The greater Detroit area got a nice November treat with UFC 123 being held at The Palace in Auburn Hills. There weren’t any title fights, but the card was dotted with several of the biggest names in the sport. It was a big night and, as expected, it provided some very dramatic results. Keep reading for a full break-down of the main card action.
George Sotiropolous submitted Joe Lauzon by Kimura in the second round. As good as Sotiropolous has looked in his last couple of fights, I was picking him in this one. I would consider Lauzon to be the stronger striker of the two, but Sotiropolous was definitely the better grappler, in my opinion. Lauzon is more of a submission fighter too, though, so there was actually a good chance this would turn into more of a stand-up fight. The first round was very competitive. There was quite a bit of striking, and as I suspected, Lauzon looked a little crisper. But Sotiropolous got it to the ground and got top position. He mounted late and went for an arm bar, but missed and time expired. Lauzon was slower in the second round and Sotiropolous got him on the ground with more time. From the top, he tried a couple of different things before he effectively trapped Lauzon’s right arm, isolated the left and got the Kimura in very quick and brutal fashion. Lauzon had no choice, but to tap. With three consecutive quality wins, I think it’s time for Sotiropolous to face a legitimate lightweight contender.
Phil Davis submitted Tim Boetsch by Kimura in the second round. I was so happy that this fight made it onto the PPV broadcast. With the exception of Jon Jones, I think Davis is probably the most exciting young 205-pounder in the UFC. Boetsch was coming in on a four fight win streak, though, and I don’t think anyone expected this to be an easy outing for either fighter. The striking seemed pretty even in the first round, but Davis got a take down and went to work from the top about half way through the round. He attacked with elbows and strikes to the body, then the head. Davis’ ground-and-pound was impressive and he kept a nice, high pace until the end of the round. After a lot of clinching, Davis got Boetsch down again. He started working for a Kimura, but couldn’t get it at first. He had to scoot Boetsch away from the cage a little bit, then got the Kimura be reaching one arm behind the back and cranking it from there.
Miquael Falcao defeated Gerald Harris by unanimous decision. It’s not very often that a dynamic, 26 fight veteran goes unnoticed by the American public, but that’s what Falcao had done prior to UFC 123. He had one heck of a coming out party, though, with a dominant performance in his UFC debut. The first three and a half minutes of this fight were extremely boring. Both fighters were tentative and hesitant to engage. But then Falcao jumped in and threw some of the quickest punches I’ve seen in a while. He landed a knee to Harris’ body and got on top. He held a rear naked choke until the bell (and for a second or two after), but Harris refused to tap and survived to start the second. Falcao was on the attack again in the second round. He almost got the rear naked choke again, but couldn’t sink it all the way in. They went up and down, but it was mostly Falcao doing the damage. Harris tried vainly to get some take downs in the final round, but Falcao was able to avoid them. The fans got a little perturbed by Falcao playing it safe at the end, but he had the fight in the bag. I don’t necessarily agree with coasting in the final round if you’re already up by two, but I can understand why a guy would do it. Personally, I’d say that Falcao is one of the quickest middleweights I’ve seen in a while and I’d be really interested to see him fight some of the top contenders in the division.
B.J. Penn KO’d Matt Hughes in the first round. Not that I think either of these guys will challenge for the welterweight belt again, but this was a pretty good rubber match to put together. Hughes seemed to have resurrected his career in his previous three fights, while Penn had to be seething after coming off of two straight losses to Frankie Edgar. They couldn’t have more different personalities either, so it was just an easy fight to get excited for. I picked B.J. in my prediction article, but I also said I could easily see the fight going the other way. Whenever it’s that tough to pick, you know it’s a good match-up. I had a feeling it would go the distance, but neither of their first two fights did, so who knew? B.J. started really quickly, looking very aggressive on his feet. In a very early exchange, he landed a right that dropped Hughes. He attacked and landed three or four strikes to Hughes’ head that weren’t defended, so the fight was stopped. It took all of 21 seconds. It may not have title implications, but it was a huge win for Penn and a devastating loss for Hughes.
Quinton “Rampage” Jackson defeated Lyoto Machida by split decision. I didn’t really see this fight going to the ground, but you never know with Machida. Just when you think you have him figured out, he’ll switch the game plan. The other big variable in this was Rampage and his level of motivation for this fight. There were rumors of him coming into his training camp in really good shape, which hadn’t happened for quite a while, so there was a chance that we’d see the really good Rampage of old. The fight started a little slowly, with Machida landing a handful of leg kicks. Rampage attacked, though, and soon they were clinched against the cage. They separated, then went against the cage again. They separated again and finished the round standing, but it was a very difficult round to call. Rampage got a take down early in the second, but Machida popped back up before any damage was inflicted. Rampage landed some good strikes while they were clinched together at times, but again, it was a really close round. They finally really got after it in the third round. Machida looked like he rocked Rampage with a punch, then unleashed a flurry of strikes and took Rampage down. Machida eventually got side control, then mounted Rampage. He tried for an armbar, but Rampage was able to stand up and Machida let go to avoid getting slammed. With the first two rounds being so close, you could definitely say that Machida won by virtue of doing the only real damage of the fight in the third round. His countering style of backing up all the time may have cost him, though, because Rampage appeared to be the aggressor in the first two rounds. There was immediate talk of a re-match, but more than anything, it was good to see Rampage looking focused and in really good condition once again.