The Ultimate Fighter
Read on for UFC 152 prelim results...
TORONTO, September 22 - Two words jumped to mind as the final seconds ticked away in the Fight of the Night bout between Evan Dunham and TJ Grant at the Air Canada Centre Saturday night: Blood and Guts. Blood – as in, ‘That is quite a lot of blood covering the face of Dunham.’ Guts as in – ‘Man, any fighter who finds himself trailing on the judges’ scorecards needs to learn from the sense of urgency Dunham showed in the final round of his UFC 152 prelim against Grant.
Implored by cornerman Ray Sefo to lay it all on the line, Dunham suddenly transformed from the hunted into the hunter, furiously unleashing and landing combinations. The Oregon lightweight found Grant’s chin quite frequently on the night, but Grant never really seemed fazed by Dunham’s punches and kicks (walking right through them during the first two rounds and showing little respect for Dunham’s power). No matter what Dunham threw, Grant walked through en route to a victory by scores of 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28.
In a battle of grappling standouts, Grant (19-5) clearly preferred a standup slugfest, and for the most part dictated the terms of battle (the exception being a few Dunham (13-3) takedowns in round one and three). Grant, a Canadian, clearly shined in the opening stanza, though Dunham came on strong in the second, doing enough to win the round (in this writer’s opinion) but perhaps undone by the perception of a deep gash on his forehead that gushed blood combined with Grant’s incessant stalking and noticeably harder shots.
Ever seen a UFC fighter basically sleep-walk his way to victory? Me neither. Until Saturday night when world-class BJJ black belt Vinny Magalhaes – showing the remarkable calm one might expect from, say, a mystic Zen master – nonchalantly sucked veteran Igor Pokrajac into a ground battle and finished the 205-pound Croatian with a slick triangle to armbar submission at 1:14 of the second round.
The 28-year-old and uber-flexible Brazilian, making his return to the UFC after a 3 and ½ year hiatus, seemed to concede a takedown just so he could exploit the move by swiftly transitioning to a triangle choke.
It marked the first ever UFC victory for Magalhaes, who went 0-2 during his first stint in the UFC. Magalhaes won his sixth straight and improved to 11-5 with all of his wins coming via finish. Pokrajac, meanwhile, fell to 25-8, 4-4 in the UFC.
Sean Pierson clearly didn’t mind the pressure of fighting in his hometown. The Ontario product (owner of seven pro knockouts) stormed after Lance Benoist from the start, landing heavy leather early and often. Unfortunately for the 36-year-old Pierson, 24-year-old Benoist survived the onslaught and pushed matters into the second stanza, where the go-for-broke Pierson retreated to a more cautious strategy and actually began showing respect for the Missouri fighter’s punching power. Buoyed by chants of “Let’s Go Pierson!”, Pierson got the better of the action in the second and appeared to be cruising to a decision victory when, in the final 65 seconds or so, Benoist (6-2) came alive and dropped Pierson with a punch. Benoist swarmed with some powerful ground and pound shots but Pierson would not give in, eventually regaining his bearings enough to eventually get back to his feet. His toughness was rewarded with a unanimous victory by scores of 29-28 across the board.
Resembling a featherweight version of Melvin Guillard, a free-swinging Marcus Brimage put Jimy Hettes on the deck with a booming left hand counter early before settling for a unanimous decision victory.
The explosive American Top Team product’s work rate and power faded considerably in the second and third stanzas, but his wild punches continued to find their mark throughout and raised his record to 3-0 in the Octagon. Credit belongs to the previously-unbeaten Hettes (10-1) for weathering the storm early and making the southpaw versus southpaw contest competitive – even stunning Brimage (6-1) with a punch and flying knee, scoring a takedown and taking Brimage’s back. But each time Brimage survived and got to his feet, where he was clearly the busier and superior fighter (even if he did look like he had one eye on the clock, as he had his mouth agape and appeared rubber-legged at times).
“With four-ounce gloves anything can happen.”
During interviews leading up to a bout, fighters constantly remind us of that ever-present threat. And no matter how much a fighter is dominating, one mistake can be a game-changer.
Seth Baczynski (17-6) perfectly illustrated that point Saturday in Toronto. For much of the first round, Thoresen (17-3-1) was the man to watch. The hard-nosed Norway native methodically whacked away at Baczynski’s body and legs with kicks and landed some solid leather upstairs for good measure. The assault marked up Baczynski pretty good (welts near the leg and ribs, some light bleeding around the lip). Apparently unfazed by it all, Baczynski patiently waited for the right moment to pounce – and seized it when Thoresen committed to a right hand. Baczynski countered with a jaw-snapping left hook that dropped Thoresen face-first on the canvas and out cold at 4:10 of the opening stanza.
“He has a really long reach so it was difficult, I’m used to fighting smaller guys,” Baczynski said. “Soon I‘ll be fighting better guys so I have to learn to be patient.”
Baczynski also made a point to thank his lady back home.
“You raise the kids at home and I couldn’t do this without you,” he said to her during the live broadcast. “Your job is just as tough as mine, baby.”
It would have been cool, perhaps, had Walel Watson landed the “Superman Punch” he attempted early in the first round against Mitch Gagnon. Instead, the lanky bantamweight paid dearly for the flashy maneuver, eating a crisp left hook counter from Gagnon that dropped Walel to the canvas.
Canada’s Gagnon attacked with punches, transitioning to a rear naked choke and earning the tap out just 69 seconds in.
In winning his first-ever UFC bout, Gagnon improved to 9-2. Walel fell to 9-5.
A little reinvention can do a fighter good. Kyle Noke is the latest example of that promise as the native Australian, making his UFC welterweight debut, showed superb hands before stopping Charlie Brenneman just 45 seconds into the night’s opening tilt. The triumph snapped a snapped a two-fight losing streak for the former middleweight, who immediately found his range with a stiff jab, setting the stage for a sizzling right hand that floored the former Spanish schoolteacher. Noke (20-6-1, 4-2 UFC) attacked with a rapid succession of punches on Brenneman (15-5, 4-4 UFC), who protested what he obviously considered to be premature stoppage, and the New Jerseyian (to his credit) did continue trying to fight and attempted a single leg when the bout was called.