Jackson (29-7) knocked out longtime rival Wanderlei Silva -- to whom he had lost twice previously -- with a short, wicked left hook at UFC 92 “The Ultimate 2008” on Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. The 30-year-old leveled Silva during a first-round exchange, as he brought an emphatic end to their latest bout 3:21 after it began.
Afterward, attention turned to what was next for Jackson, who relinquished the UFC light heavyweight crown in a unanimous decision loss to Forrest Griffin five months ago. Griffin, meanwhile, was unseated by the undefeated Rashad Evans in his first title defense at UFC 92, leaving Jackson in a quandary.
“I would like to get my title back,” Jackson said. “Why are we doing this? Everybody wants to be the best. Everybody wants to be the champ. To be honest, I’d rather go and fight Forrest. That’s the fight that haunts me when I go to sleep and I have nightmares about. That’s the fight when I look at myself in the mirror. I want the belt. I want to be champion. I would like to get Forrest first, if I could. That’s up to the UFC.”
His desire to face Griffin could leave Evans to defend the belt against Lyoto Machida, provided the unbeaten Brazilian clears his next hurdle at UFC 94 in January.
Jackson’s decisive victory over Silva helped soothe the sting from two brutal losses to the Brazilian legend inside the Pride Fighting Championships promotion. He has now defeated three of his generation’s most accomplished light heavyweights -- Silva, Dan Henderson and Chuck Liddell -- in his last four fights.
The win against Silva was sweetest, partly because he had been thrashed twice by him and partly because it came on the heels of his July arrest for allegedly evading police during a high-speed chase in California. Questions about Jackson’s mental well being swirled leading into UFC 92.
“I really hate losing, especially when you know you can beat that person,” Jackson said. “I was the most nervous that I’ve ever been in my life. This was a big mental fight for me. A lot of people think that my personal problems I’m going through right now would disturb me. I’m not that type of person. I put all this stuff behind me. I always have problems.”
Mir Credits Conditioning after Win
Frank Mir accomplished what Fedor Emelianenko, Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic and Josh Barnett could not at UFC 92; he finished the great Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.
Mir (12-3) stopped the durable Brazilian with two left hooks in the second round, as he captured the interim UFC heavyweight championship in what most believe was a career-defining performance. The 29-year-old was all smiles and credited a rededication to training -- not his improved stand-up -- in wake of his victory.
“The biggest improvement in my stand-up … I’ve always been doing stand-up, since I was 4 years old,” Mir said. “The issue was conditioning. That’s actually more of a testament to what I’ve improved drastically, and that’s my work ethic.”
Mir -- whose mixed martial arts career appeared to be on the verge of collapse after he returned from a 2004 motorcycle accident -- claimed to have entered the cage with an entirely new mindset.
“I’m not afraid to go ahead and showcase my skills,” he said. “Before, I’d walk into the Octagon terrified of getting tired. I wasn’t thinking about the guy I was fighting. I’m thinking, ‘Man, if this fight doesn’t end in two minutes, I’m in a lot of trouble.’ [On Saturday], I was, like, ‘It could go 10 rounds. It doesn’t matter. I can be here all night long, and I won’t lose at any position.’”
Nogueira had never been finished in 37 previous contests. Almost universally recognized as the No. 2 heavyweight in the world, he entered the bout as a heavy favorite against Mir, who, despite flashes of brilliance, has been woefully inconsistent during his career.
“A win over Nogueira is huge,” Mir said. “The people that have wins over Nogueira are pretty highly touted individuals, and now I’m a part of that [group].”
Mir will next face Brock Lesnar sometime in 2009 in a match to unify the UFC heavyweight championship. He spoiled the former World Wrestling Entertainment superstar’s Octagon debut in February, when he submitted him with a first-round kneebar at UFC 81. Mir maintained he had not even thought about a potential rematch until he bested Nogueira.
“I didn’t make the mistake of looking past this fight,” Mir said. “I really haven’t put too much thought into it. Even when I watched the Randy Couture-Brock Lesnar fight [at UFC 91], I was pretty unattached to it. I knew I was facing the most dangerous opponent of my career in Nogueira. I never allowed my mind to ever drift past him.”
Nogueira Welcomes Couture Match
Still reeling from his technical knockout loss to Mir at UFC 92, Nogueira (31-5-1) faced the inevitable question regarding a potential matchup with Couture.
“For sure, I would accept a fight with him,” he said. “He’s a great fighter.”
Couture succumbed to strikes against the monstrous Lesnar at UFC 91 in November in what was his first loss at heavyweight in more than six years. Fans have long pined for a match between two of the sport’s most accomplished heavyweights. However, Couture turns 46 in June, and Nogueira has logged many punishing miles on his 32-year-old body.
“He just lost his last fight, but he’s truly a legend in this sport,” Nogueira said. “I’d love to fight him. It would be a good promotion. We’re both very experienced fighters. It would be a nice match.”
Nogueira holds victories over four of the eight men -- Barnett, Ricco Rodriguez, Enson Inoue and Valentijn Overeem -- who have defeated Couture, a UFC hall of famer and three-time heavyweight champion.
UFC Awards $180K in Post-Fight Bonuses
Jackson’s left hand proved quite the moneymaker at UFC 92.
The 30-year-old banked a $60,000 “Knockout of the Night” bonus after he flattened Silva with a left hook in the opening round of their third match against one another. The punch left Silva motionless on his back for several moments and forced some to ponder whether or not he has taken one too many blows to the head during his illustrious career.
Silva -- still one of the sport’s most violent and feared fighters -- has lost four of his last five fights, three of them by knockout.
Meanwhile, Evans (13-0-1) and Griffin pocketed matching $60,000 “Fight of the Night” bonuses after they went toe-to-toe for the better part of three rounds in the UFC 92 main event. The fast-rising Evans stopped Griffin on strikes in the second round to capture the UFC light heavyweight crown. The end came 2:46 into the third, when Evans blasted Griffin with a right hand from inside his guard and then finished him with some face-smashing ground-and-pound.
“His guard was loose,” Evans said. “He was letting me hit him. He was smiling the whole time. I didn’t know if he was hurt or he was just pretending. Forrest was tough. He kept taking those punches.”
No “Submission of the Night” bonus was awarded, as the event was void of tapouts.
This & That
UFC 92 drew 14,103 fans and a $3.47 million gate, according to UFC President Dana White … Four of Yushin Okami’s last five fights have gone the distance, and while he has won nine of his past 10 bouts, the fact that he was relegated to undercard duty at UFC 92 indicates he does not appear any closer to a shot at UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva … French kickboxer Cheick Kongo, who has shown marked improvement since his decision loss to Carmelo Marrero at UFC 64, remains vocal about his desire to fight for the heavyweight crown. “I can be the next champion,” he said after he waxed newcomer Mustapha al Turk at UFC 92. Kongo has rattled off four wins in five fights, losing only to Heath Herring by split decision … International Fight League veteran Brad Blackburn, who was a mediocre 7-7-1 through his first 15 fights, has started to make waves in the welterweight division. Unbeaten in his last five bouts, he has put together a three-fight winning streak since his decision loss to Mark Miller in April 2007. Blackburn owns victories against one-time IFL welterweight champion Jay Hieron and current UFC welterweight Chris Wilson … UFC 92 was the first numbered UFC event without a submission since UFC 9 back on May 17, 1996, a year and 13 days before Couture made his Octagon debut.