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UFC 132 openers: Njokuani shreds Winner on the feet … Hougland, Bowles and Simpson also victors

Steve Cofield
Cagewriter

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LAS VEGAS - In what could've been his final fight with the UFC, Anthony Njokuani came up with a clutch effort.

The Nigerian-born muay thai specialist got back on the winning track by dominating Andre Winner in a 15-minute standup battle. Njokuani lit up Winner in the first round on his way to a unanimous decision win, 30-26, 30-26 and 30-27. The victory ensures Njokuani keeps his job with the UFC.

"I have a newborn son (Kai) now and it's really opened up my eyes and made me focus harder. I go in the gym every day and try to watch tape and improve on what I've done wrong in other fights. I'm trying to do the little things well. I keep my hands up, I move my head more. I think that showed tonight," said Njokuani.

Njokuani (14-5, 1-1 UFC) came in a loser in three-of-four. His last fight was a tight decision loss against Edson Barboza. He had to make sure the judges saw it his way tonight.

Njokuani came out with a blistering pace using leg kicks and counterpunches to really throw Winner off his game. With 1:15 left in the first, the Brit got a little sloppy when he tried to come inside. Njokuani rocked him with a right uppercut and a short left. Winner backed up, but his legs didn't cooperate. His plant leg was jello. Winner retreated to the cage where he absorbed 30-plus knees and punches. Referee Yves Lavigne showed a lot of self-control in allowing the fight to continue and Winner (11-6-1, 2-4 UFC) made it out of the round. Two of three judges scored it a 10-8 round for Njokuani.{ysp:more}

"I thought he was gonna be (knocked) out there in the first round. He survived and proved that he's a tough dude," said Njokuani.

Winner, the runner up on Season 9 of "The Ultimate Fighter," has now lost three straight. He's got some of the quickest hands in the lightweight division, but too often he's a slow starter. Njokuani's length hurt him from the start.

"It took too long for me to get going tonight. I was too tense and didn't use my range. He was a good puncher, but I spar with guys like Paul Daley so I'm use to hard shots," Winner said. "Anthony was just better tonight in all aspects. He's a great technician."

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SimpsonWIN

Simpson roughs up Tavares in battle of dirty boxing

Brad Tavares can definitely hang with a top wrestler, but that wasn't enough to lock up a win against veteran Aaron Simpson.

Tavares stayed off his back, but couldn't consistently create space to make good on a striking advantage. Simpson, 36, worked the fight to the cage for most of the 15 minutes and rolled to a unanimous decision victory, 30-27 on all three cards.

"I'm going to be honest. I didn't think I was at my best tonight. Brad is very talented and he has very flexible hips. Some guys at 185 are easy to hold down and maneuver. He felt heavy and was strong and made it a tough fight," Simpson said. "This win is something to build off of. I have such good training with guys like Seth Baczynski, Robbie Lawler, CB (Dolloway) and (Ryan) Bader. It truly made the difference in there."

According to FightMetric, Simpson was good on just 2-of-15 takedown attempts, but outlanded Tavares 127-41.

Simpson (9-2, 6-2 UFC) opened with a solid first round. The former Arizona State wrestler couldn't get it to the ground, but was able to land the harder shots in side.

In the second, Tavares (7-1, 2-1 UFC) got off to quick start with a left hook that briefly put Simpson on his rear end, but the wrestler was able to clinch and move it to the cage. The fighters traded knees and punches from the clinch over the next two and half minutes. Tavares picked Simpson off the ground and scored a huge slam. Again Simpson refused to freak out, won the scramble and threatened for choke with head control for the next minute. It was more of the same in the final round with Simpson winning the inside exchanges.

"I'm disappointed I lost the fight. I just spoke with my coaches and know I did some things wrong," said the 23-year-old Tavares. "I'm not going to hang my head for long. I actually wish my gym was open tomorrow. I'm ready to get back in there and fix some things."

Less than aggressive Bowles gets by Mizugaki

Brian Bowles began the slow climb back to the top of the 135-pound tonight by taking out the very tough Takeya Mizugaki.

Bowles, the former WEC bantamweight champ, battling back from a myriad of hand injuries, got the unanimous decision, 29-28, 30-27 and 30-27. Bowles is now 2-0 in the UFC. He scored his first victory with the big boy promotion over Damacio Page.

Tonight wasn't easy for Bowles, who used a cautious approach to beat the Japanese veteran to the punch on most occasions in the first. In the second and third, Bowles (10-1, 2-0 UFC) used his grappling to win over the judges.

A native of Georgia, Bowles crushed Mizugaki (14-6-2, 1-1 UFC) with a big right at the 2:02 mark of the second. Mizugaki went down in a heap, Bowles jumped on top and eventually took his back. Mizugaki was in deep trouble. Bowles had a tight body triangle and began working for the choke. Mizugaki must have some super strong hands because hand battled with Bowles the rest of the way and never found himself in serious danger of being choked.

In the final round, Mizugaki fought without a sense of urgency. He allowed Bowles to take his back standing and then jump on top of him. With Mizugaki leaning against the cage, Bowles remained on his back for nearly four minutes.

Update: Bowles told UFC.com that he felt like he broke his right hand in the second. That certainly explains why his punch output was down to just 111 punches thrown.

In fight No. 1, Jeff Hougland and Donny Walker engaged in a back and forth battle. Hougland took a unanimous decision, 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28. It was the UFC debut for both fighters.

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