NEWARK, N.J. – On a night in which the main matches didn't exactly live up to the hype, it was up to the lightweights on the undercard to supply the action.
Both Frank Edgar and Joe Lauzon made their statements in the crowded 155-lb. horse race. New Jersey native Edgar lit up his home-state crowd at the Prudential Center with a 15-minute clinic against tough Spencer Fisher, while Lauzon tore through previously unbeaten Jason Reinhardt in a non-televised preliminary match.
Many anticipated a back-and-forth war between the unbeaten Edgar and Fisher, a Miletich Fighting Systems veteran with a well-earned reputation as one of the most exciting fighters in mixed martial arts. But Edgar dominated the match from start to finish and won a unanimous decision by scores of 30-27, 30-27, and 30-26.
"I stuck to my game plan and I won the fight," said Edgar (8-0). "Having all my people there root me on, I've never experienced a rush like that before." Edgar seemed to have Fisher (20-4) on the run the duration of the fight. The former collegiate wrestler at Clarion took Fisher down at will. On the rare occasions Fisher managed to stuff a takedown on the first attempt, a trip usually followed.
Edgar never really came close to finishing Fisher off on the ground, though he did nearly sink in a choke in the second round. He also got the best of the limited time spent in a standup position.
"You have to go into a fight like that and not be intimidated," said Edgar. "Just because he's Miletich doesn't mean I'm going to treat the fight any differently."
The win caps a whirlwind first year in the UFC for Edgar. He made his debut at UFC 67 in February, where he handed highly regarded Tyson Griffin his only career loss in a match sure to finish high on any list of matches of the year. In July, he scored a one-sided win over Mark Bocek at UFC 73. Now he caps his year with a win in front of more than 14,000 adoring fans.
"It's kind of overwhelming," said Edgar. "I'll tell you what, if you told me a year ago I'd get into UFC and beat Tyson Griffin and Spencer Fisher, I don't know if I would believe you."
Lauzon, meanwhile, made his first appearance in the octagon since relocating to Hawaii two months ago to train full-time with B.J. Penn, his coach on The Ultimate Fighter season five.
"Working with B.J. has made me like a whole new fighter," said Lauzon (16-3). "Think about it, you get to work every day with one of the best fighters in the world. I feel like I'm a more complete fighter than I've ever been.
In Reinhardt, Lauzon was facing an opponent with an 18-0 record. But Reinhardt, who was making his UFC debut, quickly learned that success on small shows around the Midwest is not the same as fighting in the big leagues.
Lauzon took it to Reinhardt from the outset, sending him backpedaling with a series of strikes. The fight hit the ground, where Lauzon continued his relentless assault, and within seconds got Reinhardt's back and sunk in the choke for the win after just one minute, 14 seconds.
"They say you have the UFC jitters in your first match," said Lauzon, who upset former UFC lightweight champ Jens Pulver in his debut at UFC 63. "I didn't have them, but he looked like he might have been a little nervous out there. I just know I wanted to go out there and finish the fight, and the opportunity just happened to come sooner than I was expecting."
Best submission (as well as best attire and best entrance): Veteran Akihoro Gono showed up for his fight with Tamdan McCrory wearing a white suit, wig, and sunglasses, then stopped halfway to the octagon to do a dance routine.
It would have been just a sideshow if Gono (28-12-7) couldn't back up the bluster. But the Japanese veteran, who made his MMA debut in 1994, rallied to win his UFC debut.
After losing the first round, Gono took control of the fight in the second by landing a big left hand, followed by a low kick which dropped McCrory and helped set up an expertly applied armbar on the ground. It was the first pro defeat for McCrory (10-1), who was nine years old when Gono made his debut.
Ready for bigger things: Is Thiago "Pit Bull" Alves a legitimate contender in the welterweight division? His match with veteran gatekeeper Chris Lytle was supposed to be a test, but a doctor's decision kept fans from getting a definitive answer.
The Brazilian Alves, who fights with the American Top Team, won on a stoppage after the second round, as doctor Erik Wurmser called a halt to the fight due to a pair of cuts around Alves' right eye, one of which sliced his eyelid.
Before the match was stopped, the two treated the crowd to a match the UFC awarded fight of the night. Alves cut Lytle with his first big shot, a looping right hand. Both went all-out in a close first round and Alves got the better of Lytle in the second, mixing Muay Thai strikes with his straight boxing.
"That's not how I want to win," said Alves. "We were ready to go three rounds. Lytle fought such a good fight, I will fight him again anytime."
The 24-year old Alves has won six of his past seven fights, with the only loss in that span coming to Jon Fitch.
"The Heat" is lukewarm: While Karo "The Heat" Parisyan will be the first to admit he did not fight the best match of his career in his unanimous decision win over Ryo Chonan, he nonetheless remains a winner of eight of his past nine matches, with the only defeat a razor-thin split decision to Diego Sanchez in the 2006 Wrestling Observer match of the year.
Although the crowd didn't take to the win, Parisyan had little trouble in defeating the debuting Chonan, who is the latest PRIDE veteran to fall flat in the octagon.
"I didn't train as much as I should have for the fight," said Parisyan. "I trained three weeks for this fight at Extreme Couture, where I trained six weeks for the (Josh) Burkman fight (a decision win at UFC 74). I didn't have the best hands, but I took him down and controlled him at will."
Back in the win column: The American Top Team's Marcus Aurelio (15-5) snapped a three-match losing streak with his first-round stoppage of Luke Caudillo. Aurelio had been on the wrong end of three consecutive decisions, including a split decision against Clay Guida in his UFC debut in August, before he finished Caudillo with a series of hammer fists on the ground.
Running the show: At the insistence of the New Jersey state athletic commission, local officials and judges were used for the card, which meant veteran referees Big John McCarthy, Herb Dean and Steve Mazzagatti were nowhere to be found.
Quoteworthy: "I'm a regular guy, I train hard and I work hard. I make no excuses and I feel sorry for whoever's going to be next. I'm going to get off the plane, and the next day I'm going to go to the gym." – Houston Alexander, after his loss to Thiago Silva.
- Also: Complete UFC 78 blog
- Joe Lauzon
- Frank Edgar
- Spencer Fisher