(The Iceman) Chuck Liddell and (The Dean of Mean) Keith Jardine both look to redeem themselves after suffering devastating knockout losses. Only one man will emerge victorious.
Also, former Pride Fighting Championships star Mauricio (Shogun) Rua debuts against Ultimate Fighter 1 winner Forrest Griffin. After his first career loss to Josh Koscheck, Diego Sanchez returns to face Jon Fitch.
Event card and predictions
Once again, I am joined by Calgary Sun Editor-in-Chief and MMA expert Jose Rodriguez.
Thiago Tavares (16-0-0) vs. Tyson Griffin (9-1-0)
Neil: This is an interesting match. Griffin is definitely stronger and could wrestle him down, but Tavares is very dangerous on the ground. Griffin's overall strength makes him difficult to submit, however.
Prediction: I'm torn, but I'll go with Griffin by decision.
Jose: Who can forget the war between Tyson Griffin and Clay Guida at UFC 72? Griffin is a tank, but he may meet his match in Thiago Tavares. Though it's only the second fight in the UFC for the 22-year-old, Tavares has surrounded himself with some top Brazilian trainers like Murilo Bustamente and Rodrigo 'Minotauro' Noguiera.
Prediction: Tavares by submission in the second round.
Kazuhiro Nakamura (11-6-0) vs. Lyoto Machida (10-0-0)
Neil: Even though Nakamura has six losses on his record, he's only been defeated by some of the best mixed martial artists around. Meanwhile, Machida owns victories over B.J. Penn and Rich Franklin.
Since Machida is known for his unorthodox striking, Nakamura needs to take this to the ground to win.
Prediction: Tough call, but I'll go with Machida by decision.
Jose: This features two fighters most UFC fans don't know. Machida's a counter-striker with a strong karate. Nakamura is a Pride veteran and has beaten Kevin Randleman in the past.
Prediction: Machida by decision.
Jon Fitch (19-2-1) vs. Diego Sanchez (19-1-0)
Neil: It will be interesting to see how Sanchez returns from defeat - he'll either be motivated or hesitant. His loss to Koscheck sucked, but I don't think his confidence will be completely shot from the experience.
Fitch, who was profiled in SLAM! Sports' up-and-comers article (Click here to read), is on a 13-fight win streak and has nothing to lose. He's aggressive and very well-rounded. This is another tough one to call; the UFC is really making my life difficult here.
Prediction: Fitch by decision
Jose: This is the most evenly matched fight of the night. Diego is coming off his first loss and Fitch is riding a 13 fight win streak. If you delve deeper into their records, you'll see that Sanchez has faced tougher opponents than Fitch has. Sanchez has beaten Karo Parisyan, Joe Riggs, Kenny Florian and, one of my favourite fighters, Nick Diaz. But Fitch is a scrapper.
Prediction: Sanchez by decision.
Mauricio Rua (16-2-0) vs. Forrest Griffin (14-4-0)
Neil: Griffin's an entertaining character and a tough fighter, but he's completely outclassed here. Shogun is an absolutely devastating striker (watch his fight with Quinton Jackson).
Prediction: Rua by first-round KO/TKO.
Jose: This one should be a gimme. Most mixed-martial arts experts consider Shogun the top light-heavyweight in the world. And even if some of his Pride-day tools are removed, most notably the soccer kicks, he's still a much better fighter than Griffin.
Prediction: Rua by KO/TKO in the second round.
Chuck Liddell (20-4-0) vs. Keith Jardine (12-4-1)
Neil: Jardine likes to stand throw punches, while Liddell loves to counter punch. I expect this to play out like a game of Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots and chances are Liddell will counter punch his way to victory.
Prediction: Liddell by first-round KO/TKO.
Jose: One thing's for certain: This one won't go the distance. These guys like to swing for the fences and if it makes it out of the second round, I'll be surprised. As much as Keith Jardine has proven himself an able journeyman, he's just that, a journeyman. Liddell is in another league.
My fearless prediction: Liddell by KO/TKO in the first round.
There you have it. Join me Sat., Sept. 22 at 10 p.m. EST for live round-by-round coverage of "UFC 76: Knockout."
Blow by Blow
Welcome to the "UFC 76: Knockout" Blow by Blow. As always, I'm your host, Neil Springer.
Thiago Tavares vs. Tyson Griffin
Yes! Griffin comes out to "Eye of the Tiger!" He's going to win for sure.
They feel each other out; both guys are cautious here. Griffin takes him down and works some shots from the guard. They stand up. Tavares tries a sweep and almost gets his back, but Griffin wrestles him off. Tavares tries for the back again, but to no avail. They're in the guard and Griffin works some punches and elbows. Time expires. I think Griffin took that round.
Tavares rocks Griffin with a flying knee! He tries to finish, but Griffin works his guard. Tavares gets mount and takes the back. Griffin stands up! Griffin spins him and ends up in the guard! Wow!
Tavares tries an armbar, but Griffin escapes! Griffin's landing some blows from the guard and tries a guillotine choke. Tavares gets the back and Griffin stands up again! Griffin dumps him on his head and they're back in the guard! This is a good fight. The round expires and it's a close one.
Griffin pushes him against the fence and works some shoulder punches. Tavares takes him down and almost gets an omoplata! Griffin spins out and places him on the fence. They head back to the centre on the octagon and Tavares gets a takedown. Griffin stands up and tries to get a slam.
Tavares tries and armbar, but Griffin muscles him over and they're rolling all over the place. The round expires and this is a close call.
Griffin wins by decision! I'm one for one.
Kazuhiro (Kaz) Nakamura vs. Lyoto Machida
Nakamura comes down to the octagon with an umbrella. I don't know if that will help him here or not.
Machida lands a couple kicks and Nakamura keeps trying to grab him. They lock up on the fence and restart in the centre. Nakamura tries a sweep, but Machida counters and lands in half-guard.
Machida tries a kimura, but Nakamura stands up. Nakamura attempts another takedown, but he's not getting anything. Machida works more kicks and they tie up on the fence again. Machida gets him down, but is caught in half-guard. Machida tries some strikes, but the round ends. Machida definitely took that.
Machida knocks him down and start raining the bombs. Nakamura pushes him off, but Machida takes side and transitions to mounts. He takes the back and is very close to a rear-naked choke. Machida lets it go and Nakamura spins out. Machida takes mount and starts landing shots. Nakamura stands up and they lock on the fence.
They restart and Machida hits a nasty punch. Nakamura finally gets a takedown, but is stuck in the guard. The round ends and that was total domination by Machida.
Machida tries some fancy kicks, but Nakamura takes him down. Nakamura's looking more aggressive, but he needs to finish to win this. They lock up on the fence, but Machida gets a takedown. He tries a mount, but Nakamura spins out. Machida lands a couple punches, but they're back on the fence. It's over and Machida has easily won this.
I'm two for two! Jose is now one for two.
Jon Fitch vs. Diego (Nightmare) Sanchez
Sanchez explodes and tries a takedown, but they're locked on the fence. They restart, but are back on the chain-link. Sanchez keeps trying to get him down, but Fitch's defense is really good.
Sanchez finally gets him down, but Fitch counters and wrestles him over. They're in the guard and Sanchez is trying an armbar. He lets it go. Fitch stays on top and the round expires.
They exchange takedowns and Fitch's foot is caught in the back of Sanchez's tights, creating a pretty hilarious visual. Fitch takes his back, but Sanchez gets on top. They're in a weird north-south position and Fitch picks him up and drops him on his head. Ouch!
Fitch remains on top, but Sanchez is working from the bottom. The round ends.
Sanchez has a guillotine! Fitch isn't tapping and he slips out! They're in the guard and Fitch works the body shots. Sanchez tries an omoplata, but it's a no-go. Fitch keeps working the strikes and the crowd is booing. Sanchez has a triangle, but Fitch is too savvy. He is an escape artist. The round expires and it's a close one. If Fitch wins I'm three for three and Jose is one for three. If Sanchez wins we're both two for three.
Fitch wins! I'm three for three! Man, that's an all-time high.
Mauricio (Shogun) Rua vs. Forrest Griffin
To properly pronounce Shogun's last name, just do your best impersonation of Al Pacino in "Scent of a Woman" -- "Hoo-aah!"
Shogun tries a takedown, but fails. They stand up and he gets him this time. They're in the guard and Shogun tries some shots. They stand up again and now Griffin takes him down. They exchange shots and Shogun takes him down. Griffin counters and the round expires. Tough call, but I think Shogun took that.
Shogun takes him down and they're in the guard. Shogun lands some shots and Griffin is bleeding. They stand up, Shogun tries a takedown, but they restart. Shogun is looking really tired.
Griffin takes him down and I can't believe what I'm seeing. Griffin gets on top and is landing some shots. This seems to be all Griffin. The round expires.
Shogun takes him down and they're in the guard. He works some shots, but not much is happening here. Shogun tries another takedown, but Griffin counters and works some punches. Griffin is on top and he takes his back, he gets the choke and Shogun taps! What the hell!? My heart can't keep taking these upsets.
(The Iceman) Chuck Liddell vs. (The Dean of Mean) Keith Jardine
Jardine is working the leg kicks, but he's moving backwards. Liddell is constantly moving forwards and tries a flurry, but can't finish. Jardine is nailing some shots here, but Liddell isn't too fazed.
Liddell backs him into a corner, but they restart in the centre. They trade shots and the round expires.
They square off and Jardine rocks him, but Liddell is back up! Jardine is winning the stand up battle. I never would have seen that coming. Liddell rocks him and goes in for the kill, but can't finish him. Liddell's leg and ribs are pretty red from all the kicks.
They're trading shots and Jardine seems to be winning. Jardine is really looking good here. He keeps landing kicks to the legs and body. Liddell tries a spinning back kick and the round expires. I think Jardine definitely won by decision.
Yup, Jardine wins by split decision! Man, I figured the two main event matches were gimmes and was totally wrong. Well, I end tonight three for five and Jose finished one for five.
Thanks for joining me for "UFC 76: Knockout" and tune in for "UFC 77: Hostile Territory."