By Thomas Gerbasi
SYDNEY, February 21 – With losses in three of his last four fights, PRIDE legend Wanderlei Silva felt the pressure heading into his UFC 110 co-main event against Michael Bisping Sunday afternoon, but with flashes of his ferocious brilliance late in rounds two and three, he was able to eke out a close, but unanimous, decision over ‘The Count’ at Acer Arena. Silva post-fight interview
Scores were 29-28 across the board for Silva, who improves to 33-10-1 with 1 NC in his middleweight debut; Bisping falls to 19-3. Silva and Bisping at post-fight press conference
“In life everybody has bad moments,” said Silva, “but if you believe in God and work hard, good things will come back.” UFC 110 replay
“It was an absolute pleasure stepping in there with someone like Wanderlei Silva, and I do have absolute respect for the guy,” said a gracious Bisping. “I believe the reason he got the decision was because of the knockdown at the end, and I’m bummed out about it, but congratulations to Wanderlei.”
Bisping walked right at Silva to start the bout, and after some tentative standup, he surprised ‘The Axe Murderer’ at the one minute mark with a takedown. Silva got right back to his feet and began his own stalking of ‘The Count’. Bisping again scored with a takedown midway through the round, but was unable to keep his foe on the mat. As the round progressed, Silva started to let his hands go more, but he was unable to land his haymakers with any consistency. With a minute left, Bisping scored with a solid right hand that bloodied Silva’s mouth, and despite a late charge from the Brazilian, the Brit’s disciplined attack earned him the round.
After a lull to open the second round, Silva caught a Bisping kick a minute in and then tripped him to the mat, setting up some ground strikes. Bisping weathered the assault, got back to his feet, and continued to stand in the pocket with Silva, eventually getting a takedown with under two minutes left. Once standing, Silva was still throwing sporadic bombs, but he wasn’t landing enough to put Bisping down or to hurt him. Strangely enough though, the end almost came in the final seconds when Silva responded to a Bisping takedown attempt with a tight guillotine choke that was interrupted only by the bell.
Silva opened up the final round with leg kicks, adding in the occasional punch upstairs. Bisping was standing in front of Silva, but not being active enough. After a brief pause in the action for Silva to recover from an inadvertent low kick, the two fighters picked up the pace in an effort to finish the bout strong. With the crowd chanting his name, Silva moved forward, looking to land a big right hand. Bisping responded with a failed takedown attempt and a hard kick, but an accidental poke in the eye by Bisping stopped the action again. When it resumed, Silva went in hot pursuit of Bisping, who countered effectively as Silva looked for the finisher. Another leg trip takedown scored points for the Brazilian, but he was unable to keep Bisping on the mat. Just as the bout was ready to conclude though, Silva finally hit paydirt with a huge right hand that dropping Bisping. A final left did even more damage, but then the bell intervened, sending the bout to the judges.
Stevenson vs. Sotiropoulos
If George Sotiropoulos was awed by the idea of being the leading man for Australia on the first UFC event Down Under, he didn’t show it once the bell rang, as he scored the most impressive victory of his career, a shutout three round decision win over longtime lightweight contender Joe Stevenson. Post-fight interview
“That was a very close fight,” said Sotiropoulos. “I know I won the striking and the ground, but I was very aware of his submissions.” Post-fight press conference
Scores were 30-27 across the board for Sotiropoulos, who is now unbeaten in five UFC bouts.
With the deafening roar of the crowd ringing in his ears, Sotiropoulos pushed the action at the bell, drawing cheers every time he scored on the former world title challenger. By the second minute of the round, the two were on the mat, with Sotiropoulos consistently looking to improve his position as Stevenson tried to wrap him up and force a re-start. With a minute left, Sotiropoulos was able to get in the mount position, but Stevenson fought free, only to get caught as the local hero looked for a kimura just before the bell sounded.
After his dominant first round, Sotiropoulos made every effort to keep the momentum going in the second. Stevenson picked up his pace in order to get back on the board, but Sotiropoulos’ striking was as sharp as his ground game as he momentarily rocked the California native. With 2:45 left, Stevenson got back in the fight with a takedown, but Sotiropoulos worked well from the bottom as he looked for his opponent’s arm. Eventually, the Australian reversed position and got back to his feet, with only Stevenson’s persistence putting him on his back again. In the closing moments, Stevenson tried to get an ankle locked up, but it was Sotiropoulos who again had the last word via a guillotine attempt.
Sotiropoulos stayed sharp in the final round, landing with stiff punches on Stevenson from long range and showing tight defense when the two locked up. With a little under two minutes left, Stevenson was able to get the fight back to the mat, and ‘Joe Daddy’ was gearing up for a final charge as he bulled his foe into the fence. And though Sotiropoulos got up briefly, Stevenson took him back down. It was to no avail, as the crowd counted down the final seconds and immediately began celebrating their man’s victory.
With the win, Sotiropoulos improves to 12-2; Stevenson falls to 36-11.
Jardine vs. Bader
For 12 minutes, unbeaten Ryan Bader had a tough time figuring out the riddle of perennial light heavyweight contender Keith Jardine, but in the final ten seconds, the former Arizona State standout found the opening he needed and he made the most of it, stopping ‘The Dean of Mean’ in the third round. Post-fight interview
“You can’t really train for him,” said Bader. “I just tried to implement my game plan and stay in my comfort zone.”
After a slow opening minute, things started to heat up a bit as the two engaged in a few heated exchanges, with Bader (12-0) landing the cleaner and harder blows. With under three minutes left, Bader scored the first takedown of the bout and looked to used his ground and pound attack on ‘The Dean of Mean’, who was bloodied on the top of his head. Jardine (14-8-1) tried to tie Bader up in order to force a re-start, and he was ultimately successful, but unable to mount any consistent offense before the end of the frame.
The pace dipped considerably in the first half of round two, with Bader doing the only scoring with strikes as he pinned Jardine against the fence. In the second half, Jardine tried to goad Bader into a firefight, but the Ultimate Fighter season eight winner wasn’t biting. And though Jardine was trying to initiate the action, he was largely ineffective and off-target with his strikes, leading Bader to finish the round with a successful takedown attempt.
There was little change in the weather in round three, but suddenly Bader was able to jar his foe with a shot to the head. Bader saw that Jardine was hurt and he pounced with a right flying knee and then a flush left hand. The left dropped Jardine hard and referee Josh Rosenthal halted the bout at the 2:10 mark.
Cro Cop vs. Perosh
Sydney’s own Anthony Perosh showed the heart of a lion when he agreed to fight on the UFC 110 card on just days notice, but veteran heavyweight contender Mirko Cro Cop was too much for him, stopping him in two rounds. Post-fight interview
“I appreciate his courage and his guts,” said Cro Cop of Perosh, who replaced Ben Rothwell, who contracted a stomach virus while in Sydney. Post-fight press conference
Cro Cop started out the bout more aggressively than in recent UFC fights, and even though he wasn’t landing any significant blows, he forced Perosh to look for the takedown. Cro Cop turned back the attempt and resumed his attack, jarring his foe with his renowned straight left hand. Perosh continued to seek the takedown, but Cro Cop’s takedown defense was sharp, and he made Perosh pay for each attempt with his fists. With under two minutes left, the effects of the bout were showing on Perosh’s bruised and bloodied face, and the end seemed to be just a matter of time.
The one-sided action continued in the second, with Perosh eventually getting cut on the forehead by a Cro Cop elbow on the ground. After the doctor took a look at the cut, the bout was allowed to resume, with little change to the momentum. But after the round ended, it was clear that there wouldn’t be a third, as referee Herb Dean halted the bout.
With the win, Cro Cop improves to 26-7-2 with 1 NC; Perosh falls to 10-6.