It's main event time. Huge folk hero like reception for Griffin, who for a lot of people symbolizes the rise of mixed martial arts from minor sport to major event. Mixed reaction for Rampage, who is an extremely likeable and charismatic champion but committed the sin of taking away Chuck Liddell's title. More cheers than boos, but a mix. Rampage has the Pride and UFC belts, so apparently he got Dan Henderson's belt when he beat him. Rampage has a great staredown and tonight is no exception.
Round 1. Griffin is throwing a lot more early. He's opening up with punches and kicks but not landing anything hard. Rampage begins to open up more and you can see the power in his strikes. Rampage is mostly punching while Forrest is using a wider array of strikes. Jackson appears to stun Griffin and comes in but Griffin is fine. Griffin then thinks he has Rampage and does the same. Rampage rocks Forrest with a punch that sends him to the floor. Rampage pushes Forrest into the cage and starts some ground and pound. Griffin gets back up. Both fighters trade at the end of the round. Close, exciting round. Griffin landed more blows, but Rampage landed the most telling blow of the round. Griffin recovered better than I expected. Jackson 10-9.
Round 2. Griffin lands some solid blows and applies a guillotine that he uses to take top position. Crowd is going crazy. Forrest is in Rampage's half guard, but he passes to side control. Griffin going for a keylock and crowd is going nuts. He doesn't get it. But he does get full mount and Rampage is in trouble with two minutes left in the round. Juanito's career is looking to be in trouble. Griffin is throwing elbows and retaining mount. Rampage may be paying for taking Griffin lightly. 10-8 Griffin. Incredible performance by Griffin and Rampage looks tired and frustrated.
Round 3. The two are trading early, and Rampage has landed the better blows by a narrow margin. As the round progresses, Griffin becomes more aggressive, and in particular is using a lot of kicks to throw Rampage off guard. Forrest looks like the much more versatile striker but Rampage has the power. Rampage lands a hard straight right to knock Griffin back a little. Griffin has improved so much from his days as a wild standup brawler. He's giving Rampage problems with his technique. Griffin comes forward with some strong punches late and lands some of his best blows of the fight. Another exciting round. I think Jackson landed the better blows, but I give it to Griffin on volume. 10-9 Griffin. This is building into a fight of the year level match. Rampage may want to consider slamming Forrest.
Round 4. Jackson lands some hard punches and is opening up. Griffin appears dazed and he pulls Rampage down into his guard. Forrest with a triangle but Rampage lifts him in the air. Forrest is no dummy and he doesn't become Ricardo Arona II, instead letting go of the hold as Rampage slams him down. Griffin stands up and immediately Rampage greets him with some punches. Forrest's face is busted up, while Rampage looks relatively fine in that department. Jackson with a pair of hard hooks. Griffin's got a better chin than a lot of people were giving him credit for. Jackson's power, though, is taking over the fight. Clear round for Jackson. I could even envision 10-8, although I definitely have it 10-9 Rampage.
Round 5. Loud chants for Forrest. Forrest again with kicks, while Jackson is using the punches inside. Griffin is pursuing, which may help him with the judges. Griffin is opening up and he's taking over this round. A minute and a half left and Rampage needs to do something to win this fight. Both Jackson and Griffin nailed each other at the same time with punches. One minute left. And that's the end of the fight. I've got that round 10-9 Griffin, which makes my score 48-46 Griffin. But the judges could go a lot of directions.
One hell of an exciting fight. Tremendous performance by both men and a real good night for the UFC as far as the main event goes. Crowd believes Forrest should get the decision.
48-46, 48-46, 49-46 Griffin. Crowd explodes. You've got to give Griffin all the credit in the world. What a competitor. Unbelievable performance.
"This is the best moment of my life and I can't wait to do this shit again, brother."
Rampage seems cool with the loss and gives Forrest credit for the win. He's good natured about the loss. "I'm still going to get drunk because it's my birthday." Rampage is badly limping to the back.
I'll have a few notes from the post-fight press conference, including an update on whether UFC plans to implement the new unified rules' weight classes.