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Grant Gets it Done for Canada, Outpoints Chonan in UFC 97 Prelim

Thomas Gerbasi, UFC - Debuting Nova Scotia product TJ Grant made a statement in his first trip to the Octagon, winning a three round split decision over Ryo Chonan in an entertaining welterweight contest on the preliminary portion of the UFC 97 card at the Bell Centre Saturday night.

By Thomas Gerbasi

MONTREAL, April 18 – Debuting Nova Scotia product TJ Grant made a statement in his first trip to the Octagon, winning a three round split decision over Ryo Chonan in an entertaining welterweight contest on the preliminary portion of the UFC 97 card at the Bell Centre Saturday night.

Scores were 30-27, 29-28, and 28-29 for Grant, who ups his record to 14-2; Chonan drops to 15-10.

The two welterweights engaged immediately, with Grant jarring the Japanese veteran at close range. Chonan responded by locking his foe up and throwing him to the mat. Grant, a submission ace, fought well from the bottom, looking for subs while Chonan attacked with ground strikes. With 1:10 left, the two rose to their feet,, and after a few seconds, it was Grant shooting for – and getting – a takedown. Grant let Chonan up and tagged him with a series of flush power shots before the bell sounded.

Grant again went on the attack in the second, and with 90 seconds gone, he went for the finish, landing with ground strikes before taking Chonan’s back. Chonan, not one to go easily, battled his way into Grant’s guard and began his own ground assault. Grant kept battling back, and the two traded positions in an effort to gain the upper hand before the bell ended the second stanza.

After a slow first minute to start the third, Grant got a takedown, but his position was reversed by the crafty Chonan. Grant returned the favor briefly, only to be sent to his back as Chonan refused to relinquish the upper hand. Grant continued to work from the bottom with peppering strikes, reminding his opponent that he was still in the fight. With less than 45 seconds left, Grant reversed position and then took Chonan’s back and fired away. As the two stood, Grant continued to punch, putting an exclamation mark on his debut UFC victory.

In middleweight action, Denis Kang scored his first UFC victory, outpointing newcomer Xavier Foupa-Pokam over three rounds.

Scores were 30-27 across the board for Kang

“Professor X” showed off his striking as the bout opened, just missing with some highlight reel kicks, but a minute in, Kang made the smart choice and took Foupa-Pokam to the mat, where he would hold the edge due to his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt. Kang almost locked in an arm triangle, but Foupa-Pokam broke free and stood up. He went on to land some hard strikes on Kang, but the veteran took them well and went on to put the Parisian on his back in the final minute, just missing a late armbar attempt.

Kang continued to do a good job nullifying Foupa-Pokam’s striking in the second round, either with some well-timed punches to the face or with a takedown. The latter became Kang’s most effective weapon of choice, and he alternated strikes to the head with the occasional submission attempt to keep Foupa-Pokam guessing. With 45 seconds left, the two stood, and Foupa-Pokam attacked, looking to make up for lost time. By the end of the round though, his hands were on his knees, and he looked exhausted.

The pace was slow to start the final round, with Kang waiting for Foupa-Pokam to make a final run before running out of gas, and with 90 seconds gone, Kang made his move, easily taking Foupa-Pokam to the mat. While in side control, Kang worked for a kimura, and surprisingly, Foupa-Pokam broke loose in a break in the action and got up briefly before Kang took him down again. Foupa-Pokam would get up in the final seconds, but there would be no last minute surge from the Octagon newcomer. This night belonged to Kang.

With the win, Kang improves to 32-11-1 with two no contests. Foupa-Pokam falls to 20-10.

Middleweight Nate Quarry made it two for two in the Bell Centre as he stopped Jason MacDonald in the first round with a series of ground strikes.

Unlike the bizarre decision win in his last fight in Canada against Kalib Starnes at UFC 83 in 2008, Quarry (17-3) didn’t have to look hard to find MacDonald (22-12), who immediately engaged and locked Quarry up after an initial right hand by the Oregon product. MacDonald immediately looked for a takedown, but Quarry fought it off and ended up in the top position as the two tumbled to the mat. Quarry immediately opened up a cut on MacDonald’s forehead with his ground strikes, and after an unanswered series of blows, referee Mario Yamasaki halted the bout at the 2:27 mark of the opening round.

It was a disappointing return for UFC middleweight title challenger and Montreal native David Loiseau, who was soundly beaten over three rounds by Ed Herman, who went home with a comfortable three round unanimous decision victory.

Scores were 30-26 and 30-27 twice for Herman.

Loiseau, who was fighting in the UFC for the first time since a September 2006 loss to Mike Swick - reintroduced himself to UFC fans with a quick spinning back kick to the stomach that momentarily jarred Herman as the bout opened. “Short Fuse” recovered quickly and took Loiseau to the mat, where he pounded away with strikes on his foe, silencing the crowd. With Herman taking Loiseau’s back and continuing his striking assault, the crowd tried to motivate their man back into action, but Herman refused to give up position, eventually adding knees to his repertoire as he piled up the points in what could have easily been scored a 10-8 round.

Looking to turn things around, Loiseau again tried a flashy kick to open the second, but Herman easily moved out of range and took “The Crow” back to the mat. After more ground and pound by Herman, Loiseau gave up his back again, simply unable to mount any sort of offense. By the 3:30 mark, the area above Loiseau’s right eye showed a huge knot, and though the Canadian eventually made it to his feet, he was simply being outclassed by Herman.

Loiseau showed signs of life again early in the third as he chased after Herman, but as soon as he would get close, Herman would lock Loiseau up and keep him from furthering any advantages. 90 seconds in, Herman got the takedown, but this time, Loiseau rose fairly quickly, only to get rebuffed on a sloppy takedown attempt of his own and put on his back. As the bout entered it’s final 1:30, Herman got the mount position, but Loiseau escaped and stood for one final run. With longtime friend Georges St-Pierre cheering him on from Octagonside, Loiseau moved in with a kick. Unfortunately for him, it missed his mark and with it went his final shot at victory.

With the win, Herman improves to 17-6; Loiseau falls to 18-9.

Woodbridge, Ontario’s Mark Bocek scored an impressive first round win over David Bielkheden in a clash of lightweight grapplers, using a single-minded attack to secure the fight-ending submission.

Bocek (7-2) drew first blood in this battle of grapplers with a hard-fought takedown. Soon, he moved into side control, but Bielkheden (13-7) fought his way back out of trouble. Bocek next settled into Bielkheden’s guard and began landing with ground strikes to soften the Sweden native up for another move into side control. With less than a minute left, Bocek made it into the mount position and again opened fire, this time with both hands. Bielkhden turned to avoid the onslaught, and Bocek took advantage, submitting his foe with a rear naked choke at 4:57 of the opening frame.

What was expected to be a battle between two of the best young groundfighters in the light heavyweight division instead turned into a 15 minute kickboxing match, with The Ultimate Fighter season eight’s Eliot Marshall doing enough to score a three round unanimous decision win over his TUF teammate Vinny Magalhaes.

“The strategy was to keep it on the feet,” said Marshall. “I knew he would fade.”

Scores were 29-28 and 30-27 twice for Marshall, who improved to 7-2; Magalhaes falls to 3-4 with 1 NC.

The two Brazilian Jiu-jitsu black belts opted for a kickboxing match in the first round, with neither fighter doing enough to build up a substantial early lead.

There was more of the same in the second round until a little over 30 seconds left, when Magalhaes scored a takedown and fired away with ground strikes. Marshall fought his way back up and tried to salvage the round on his feet, but the damage had been done.

Marshall picked up his pace in the third round, and his accuracy increased as well as he pursued a tired and bloodied Magalhaes around the cage with punches and kicks. Again Magalhaes tried to salvage things with a final minute takedown, but it was too little too late for the Brazilian.