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FAIRFAX, VA, May 15 – The Tuesday fight between lightweights Cody McKenzie and Marcus LeVesseur at the Patriot Center lasted three minutes and five seconds. McKenzie maybe won 15 seconds of the action. But it was the 15 seconds that mattered, as The Ultimate Fighter vet survived some heavy leather early before cinching in his signature “McKenzietine” choke that provoked the Levesseur tap out in the first round.
Levesseur (21-6) came out winging – but missing – early, yet he started to crack McKenzie from the top position after scoring a takedown. McKenzie (13-2) remained poised, sucked the former college wrestling standout into his butterfly guard, and summoned the move that everybody in the arena knew he wanted, as he got his finish and broke a two fight losing skid.
For two rounds, this was a really fun-to-watch, free-swinging middleweight affair. Both Brad Tavares and Dongi Yang were aggressive, both swinging with malicious intent. It seemed that Tavares got the better of the banging in round one, landing some big right hands and scoring downstairs with sizzling leg kicks. Yang responded with some powerful shots of his own, and both guys traded inadvertent eye pokes.
In the second, Yang seemed the clear-cut aggressor as Tavares pawed at his left eye (the one that had been poked) numerous times. More heavy leather flew, but Yang’s stalking seemed to favor him.
In round three, Yang inexplicably seemed to lose his sense of urgency after Tavares took him down several times. Yang did not seem fatigued, but instead fought conservatively like someone who presumed they were up two rounds to none. Tavares, meanwhile, became a little more methodical and diverse, mixing up his kicks and punches to clearly carry the round and take the decision via three scores of 29-28.
In triumph, Tavares improved to 7-2; Yang fell to 10-3.
T.J. GRANT VS. CARLO PRATER
After compiling a .500 record at welterweight in the UFC, Canadian T.J. Grant’s reinvention at 155 pounds continued with a unanimous decision nod (30-27 three times) over Carlo Prater.
Grant’s second straight win came courtesy of besting Prater anywhere the fight went. On their feet, Grant outstruck his foe 65 to 23. Takedowns: Grant 4, Prater 0. And though Prater (30-11-1) is a BJJ black belt, Grant (18-5) schooled him on the mat by winning scrambles, passing guard, and roughing him up with ground and pound in rounds two and three. Grant particularly heated up late in the third, slamming Prater hard to the canvas, mounting him, threatening with a rear naked choke and then a credible armbar as the final horn sounded.
“I’ve been fighting the best in the world and let’s take the next step. I want to be on the card in Canada (Calgary in July, headlined by UFC featherweight champ Jose Aldo vs. No. 1 challenger Erik Koch) and maybe Joe Silva can do something for me, I don’t know…” Watch Grant's post-fight interview
A left kick to the head spelled trouble for Kamal Shalorus early in the fight, as dos Anjos swarmed his fallen and foggied foe with punches. The ref came oh-so-close to stopping the lightweight contest, but intervened soon after when dos Anjos forced Shalorus to tap with a rear naked choke at just 1 minute 40 seconds of the opening stanza.
Dos Anjos improved to 16-6 (5-4 in the UFC). Shalorus (7-3-2), who had been training out of Falls Church, Va., dropped his third straight. Hear what Dos Anjos had to say in his post-fight interview
Jeff Curran came up short against Johnny Eduardo in bantamweight action. Who knows if the MMA pioneer, despite 35 pro wins, will ever notch his first UFC win. But I do know this: The “Big Frog” is a fighter’s fighter. He embodies that, “anyone, anytime, anyplace” mentality and has fought so many of the sport’s biggest names over the past 14 years.
Curran is one of those gritty, never-say-die fighters who can be competitive with just about any fighter. But so often, by close margins, he finds himself on the short end of the judges’ scorecards. The seasoned bantamweight turned in another gritty and, at times, inspiring performance against Eduardo in Virginia, but again had to settle for defeat by 29-28 scores across the board.
The first two rounds were competitive, with the lanky Brazilian cautious with his hands but repeatedly scoring with hard kicks to Curran’s lead leg. Curran landed the occasional overhand right, scored with his lead jab and kicks and a nice elbow off a punch. But Curran found it hard-pressed to land consistently against such a defensive-minded and athletic opponent (to the point where Curran at times dropped his hands low, hoping to entice Eduardo into more aggression and counterpunching or takedown opportunities). Eduardo did not oblige him.
The third round told a completely different story. Curran (35-15-1) came on strong. He landed a beautiful 1-2 early on, snapping Eduardo’s head back and prompting the Brazilian to immediately appeal to the referee and claim an eye poke. Curran tagged him with another crisp shot and soon enough a trickle of blood began streaming around Eduardo’s left eye. With ever greater frequency, Curran began to land, bringing loads of pressure, enough to dent Eduardo’s armor but not destroy it.
In victory, Eduardo improved to 26-9, 1-1 in the UFC. Watch Eduardo's emotional post-fight interview
There is no doubting Alex Soto’s toughness: He’s a U.S. Army vet, served a tour in Afghanistan and, oh by the way, the 28-year-old moonlights as a professional fighter.
And Soto needed every bit of that toughness to weather a non-stop storm from Francisco Rivera, who rocked Soto in all three rounds of the night’s opening bout. If you prefer damage inflicted to strikes landed (as I generally do), then you likely would have awarded round one to Rivera, who dropped Soto with a hard right hand in the opening frame and walloped the U.S. Army veteran numerous times with his best punch. Rivera seemed perfectly content to stalk Soto and walk through his arsenal, even though it was the dancing Soto who landed more frequently with punches and kicks and threw in a takedown for good measure.
In the second round, with Soto rightfully fixated on avoiding the right hand, Rivera surprised him with head kicks, one of which put Soto on the deck again. After eating a hard right hand and kick (and bleeding from his mouth), Soto defiantly blew a kiss to Rivera. Soto’s survival skills were impressive, and he continued to score throughout the fight, but his blows didn’t pack nearly as much pop as his adversary (Rivera, at one point, after Soto landed a combination, shook his head to say, essentially, ‘no effect.’)
Rivera continued to pour it on in the third, landing a barrage of punches that made Soto do the so-called “chicken dance,” but the knockout ace could not finish the fight, settling instead for a unanimous decision victory via three scores of 30-27. Hear what "Cisco" had to say after his win