UFC 52: Couture vs. Liddell II Preview

Matt Hughes vs. Frank Trigg

Apr 13, 2005
HUGHES: Matt Hughes is a two-time Junior College All-American, two-time NCAA All-American and two-time UFC welterweight champion with a 35-4 record in MMA. The Extreme Challenge 21 and 29 tournament winner trains with Jeremy Horn, Tim Sylvia, Tony Fryklund, Pat Miletich and the rest of Miletich Fighting Systems.

Matt began fighting MMA in 1997 and has fought around the world in RINGS, SHOOTO, Superbrawl, Warriors War and numerous events in the U.S. He debuted in the UFC in 1999 and didn’t lose until he came across Dennis Hallman. He met Hallman twice and both fights were extremely quick, neither lasting more than 30 seconds. He beat numerous Brazilians over the years including Jorge Pereira, Alexandre Barros and Marcelo Aguiar, but it was Cuban-born Brazilian fighter Jose Landi-Jons that handed Matt a rare loss in the Shidokan Warrior’s War 1 tournament with a knee to the face.

Matt has been a regular in the Octagon since UFC 34. His title bouts with Carlos Newton are legendary, with the “first one to regain consciousness wins” victory at UFC 34 and the stoppage of Newton with strikes late in the battle at UFC 38 in England. With Hayato Sakurai at UFC 36, Hughes dominated the entire bout. Sakurai had not fought inside a cage before and had a hard time defending against Hughes’ elbows but he lasted four rounds. In the bout with Sean Sherk, Hughes dominated the first two rounds with good takedowns, positioning and opened a big cut over Sherk’s right eye. In turn, Sherk landed strikes on the feet and opened a cut over Hughes right eye. Sean lost the decision and as a slap in the face, Zuffa terminated his contract.

Frank Trigg surprised Matt at UFC 45 and scored an easy takedown to open the bout. They were constantly working to establish control of one another and the advantage changes rapidly. Hughes eventually got Trigg’s back and sunk a rear-choke. In the title bout with B J Penn, Hughes’ attempted armlock late in the round allowed Penn to seize Matt’s back. Rather than defend his neck, Hughes works on Penn’s legs and it allowed B.J. to sink the choke for the win. Against Renato Verissimo at UFC 48, Matt won a unanimous decision that left some fans scratching their heads. Then last October at UFC 50, Hughes submitted Canadian Georges St-Pierre via armbar in the final second of the first round.

TRIGG: Frank Trigg is an American Freestyle wrestler and a second-degree Black Belt in Judo with a 34-2 record in MMA. The four-time USA Wrestling All-American and 2000 Olympic Trials finalist was a Phoenix College wrestler with 53-1 record. “Twinkle Toes” trains with Vladimir Matyushenko, Rico Chiaparelli and the rest of the rAw Team.

Frank began fighting in the bull fighting rings and small bars in Texas where they promoted Pancrase-style matches (open hand strikes). He fought in SHOOTO in 1998 in a bout with UFC veteran Marcelo Aguiar. Trigg escaped an armbar by pounding Aguiar on the mat and punished Marcelo in the corner of the ring prompting a referee stoppage.

He returned to the Vale Tudo Japan ’98 show against Jean Jacques Machado. They clashed for 20 minutes and in the third round Trigg caught Machado with a knee to the head, opening him up and causing a stoppage of the bout. At PRIDE 8, Trigg worked over UFC veteran Fabiano Iha and crumbled him in the corner, scoring a TKO victory. In a return to SHOOTO, Frank battled the event’s top competitor at the time: Hayato Sakurai. Trigg dominated the first round but minutes into the second round, Sakurai connected with a left to the head that sent Trigg to the mat. He got up but Sakurai followed with a pair of knees that put him back down and forced the referee to stop the contest.

Like Hughes, Trigg met Dennis Hallman twice. The controversial WFA 3 title bout saw Hallman controlling the stand-up game until a groin strike momentarily crippled Dennis. Hallman was unable to continue and Trigg was crowned WFA champion due to “fighter abandonment.” Their UFC rematch saw a decisive win for Trigg via strikes in the first round.

Frank got his first title shot against Hughes at UFC 45. He scored the early takedown and worked for submissions, but late in the round Hughes seized his back. Frank stood to try and defend but Hughes sunk the choke and Trigg tapped while crashing to the floor. At UFC 50 Trigg did what Hughes could not, blasting Brazilian jiu-jitsu wizard Renato Verissimo with strikes and finished him in the second round.

MY PICK: Trigg. It seems Frank has finally settled in to his UFC groove. Taking it to Verissimo when Hughes struggled to eek out a victory sent a clear message he has his eyes on the prize. It is hard to gage whether Hughes is still hungry for a UFC title. He’s still a top-ranked fighter and continues to win but St-Pierre was in over his head and we know Verissimo gave him everything he could handle. Does he still want to be in the UFC or do the greener pastures of Japan cry out to him? I think we’ll see Trigg at his best and he’ll get the UFC title in dramatic fashion, pounding out the win in the third round.
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