By Thomas Gerbasi
MEMPHIS, December 12 – Former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir bounced back from his July loss to Brock Lesnar and kept his dreams of a rubber match with the champ alive Saturday night at the FedEx Forum with a spectacular first round submission win over Cheick Kongo.
He didn’t have much to do tonight, but the work he did put in was efficient, effective, and impressive.
After a tentative opening, Mir stunned Kongo, dropping the kickboxer to the canvas hard with a looping overhand left. Kongo tried to scramble to his feet, but Mir sunk in a tight guillotine choke. Refusing to tap out, Kongo instead forced referee Herb Dean to intervene at the 1:12 mark.
Now Mir has his sights back on Lesnar.
“Get healthy so that I can redeem myself,” he said.
With the win, Mir improves to 13-4; Kongo falls to 24-6-1.
Florian vs. Guida
In one of the most highly anticipated UFC 107 bouts, two of the top lightweights in the game battled it out, and when it was over, Kenny Florian bounced back from his title fight loss against BJ Penn in August with an impressive second round submission of Clay Guida.
“I’m trying to get better and I want to get back to the title,” said Florian, now 14-4.
The action was nip and tuck as the first round opened, with both fighters looking for the opening to take control. For Guida (25-8), that opening presented itself soon enough and the action went to the mat. While there, Guida pounced, bloodying Florian in the process, but the New Englander was able to get back to his feet and get back to the business of trying to pick his foe apart from long range with strikes. Guida’s defense was solid, as were his counters, and his style was obviously giving Florian problems. With a minute left, the two wound up back on the canvas, and this time it was Guida emerging bloody from a cut on the side of his head. The two rose moments later, but Florian piled up more points with a takedown before referee Mario Yamasaki halted the bout to have the Octagonside physician check out Guida’s cut just before the end of the frame.
Greenlighted by the doctor, Guida was back to his energetic self in round two. Florian was having more success picking at him from close range though, and two minutes in, a left right down the middle sent Guida to the canvas. Florian immediately moved in for the finish, and when his fists didn’t do the trick, he transitioned and sunk in a rear naked choke that forced Guida to tap out at 2:19 of the second round.
Fitch vs. Pierce
Washington’s Mike Pierce gave welterweight contender Jon Fitch all he could handle in their three rounder before Fitch emerged victorious via a hard fought three round unanimous decision.
Scores were 29-28 across the board for Fitch, who ups his record to 24-3 with 1 NC; Pierce falls to 9-3.
The two wrestlers started banging out to begin round one, but as soon as Pierce got within Fitch’s grappling range, the former world title challenger made his move and took Pierce’s back, eventually getting him to the canvas. After a stalemate on the mat, Pierce broke loose and got Fitch against the cage, and though the two stood, Pierce was keeping Fitch pinned. With a minute left, referee Mario Yamasaki re-started the stalled action, and Fitch bloodied by the previous sequence, landed with some hard strikes before having his takedown attempt turned back at the bell.
Fitch scored first in the takedown department again in round two, but Pierce’s solid wrestling got him back to his feet almost immediately. The two proceeded to pick at each other while standing, with each fighter getting his share of shots in before Fitch got in another quick takedown. Pierce, up immediately, freed himself, and the two ended the round on their feet.
Pierce stalked Fitch aggressively in round three, and while he got some punches in, Fitch’s knees at close range were the more effective blows. Pierce, his nose bloodied, kept pressing as he tried to get a takedown, but Fitch resisted, and as Pierce fatigued, the Indiana native started to land with his punches more frequently, resulting in a subsequent takedown. With a minute left, Pierce went for broke in an effort to end the fight, and though he staggered Fitch, he wasn’t able to finish things before time ran out.
Buentello vs. Struve
In the heavyweight opener, 6 foot 11 prospect Stefan “Skyscraper” Struve spoiled the UFC return of former world title challenger Paul Buentello via an entertaining three round majority decision win.
The scores for Struve, who won his third straight, were 29-28 twice and 28-28, a verdict that was greeted with boos from the FedEx Forum crowd.
Buentello was effective in closing the gap against Struve in the opening sequences of the first round, but Struve responded by taking the fight to the mat and taking ‘The Headhunter’s back. While there, Struve looked for the finish, and when a rear naked choke attempt didn’t work, he opened up with his fists. Buentello gamely stayed in the fight, somehow avoiding every finishing attempt, and though Struve wouldn’t relent in his attack, the Texan made it to the bell.
Eager to get back into the fight, Buentello bounced around in his corner between rounds and came out fast at the bell, scoring to the body and head. This time it was Struve closing the distance though, and he tied Buentello up against the fence. Buentello turned things around at the fence, but Struve then dropped to the mat in an effort to lock in a submission. That attempt failed, and the two rose again, with Buentello attacking the body one more time before moving upstairs. After a brief pause, Struve shot in with a flying knee and Buentello sent him crashing to the mat with a right to the jaw. Struve fell awkwardly and seemed to be on the verge of a KO loss, but he cleared his head, got to his feet, and the two took turns jarring each other with punches as the crowd erupted.
After the frantic exchanges of the second round, both fighters were a little more measured in their third round attacks, especially since the fight was probably riding on the result of the final stanza. Struve jumped into the lead via his leg kicks as he finally tried to used his height and reach advantage against the 6 foot 2 Buentello. The veteran kept pressing forward though, hoping for the right hand to finish things off, and he almost got it with under a minute left when he knocked Struve off balance and down. But Struve made it to his feet and finished the fight, leaving matters in the hands of the judges.
With the win, Struve improves to 23-3; Buentello falls to 25-11.