UFC light heavyweight champion Quinton "Rampage" Jackson held up the honor of the organization for which he fights, defeating PRIDE 205-pound kingpin Dan Henderson on points Saturday night inside a sold-out O2 Arena in London, England.
Billed as mixed martial arts' first world title unification bout, Jackson and Henderson went to war for five rounds inside the octagon, each man offering the best of their respective games.
Judges at ringside saw it unanimously for Jackson (48-47, 49-46, 49-46), who finished the fight strong as he bullied Henderson, a two-time U.S. Greco-Roman Olympic wrestler, to the floor and rained down punches.
It was Henderson, however, who took the early grappling edge.
Working well in the clinch, the PRIDE champion, who signed with UFC after its parent company, Zuffa, purchased PRIDE in March of this year, put Jackson on the mat and controlled the Memphis fighter.
The 29-year-old Jackson (28-6) rebounded well in the second, using his size to wear on Henderson, who also held PRIDE's 183-pound title before the company's demise.
The two battled in tight quarters for much of the 25-minute clash.
When Jackson controlled from the top position, he scored more often with heavier strikes, yet Henderson, fighting out of Temecula, Calif., continually looked to stand or reverse, which he did in the third round while attempting a Kimura.
The fighters traded blows in spots, but primarily made the bout a grappling contest. Jackson was surprisingly effective in keeping Henderson (22-6) on the canvas, and it gave him a three-rounds-to-one edge on two of the judges' cards heading into the fifth.
In the final stanza both fighters landed heavy leather. While Jackson teed off with two left hands, Henderson, 37, answered with a right hand and a body-lock takedown.
Jackson returned to his feet to score a takedown of his own before finishing out the round by firing downward punches at Henderson, who was pressed against the cage.
The win was Jackson's first UFC title defense since winning the belt in May against Chuck Liddell.
On the undercard, despite showing improved striking arsenal, Matt Hamill's failure to control UK's Michael Bisping on the canvas saw him fall short on points after three rounds.
Rivals during the third season of "The Ultimate Fighter" -- which Bisping won -- the two met Saturday with most expecting Bisping to walk away an easy winner. Yet Hamill was anything but easy to put away.
Slugging it out on the feet to start, Hamill (3-1) connected with power shots that frustrated Bisping to the point of screaming in his corner between the second and third periods.
The fight seemed in Hamill's grasp, yet several times he chose to let Bisping stand after taking down "The Count."
Bisping picked away at Hamill, consistently moving around the cage looking for jabs and power punches. He also kicked, but each attempt seemed to end with him on the floor.
In the end, two of the three judges at ringside felt the British fighter, still undefeated at 14-0, did enough to win with scores of 29-28, while a third official saw it the other way, 30-27.
One year ago it would have been blasphemous to suggest Mirko Filipovic would be 1-2 in UFC competition against the likes of Eddie Sanchez, Gabriel Gonzaga and Cheick Kongo. But with his uninspired performance against the underdog Kongo, Filipovic dropped his second consecutive fight inside the octagon and might have lost any chance of challenging for the UFC heavyweight belt.
"Cro-Cop" stalked Kongo throughout the first period but never found the range to land the left high kick that had made him a star in Japan and a cult hero among fight fans.
In the second and third periods, the muscular Frenchman moved forward, battering the smaller Filipovic (22-6-2) with knees to the thighs and punches to the head.
Kongo, now 11-3-1, also spent time working over Filipovic on the canvas, scoring with elbows and short chopping punches.
Judges at ringside each saw it 29-28 in favor of Kongo.
Marcus Davis has quietly emerged as a contender in the welterweight division, and with Saturday's come-from-behind win against Paul Taylor he showed an improved submission game to compliment his power-striking game.
England's Taylor (8-2-1, 1 NC) punched his way off the fence in the early going before landing two kicks to the body and one to the head that felled Davis.
Taylor pounced and scored with a flurry of hammerfists, yet the Bangor, Maine, resident remained composed and countered to top position. Taking strikes from Davis, who passed guard to side-control and then mount, Taylor bucked his hips to escape.
Davis (13-3) transitioned beautifully to an armbar and induced a tapout at 4:14 of the first round.
Houston Alexander showed his stunning knockout of Keith Jardine earlier this year wasn't a fluke. The light heavyweight from Omaha, Nebraska, pummeled Alessio Sakara before referee Yves Lavigne stepped in just 61 seconds after the opening bell.
Both fighters came out swinging, but it was Alexander (8-1) who took control with a head-snapping knee that forced Sakara (11-6-0, 1 NC) to the canvas.
With the Italian hurt, Alexander followed with rapid-fire strikes until the fight was stopped.
Preliminary fight results
Brazilian lightweight Gleison Tibau dominated Terry Etim en route to a unanimous decision victory. Tibau (15-4) scored multiple takedowns and used ground-and-pound tactics to rack up points against the British lightweight, who fell to 10-1.
Light heavyweight sluggers Thiago Silva and Tomasz Drwal waged war for nearly two full rounds before the undefeated Brazilian put Drwal on the canvas with a flurry of knees and punches.
Drwal (14-2) took the opening round thanks to solid takedown defense and a quality string of punches to close out the five-minute period. Silva responded with an increased work rate, and though the Polish fighter attempted to answer by standing and slugging, he fell prey to a pair of crisp right hands, a knee and a beautiful uppercut. A final left hand from Silva (11-0) finished Drwal off at 4:23 of Round 2.
A crushing left hook from German Dennis Siver (11-4) followed by a right hand to the downed Naoyuki Kotani (17-7-5) prompted referee Yves Lavigne to save the Japanese welterweight at 2:04 of the second round.
In the evening's opening bout, Brit Jess Liaudin upped his record to 12-8-0 with a first round stoppage of American welterweight Anthony Torres (5-1-0) at the 4:10 mark.
Liaudin plastered the tough Hawaiian throughout the fight, landing heavy strikes including a right hand that smashed Torres directly on the nose. Referee Mario Yamasaki moved in to stop the bout as Torres absorbed punches while leaning against the cage fencing.