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The Rear Naked Column 06.24.09: The Best UFC Fights of 2009

Posted by Samer Kadi on 06.24.2009 – (Original here)

We’re midway through the year and the UFC has blessed the MMA world with no fewer than ten events, with PPV’s, fight nights and an Ultimate finale providing us with some great action. In this week’s edition of “The Rear Naked Column”, 411’s Samer Kadi looks back at the top five fights to have taken place inside the Octagon so far in 2009.

UFC 100 is coming up soon in what should be the biggest event in North American MMA history. It also couldn’t have come at a better time as the Ultimate Fighting Championship is riding a huge wave of momentum, with 2009 already being one of its most successful years ever. The past 6 months saw Georges St. Pierre and BJ Penn battle in one of the biggest fights in the company’s history, Lyoto Machida’s rise to the top of the Light Heavyweight division, and the possible retirement of one of the sport’s all time greats as Chuck Liddell was stopped at the hands of Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in Montreal.

Arguably the two biggest fights of the year up to this point have been blowouts, as George St. Pierre dominated BJ Penn for four rounds and Lyoto Machida turned on the most brilliant performance of his career (and frankly one of the best I’ve ever seen) as he knocked out Rashad Evans in the second round.

But what fights really stood out this year in terms of quality? Everyone loves a top 5 list and this week, “The Rear Naked Column” will deliver just that.

5) Quinton Jackson Vs Keith Jardine (UFC 96: Jackson Vs Jardine, 03.07.09):

The UFC were struggling to put together a main event for UFC 96. The original plan was for then light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans to defend his newly won title against number one contender Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. Evans wasn’t ready to fight so his teammate Keith Jardine stepped up to the plate.

Many believed it to be a risky move on Jackson’s part as he was risking his status as the number one contender and his chance to regain the title he lost the previous summer to Forrest Griffin. However, coming off a big knockout victory over longtime rival Wanderlei Silva, most expected Rampage to topple Jardine with relative ease and cement his status as the top challenger for Evans’ title.

The fight turned out to be far more competitive than many had anticipated as Jackson looked to be slightly out of sorts in the opening round and was struggling to find his range. Jardine did a good job of preventing Rampage from getting any kind of rhythm early on, using some leg kicks to good effect and circling around his opponent and forcing him to chase.

Rampage came out more aggressive in the second round and dropped Jardine with a left hook but the “Dean of Mean” managed to survive. Keith then landed an inadvertent low blow that ended up playing to his favor, as Jackson didn’t take enough time to recover. Seconds later, a Jardine uppercut had Rampage on his heels as he followed with a flurry against a fence that looked to have balanced things out in the second round.

4) Wanderlei Silva Vs Rich Franklin (UFC 99: The Comeback, 06.13.09):

“Knockout, Knockout, War” – Wanderlei Silva.

Say what you want about Silva, but the guy always delivers. The fight was taking place at a catchweight of 195, as Wanderlei looked to use it as a tune up to a future drop to the 185 pound division, while Franklin was looking to fight in the 205 lbs division full time. Both fighters needed a win badly to gain momentum in their respective divisions and remain relevant.

After a long feeling out process in the first round, Franklin was the first to engage. He looked to keep his distance and use his superior footwork, reach and technical striking to keep Silva at bay. After a few exchanges, Silva caught a Franklin body kick and took the fight to the ground. As Franklin regained his feet, Wanderlei made the mistake of dropping down for a guillotine which Franklin easily avoided and landed some decent shots from the top to finish the round.

“Ace” stuck to the same gameplan in the second round as he looked to outpoint Silva from distance with jabs, straight lefts and body kicks. But midway through the round, Wanderlei landed a trademark wild right hook that had Franklin rocked and sent him backing up against the fence. Silva went for the kill and unleashed a big flurry, connecting cleanly with a couple of punches. Rich managed to survive as the round drew to a close.

The opening round was one of the best I’ve ever seen as they both came out SWINGING. Diego rocked Guida early, had him against the fence, and threw everything but the kitchen sink at him and Clay wouldn’t go down. From uppercuts to flying knees, Guida was eating a barrage of strikes and still kept coming. He eventually got the takedown to weather the storm. Diego scrambled, regained his feet and dropped Guida with a huge leg kick which looked to have finished the fight. But Guida displayed a granite chin and an amazing recovery.

The second round was less explosive, with Guida getting the takedown and looking to control “The Nightmare”. Sanchez proceeded to land some elbows from the bottom that would have made Kenny Florian proud as he cut Guida’s forehead wide open.

The third round was a close one, with both fighters landing some good combinations before Guida took the fight to the ground but was almost caught with a Kimura from Diego. In the end Guida managed to avoid it and finished the fight with a decent flurry.

Fellow 411mania writer Dan Plunkett put it best:: “It was probably the closest one-sided fight in UFC history”. I don’t see how Guida could have won that fight, but I’ll be damned if he didn’t make a contest out of it.

That’s it for this week, if you feel some fights were left out and deserved a spot on the list, feel free to mention it in the comments section. Starting next week, we’ll be previewing the biggest show of the year as UFC 100 is right around the corner.

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