Griffin avenged his April 2006 split-decision defeat to Ortiz with a split verdict of his own in the UFC 106 "Ortiz versus Griffin 2" main event on Saturday at the Mandalay Bay Events Center. Two judges sided with Griffin by 30-27 and 29-28 scores; a third scored it 29-28 for Ortiz.
The victory snapped the first two-fight losing streak of Griffin's career, which culminated with his knockout loss to UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva in August.
"I see Anderson over there," Griffin said. "He broke me. He broke me. Tito was a great fight for me to come back. I think we're going to have to do a third. That's one to one, man."
The bout itself was hotly contested. Ortiz had a difficult time trading with Griffin on his feet, as he ate stiff jabs and crude rights and lefts. At one point in the opening round, Griffin buzzed Ortiz with a right-left combination, this after battling back to his feet following Ortiz's successful single-leg takedown. Ortiz closed the round with a series of meager strikes of his own but ate a few too many clean punches.
Ortiz came out firing in the second round and secured a double-leg takedown after Griffin missed a kick to the body and slipped. Ortiz fought from inside his foe's guard and delivered a series of thudding elbows, but Griffin again scrambled back to his feet. Ortiz tried to trade with his fellow former champion, but a front kick to the face sent his mouthpiece flying across the Octagon. Ortiz, however, solidified his advantage in the round with another takedown, which led to a barrage of punishing elbows. The strikes lacerated Griffin above his right eye, but the cagy veteran deftly swept Ortiz with a half-minute left in the period and avoided further damage.
"I was setting that sweep up for about a minute while he was elbowing me in the face," Griffin said. "It works good in jiu-jitsu; when the elbows in the face come, not such a great sweep."
A bloodied Griffin kept Ortiz at bay with swift footwork and smoother, more refined strikes in the final stanza. Ortiz failed with a lazy takedown attempt early in the round and never came close to catching Griffin with a takedown. Griffin burned the former champion with stinging leg kicks and pesky front kicks. Whenever Ortiz drew close, he zipped a jab or hook to his face. Ortiz failed to close the distance effectively in the final round, as fatigue would not allow him to pull the trigger.
Ortiz, who claimed to have entered the fight with a bulging disc and cracked skull, addressed the postfight boos he received.
"I step in this cage, and I put a show on," he said. "Were you guys satisfied with the show? It sucks losing. Forrest was the better man tonight. I gotta give it to him."
Koscheck upends Johnson
The two welterweights were cautious early in their duel, but Koscheck held his ground on the feet. Koscheck weathered Johnson's combinations, and though Johnson clipped him with a few right hands, the former NCAA wrestling champion fired back with jabs, hooks and crosses of his own. Johnson kept Koscheck at bay for much of the bout with ferocious kicks to the body. In addition, the former junior college national wrestling champion stuffed Koscheck's first few takedown attempts.
The fight lived up to its billing until a knee from Johnson to a fully downed Koscheck elicited a chorus of boos and jeers from the capacity crowd, mainly because multiple replays showed that Koscheck blocked the infraction. The knee resulted in Johnson's being deducted a point, but the fouls did not end there.
Koscheck twice poked Johnson in the eye in the second round, and though they were accidental, the Fresno, Calif.-based fighter was twice warned. Once the fight resumed, Koscheck forced his will on his opponent and scored the single-leg takedown. Johnson was in deep water, on his back and pinned against the cage, and it was only a matter of time before Koscheck sealed the deal.
Koscheck rained down a series of elbows that forced Johnson to scramble, and when he did, Koscheck moved from Johnson's half guard and seized his back. From there, the welterweight contender locked in the rear-naked choke and forced Johnson to submit 4 minutes, 47 seconds into the second round.
"I know there's somebody here that thinks he's the No. 1 contender; he thinks he's the No. 1 contender, and I think he hasn't fought anybody," Koscheck said. "He's sitting right over there. His name is Dan Hardy. He ain't fought anybody like me, guaranteed. I'm the No. 1 freaking contender in this weight division. I'm fighting Georges St. Pierre in March, [UFC president] Dana White. You know it. February, I know they're looking for a card. Dan Hardy, Josh Koscheck sells. Let them fight right here in the States first."
Thiago outpoints Volkmann
Thiago dropped Volkmann at the horn to end the first round and put his foe in a few precarious predicaments, but his varied choke attempts and superior stand-up were the difference in the match. Volkmann caught him in a D'Arce choke with about 30 seconds left in the fight, but the Brazilian escaped through the backdoor and swept the Minnesota Martial Arts Academy newcomer.
Thiago jabbed and countered Volkmann's crude strikes while the two men were standing. Though the Minnesotan proved slippery and adept on the ground, his jiu-jitsu was a step behind Thiago's. In short, the Brazilian had an answer for every trick Volkmann tried on the ground.
Nogueira steamrolls Cane
Trying to climb out of the considerable shadow of his bigger, better-known twin brother, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira scored an impressive first-round technical knockout against Luis Arthur Cane. The stoppage came just 1 minute, 56 seconds into the opening round.
"I've been learning his game a lot," Nogueira said. "I know he's a very good boxer. I respect him a lot, but I've been training. I just showed how hard I train."
Nogueira rocked his light heavyweight counterpart roughly 70 seconds into the fight with a crisp left hook, but Cane recovered quickly. Nogueira later landed another left hand, but this time, Cane was in serious trouble.
Cane sprinted across the Octagon to regroup, but Nogueira stalked him down and engaged him in another flurry. Nogueira unfurled a perfect counter left hook that buckled his opponent's knees. Soon after, another left hook crashed into Cane's jaw. Once it connected, Nogueira landed another strike, and Cane crumpled to his back.
In a heap of trouble, Cane had no way to escape, and just as referee Steve Mazzagatti rushed in to stop the assault, Nogueira dished out two more left hands, wrapping a ribbon on the TKO.
Sadollah wears out Baroni
"Just stepping into the ring with Baroni and fighting somebody as tough as that, that's huge," Sadollah said. "I loved it."
Sadollah weathered an initial storm from Baroni, and once he found his groove, he never relented, methodically picking apart the "New York Bad Ass."
Baroni rocked Sadollah immediately after the horn blared to kick off the match, but "The Ultimate Fighter" Season 7 winner was intelligent enough to clinch against the fence, thwarting the rest of his opponent's onslaught. Baroni dug powerful hooks into Sadollah's ribcage, but a minute or so into the round, Baroni's punches lost their steam.
Sadollah utilized textbook muay Thai in picking apart his nemesis with stinging front kicks, crippling leg kicks and crafty combinations upstairs. By the end of the fight, Baroni was a gassed, bloodied and battered mess. Referee Yves Levigne looked long and hard at Baroni and seemed like he might pull the trigger on the mugging toward the end of the third round. Baroni never submitted to the thrashing, but he was too slow and tired to do any damage when his punches happened to find their mark.
Mike Sloan is a contributor to Sherdog.com.