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Howard Ekes Out Split Decision Win over McCrory in UFC 101 Prelim

Thomas Gerbasi, UFC - In a closely contested battle of welterweight prospects Saturday night, John Howard scored a three round split decision win over Tamdan McCrory in UFC 101 preliminary action at the Wachovia Center.  (Watch McCrory vs. Howard)

By Thomas Gerbasi

PHILADELPHIA, August 8 – In a closely contested battle of welterweight prospects Saturday night, John Howard scored a three round split decision win over Tamdan McCrory in UFC 101 preliminary action at the Wachovia Center.

“It feels great to get the win, but I was a little disappointed with my performance,” said Howard. “My camp pushes me to be the best fighter I can be and I want to be able to show that in the Octagon.”

After a brief feeling out period, McCrory (12-3) pounced, following up a flurry with a guillotine choke attempt. Howard (12-4) responded with an energetic escape that almost took the legs out from referee Mario Yamasaki, and ‘Doomsday’ eventually found his way into McCrory’s guard. After a brief stalemate, the two stood, and McCrory tried his best to use all of his 6 foot 4 frame to keep Howard on the end of his jab until he closed the gap and got a takedown of the Boston native. Howard continued to work his way out of trouble, forcing a standup with 20 seconds left, but he ran out of time before he could capitalize.

Howard opened the second with a couple of takedowns, and apparently had a tight guillotine choke in, but McCrory slipped free and looked to work his ground and pound. After a brief period on the mat, McCrory rose and tried for a guillotine choke of his own, but Howard slipped out and outworked McCrory, finishing the round with a heel hook attempt at the bell.

The bout went to the mat in the opening minute of the final round, with McCrory doing good work from the bottom until the two decided to stand. In the second minute, McCrory decided to ge tin some takedowns of his own as he threw Howard to the canvas, but it was Howard who ended on top, bloodying his foe’s nose with a right hand. With two minutes left, Yamasaki stood the fighters, but the break was momentary as they tumbled back to the mat and battled it out for position. And though it was McCrory who ended the bout on top,

The final verdict read 29-28, 29-28, and 28-29 for Howard.  Watch McCrory vs. Howard

I wasn’t sure about the decision,” said Howard. “I knew I had him on the takedowns, but I get nervous about split decisions. I’m happy to get the win though.”

In an uninspiring middleweight bout, Alessio Sakara took a three round split decision win over former title challenger Thales Leites.

Scores for Sakara were 29-28 twice and 27-30.  Watch Leites vs. Sakara

There was little action until midway through the opening round, when Leites nearly got Sakara (18-7, 1 NC) to the mat, only to have the Italian use a backhand to the head to get back to his feet and resume the tense, but less than scintillating bout, which drew boos from the crowd.

The fight hit the canvas in the opening stages of round two, but the action there reached a stalemate and the two rose. Moments later, Leites (14-3) took Sakara down again, but the Italian showed much improved ground work as he escaped danger easily and got back to his feet. By the final minute though, Leites started breaking Sakara down on the ground and eventually got into the mount position, but the bell sounded before he could finish.

After another dreadful start to the third and final round, referee Marc Goddard stopped the action with 90 seconds left and told the fighters that they would have to start fighting. And they did for a brief spell, but there was no resolution to the action, with the final bell bringing boos but also a sense of relief because the fight was over.

Allentown’s Matthew Riddle gave the Pennsylvania fans something to cheer about as he pounded out a three round unanimous decision win over Dan Cramer.

As promised, the two TUF7 buddies engaged immediately, moving all around the Octagon at a fast pace, with Cramer holding an early lead thanks to good positioning and a guillotine choke attempt. But after Riddle broke loose of the submission attempt, he began to get back on the board with some hard ground strikes before the two rose with under a minute left and locked up against the fence until the bell.

Riddle (3-0) kept the momentum going in the second thanks to an early takedown, and he wouldn’t let Cramer escape as he dominated against the fence for the entire five minutes.

Cramer (1-1) looked to turn things around in the final stanza, but Riddle’s superior strength and wrestling allowed him to again keep the Connecticut native pinned to the mat as he fired away and cut him over the eye. With 90 seconds left, Riddle looked like he was going to finish matters as he got into the mount position, but the game Cramer refused to give in, even as matters got bleaker by the second, as evidenced by the final scores of 29-27, 30-26, and 30-27.   Watch Riddle vs. Cramer

The Ultimate Fighter alum George Sotiropoulos returned to the Octagon for the first time in over a year and did so in impressive fashion, submitting another TUF veteran, George Roop, in the second round of a lightweight bout.

Sotiropoulos (10-2) looked to be heading to a quick finish when the fight hit the mat early on and he got the mount position. The gutsy Roop (9-6) fought his way free though, only to get drilled with two flush punches before being taken down again. This time, Sotiropoulos got Roop’s back and looked for a rear naked choke, only to have the Arizona native break loose once again before the bell sounded.

Te second was more of the same from Sotiropoulos, and finally he broke through for the finish, as a kimura ended matters at 1:59 of the second.  Watch

The opener between WEC vets Jesse Lennox and Danillo Villefort ended in bizarre fashion as Villefort looked for a time out after being cut, prompting a stoppage in the third round of what had been an exciting welterweight scrap.

It took less than 20 seconds for the Philly crowd to start booing as Villefort and Lennox got acquainted, but they soon had plenty to cheer about after Villefort landed a knee to the head and then took the fight to the mat. After Villefort scored some points on the ground, the two stood, with Lennox moving forward while Villefort countered from the outside, being especially effective with his kicks.

Lennox got closer in round two, jarring Villefort with a couple of hard punches to the head. Villefort tried to respond with flashy strikes, but it was Lennox’ workmanlike effort that was getting the job done. Midway through the round, Lennox dropped Villefort briefly with a right hand, but the Brazilian quickly recovered, got up, and went on the offensive more aggressively in an effort to steal the round, but to no avail.

The right hand continued to pay dividends for Lennox early in round three, and even as the fight hit the mat midway through the final frame, it was Lennox simply outworking his foe. Then again, when you’re dealing with a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, the end of the fight can only be a moment away, and it looked like it was when Villefort went for Lennox’s arm. But after Lennox escaped and Villefort emerged with a cut, the Brazilian called for a time out, claiming that the cut was caused by a clash of heads (replays seemed to support his claim). But referee Keith Peterson ruled that the cut was caused by a punch, and called a halt to the bout at the 3:37 mark.

With the win, Lennox improves to 15-1; Villefort falls to 9-3    Watch Lennox vs. Villefort

Watch the Replay:  UFC 101