At this rate, the biggest challenge that UFC Lightweight Champion BJ Penn might have in 2010 is whether to jump up in weight class.
Gray Maynard took home a lackluster split decision win over Nate Diaz Monday night to headline the 20th edition of UFC's Fight Night series in Richmond, VA - an event that featured three TUF champions.
The judges were a bit, uhh, scattered in their scoring of the main event with one scoring it 29-28 Diaz, one 29-28 for Maynard and one 30-27 for Maynard. The latter must have missed the first round when Diaz peppered Maynard with punches and used his long reach to keep Maynard at bay. How that judge saw Maynard winning that, I have no idea.
In other action, Evan Dunham pulled out an impressive armbar submission win and Aaron Simpson survived a war with Tom Lawlor amidst three televised decision fights. For the full wrap on UFC's first Spike event of the year, read on!
Gray Maynard def. Nate Diaz by split decision
Going into this fight, it was expected that with a win, Maynard would earn a shot at Penn later this year but after this performance, it would be hard thinking UFC President Dana White would give him the fight over exciting Frankie Edgar.
Diaz was trash talking early, a theme that would continue throughout the fight with Maynard even getting involved to the chagrin of coach Randy Couture. Diaz' reach held Maynard off, preventing him from getting in any clean shots. As the fight evolved, Maynard started to figure the TUF 5 winner out and began to tag him with some good punches. Diaz began to land less and played to the crowd more, losing the 2nd round.
Then, the 3rd round happened and neither guy really did anything to win it as they couldn't get anything going. Maynard - also a TUF 5 competitor - had better head movement but wasn't active enough to take control of the round. Diaz didn't hit a lot, but hit often enough to win the round by my eyes but like other fights, this could have been a 10-10 round. Maynard was pretty bloodied up at the end, but he took home the win but likely not a title shot.
This fight never did go to the ground for any extended period of time, kinda surprising considering Diaz is a jiu-jitsu ace and Maynard's a great wrestler. You wonder how this might have turned out if either guy had tried some takedowns and submissions instead of engaging in a stand-up exchange. Fans were booing and it was a bland end to a somewhat bland night.
Evan Dunham def. Efrain Escudero by 3rd round submission (1:59)
Dunham kept his undefeated streak alive with an impressive 3rd round submission win over the former TUF winner. The fight was even going into the 3rd with Escudero opening the round with a guillotine. Dunham worked for the takedown and then transitioned to a body triangle to a triangle to an armbar, torquing Escudero's right arm in cringe-inducing manner.
Escudero held on for longer than he should and eventually tapped, likely either breaking or severely injuring his arm. Ugh. Escudero looked great in the first round and had Dunham rocked, but couldn't finish. Dunham took control in the 2nd with good head movement, effective takedowns and ground and pound. Dunham moves onto to better things, while Double-E is likely going to be recovering for quite a while.
Spike was running low on time and didn't have time for a post-fight interview with Dunham which is too bad. With two decision fights to open the show, this would have been a good way to introduce Dunham to the bigger Spike audience.
Aaron Simpson def. Tom Lawlor by split decision
I think Lawlor will look back on this 1st round and wonder why he didn't finish Simpson off. Lawlor dominated the first five minutes by battering Simpson with hard punches that had him nearly out on his feet. It was a clinic in striking as Lawlor was patient in landing shot after shot, but slowed at the end of the round and let Simpson recover. Not a good idea.
Beginning in the 2nd, Simpson began to take over with takedowns and started winning the exchanges of punches. Lawlor started to wear down and got really tired in the 3rd when Simpson dominated with his wrestling. This was as even a fight as you're going to get and the judges scored accordingly. Two judges had it 29-28 for Simpson while another had it 29-28 Lawlor.
It could be argued that the first round Lawlor won 10-8 as he was that dominant, while the 2nd round could have been a 10-10. There will be arguments either way, but if you've ever thought about being a judge, trying scoring this one live. To give you an idea, I had it 29-29 with the 2nd being a 10-10 round. Judging on the fly is tougher than most of us give it credit for.
Two side notes: I found it interesting that Joe Rogan actually spoke out when the fans were booing Simpson as I don't remember him ever being that forthcoming. He seemed legitimately pissed and he was right as Simpson had just gone through a war. But is the color commentator's job to play cheerleader when he's doing a post-fight interview?
The other side note: did Lawlor come into Hulk Hogan's old "Real American" music? If so, kudos to that guy.
Amir Sadollah def. Brad Blackburn by unanimous decision
In the televised opener, the TUF 7 winner pounded out a pretty one-sided victory over Blackburn, doing major damage at the end of the 1st and early in the 3rd round. Sadollah mixed up his game by using muay thai knees, sharp elbows and a variety of kicks in battering Blackburn, who never really did get started.
Sadollah dominated the 3rd by opening up the round with a hard knee to Blackburn's face and an immediate takedown with plenty of ground and pound. For his second fight in three months, Sadollah looked just fine and continues up the welterweight ladder. The loss snaps a six-fight unbeaten streak for Blackburn, but this was his first fight in six months following shoulder surgery, so he can be forgiven.
All three judges had it 30-27, as did I. Not an action-packed fight but more gritty than anything.
- Did you know that Blue Mountain State was coming up after the show? The plugs during the main event got obnoxious after the 3rd or 4th.
- Man, there were a lot of ads in the first 15 minutes. The lead in for the first fight didn't start until 9:15 pm EST.
- No undercard fights. I was really interested in seeing Chris Leben. That's crazy he didn't make the televised show to start with. Guess he's still paying a penance for the steroid thing, eh?
Josh Nason has published MMA, wrestling and boxing blog Ropes, Ring and Cage.com since 2007. He is a contributor to Fight Magazine and appears regularly on Fight Network Radio. Follow him on Twitter.