A landmark moment in Octagon history! UFC 28: High Stakes was the first event held under the “Unified Rules of MMA” and first show in New Jersey. Filled with future stars and headlined by UFC heavyweight championship Kevin Randleman vs. Randy Couture.
In the co-main event struggle, former UFC heavyweight champ Maurice Smith angling to get back to the title took on Brazilian jiu-jitsu blackbelt, Marco Ruas disciple, and 16-2 pro record owning Renato “Babalu” Sobral in his Octagon debut.
Two UFC debuting heavyweights were set to collide as the 8-3 Aaron Brink with all of his wins coming via KO/TKO entered the Octagon to scrap with the 3-1 Sambo specialist from Belarus - Andrei “The Pitbull” Arlovski.
Undefeated in the UFC, Jens “Lil’ Evil” Pulver was quickly making a name for himself and was ready to take on a highly credentialed challenger in “Judo” Gene LaBell blackbelt, Andre Pederneiras blackbelt, and BJJ coach to many Octagon greats - John Lewis.
Identical twin to UFC Hall of Famer Matt Hughes, Mark Hughes not only looked like his brother, but he was a former D1 wrestler, BJJ blackbelt, and MFS teammate as well. In his only Octagon appearance, Mark squared off with the undefeated Alex Stiebling.
It was an Octagon rookie rumble in this lightweight prelim bout as Miletich Fighting Systems’ Ben Earwood with his submission heavy 10-2 pro record entered the cage to take on future UFC star Chris “Lights Out” Lytle, a fairly raw commodity at the time.