The UFC brass can't be much more proud of how their first foray into the Pacific Northwest fared Saturday night as they displayed UFC 102: Couture vs. Noguiera in Portland, Oregon live from the Rose Garden.
Over 16,000 fans filled the arena, producing a gate over $1.9 million while almost every one of the 11 fights proved to be exciting. None more than the main event between the two heavyweight legends.
Randy "The Natural" Couture (16-10) entered the fight against Antonio Rodrigo "Minotauro" Noguiera (34-5-1) as a heavy favorite but it was Noguiera's superior boxing and ground game that was the difference in the fight as Noguiera went on to scrape the unanimous decision.
It was a battle in every round with the two Hall-of-Famers going toe-to-toe while unleashing the best of their striking arsenal upon their foe's face. The heavily Couture-sided crowd rose to its feet everytime Couture landed some big strikes that had Noguiera retreating or whenever he reversed the Brazilian's efforts on the ground.
An epic battle from start to finish that will certainly find a spot in the UFC's "top 100 fights".
Noguiera's win should propel him into the discussion for No. 1 contender of Brock Lesnar's heavyweight belt where about four or five other fighters consistently reside. The 34-year-old Brazilian says he's in top form, if he can keep it up a win over a guy like Cain Velasquez or Gabriel Gonzaga down the line could further propel him.
On the other side of the coin is Couture, who announced on Sunday that he has signed a six fight, 28 month contract extension with the UFC. What's amazing is the fact that at 46 years of age, Couture believes he is in the best shape of his career. So the Hall-of-Famer will go on fighting for another 28 months which will carry him well past his 48th birthday.
God bless "The Natural". What lies ahead? We'll see in the near future but rest assured, Couture will be fighting only the best.
Outside of the main event, there were a number of important developments from undercard fights. First off was Nate Marquardt dispatching fellow middleweight contender and previously undefeated Damien Maia (11-1) in 22 seconds with a highlight reel knockout.
Marquardt joins Dan Henderson as No. 1 contenders for Anderson Silva's middleweight belt. Both have previously fought -- and lost -- to Silva before and both, however, have improved especially Marquardt. Who the UFC chooses still looks to favor Henderson but remains in the air.
The other action was just as compelling and noteworthy.
Thiago Silva stunned Keith Jardine with a vicious right hand and some quick ground-and-pound for a TKO victory in under two minutes of their fight. Silva bounced back nicely with the win after the KO loss to Lyoto Machida, inserting himself right back into the picture while Jardine continues his trademark one step forward and one step backward march through the elite of the division. It leaves Jardine in a precarious position. He's a top 7 or 8 guy in the division but firmly set there -- no better and no worse.
Jake Rosholt took "submission of the night" honors and a $60,000 bonus for his choke out of Chris Leben. Gabriel Gonzaga finished Chris Tuchscherer impressively in one round with strikes and another heavyweight, Todd Duffee, continued bolster the division's depth by scoring a very impressive, seven second KO which set the UFC record.
The other nightly honors:
Fight of the night: Couture vs. Noguiera
Knockout of the night: Nate Marquardt