Rashad Evans and Frank Mir walked out of the MGM Grand Garden Arena Saturday in Las Vegas as champions. Quinton Jackson may have earned something better than a belt: He finally got revenge on Wanderlei Silva.
In the UFC 92 main event, the undefeated Evans knocked off UFC light heavyweight champion Forrest Griffin as the fight was called midway through the third round.
Griffin, 29, fighting out of the Xtreme Couture camp, took the center of the Octagon in the first round. He kicked well throughout the period, but Evans connected with a punch to the body and snuck in a jab and a left hook. The round was close, though the second stanza more clearly belonged to Griffin.
In that period, Evans began to utilize his jab, while Griffin retaliated with a right hand that hurt Evans. Evans followed with a kick before a brief brawl ensued. When a more measured pace resumed, Griffin continued to have the advantage but ate a right hand before landing his own at the end of the round.
Evans, 29, caught a kick in the third and moved the fight to the mat, where he did significant damage with a series of hammerfists. Griffin seemed to recover, but Evans kept up his offense from the top position. After posturing up, Evans smashed a right hand into the titleholder's chin. The Greg Jackson-trained fighter then stood and let loose lefts after lefts on Griffin, who appeared to tap as the fight was called at 2:46.
"I was flailing, not tapping," said Griffin, who fell to 16-5. "I was done at that point. I didn't know what was going on. It was actually just his punches giving my body motion. I'm fine. I'll be back."
Griffin said he was hurt as he went to the ground, citing what he called a "pretty pathetic, lazy guard."
"I knew I had him in trouble," Evans said. "He kept smiling, so I didn't know if he was hurt or not. They kept letting me hit him, so I was like, 'All right.'"
Mir becomes first man to stop Nogueira
Frank Mir went from former UFC heavyweight champion to interim UFC heavyweight champion by stunning iron-chinned favorite Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira with a second-round TKO.
Mir came out punching in what was no doubt the performance of his career. He snapped Nogueira's head back before scoring a takedown. No action followed from the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belts on the ground; Mir let Nogueira stand.
Back on their feet, Mir began dominating with a slick right uppercut out of his southpaw stance. He would step in with it, and if it didn't catch Nogueira, then his straight left did.
By the end of the first round, Nogueira had been floored twice with left hands. He fell for a third time after absorbing two left hooks in the second round. Mir followed up with punches until referee Herb Dean intervened at 1:54.
The loss marked the first time Nogueira (31-5-1) had been stopped.
"I've faced such demons after my wreck," said Mir, whose career seemed finished after he was struck by a car while riding his motorcycle in September 2004. "To come back and fight the best heavyweight to ever fight in the UFC and get a win over him after what I've gone through, it just shows I'm proof you can do things. I didn't think I could beat Nogueira. If I was a betting man, I wasn't on Mir's side tonight. I came through this with the love of my family, my children, my wife, everybody."
Next for Mir, 29, is a title unification bout against UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar.
"I don't want any of this s--- that I'm half the champ," Mir said. "I beat Nogueira. [Lesnar] beat a champion in Randy Couture. Let's see if he can make it out of the first round, but hey, this time I'll make him famous on the break that I do to him."
Jackson exacts revenge
After taking two beatings from Wanderlei Silva, Quinton Jackson paid the Brazilian back with a left hook to the jaw that knocked him out 3:21 into the first round.
Silva effectively delivered kicks to Jackson's lead leg, much like Griffin had done to "Rampage" when he took the UFC light heavyweight title from him in July. Jackson attempted a takedown but wasn't close to getting it. On his feet, though, Jackson had more success, keeping his punches tight while Silva, though somewhat conservative relative to past performances, showed a desire for a toe-to-toe slugfest.
In the exchange that ended the fight, The Axe Murderer began to wing his strikes. Jackson covered up well, countered with the hook and dropped Silva cold to the canvas.
"Rampage is back. I ain't going nowhere," said Jackson (29-7), who fought for the first time since his loss to Griffin and a mental breakdown that led to his arrest.
The 30-year-old fighter credited the Wolfslair camp in England for his successful return.
"I'm just getting myself back together," Jackson said. "I got to get my mind right, got to start training. I had to start all over. I had a new training camp, a new manager, everything. God is on my side. Praise be to him most high, ain't no lie."
Dolloway mauls Massenzio
Dollaway, the runner-up on the seventh season of "The Ultimate Fighter," then found himself in a guillotine choke after he tried a single-leg takedown.
Dollaway escaped the submission attempt, though, and took control. Representing Arizona Combat Sports, the 25-year-old was dominant on the ground, where he mounted Massenzio, flattened him out and pounded him with punches until referee Yves Lavigne stopped the fight at 3:01 of Round 1.
"I was just surprised that he laid there," Dollaway said. "I figured he'd try to get out and fight back. But Mike's a tough competitor. I felt strong out there tonight, so I was just glad to come out with the victory."
Kongo takes down al Turk
In the main card opener, Cheick Kongo stopped Mustapha al Turk at 4:37 of the first round. A heavyweight from London who has making his UFC debut, al Turk spent much of the stanza trying to finish a single-leg takedown. However, Kongo defended well and smashed elbows into his opponent's head while still standing.
The action slowed when the fighters traded accidental knees below the belt. Following a restart, Kongo dropped al Turk with a flurry of punches and followed up with a brutal onslaught of elbows and hammerfists until referee Steve Mazzagatti called the fight.
The win improved Kongo to 6-2 in the UFC.
Joe Hall covers MMA for Sherdog.com.