Ryan Bader vs. Jon Jones: Round 1
Herb Dean is the referee for this important clash of 205-pound prospects. Jones crouches in his corner before the start and then slinks across the cage to meet Bader. Jones looking very relaxed, moving around the outside before shooting in and pulling Bader down with a double. Bader grabs a guillotine, but Jones rolls through and winds up in side control, then north-south position. Jones snares Bader’s head under his left arm and squeezes. Bader looks to be in trouble, but he’s surviving even as Jones puts all his weight on the north-south choke.
Jones abandons the choke and Bader twists loose, escaping to his knees, then his feet. Two minutes to go. Jones fires off a left high kick that causes Bader to shoot. Jones stuffs the double and puts Bader on his back. Jones looking for a choke from half-guard, but Bader has an underhook and gets back up. Bader has a kimura framed up momentarily, but loses it as he falls back to guard. Jones with a few glancing elbows that cause Bader to cover up.
Round 2: Jones goes high with a partially-deflected left kick, then low with a right. Bader connects with a solid punch and a leg kick, but Jones continues pressing forward. One-two and a leg kick from Jones. Another outside leg kick makes Bader shoot; Jones stuffs it. They tie up and Jones trips Bader down, landing in half-guard. From there, Jones traps the head of Bader under his left arm, wrenches a tight guillotine choke and elicits the tap from Bader. The official time is 4:20 of the second round.
During the postfight interview, Joe Rogan reveals that Rashad Evans has withdrawn from his UFC 128 light heavyweight title bout with Mauricio “Shogun” Rua due to a knee injury. Rua will instead defend his belt against Jones on March 19 in Newark, N.J.
Forrest Griffin vs. Rich Franklin: Round 1
Steve Mazzagatti is back in the cage for the evening’s co-main event. Franklin throws a low kick and gets his rear leg chopped out from under him. Griffin gives chase into Franklin’s guard, but Franklin is keeping active from the bottom with short punches. Griffin isn’t landing much offense, but is looking every bit the stronger man as he stacks Franklin up from guard. Now the punches begin to come from Griffin, both to the head and body of Franklin, who is maintaining guard and trying to neutralize the space with wrist control.
Griffin postures up and gets a few shots through to Franklin’s head. With 90 seconds to go in the opening round, Franklin is playing strictly defense, unable to find an answer to the larger Griffin’s top game. Still in guard, Griffin lands some elbows before the round ends.
Round 2: Griffin going with kicks to open the round, as Franklin tries to get inside with combinations. Griffin catches a low kick from Franklin and takes his back standing, then drags him to the floor. Against the base of the fence, Griffin tries to sink his hooks in. Franklin gets to his knees, but Griffin is still glued on his back. Punches from Griffin as Franklin gets to his feet; Griffin yanks him back down. Franklin works back to his feet and Griffin shoves him away. Some nice left straights connect for Franklin, but his knees fold up when Griffin clips him with a left hook of his own. Griffin doesn’t pounce, instead backing off and firing a hard body kick to Franklin’s ribs. Franklin is landing sporadically when he wades in with combos, but Griffin’s still getting the better, more varied attack.
Round 3: The fighters touch gloves to start the final frame. Franklin thuds a good left kick to Griffin’s gut. Franklin comes inside with a left hand that misses and the pair ties up. Griffin brings it to the floor, but both men are soon back on their feet. Three minutes to go and Franklin seems to be turning the tide slightly. His left kicks are connecting as Griffin’s punching combos decrease in accuracy. Franklin comes over the top with a left hand as Griffin lands a push kick. It’s still a close fight with 90 seconds to go when Griffin changes levels and scores with a double-leg. Franklin twists free and gets on top, but Griffin scrambles and reverses him back. They wind up on their feet with 35 ticks on the clock. Franklin pushes Griffin into the fence and Griffin reverses, then disengages. Both men throwing hard in the final seconds.
Official scores: All three judges cageside score it 29-28 for the winner by unanimous decision, Forrest Griffin.