MMA: Chad Griggs

Jones settles feud, defends title over Evans

April, 22, 2012
McNeil By Franklin McNeil
Jon Jones retained his light heavyweight title Saturday with a unanimous decision over Rashad Evans at UFC 145 in Atlanta.

Evans could never mount a consistent attack and lost by judges’ scores of 49-46, 49-46 and 50-45. scored the fight 50-45 for Jones.

The victory ends, or at least tempers, a long-running feud between the former sparring partners.

While Jones (16-1) successfully defended his belt for the third time, he displayed more caution against Evans than in previous title bouts. His cautious approach might be contributed to having faced Evans often in camp.

“I did a lot of things tonight that weren’t planned,” Jones said. “My striking was looking a little elementary. I didn’t want to make mistakes.

“But who I beat was very important to me.
[+] EnlargeJon Jones
Ed Mulholland for ESPN.comJon Jones' sharp elbow stikes helped slow down Rashad Evans.

“It felt completely different fighting [Evans]. Tonight I threw a lot of elbows. Those are the things you would never do to a training partner.”

The elbows, especially in the second round, slowed Evans’ attack. They also left swelling above the former light heavyweight champion’s right eye.

After suffering the injury, Evans spent much of the fight protecting that right side of his face. Evans also failed to take Jones to the canvas.

The lone time Jones was on his back came in the fifth round when he pulled guard. But that occurred with seconds remaining in the bout.

“He was pretty crafty and pretty tricky,” Evans said. "He threw some things he didn’t throw in practice, but there were some things he did better in practice than he did tonight.”

Evans suffered just the second loss of his career. He is 17-2-1 overall.

MacDonald finished Mills in impressive fashion

Rory MacDonaldEd Mulholland for ESPN.comRory MacDonald's ground and pound left its mark on Che Mills.

If Rory MacDonald was to be taken seriously as a welterweight contender, he needed to pass a presumed stiff test in Che Mills.

MacDonald passed the test with flying colors.

He dominated Mills in the first round, taking him to the ground quickly and landing hard punches. When the horn sounded to end the round, Mills’ face was bruised, cut and bloody.

By the start of the second, there was little doubt MacDonald would come out victorious.

He quickly took Mills back to the ground and again landed punches. Mills was on his back and had no strategy to reverse his misfortune.

And MacDonald (14-1) wasn’t about to help him find an answer. Once he got Mills’ back, MacDonald aggressively landed punches that forced referee Mario Yamasaki to step in at the 2:20 mark.

“Che was a great opponent,” MacDonald said. “I took this fight very serious. I’m very happy with the way the fight went.”

Mills fell to 14-5 with one no-contest.

Rothwell stops Schaub by TKO in Round 1

Ben RothwellEd Mulholland for ESPN.comBen Rothwell's power proved the deciding factor against Brendan Schaub.
Brendan Schaub isn’t afraid to exchange punches with the biggest, strongest heavyweights in mixed martial arts. That lack of fear, however, cost him against hard-hitting Ben Rothwell.

During a vicious exchange, Rothwell landed a left hook to the head that rendered Schaub unconscious at 1:10 of the first round.

“I worked very, very hard,” Rothwell said. “I changed my workout. I’m not backing down. I know my chin can take some shots.”

Rothwell improved to 32-8. He is 2-2 inside the Octagon competition.

Schaub, who not long ago was one of the fastest rising heavyweights in the UFC, has dropped two in a row. He is now 8-3 overall.

McDonald knocks out ex-champ Torres

Michael McDonaldEd Mulholland for ESPN.comBy knocking out Miguel Torres, Michael McDonald proved he's arrived.

The road back to the top of the bantamweight division became a lot more bumpy for former WEC champion Miguel Torres.

Michael McDonald landed a hard right uppercut in Round 1 that sent Torres to the canvas. Torres was asleep before hitting the ground.

The fight would end at the 3:18 mark, dropping Torres to 40-5.

While Torres’ professional record still looks impressive on paper, it's deceiving: Four of his five losses came in Torres’ seven most recent fights.

“I was paying attention to his range,” McDonald said. “I wanted to make sure he didn’t get his jab off.”

McDonald improves to 15-1. He has won eight fights in a row.

Hominick drops third fight in a row

Eddie YaginEd Mulholland for ESPN.comEddie Yagin's aggression made life difficult for Mark Hominick.

Former top featherweight contender Mark Hominick continues to struggle to find his groove.

For the second straight fight, Hominick failed to rebound from his UFC 129 unanimous decision loss to champion Jose Aldo.

Eddie Yagin registered knockdowns in the first and second rounds to edge Hominick by split decision.

Two judges scored it 29-28 for Yagin, who improved to 16-5-1. The third judge and had Hominick winning 29-28.

Hominick (20-11) ate right hands from Yagin during most of the bout. And in the first two rounds he was dropped by Yagin right hands.

Despite tasting hard right hands, Hominick found his rhythm in the third and punished Yagin with still left jabs and hard right hands.

But that knockdown in the closely contested second round proved too much for Hominick to overcome.

Bocek takes down Alessio

Mark BocekEd Mulholland for ESPN.comMark Bocek, left, dominated on the feet and on the ground against John Alessio.
Mark Bocek is one of the most underrated lightweights in UFC. But he might have turned that around with a unanimous decision over veteran John Alessio.

The fight was scored 30-27, 29-28 and 30-27. had Bocek winning 29-28.

Bocek came into the bout as the superior ground fighter and wasted little time proving it. He took Alessio to the ground early in the first round and punished him with hard left elbows.

But while Bocek had the advantage on the ground, Alessio was better standing. And in the second he caught Bocek repeatedly with left-right combinations.

Bocek (11-4) would get Alessio on the ground briefly, but they stood for most of the round.

Alessio, a former welterweight, slips to 34-15.

Browne submits Griggs in first

 Travis Browne Ed Mulholland for

Taking on hard-hitting Travis Browne is proving to be a difficult task. Chad Griggs became the latest heavyweight to learn this lesson.

Browne improved to 13-0-1 with a first-round submission of Griggs. The loss was just the second for Griggs as a pro.

Browne entered the fight determined to make a statement. He was disappointed after his most recent outing -- a unanimous decision over Rob Broughton.

During that fight at UFC 135 in Denver’s high altitude, Browne was sluggish as he gasped for air. But cardio never became a factor for Browne in Atlanta.

He landed a hard left knee that stunned Griggs. Browne than took his opponent to the ground, where he applied an arm triangle that forced Griggs to tap at 2:29.

“I belong here,” Browne said. “UFC heavyweights, watch out baby.”

Griggs fell to 11-2.

Brown hands Thompson his first pro loss

Matt BrownEd Mulholland for ESPN.comMatt Brown, right, dug down deep to grind down Stephen Thompson.

For the first time in his professional mixed martial arts career, Stephen Thompson suffered a loss.

Veteran Matt Brown used his experience and superior ground skills to punish Thompson for three rounds during their welterweight bout.

The judges scored the fight 30-27, 29-27 and 30-27 for Thompson. scored it 30-27 for Brown.

Brown’s experience would prove especially beneficial in the second round.

With Thompson finally able to get his striking game untracked, a wobbly Brown (14-11) landed a hard right hand. The punch put Thompson on his back.

On the ground, Brown landed an elbow that opened a cut on Thompson’s forehead.

Both fighters were exhausted entering the third, but Brown was able to take Thompson to the ground and punish him.

Brown would get Thompson (6-1) in a mounted triangle, where he began landing several left hands.

Longer Njokuani shuts out Makdessi

Anthony NjokuaniEd Mulholland for ESPN.comAnthony Njokuani's range proved the difference against John Makdessi.

In a 158-pound catchweight bout, Anthony Njokuani landed kicks to the head and body of John Makdessi en route to a unanimous decision.

All three judges, as well as, scored the fight 30-27.

Njokuani (15-6, one no contest) stunned Makdessi with a hard left hook on the chin. He would utilize a 7-inch reach advantage to land most of his strikes and stay out of harm’s way.

Makdessi, despite not finding a solution to Njokuani’s reach, continued to press the action throughout the fight. But entering the third round his left leg was showing the damage done from absorbing numerous kicks.

Makdessi’s left leg was badly bruised.

The fight, originally slated for 155 pounds, became a catchweight bout when Makdessi (9-2) came in two pounds over the lightweight limit during Friday’s weigh-ins.

Danzig ignores injured ankle to beat Escudero

Mac DanzigEd Mulholland for ESPN.comMac Danzig, right, fought through the pain to overcome Efrain Escudero.

In the battle of former TUF winners, lightweight Mac Danzig overcame a badly swollen right ankle to earn a unanimous decision over Efrain Escudero.

The judges scored the fight 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28. scored the fight 30-27 for Danzig.

Danzig controlled the standup with his jab and an occasional left hook. But Escudero nearly finished him in the first round with a right ankle hook.

Danzig, however, escaped the submission attempt and despite swelling to his ankle fought hard in the second and third rounds.

The damaged ankle did not prevent Danzig from applying pressure on Escudero, who could not find a rhythm in any of the three rounds.

Danzig, the Season 6 "Ultimate Fighter" winner at welterweight, improved to 21-9-1. Escudero, a TUF Season 8 lightweight champion, slipped to 18-5.

Clements punishes Wisniewski with strikes

Chris ClementsEd Mulholland for ESPN.comKeith Wisniewski, right, absorbed punishment from all angles against Chris Clements.

Chris Clements landed hard strikes in the second and third rounds to earn a split decision in his UFC debut over fellow welterweight Keith Wisniewski.

Clements persuaded two judges who gave him scores of 29-28 and 30-27. The third judge favored Wisniewski 29-28. scored the fight for Clements 29-28.

After a close first round, in which Clements (11-4) was taken to the ground, he picked up his striking attack in the second and third. He hit Wisniewski with hard punches, elbows and spinning back kicks.

Wisniewski (28-14-1) absorbed the punishment and fought hard, but the accumulation of strikes began to wear him down late in the third round.

Brimage holds off Blanco

Marcus BrimageEd Mulholland for ESPN.comMarcus Brimage's aggression helped power him past Maximo Blanco.

Despite tasting several front kicks in the second round, Marcus Brimage refused to back down in the third and secured a split decision over Maximo Blanco in a featherweight bout.

Two judges scored the fight for Brimage 30-27 and 29-28, while the third had it 29-28 for Blanco. scored it for Brimage 29-28.

Brimage (5-1) was the more aggressive fighter in Round 1, landing hard punches. But after tasting several front kicks on the chin, he fought more cautiously in the second.

Seemingly aware that the third round would likely decide the outcome, Brimage picked up the pace. He remained somewhat cautious of Blanco’s kicks, but took the risks and came forward.

Blanco, who made his featherweight debut after competing previously at lightweight, falls to 8-4-1 with one no-contest. He has lost two fights in a row.

Strikeforce imports doing just fine in UFC

February, 3, 2012
Mindenhall By Chuck Mindenhall
Cung Le attempted to beat Wanderlei Silva at UFC 139 with an unlikely game plan -- that of fighting like Cung Le.

It nearly worked. Le tried to kick Silva’s liver through his spine, but in the end he was downed with a barrage of strikes that left his nose in crescent form. The scrap was good enough to be a candidate for "fight of the year" but was unfortunate enough to be only the third-most exciting bout of the night. That was the same evening Michael Chandler won a back-and-forth battle with lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez in Bellator, and Dan Henderson outlasted Mauricio Rua in a five-round grind.

But the immediate reports back seem to be that Strikeforce fighters like Le are faring pretty well in the UFC. These were supposed to be the B models, slogging it out in a nice regional show. They weren’t supposed to be able to compete with the elite of the world. At least that’s what we heard from carnival barkers whenever somebody had the audacity to compare a Strikeforce fighter with a UFC fighter.

Yet, since the Zuffa purchase of Strikeforce and the great integration, it looks like Strikeforce had its share of equals and betters. This weekend Nick Diaz will fight for the interim welterweight belt against Carlos Condit after belting B.J. Penn at UFC 137. Win it, and he gets his long-awaited shot at Georges St. Pierre. Meanwhile, Fabricio Werdum takes on Roy Nelson in a fight with very loose title connections in the heavyweight division. Should Diaz and Werdum win -- and Vegas thinks they should -- it will continue a trend that makes Scott Coker look vindicated for something deep inside that could use some vindication. It also diversifies things for matchmaker Joe Silva.

Last weekend, Lavar Johnson scored a knockout of the night against Joey Beltran in Johnson's UFC debut. Former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Henderson came back and beat Rua and is now patiently waiting in line for the Jon Jones-Rashad Evans winner. Strikeforce titlist and linear champion Alistair Overeem kicked Brock Lesnar into retirement, and next faces Junior dos Santos for the UFC heavyweight strap. Other Strikeforce fighters (not named Gilbert Melendez) are making their way from the hexagon to the Octagon, too. In fact, just about anybody who’s anybody in the clearance of Strikeforce heavyweights will soon be in the UFC: Antonio Silva, Chad Griggs, Daniel Cormier, Josh Barnett, et al.

The floodgates are open.
[+] EnlargeBrock Lesnar, Alistair Overeem
Donald Miralle/Zuffa LLC/Getty ImagesAlistair Overeem came roaring out of the gates in his UFC debut.

Granted, some of the Strikeforce fighters coming over are UFC retreads. But in the early returns the worst you can say is that Jake Shields, who jumped ship to the UFC before the acquisition, hasn’t lived up to billing. Most Strikeforce fighters are having a happier time of it than when the UFC/Pride partition came down, and the Pride fighters faltered. Same with the WEC, given the potential of Condit and Ben Henderson. Yet most of the WEC’s talent competed in the bantamweight and featherweight divisions, which didn’t exist in the UFC until the beginning of 2011, so it’s hard to make a full spectrum comparison.

But think about it -- in mid-to-late 2012, as many as three reigning Strikeforce champions could be wearing UFC gold (Diaz, Henderson and Overeem). If Melendez was ever released from exile, he could challenge for the lightweight belt, too.

What does it all mean? Maybe nothing. Or maybe it’s something that we’ve always suspected and debated about. While the best fighters in the world are generally thought to be in the UFC at all times, there are fighters dying for the chance to be brought in for no other reason than to prove them wrong.

And knowing just how short the fight society’s attention span can be, the UFC is only too happy to be wrong when they do.

UFC heavyweight division about to deepen

December, 21, 2011
Mindenhall By Chuck Mindenhall
CormierJosh Hedges/Getty ImagesKnock, knock: Daniel Cormier might be taking his act to the UFC in the very near future.
So, Strikeforce is running a clearance on its once vaunted roster of heavyweights, and everyone between 207-266 pounds must go. What a difference a year makes.

In January of this year, the eight big guns on Strikeforce’s heavyweight roster stood on a New York City stage and looked like the most imposing ingredients to a nonfictional tournament since the Pride days. Even the alternates -- guys like Daniel Cormier, who defied odds by sneaking in and making it to the finals, and the mutton-chopped Chad Griggs -- were lively enough understudies.

The subtext of the grand prix? That Strikeforce had more depth in the most glamorous weight class than the UFC. It wasn’t the elephant in the room -- these were eight elephants in a room.

Dana White snickered. By spring, Zuffa bought Strikeforce. By summer, Alistair Overeem was on his way to the UFC. By winter, the wrecking ball assembly that made up the grand prix is being rapidly consolidated with the UFC's roster.
[+] EnlargeMatt Mitrione
Mark J. Rebilas for ESPN.comUFC heavyweights like Matt Mitrione either didn't develop quickly enough or, in some cases, didn't develop at all.

Zuffa is closing down the Strikeforce heavies to deepen the UFC’s. This, of course, is a good thing. The UFC’s heavyweight landscape will finally be on par with its other weight classes. How timely is that?

Not long ago (as in August), Brendan Schaub began to look like a top-flight heavyweight in the UFC. Not out of merit, but out of necessity. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, in the twilight of his career, shut things down. Then it was Matt Mitrione, before he was Jenga’d by Cheick Kongo. Even UFC newbie Stipe Miocic began to look like “promise,” well before he stepped in the Octagon. All this time we’ve been playing at the dearth.

But now reinforcements are arriving. Reigning Strikeforce champion Alistair Overeem was first, and he’ll fight Brock Lesnar next week at UFC 141 in a title eliminator. Fabricio Werdum came next, and he’ll take on Roy Nelson at UFC 143. With the news of Strikeforce shutting its heavyweight division down in total, the carpet is rolling out for others now, too.

Lavar Johnson, who also fought in the WEC back in 2005 and 2006, has signed to fight Joey Beltran at UFC on FOX: "Davis vs. Evans." And MMA Weekly reported that Griggs -- who foiled overly idealistic plans for Bobby Lashley by obliterating him -- also signed a contract with the UFC, and will debut in the Octagon in 2012. Antonio Silva is expecting a call soon, and Sergei Kharitonov would like to join his training partner John Olav Einemo in the UFC.

Of all the grand prix participants, only a few will likely be left out -- Andrei Arlovski, the former UFC champion, who is on (what he hopes) a comeback trail; Brett Rogers, whose personal life is in shambles; and Fedor Emelienenko, whose management would like to skip the process and pencil in a date with Cain Velasquez.
[+] EnlargeOvereem/Werdum
Ric Fogel for ESPN.comAlistair Overeem, left, was the first heavyweight to come to the UFC's rescue.

Once Daniel Cormier and Josh Barnett finish up the afterthought-ish grand prix in March, one or each will make their way to the UFC. (There is still a bonus heavyweight fight for the winner, which is short on details right now). When that happens, which could be as early as April or May of 2012, matchmaking in the UFC’s heavyweight division becomes more fun. With the reemergence of Frank Mir, there are now five legit bigs at the top -- Junior dos Santos, Velasquez, Overeem, Lesnar and Mir. Shane Carwin will be back in mid-2012, as well. Cusp fighters like Roy Nelson, Kongo and Travis Browne are still there, and green-but-emerging guys like Schaub and Mitrione are hovering.

But when you stack Werdum, Bigfoot Silva, Barnett, Cormier, Kharitonov, Shane del Rosario and Griggs in there? This thing about finding out who the best heavyweight in the world is becomes legit.

At the beginning of 2011, the questions centered around what happens if there wasn’t a partition between Strikeforce and the UFC, if guys like Overeem fought in the UFC? The partition is coming down, and we’ll find out soon enough.