September 22, 2007.  Anaheim, California.  A much anticipated fight card at UFC 76 ended with many mixed martial arts fans in awe of what they witnessed.  Two of the UFC’s highly anticipated fights ended in huge upsets as CHUCK LIDDELL and MAURICIO RUA both lost their fights.  FORREST GRIFFIN proved that he wasn’t as crazy as many thought, decisively ending his fight with RUA via a rear naked choke.  RUA appeared gassed by the end of the first round and realized it was going to be a long night for him.  GRIFFIN made sure the decision was not in the hands of the judges by finally choking out RUA and shocking the mixed martial arts world, in turn positioning himself as a top contender to QUINTON JACKSON’s UFC light heavyweight belt.  LIDDELL was unable to figure out KEITH JARDINE’s strategy and as the fight wore on, JARDINE’s hard leg kicks started to take their toll.  By fights end, JARDINE’s face had cuts and bruises all around but he handily won the fight as LIDDELL could no longer step into his punches due to his weakened left leg – LIDDELL’s feared right hand punch was neutralized as he could no longer step into his punches.  JARDINE took advantage by staying busy as LIDDELL wore down.  Where does “CHUCKY” go from here?

In the other 3 terrific matchups, DIEGO SANCHEZ lost a beautiful fight to JON FITCH.  Highly touted FITCH made his splash in the welterweight division with his win, but was almost submitted several times in the 3rd round.  RYOTO MACHIDA won a one-sided decision over KAZUHIRO NAKAMURA as NAKAMURA played Houdini all three rounds.  On three separate occasions, MACHIDA had fully mounted NAKAMURA but was unable to finish.  On another occasion, MACHIDA had NAKAMURA in a perfectly placed rear naked choke – a near impossible position to emerge from, which is exactly what NAKAMURA did.  Bottom line:  You can’t win a fight by constantly getting yoruself out of trouble.  MACHIDA now is in the spotlight at light heavyweight.  NAKAMURA’s next move should be to drop in weight and move into a middleweight division in need of stars. 

TYSON GRIFFIN’s win over THIAGO TAVARES just may have been the fight of the night.  One submission attempt after another, this fight was a beauty as GRIFFIN took the decision (though we don’t understand how one judge scored it 30-27 in his favor … what was he watching ?).  TAVARES experienced his first loss but will still be a top contender at the light heavyweight division.  Since GRIFFIN started to train with RANDY COUTURE’s camp, he has catapaulted near the top as we all watch to see if SEAN SHERK maintains the belt as he continues to fight off allegations of steriod use.  Waiting for the clouds to clear up, the light heavyweight division is fast filling up with some serious talent.  

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As we approach UFC 76: Knockout on September 22, 2007, one question lingers on the minds of mixed martial arts fans:  Will MAURICIO “Shogun” RUA’s game be as effective inside the octagon cage as it has been in PRIDE’s boxing ring?  He has not fought inside the cage in almost 5 years when he was choked out by RENATO SOBRAL.  This question is more valid to RUA’s game more than any fighter coming over to the UFC from PRIDE.  Following the previous two MIRKO CRO COP matches in the UFC – both losses – the question of transitioning a fighting style from the open boxing ring into a cage is becoming an important one.  Case by case appears to be the best way to analyze this question.  While QUINTON JACKSON and DAN HENDERSON have proven that the transition has not drastically altered their methods, in CRO COP’s case the transition has obviously been disastrous. 

RUA is an interesting case.  He’s a very tough competitor and inside the PRIDE ring, he’s defeated some great opposition such as QUINTON JACKSON, ANTONIO ROGERIO NOGUEIRA, RICARDO ARONA, KEVIN RANDLEMAN, KAZUHIRO NAKAMURA and ALISTAIR OVEREEM (twice).  His patented stomps and soccer kicks have been devastating tools he has developed while moving up the ranks in PRIDE FC.  A potential problem is that the UFC does not allow kicks to an opponent’s head while the opponent is on the ground.  Another question will be his handling of strikes the UFC does allow such as elbow strikes – something CRO COP admittedly was not ready to deal with.  His cage experience is comprised of just a few matches.  He has earned the reputation of being one of the greatest fighters in mixed martial arts.  So as he debuts at UFC 76, will he be the next QUINTON JACKSON or MIRKO CRO COP?  He should continue in the steps of JACKSON and it will be answered on September 22nd.

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