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UFC 79 Review: St. Pierre wins interim welterweight title

UFC 79: Nemesis came to us all on December 29, 2007 from the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. This event was one of the most looked forward to in history. Why?

How about the third installment of Matt Hughes vs. Georges St. Pierre? Then there was this little bout between former PRIDE Champion Wanderlei Silva and former UFC Champion Chuck Liddell. You know, the fight that everyone has been waiting to see for years. Can't wait for this one to get started?

Then you're just like me.

Rich Clementi started things off against Melvin Guillard in a battle of former TUF competitors that despise one another. Beforehand Guillard said, "I'm hoping and praying that I end his career. I hope he never fights after this."

Didn't quite turn out that way. This fight was a battle between athleticism (Guillard) and technique (Clementi). Clementi nailed his opponent with strong kicks for the majority of the first round. He also slammed Guillard hard into the ground with a takedown and took his back on two separate occasions. If you give a guy like Clementi your back once, that isn't good. Twice?

Clementi took home the victory at 4:40 of the first round due to a rear naked choke.

Next came a fight that many hardcore fight fans were looking forward to: Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou vs. Lyoto Machida. Would Sokoudjou hand Machida his first loss? Machida didn't think so as he noted the following before the fight.

"This being my fourth victory after tonight, I believe that I'm ready for a title shot. I want the belt."

By the way, Sokoudjou came out with a Predator mask on. Eerie.

The first round went down in the following way for the most part. Sokoudjou took Machida down and then was immediately turned over. From there, Machida peppered Sokoudjou with punches and a few elbows. However, for the majority of the time he was looking for a Kimura to no avail.

Advantage Machida.

In the second, Machida nailed Sokoudjou with a terrific left hand that floored him. He followed him to the ground where he landed several more big shots. Then for the rest of the round Machida dominated, getting to full mount at one point, hitting home with several elbows, and continually going for arm triangles.

One of which he sunk in. Therefore, Machida won via arm triangle at 4:20 of the second round.

Time for a title shot?

Next up was Soa Palelei vs. Eddie Sanchez. The first round wasn't very exciting, but it was close. Still, give it to Sanchez based on better dirty boxing in the clinch, which is where the majority of this round took place.

The second was much of the same. Beyond one hard right by Palelei, Sanchez once again beat his opponent up in the clinch and won a rather uneventful round. Fast forward to the third stanza. Same deal in the beginning except that Sanchez teed off from a distance a tad more. Later in the round, though, the damage to Palelei's face began to accumulate, forcing the referee had to step in. The Australian (Palelei) was bleeding and seemed to be suffering from eye pain and swelling.

Sanchez has looked a lot better since the Cro Cop fight. Then again, this was not an exciting fight; but that wasn't his fault, it was Palelei's.

Eddie Sanchez via TKO at 3:24 of the third stanza.

Next up was one of the big ones: Wanderlei Silva vs. Chuck Liddell. Silva looked great coming in. Like he was in the best shape of his life. Still, before the fight Liddell was unimpressed. "If I can catch him with something, hurt him a little bit, I'll finish him," said the Iceman.

The first round was one of those on the edge of your seat stanzas. Silva landed some low kicks. Liddell got the better of most of the boxing exchanges, forcing The Axe Murderer to be on his wheels for the majority of the round. Interestingly, Silva may have bated Liddell once, seeming to pretend he was more hurt than he was from a Liddell punch. When the former UFC Champion moved forward, Silva unleashing some decent hands at him along the Octagon wall.

Close round that probably went to Liddell.

The second round was one that will live on forever.

Silva won most of the round by getting inside with flurries and then moving. In fact, a combination of a good right hand and slippery canvas dropped Liddell. Toward the end of the round, Liddell opened up a cut over Silva's right eye. He seemed to have The Axe Murderer in some trouble at one point. But then Silva unleashed a furious assault of punches. That's how it went: back and forth. By the end of the round, we even saw Liddell on top of the former PRIDE Champion on the canvas.

Another close round. Despite the cut, give it to Silva as he won the majority of the stanza.

Then came the surprise of the night. Liddell immediately took Silva down in the third. And it was on purpose, not necessarily in the same fashion the second round ended. Though Silva got right up, it was definitely a surprising move. Later in the round, Liddell landed a spinning backfist and several hard strikes up against the Octagon wall. Then he hit home with some more big punches up against the cage later in the round.

The two were exhausted. Liddell took Silva down toward the end of the fight once again. A great round for The Iceman.

Thus, in the end Liddell won via unanimous decision. Taking nothing away from the Couture bouts, this may have been his greatest victory.

Next up, legacies were on the line in the final fight in a trilogy between Georges St. Pierre and Matt Hughes. Before the bout, Hughes showed his customary confidence by saying, "I feel very comfortable taking this fight with Georges St. Pierre." On the other hand, St. Pierre had the following to say.

"I'm in the best shape of my life; I'm sharper than ever, stronger than ever, more powerful than I've ever been."

The first surprise? Hughes came out in a southpaw stance. He also went for a takedown rather quickly, showing his hand. But St. Pierre quickly turned the tables on his adversary by shirking a Hughes takedown and getting one of his own. For the majority of the round, St. Pierre bettered his position and utilized some ground and pound. Later in the stanza, he achieved mount and was found slamming Hughes's head into the canvas in a rare move before transitioning to taking the man from Illinois' back. Hughes, however, escaped the position and was about to escape a subsequent armbar that St. Pierre was trying when the bell sounded.

Clearly a round for the Canadian.

The second started much like the first had. Hughes went for the clinch. Then St. Pierre took him down. The difference was that St. Pierre had a lot of trouble getting much done there until later in the round. Still, he eventually did gain the mount position. That said, Hughes got to his feet.

But then he was thrown rather viciously to the canvas again, straight to side mount for the Canadian. From there, St. Pierre went for a Kimura. Though Hughes rolled out of the move, St. Pierre then transitioned to an armbar. Hughes had no choice but to verbally submit.

St. Pierre won via armbar at 4:54 of the second round. Deservedly, he was now the interim champion.

In the end, UFC 79: Nemesis didn't disappoint. Lyoto Machida showed that he deserved to be ranked up there with the best the light heavyweight division has to offer. Georges St. Pierre once again demonstrated his greatness. And then there was the fight of the night between Chuck Liddell and Wanderlei Silva. It was a bout that showed the tremendous heart of both fighters.