Tito Ortiz vs. Rashad Evans
After an extended walkout by each fighter, full of their usual traditions, Bruce Buffer also gave an extended welcome to both former champions. Evans entered the Octagon and started imitating Ortiz by doing the Tito Jump, and frankly, looked angry, almost as if it was personal. Ortiz responded with his signature stops to the canvas.
Bad intentions were seen early from both fighters as they both threw punches with few landing in round one. So much time had passed since their first meeting; they both have become much different fighters, so they spent much of round one feeling each other out. Just like their first meeting, Ortiz shot for the takedown and the battle began.
Evans shook the rust off and pushed the fight back to their feet without letting Ortiz land the take down. Evans immediately attacked and started landing punches from his feet and backed Ortiz into the cage. Evans looked like he had Ortizs number, but Ortiz fought it off and landed a few knees of his own. In a surprise move Evans picked Oritz up and slammed him to the canvas in a reverse power bomb of sorts, but could not finish off Ortiz in Round 1.
The ring rust was gone and Ortiz recovered to start Round 2 after the minute break between rounds. They opened up again cautiously for the first minute, but after a failed take down attempt by Evans, Ortiz locked in a choke and squeezed for dear life. The fans thought it was over, and were getting a repeat of the Bader fight from a few weeks ago, but Evans managed to escape and take side control. It was all downhill from here for Ortiz.
Evans threw everything he had but Ortiz would not break. Time ticked away and it looked like Ortiz would escape into the third round and have time to regroup. Finally, Evans landed a crushing knee to Ortizs sternum and the Huntington Beach Bad Boy could not take any more. Dan Miragliotta stepped in with just seconds left in the second round. Evans goes on toward a title shot with his former training partner Jon Jones, and Ortiz gets to go fishing and take the rest of the summer off as he probably fades from title contention.
Here's our full report on this fight.
Yoshihiro Akiyama vs. Vitor Belfort
If the Hallman-Ebersole fight entrance could be described as ridiculous, Akiyama-Belfort could be described as epic. After an extended walk-out by Akiyama with some very slow, almost opera like music from his homeland, the DJ switched the PA system over to Belforts rockrap music and the house erupted, and Lets go Vitor chants could be heard early in the first, and it was clear he was the fan favorite tonight.
Belfort did not disappoint the fans as he ended this one in dramatic fashion. The speed of Belfort was just too overwhelming for Akiyama. He connected with a punch, and immediately swarmed like the Belfort of old. By 1:55 in the former champ had earned his paycheck after barely breaking a sweat, leaving Akiyama in a heap face down on the canvas floor. After the fight Belfort declared Im back, and thanked the fans for supporting him through good times and bad a very classy move when compared to Rory MacDonalds comment earlier in the night.
Brian Ebersole vs. Dennis Hallman
Ridiculous. That is the only way to describe this fight. Ebersole came out with an arrow shaved into his chest. Normally this would be the weirdest thing to happen during the walkout, but Hallman came out in what can only be described as blue tighty-whities, possibly setting the record for shortest MMA shorts in history.
It took over 60-plus fights before Ebersole was able to crack the UFC lineup but he is now 2-0 inside the Octagon. After the crowd settled down, the fight got underway. The action in Round 1 led Ebersole into Hallmans guard and Hallman was threatening submissions with some jiu-jitsu off his back in the first.
However, it was thwarted by the triple crown of ground and pound utilized by Ebersole. The Australian was able to land elbows, punches, and hammer-fists to stop Hallman with close to thirty seconds left in round one. Great use of hammer-fists is rarely seen in MMA but Ebersole did a great job here of getting lots of mileage out of the street fighting style technique.
Constantinos Philippou vs. Jorge Rivera
Right off the bat, the fighters had one of the slowest pre fight touch of gloves ever seen. It seemed like they both were trying to send the message to the crowd, weve done this before, so there is no need to rush.
The fight picked up in the second when Philippou took Rivera down and started to pound away, which had the fans worried. Out of nowhere Rivera escaped and pushed Philippou up against the cage and started to land some punches of his own. Rivera landed a nice foot sweep against the cage wall, but Phillippou showed some impressive Jiu-Jitsu threatening an omoplata to counter the takedown. Time ticked away, and Round 2 ended with neither man still able to walk away with the victory.
Referee, Mario Yamazaki had to pull them apart at the beginning of Round 3 as they touched gloves, showing great respect for each other. After a big missed kick Rivera slipped on the canvas to open the round, but was immediately back up on his fee. Rivera tried to secure a triangle choke a minute into the third round, but to no avail. Rivera seemed to squeeze the third round out by the slightest of margins, but it came down as a split decision in favor of Philippou. Either man could have won, so leaving it in the hands of the judges is never what a fighter wants.
Mike Pyle vs. Rory MacDonald
Pyle immediately won over the crowd, by walking into the Rocky theme song, but as quickly he won them over he would soon lose them. Youth easily won this battle, with MacDonald in control the entire fight. MacDonald secured the victory late in the first round, but the fight never really got started as Pyle was pounded out in the first.
Pyle was visibly upset after the fight, and one must wonder whether it was due to the loss, or due to the realization his career may be over after getting completely dominated by a man over a decade his junior.
With so much success at such a young age MacDonald is shooting up the welterweight rankings, and this impressive victory over the former WEC champion made a big statement tonight. MacDonald poured some salt in Pyles wounds after the fight telling Joe Rogan he didnt have enough time to showcase all his talents. Not sure whether to take this as confidence or cockiness, so well see in his next bout if can back it up, as he is on a collision course with some of the big names in this division, and at 22 years old may be one win away from a title shot. If nothing else this was a great contrast of careers as one was just getting started and the other seems to be slipping away.
Alexander Gustafsson vs. Matt Hamill
Hamill came out early and landed a punch in the opening round that cut the Swede open, after a bit of back and forth on their feet the round came to an end. Hamill started the second holding his hands low, closer to a wrestling stance, and not looking like he wanted to strike, but surprisingly not looking to shoot either.
Gustafsson was not looking to shoot either, but instead he was thinking knockout all the way. After landing a punch that buckled Hamill, Gustafsson followed him to the ground, mounted him, and reigned down elbows until the referee had no choice but to step in and call the fight. With his only loss to Phil Davis Gustafsson, he raised some eyebrows in this one beating a tough customer in Matt Hamill. While a veteran of now five UFCs most of those were outside of the US, so he is still relatively unknown as this was his first fight on US soil.
Such a decisive victory makes him one of the up and coming in the light-heavy weight division to keep an eye on in the future.
This was by far the biggest fight of my career, Gustafsson said. It was unbelievable. I think that I was too defensive in the first round, but the second round I felt great. I want a career out of this, I want to fight the best guys in the world.
With his second consecutive loss, Hamill may need to go back to the drawing board.
I was eager going into the Octagon, but I was also fatigued, he said. I had little time to prepare for the fight, and you could see my fatigue as my arms were down from the start of the fight. Alexander is a dangerous striker, and it was dangerous for me to have my arms down. Ill be back tougher than ever though.
Rani Yahya vs. Chad Mendes
Mendes looked much bigger than Yahya, and showed superior wrestling throughout the fight. Mendes won every round easily. The most Yahya could muster was a weak rubber guard in the third while Mendes was content to grind him down, as the fight was already won at that point. With short time in the third they ended up back on their feet and Yahya landed a punch late in the round but Mendes was not damaged. Mendes tried a circus-style front flip as time ticked off the clock, which was sadly the most exciting thing that happened during the fight.
Mendes clearly scored more points than Yahya to earn the unanimous decision. After the fight Mendes told Joe Rogan he hurt his hand early in the fight but it was not obvious during the bout. Perhaps this explains why he was unable come close to finishing the fight, but it did not satisfy the fans who at this point in the night are still looking for an early stoppage.
Nick Pace vs. Ivan Menjivar
Menjivar did not make weight for this bout at 135 yesterday, but the fighters agreed to a catch-weight fight. After a low blow half way through the first round at the Wells Fargo Center, Pace found his way to Menjivars back and took a standing back mount. Menjivar was able to escape and the round ended soon after. Round 2 opened up with Menjivar pushing the pace. After missing a rarely seen ax kick, Menjivar was taken down and was pushed up against the cage by Pace.
Menjivar stormed out in the third and showed he was clearly the better boxer, with better movement on his feet and landing more punches. Looking for some kicks halfway through the round, Menjivar landed a low kick to the groin of Pace, and the action was paused. When it picked up Pace caught Menjivar with a knee in the clench from which Menjivar immediately retreated, and grabbed his eye as it started to swell shut. Pace attacked with punches and grazed Menjivar at the end of the round with another knee bringing the crowd to life, but it was not enough as the unanimous decision went to Menjivar.
Mike Pierce vs. Johny Hendricks
Both fighters came out in Round 1 swinging for the fences and looking for the early knock out. Second round was more of the same but this time both fighters exchanged leg kicks before Hendricks secured a takedown. Pierce finally secured a takedown in the third round with just over two minutes left, after another back and forth round. After a quick pause for an illegal kick by Hendricks, they were back at it again. Split decision this time, with two of three judges having Hendricks, but this one was really a tossup.
Mike Brown vs. Nam Phan
Brown showed early in the first round why he was the former WEC champion, with a quick take down and some ground and pound. Phan had few answers for Brown in the first five minutes suffering some vicious elbows, but escaped into the second round. More of the same followed with Brown looking for the over hand right repeatedly and forcing Phan into the cage much of Round 2.
Phan did start landing some shots late in the round as Brown tired from his frantic pace. Round 3 opened up with lots of action back and forth, and Phan missed a big head kick. Brown again secured position and pushed him into the cage eating up more clock and showing the judges he had command of the cage. Brown cruised the whole way picking up the unanimous victory.
Paul Bradley vs. Rafael Natal
Bradley was bloodied early, but recovered well, landing a few strikes after a flurry in the 2nd round which resulted in a takedown. Bradley was training out of Lionheart along with Phil Davis a few years ago in State College, PA and did have a stint on TUF before leaving with a medical condition, so he was the overwhelming crowd favorite. Natal drilled him with a shot right down the middle in the third round but Bradley fought it off. After bloodying Bradley early, it looked like the judges felt like that was enough to give Natal the Unanimous decision victory.
I feel like it was my fault, I could have taken him down in the second round. I didnt, so its my fault. It was a close fight, and I am disappointed by the result," Bradley said. "Like Dana always says, never leave it to the judges.
E-mail Mark Ruzomberka at firstname.lastname@example.org