From the opening bell, the first round was all in Villante’s favor. He immediately put Maldonado on the mat with a body-lock takedown and punished him with numerous knees to the ribs. Maldonado regained his footing, but Villante immediately took him back to the canvas, finishing out the round with a plodding ground and pound attack.
Maldonado got his jab going early in the second stanza, but Villante stymied his attacks by taking him to the mat. Maldonado ate a couple knees as he returned to his feet and began bleeding profusely from his forehead.
That only seemed to awaken his resolve, however, as Maldonado backed Villante up with a flurry of punches, and then increased the volume as the round wore on. As a bloody Maldonado gained steam, Villante began to tire, eating an uppercut that snapped his head back near the end of the round, setting up a winner-takes-all third frame.
Maldonado picked up the final round where he left off in round two, continuing to whittle away with punches, as Villante’s gas tank emptied before his eyes. As Villante struggled to remain on his feet, Maldonado walked him down, throwing punches all the while, using Villante’s head and body as a punching bag. Villante clearly had nothing left, but somehow lasted to the final horn.
The victory puts Maldonado on a three-fight winning streak, all-but erasing memories of a three-fight losing skid.
Maldonado knows, however, that he was in trouble early in the fight and can’t sit back and rest on this victory.
“He had me very tired in the first round; he had me in deep waters,” said Maldonado. “I gotta get back in the gym right now and come back stronger and leaner.”
(Follow @KenPishna on Twitter)
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