Now let's see if Jardine can pull off the upset to put himself in this rather lousy position. But first?
In the first bout on the main card, former TUF contestant Gray Maynard took on Jim Miller in a much anticipated bout between up and comers that hardcore fans have had their eyes on. Would Maynard's pure wrestling background win out over Miller's submission fighting resume?
Miller came out aggressively, connecting with grazing punches before forcing the clinch along the cage wall. There he used his knees well, connecting with a nice one to Maynard's face. Upon separation, Maynard began connecting with some punches in spots, including a solid flurry to the face. But then Miller answered with a hard body kick. From there, Miller shot in for the single leg takedown. However, Maynard nailed him with several rights to the face as he shirked it. Still, Miller stayed after it. Unfortunately for him, all that got him was a bloody nose.
After the failed takedown attempts, Maynard connected with some nice punches. Give him the round.
The second round saw Miller shoot in for one takedown and pull guard, only to watch Maynard step right out of danger. Beyond that, both fighters connected with a near even number of shots (Miller some kicks, Maynard punches). The difference was that Maynard's punches were just harder.
Give the stanza to Maynard.
In the final round, the two traded some mild strikes before Maynard decided to go for the takedown. Unfortunately for him, he nearly got caught in a kneebar on the ground before Maynard got out and stood up. Soon after, Miller shot in again. He went after it hard, but Maynard turned things over on him and pounded away at his opponent on the canvas before standing up. Then came the bell.
Gray Maynard wins via unanimous decision.
Next up was a match between light heavyweights with great wrestling backgrounds. That's right, we're talking about Matt Hamill vs. Mark Munoz. Coming in, the cheers clearly told you that the Ohio crowd was rooting for Hamill, a fighter that gained notoriety while on TUF.
Early on, Hamill sprawled out of a Munoz takedown and pounded away at him a little on the feet. Then Hamill shirked another Munoz takedown. For the majority of the rest of the stanza, Hamill connected with dirty boxing flurries along the cage wall in spots that seemed to hurt. Though Munoz did connect with nice strikes in spots, Hamill seemed to have control.
But then, as the first round bell approached, Hamill hit home with a high right kick to the head. Munoz slumped to the canvas out cold.
Matt Hamill wins via KO at 3:53 of round one. Afterwards, Hamill jumped around like a happy school kid.
Next up was a match between Pete Sell and Matt Brown. Would the Ohio fighter, Brown, give the crowd something to cheer for or would the Long Island native take the fun right out of it for them?
Right off the bat, Brown came out ultra aggressive, connecting with kicks, a Superman punch, and more. Then came a hard right hand that dropped Sell. Amazingly, the referee stepped in and stopped Brown from continuing, allowing Sell up, before he then decided to allow the fight to keep going.
Despite the fact that Brown pounded on his opponent on the canvas, Sell got back up. While in the clinch, Brown continued to dizzy him. Then they separated, and Brown continued to pound away. Sell was quite dizzy. He fell down without being struck and got hit a couple of more times on the canvas. Finally, the referee did stop the fight (Yves Lavigne). That was quite strange.
Matt Brown wins via TKO at 1:32 of round one.
Next up was a fight between former TUF Champion Kendall Grove and Jason Day. Would Grove's superior length help his cause? After all, we're talking about a seven inch reach advantage here.
Day came out aggressively. But soon after, Grove began to gain his composure. That's when he nailed Day with a right that left him out cold on the ground. Soon after came that whole digging the grave thing he got from Tito Ortiz.
Either way, it was a nice performance by Kendall Grove.
Kendall Grove wins via 1:32 of round one.
Before taking on the undefeated Shane Carwin in the next fight, Gabriel Gonzaga said, "if he opens space, I'm going to submit him. This is my goal, finish the fight." Of course, Carwin was thinking different. Who was right?
That's why they have the fights.
Carwin came out aggressively. But then Gonzaga connected with two hard right hands that stunned his opponent. From there, he managed a single leg takedown. However, a couple of strikes later and Carwin was back to his feet. Then came a huge right hand by Carwin that dropped Gonzaga. A couple of more strikes on the canvas and it was all over.
Shane Carwin wins via KO at 1:09 of round one. Yes, he is for real.
Next up was a match between Tamdan McCrory and Ryan Madigan. Right off the bat, McCrory took his opponent down. Soon after, McCrory took side control. After losing side control, McCrory eventually gained mount for a moment, all the while connecting with strikes. Though he lost that position as well, he once again gained the mount and began raining down punches and elbows. Soon after, the referee stepped in to stop things.
Tamdan McCrory wins via TKO at 3:35 of round one. He opened up a big cut over Madigan's eye.
"May the tougher guy win, and that's always gonna be me," said Keith Jardine before taking on Quinton "Rampage" Jackson in the main event. Of course, Jackson had other beliefs. Would the howling former PRIDE star come through to gain another title shot? Or would Jardine defeat another former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion?
Rampage came right in and clinched with Jardine early. However, there was no action so the referee separated them. From there, Jardine came out aggressively with punches and landed a couple of leg kicks. He continued to connect in spots on Jackson and even attempted a takedown that Jackson shirked. While in close, Jardine did the better job of dirty boxing.
For the majority of the rest of the round, Jardine stuck and moved on Jackson. That said, Jackson did connect with a huge uppercut that seemed to shake him for a moment. Still, Jardine probably took a close round.
The second stanza saw Jardine hitting at unorthodox angles again and then getting out of the way at the start. However, Rampage then connected with a huge left hand that dropped his opponent. From there, Jackson hit home with numerous shots on the ground. Still, Jardine toughed it out and got back to his feet. Soon after, Jackson took "The Dean of Mean" down but Jardine got right back up again.
Then later in the round, Jardine connected with a great flurry on Jackson along the cage wall, including a big time right hand. At the tail end of the stanza, Jackson connected with a significant flurry himself.
That was a tough round to call. Real tough.
Early in the third, Jardine connected with some strikes in spots. However, Rampage took him down. But then Jardine got up without sustaining any damage. Jackson connected with a couple of nice strikes off of the break.
From there, the rest of the round saw both combatants connect on each other with solid punches. Jardine did a little better earlier in the stanza. But Rampage dropped Jardine with a right-left combination near the bell.
That final knockdown by Rampage may have gotten him the win. That was a very close fight.
Quinton "Rampage" Jackson wins by way of unanimous decision.
UFC 96 was a good night of fights. Rampage won a tough fight against Keith Jardine, likely netting him a championship shot against Rashad Evans. Gray Maynard took a big step in his career by defeating Jim Miller in the lightweight division. And Shane Carwin, took a huge step in his career by knocking out Gabriel Gonzaga.
And how about that high kick by Matt Hamill and knockout victory by Matt Brown? Good stuff.