Griffin Snatches UFC Title with Controversial Win

By Mike Sloan Jul 6, 2008
LAS VEGAS -- Unless something catastrophic happens within the next 365 days, it's a safe bet that Forrest Griffin (Pictures) will lock horns with Quinton "Rampage" Jackson (Pictures) again. It may be for the UFC light heavyweight title or it may be for a chance to fight whoever holds said belt. But either way one cuts it, both 205-pound competitors will be trading leather, bones, flesh and blood again.

Griffin walked away from the famed Octagon at UFC 86 Saturday night with Jackson's light heavyweight title and he earned it the hard way, albeit shrouded in controversy. Griffin and Jackson fought their tails off, each taking as much as the other delivered, and when the smoke cleared, the general consensus around the sold out Mandalay Bay Events Center was that Rampage probably retained his title.

With an emphasis on probably.

Two rounds within the ballyhooed showdown were landslides for one fighter -- Jackson the first, Griffin the second. But rounds three through five were virtual toss-ups and when the final bell sounded, there truly wasn't a clear-cut victor.

In the first round, Griffin was nearly stopped when Jackson dropped "The Ultimate Fighter" winner to his back with a picturesque right uppercut. Rampage, sensing another brilliant early-round knockout, pounced on the woozy Griffin in an attempt to end the fight. Somehow Griffin held onto his attacker and eventually cleared his head.

Griffin knew he had to keep a safe distance from the champion and the best way to do that was with leg kicks. Griffin wobbled Rampage seconds into the second frame with a crippling blow to Jackson's outer lead thigh. Another followed seconds later and soon Jackson was stumbling away from Griffin. The Xtreme Couture fighter latched on a guillotine and tripped the Memphis native. Within moments, he had Rampage fully mounted. For almost three straight minutes, Griffin dished out elbows and punches to the wounded Jackson, but Rampage was able to fend off most of the attacks and make it out of the round.

"He jacked my leg up," Jackson admitted later. "I tried to pretend; I ain't that good at acting, but he knew he hurt my leg."

Griffin tried to close the show in the third, but Rampage kept a safe distance, preventing any further damage to his left leg. Jackson pecked away at Griffin and the pace of the fight slowed.

Stanzas three and four were the swing rounds, as they were somewhat uneventful and, save for Jackson's attempted slam in the fourth to shake off Griffin's triangle choke attempt, neither man dominated.

Griffin boxed well in the fifth and kept Jackson's charges at bay, though Rampage seemed the more powerful of the two when he did connect.

After the unanimous decision victory was announced with tallies of 48-46 (twice) and 49-46, a large portion of the fans in attendance littered the Octagon with boos and other vocal discord.

"What, are you kidding me?" an incredulous Griffin asked the crowd, though he had much respect for Jackson's skills.

"I think that was pretty close," Griffin said. "And I didn't want to (over-engage), because he hits too f___ing hard, but I think we're going to have to do that again. And that sucks for me. Every f___ing punch he threw hurt. I'm not kidding. Like I would catch it, and it would hurt my arm. Just everything hurt. And I just kind of let him get off and throw one, two or three. I never made him pay for it."

"Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose," said Jackson. "Forrest is tough. I respect him a lot. He works hard; he's a hard worker. Hey, whenever you step in the Octagon, there's a 50/50 chance you're going to get your ass whooped. I ain't no stranger to getting my ass whooped. I get my ass whooped sometimes."

The co-main event wasn't without some controversy either as Canadian favorite Patrick Cote (Pictures) narrowly edged out Brazilian adversary Ricardo Almeida (Pictures) via a split decision. The middleweight bout wasn't as aesthetically pleasing as many had hoped but Cote did appear to do enough within the rounds to earn the victory.

Almeida continuously pressed for the takedowns, but Cote's sprawl was in top form. However, as much as Cote wanted to keep the fight standing, he was a tad gun shy and never let his hands go the way he typically does. Since both fighters perfectly deflected any offense the other threw his way, it left for a rather uneventful three rounds.

In the end it was probably Cote's aggressiveness that won over the judges as two of them favored him with scores of 29-28. The other judge rewarded Almeida with a 29-28 tally. The win inches Cote a little bit closer to a potential date with 185-pound champion Anderson Silva.

Lightweight Gleison Tibau (Pictures) almost had the omoplata submission on Joe Stevenson, but "Daddy" was able to thwart the lock before it was too late. Stevenson was caught in the submission late in the opening round and when Tibau couldn't cinch it up, the Stevenson simply waited out the bell.

Stevenson turned the tables on the American Top Team jiu-jitsu specialist in the second round after Tibau fell into a guillotine choke trying for a takedown. Stevenson had previously escaped a full mount from the Brazilian, but once he sunk in the choke, he pulled guard and locked it up. Tibau tapped out at 2:57, thrusting Stevenson back into the lightweight picture.

Josh Koscheck (Pictures) came about as close anybody ever has to stopping the always-durable Chris Lytle (Pictures), but the punishment he dealt and the puddles of blood Lytle spilled weren't enough as "Lights Out" hung tough for three full rounds.

Koscheck cut Lytle badly over his right eye thanks to vicious elbows from inside his guard in the second, but "Kos" just couldn't put his opponent away.

Koscheck's speed and power were too much for Lytle to overcome and the Indiana native never could get his punches off enough gain some momentum. A short left hand appeared to rock Koscheck late in the third, but the American Kickboxing Academy fighter recovered before the bell. Koscheck earned marks of 30-26, 29-27 and 30-28for his victory.

Lightweight contender Tyson Griffin took another step in his quest for the title with a definitive unanimous decision win over the highly touted Marcus Aurelio. Griffin controlled the pace of the fight from the outset and never let "Maximus" find his rhythm. Griffin out-struck and out-wrestled his Brazilian counterpart making it look surprisingly easy. Griffin earned 30-27 on all three scorecards and his win sets up potential showdowns with quite a few fellow elite fighters in the deep 155-pound division.

Florida lightweight Cole Miller (Pictures) had his hands full with opponent Jorge Gurgel (Pictures) but he wound up scoring the submission of the night with a dazzling triangle choke late in the third stanza. The two battered each other around the cage for nearly 15 minutes, and it appeared that Gurgel was on his way toward a decision victory. He was able to counter Miller's reach advantage and hurt Miller on a few occasions, but the American Top Team jiu-jitsu purple belt had one last trick up his sleeve.

Gurgel slammed Miller to the canvas several times in the third frame, but he couldn't keep him there. Finally, after a forth takedown, Gurgel fell into an armbar. When Gurgel escaped the submission, a mad scramble ensued and that's when Miller sucked his foe into the triangle.

Miller had it sunk in deep but the Cincinnati fighter defended it well When Miller roll him over to apply more intense pressure, Gurgel succumbed to the choke and tapped out with 12 seconds remaining in the bout.

Heavyweight contender Gabriel Gonzaga (Pictures) quickly erased any doubt about his legitimacy with an almost too-easy submission victory against Justin McCully (Pictures). Gonzaga dropped McCully with a hard right leg kick, and in seconds the Brazilian had him fully mounted. Gonzaga wrenched McCully's arm back with a perfect kimura and the Huntington Beach fighter had no choice but to tap out at 1:57.

Earlier in the evening, Melvin Guillard (Pictures) electrified the crowd with a stunning blowout of tough guy Dennis Siver (Pictures). Guillard dropped Siver four seconds into their lightweight contest with a right hand but the German fighter held on. After a scramble that saw Guillard reload his Gatling gun, Siver walked into a maelstrom of fists and was flattened. Guillard scored a highlight reel knockout in 36 seconds.

Justin Buchholz (Pictures) had a tremendously difficult time dealing with the lanky Corey Hill's reach advantage, but he finally figured out "The Ultimate Fighter 5" veteran's number.

Buchholz scrambled away from Hill after he was mounted in the second frame and when Hill couldn't get back to his feet quickly enough, Buchholz seized his back and latched on the rear-naked choke. Hill tapped out at 3:57 of the second round.
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