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UFC 66: Liddell Conquers Ortiz Again in Highly Anticipated Rematch
By Kelsey Mowatt
The MGM Grand Garden Arena, in Las Vegas, Nevada, hosted the Ultimate Fighting Championship 66 tonight, and with a scheduled main event of Lightheavyweight Champion Chuck Liddell taking on former Champion Tito Ortiz, pre-fight speculation has abounded that the MMA promotion might set pay per view buy records this evening. The two were meeting for the second time in just less than 2 years, as Liddell knocked out the "Huntington Beach Bad Boy" at UFC 47, on April 2nd, 2004. Since then Ortiz has gone 5-0, while Liddell has also won 5 in a row, defending his belt 3 times.
The opening round began similarly to their first encounter, with each fighter attempting to find their range striking until a takedown attempt from Ortiz was quickly stopped by Liddell. Ortiz began utilizing some left kicks to both Liddell’s legs and midsection, and appeared to be gaining confidence until a looping right hand from "The Ice Man" cut Ortiz over his left eye. A follow up left hook from Liddell moments later dropped the former Champion, and a bloodied Ortiz barley survived a vicious barrage from Liddell to make it through the first round.
Round two saw Ortiz resume throwing kicks, which seemed to give Liddell moment to pause. As Liddell sprawled once more to avoid another Ortiz takedown attempt, his back was momentarily taken by Ortiz who quickly swung around to his rear. From there Ortiz was unable to capitalize on the superior position and Liddell quickly resumed stalking his opponent for the remainder of the round.
The fights third round saw Ortiz yet again attempt a takedown from the outside, which the current Champion once again adeptly countered. Liddell began to also counter Ortiz’s leg kicks effectively, seemingly diminishing the confidence of Ortiz that he had appeared to have regained during round 2. As Liddell continued to stalk his opponent, he began to find his range, eventually catching Ortiz with a lethal combination that once again put the former Champ to the mat. Liddell, similarly to round one, again punished Ortiz with right hands from above, as Ortiz turned to his side, covering his head as the onslaught continued from Liddell for several seconds which seemed like hours. Finally, referee Ken Yamasaki jumped into the fray to stop the action, giving Liddell the TKO victory and his 4th title defense. A dejected Ortiz promised he would be back after giving the current Champion Liddell full credit for yet another impressive win. Liddell’s record now sits at 20-3, while Ortiz’s slips to 16-5.
In what could be a main event fight on many UFC cards, rising star Forrest Griffin was scheduled to take on Greg Jackson fighter Keith Jardine. To a roaring welcome from the MGM crowd, Forrest Griffin entered the arena, to face what promised to be one of his toughest tests to date. The fight certainly lived up to its billing as a potential stand up war, with almost the entire first round seeing each fighter exchanging from their feet. Both Jardine and Griffin remained in the pocket, fiercely throwing punches and kicks until Jardine finally landed a telling right uppercut and follow up left hook to Griffin that sent the "Ultimate Fighter" star reeling. With the fight quickly spilling to the ground, Jardine’s assault continued, pounding Griffin from above with several more crushing punches that gave referee John McCarthy no choice but to halt the action at 4:41 of round 1. In earning the biggest win of his career, Jardine’s record’s moves up to 12-3-1, while Griffin, who was visibly distraught after the bout, see’s his record drop to 13-4.
The pay per view portion of the card began with "Ultimate Fighter" season 3 lightheavyweight winner Michael Bisping taking on Eric Schafer. From the outset, Bisping tested Schafer’s striking capabilities and chin, landing hard right hands and a stiff right head kick that appeared to take a considerable amount of steam out of his opponent. The resilient Schafer still managed to get the fight to the mat, where Bisping displayed a capable guard, working his way out again to his feet from several dominant positions from Schafer, including a side choke attempt and a momentary full mount. As the middle portion of the opening round eclipsed, with the bout once again spilling to the Octagon floor, Bisping peppered Schafer with punishing right hands from above. A bloodied Schafer was spared any further damage as the referee intervened at 2:03. The win brings Bisping’s record to 12-0, while Schafer’s falls to 8-3-2.
The next fight featured the return of former UFC Heavyweight Champion Andrei Arlovski, who was meeting the highly accomplished jiu-jitsu specialist Marcio Cruz. The Brazilian "Pe De Pano" immediately shot in for the takedown, and despite a decent sprawl from Arlovski, Cruz still managed to grab hold of Arlovski and pull him into his guard. The former Champion quickly worked his way back to his feet as Cruz continued to desperately cling to one leg eventually getting the gifted striker back to the mat. After a stern warning to Arlovski from referee Herb Dean for kicking at Cruz’s head as both fighters’s looked for heel hooks and ankle locks, a brilliantly timed stiff right hand to Cruz stunned the Brazilian. From there, as Cruz continued to attempt to roll into a kneebar, Arlvoski landed several more crushing hard right hands, knocking out his opponent at 3:15 of round one. Arlvoski’s triumphant return pushes his record to 10-5 while "Pe De Pano’s" drops to 2-2.
Next up Jason "The Athlete" Macdonald stepped into the Octagon to face Chris "The Crippler" Leben, who was looking to avenge fellow Team Quest’s fighter Ed Herman’s previous loss to the Canadian middleweight in October at Ultimate Fight Night 7. The opening round of the fight saw Leben getting the better of the stand up exchanges, but the tough Macdonald kept pressing forward, putting Leben against the fence several times. From there Leben displayed great takedown defense for the majority of the round, aptly countering any maneuver from his opposition. The second round saw much of the same, until finally Macdonald was able to get Leben to the mat, and began working to push through Leben’s half guard. Quickly, the 31-year-old veteran Macdonald proved to the MMA world that he is in fact the real deal, securing a tight guillotine choke on Leben as the fighter attempted to reverse positions. Leben struggled for several seconds until finally attempting to tap in what appeared to be a half conscious state. The fight was stopped at 4:03 of round one, giving Macdonald the win that elevates his record to 18-7, while Leben’s falls to 15-3.
A welterweight bout between Tony De Souza and American Top Team fighter Thiago Alves would set the pay per view table for tonight’s main event. After an opening round that saw Alves squash numerous De Souza takedowns and ruthlessly punish De Souza until the bell sounded, Alves knocked out his opponent with a brilliantly timed knee and follow up punch shortly into round 2 at 1:10. Alves’ record is now 10-3, while De Souza’s sits at 10-3.
In other action during tonight’s pay per view, Gabriel Gonzaga put on a grappling clinic, submitting Carmelo Marrero at 3:32 of the first round with an armbar. The victory is Gonzaga’s third in a row in the UFC, raising his record to 7-1, while Marrero’s drops to 6-1.
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