even better for Kampmann, he had Thiago trapped against the cage with seemingly no escape route.
An elevated camera angle caught a brief glimpse of Thiago’s face, and it looked like his eyes were set to escape his skull because of the massive pressure being put on his neck. One thing you couldn’t see on Thiago’s face, though, was an iota of quit. The Brazilian super-cop walked his feet across the cage and miraculously escaped the so-called “death choke.”
It was a moment that served only to save Thiago from getting stopped, as Kampmann would go on to take a well-earned clean sweep of the judges’ scorecards. None of that, however, does anything to take away from the nail-biting drama and tension of watching someone choose fight over flight.
Jackson Goes Duke Evers
With his fighter down two rounds to none entering the final stanza, Greg Jackson had no profound technical advice for Carlos Condit. Instead, Jackson did something more corners need to do in MMA: He told his fighter the truth.
Condit was losing and needed to run over Rory MacDonald to have any chance of winning. Jackson told him as much and made it clear nothing less than maximum effort would get the job done. Four minutes and 53 seconds later, Condit notched an improbable TKO win.
Danzig Wins Over the Universe
Mac Danzig was in trouble, but he was fighting his way out of it. The willingness to take on adversity without so much as blinking is a necessary trait for any serious fighter, and Yves Lavigne robbed Danzig of the chance to finish what he started.
No one would have blamed Danzig if he had spewed nothing but vitriol for Lavigne in his post-fight interview. Instead, Danzig calmly explained in accessible language why the stoppage was unjust while simultaneously reminding the crowd that refereeing a fight is a tightrope walk.
Long regarded as something of a misanthrope thanks to his run on “The Ultimate Fighter 6,” Danzig won over everyone who understands that class and dignity are traits that shine through in the most difficult situations.