Sunday, May 28, 2006

UFC 60: My Boy Won, Matt Hughes!

The passing of the Royce Gracie's guard symbolized the passing of the guard in the UFC.

From the first moments of the highly anticipated non-title fight, Matt Hughes cornered, stalked and preyed upon UFC legend Royce Gracie at UFC 60 in the Staples Center.

Gracie, who was on his back for most of the match and used his legs to attempt to hold Hughes in the half-guard position, couldn't contain the reigning welterweight champion.

Hughes passed Gracie's guard and proceeded to unleash a vicious ground-and-pound attack to the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu black belt. Hughes mounted Gracie's back, hooked his legs around Gracie's waist and landed 17 consecutive punches to the sides of Gracie's face and head. Referee John McCarthy saw enough and stopped the fight 4:39 into the first round on a TKO.

"In this game, anything can happen," Gracie said. "I have a strategy, he has a strategy. It's a matter of who pulls who out of his strategy."

Gracie (13-2-3-1 no contest), a 6-1, 175-pound human that became superhuman when he continually defeated larger and stronger opponents over the years, along with his family brought Brazilian jiu-jitsu to the United States. Gracie was never able to apply any of his signature submission attempts on the well-rounded champion.

"Royce was looking for a no-limit fight," Hughes said. "I'm a quick starter."

Hughes (41-4), a four-time All-American collegiate wrestler, didn't attempt to shoot on Gracie's legs, instead the welterweight champion traded punches with the 39-year-old in the opening minutes. Gracie and Hughes eventually came to a clinch and the much stronger Hughes took down the three-time UFC tournament champion.

When Hughes did take Gracie to the ground, the 32-year-old champ attempted an armlock on the native Brazilian; a move that is a staple of jiu-jitsu.

"I'm glad that he's learning some jiu-jitsu on the side," Gracie said. "He's carrying on the flag."

Gracie appeared in pain, but the consummate champion who hasn't been in the Octagon in 11 years stayed calm, straightened out his arm and escaped the lock which puts tremendous strain on the elbow and shoulder.

"The only way that I was going to get that submission was if John stopped it," Hughes said. "I knew that Royce wasn't going to tap, there wasn't a doubt in my mind. I believe I heard some pops in the elbow, but there was no doubt in my mind that Royce wasn't going to tap."

The classy Gracie came to the post-fight press conference wearing sunglasses and a smile. He gave credit to Hughes, fought with an entire city in his corner and remained the most intriguing presence in the room.

"I have two more fights left in me," Gracie said. "It felt good to know that I still have a lot of fans over here in America."

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