LAS VEGAS – It was mixed martial arts at its fastest and finest as Dominick Cruz and Urijah Faber put on a masterful display in their bantamweight title fight Saturday in the main event of UFC 132 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
But Cruz's speed, tremendous footwork, his good boxing and his takedown defense were the difference as Cruz took a unanimous decision victory in the grudge match between the heated rivals.
Judges had it 50-45, 49-46 and 48-47 for Cruz. Yahoo! Sports saw it 48-47 for Cruz.
Faber knocked Cruz down a couple of times, but Cruz got up quickly each time. Cruz chopped at Faber's legs with kicks and kept a jab popping in Faber's face.
"I thought I landed the harder punches and won the fight," Faber said.
The two had met for the featherweight title in the World Extreme Cagefighting promotion in 2007, with Faber retaining the belt on a guillotine. On Saturday, the skill level was well higher and the two put on a memorable exhibition to cap a jaw-dropping night of fights.
The co-main event between former PRIDE 205-lb. champion Wanderlei Silva and Chris Leben was expected to be a slugfest that resulted in a brutal knockout.
The brutal knockout came, but it was a one-sided demolition by Leben, who won in just 27 seconds. He threw a wild left during an exchange that rocked Silva and then followed with three consecutive uppercuts.
When Silva fell to the mat, Leben landed five blows before referee Josh Rosenthal rescued him. Silva was so out of it that he tried to pull guard on Rosenthal and put on a triangle choke.
"How do you think it feels?" Leben shouted after the win. The loss may end the career of Silva, one of the greatest and most popular fighters in mixed martial arts history. He's now 2-6 in his last eight and has been brutally knocked out multiple times.
“Wanderlei is my hero. He’s always been my favorite fighter. I only visualized a three-round war. I never envisioned a knockout. It’s unbelievable.” After a long and storied career, Tito Ortiz seemed to be on his last legs. He entered Saturday's fight with Ryan Bader on an 0-4-1 streak and without a win since defeating Ken Shamrock in 2006.
But it seemed like the Ortiz of 2002 who made short work of Bader. Ortiz knocked Bader down with a right hand, did a little ground and pound and then switched to a guillotine choke.
Oritz, a former light heavyweight champion, sank it in perfectly and forced the submission at 1:56 of the first.
"Tap out, baby! Tap out!" Ortiz shouted in exultation after the bout.
After beating Shamrock in Oct. 2006, Ortiz was knocked out by Chuck Liddell, drew with Rashad Evans and then lost decisions to Lyoto Machida, Forrest Griffin and Matt Hamill. Going into the fight, UFC president Dana White said Ortiz would be cut if he lost again.
Ortiz' right hand is what saved his job. It made Bader woozy and led to the submission.
"I just woke up in a guillotine," Bader said. "I got rocked with a big punch and next thing you know, I was in a guillotine. I thought I was doing well with my footwork, but I talked to my coaches and realized I made some mistakes."
Ortiz, who held the light heavyweight title from 2000-03, has been in the news more for a tumultuous personal life, but he secluded himself in training camp and said he eliminated all distractions.
The MGM Grand sports book had Bader as a minus-550 favorite, with Ortiz at plus-400. But Ortiz never wavered in his belief that he would win and he did what he said he would do.
"It's such a great feeling to get this win," Ortiz said. "I'm reinventing myself."
Dennis Siver won his fourth fight in a row immediately after Ortiz's emotional win, as he pulled out a tight fight by edging Matt Wiman. All three judges scored the fight 29-28, giving Siver rounds one and three and giving Wiman the second.
Wiman did his damage in the second round when he got into Siver's guard and blasted away with elbows, opening a big cut over Siver's right eye. Siver, though, came back with some good kicks and strikes to take a close third round.
Carlos Condit turned a fight that was expected to be a back-and-forth taut battle into a one-sided blowout, delivering an impressive knockout of Dong Hyun Kim in the first round of their welterweight bout.
Condit fired a kick that was short, then leaped up and delivered a knee to the face that sent Kim immediately down. Condit, who was ill in training camp and had discussed pulling out of the fight before deciding to see it through, jumped and top and finished him with punches on the ground before referee Steve Mazzagatti stopped it at 2:58 of the first.
"I had an excellent game plan and I trusted in it," Condit said. "Every time I go out there, I just fight to the best of my ability and tonight I couldn't be more pleased with how it worked out."
Condit's teammate, Melvin Guillard, continued his strong recent run and made a statement that he deserves to be in title contention after a first-round knockout of Shane Roller.
Roller was never in the fight, which ended in brutal and sudden fashion at 2:12 of the first.
Guillard, who won his fifth consecutive bout, landed a right-left combination that floored Roller. When Roller got up, Guillard landed a knee and then another flurry of punches that floored Roller. Guillard landed three powerful hammer fists before referee Josh Rosenthal got in to stop the contest.
A high-level wrestler, Roller simply spent the night trying to fend off Guillard, who was far quicker to the punch. That wound up being a major difference.
"I've been saying all week that speed kills," Guillard said. "I came here in the best shape of my life and I was really comfortable in there tonight. I knew that I could break him. I knew that with my speed and my pace, I could make it a rough night for him. I really hope I get Knockout of the Night. I want another top contender next. I'm looking for my meal ticket to a title shot."
Guillard had plenty of competition for Knockout of the Night from Rafael dos Anjos, who scored a major upset by catching George Sotiropoulos with a powerful right hand on the chin and knocking him out at 59 seconds of the first.
The highly regarded Sotiropoulos was trying to rebound from a loss at UFC 127 to Dennis Siver after he had won eight in a row to put himself into title contention.
Dos Anjos got a bit excited after the knockdown and landed a shot while referee Yves Lavigne was pulling him off.
"I wanted to stay standing, but if it went to the ground, I was confident in my jiu jitsu," dos Anjos said. "I wanted to show the fans my striking tonight and I'm happy I got this knockout. I went through a rough patch after my last fight, but I came back and truly believe I'm better than ever. A few years down the road, I can see myself winning the world title. This is a big win for me."
Former World Extreme Cagefighting bantamweight champion injured his right hand in the first round of his bout with Takeya Mizugaki, but managed to hang in there to pull out a unanimous decision victory.
Bowles caught a kick from Mizugaki in the second, took him down and got his back, but he couldn't work the choke. In the third, Bowles also got Mizugaki's back, but again couldn't work for the choke.
He wasn't able to strike much because of the injury, but he controlled the pace and never allowed Mizugaki to mount a consistent offense.
"I think I did well in the striking, but he got my back on several occasions," Mizugaki said. "Actually, my game plan was to strike with him early in the first half of the fight and then look for the takedown. I think we ended up with similar game plans, but he was able to execute a little better."
Aaron Simpson was a winner on the scorecards, but he didn't make himself many fans after grounding out a slow and methodical decision over Brad Tavares. Simpson won 30-27 on all cards, but he did so largely by forcing Tavares against the cage and essentially slowing the fight to a crawl.
The highlight of the bout was a big second-round slam from Tavares, but Simpson rolled out from the body and immediately gained top position.
The veteran Simpson was disappointed afterward. He said he didn't feel with it all night.
"I'm going to be honest: I didn't think I was at my best tonight," Simpson said. "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."
Anthony Njokuani put on an impressive display in striking, hammering Andre Winner with punches, kicks and knees in fashioning a one-sided unanimous decision. Judges had it 30-26 twice and 30-27 for Njokuani. Yahoo! Sports also had Njokuani 30-26, giving him a 10-8 edge in the first round.
Njokuani nearly finished it late in the first, landing a right hand that seemed to hurt Winner, before he backed to the cage. Njokuani pursued and put on a striking clinic, blasting Winner with several hard knees. Referee Yves Lavigne was watching carefully and could have stopped it during the flurry, but Winner managed to hold on.
"I thought he was going to be (knocked) out there in the first round," Njokuani said. "He survived and proved that he's a tough dude."
Winner was never able to negate Njokuani's strikes nor mount any offense of his own. Njokuani kept firing and landed more often than not.
"I have a newborn son (Kai) now and it's really opened up my eyes and made me focus harder," Njokuani. "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."
Jeff Hougland made his UFC debut a successful one, taking his ninth victory in a row by winning a unanimous decision victory over Donny Walker. Judges had it 29-28 twice and 30-27. Yahoo! Sports had it 30-27 for Hougland.
Hougland showed impressive ground skills, three times nearly getting a submission with a choke and getting close to an arm bar. He likely would have choked Walker out in the third round, as he had it in deep, but Walker was saved by the bell.
"My game plan was to just come out and scrap," Hougland said. "The guillotines were close. He was attacking my hands right away, so props to him for that. I think I burned my hands and arms out in the second round trying to finish it. It took until the middle of the third round to get going again. I'm glad I just went in there and got the victory."
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- Dominick Cruz
- Urijah Faber
- Tito Ortiz
- Wanderlei Silva
- Melvin Guillard
- Carlos Condit
- Ryan Bader