Of all the things that it was, UFC 56 was not the changing of the guard that, in reality, no one really expected in the first place. At the end of the night, Rich Franklin and Matt Hughes, the coaches of Ultimate Fighter II, remained in tact as UFC Middleweight and Welterweight Champions respectively as Georges St. Pierre established himself as the most serious contender in the welterweight division and perhaps all of UFC.
It was a newsworthy night for other reasons, though, as Dana White announced several intriguing future matches and returns for next year. Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture will be re-matched on February 4 in a highly anticipated bout for the light-heavyweight championship. Frank Mir, who was injured in the midst of his reign as champion, will be facing Andrei Arlovski, who won the interim title in his absence, at some point next year. The match was originally expected this year but Mir ruled that option out.
Additionally, B.J. Penn, one of the most notable UFC fighters to have defeated Matt Hughes, will be returning to the company. He is likely to face Hughes again.
The biggest news of the evening, however, was that Ken Shamrock and Tito Ortiz will also be returning as coaches of season three of Ultimate Fighter. Ortiz will face Griffin in April, then will face Shamrock at the conclusion of the Ultimate Fighter next October, and in the third and final match on his contract (provided he wins the first two) will probably be against Liddell or Couture for the light-heavyweight championship.
Otherwise, Franklin and Hughes were only affirmed in their dominance in their weight classes within UFC. Franklin demolished Ultimate Fighter star Nathan “the Rock” Quarry, striking him with a right-handed blow to the jaw less than two minutes into the fight, hitting Quarry again and breaking his nose, sending him square to the mat. Quarry had only just been knocked down and regained composure before being hit with the devastating blows and ending his chances at the title.
“He threw one punch, it grazed my head, but his hook was short and just things were a little choppy and I felt once the round started developing I just felt myself take over,” said Franklin.
Though some suggested that Quarry was pushed into the title match too early, Franklin said that he took him as a tough challenge like he would any other competitor and noted Quarry’s punching ability. After the match, Quarry noted that at least he can say he had a chance to fend for the title.
Hughes easily hooked Joe Riggs, his opponent, in a kimura and submitted him to end the match in his favor in the first round. Hughes was adept and quick and Riggs, like Quarry, seemed outmatched. But by Saturday, Hughes’ title was no longer even on the line.
Riggs, 23, who was scheduled to vie for the Welterweight title in his match with Hughes, lost both his chance for the title and 10% of his payoff when he failed to make weight in advance of the fight for the title. While he appeared to be in shape, a disrobed Riggs became the first fighter in UFC history to not be able to fight for the title as a result of not making weight. After being between declared overweight in the second of four attempts, he cursed loudly and walked offstage. Five percent of Riggs’ purse will be awarded Hughes and another five percent will be paid as a fine to the Nevada State Athletic Commission, according to the website Sherdog.
“I don’t know if it’s Joe or if it’s the guys Joe had with him, and I hate to sit here and talk bad about anyone, but like I said before it’s just unprofessional,” said UFC Middleweight champion Matt Hughes, talking about Riggs’ inability to make weight.
St. Pierre continued to be impressive, ending his match with Sean Sherk with by TKO in the second round. Though he was unsuccessful in a 2004 match against Hughes, he is seen as the top of the heap of competitors in the UFC. Gabriel Gonzaga defeated Kevin Jordan in a long, boring match.
1. Nick Thompson def. Keith Wisniewski by unanimous decision in 5:00 of round three (15:00).
2. Thiago Alves def. Ansar Chalangov by TKO in 2:25 of round one.
3. Sam Hoger def. Jeff Newton by submission in 2:05 of round two (7:05).
4. Jeremy Horn def. Trevor Prangley by unanimous decision in 5:00 of round three (15:00).
5. Georges St. Pierre def. Sean Sherk by TKO in 2:53 of round two (7:53).
6. Matt Hughes def. Joe Riggs by submission in 3:28 of round one.
7. Gabriel Gonzaga def. Kevin Jordan by KO in 4:39 of round three (14:39).
8. Rich Franklin def. Nathan Quarry by KO in 2:34 of round one.