Thomas Gerbasi, UFC - If the early moments of the lightweight battle between Kurt Pellegrino and Thiago Tavares were any indication, Tavares had no right getting out of the opening round. But the game Brazilian hung on, survived, and became one half of one of the most entertaining 155-pound battles of the year, with Pellegrino impressively pounding out a three round unanimous decision in UFC 88 preliminary action at Philips Arena.
By Thomas Gerbasi
ATLANTA, September 6 – If the early moments of the lightweight battle between Kurt Pellegrino and Thiago Tavares were any indication, Tavares had no right getting out of the opening round. But the game Brazilian hung on, survived, and became one half of one of the most entertaining 155-pound battles of the year, with Pellegrino impressively pounding out a three round unanimous decision in UFC 88 preliminary action at Philips Arena.
Scores were 29-27 twice and 29-28 for Pellegrino.
Pellegrino’s striking was sharp early, and he dropped Tavares hard twice, following up with vicious elbows that cut the Brazilian over the left eye. Tavares was game as he survived the onslaught, but the early attack was undoubtedly taking its toll, and referee Yves Lavigne was looking closely as the 23-year old tried to hang on. With under 1:30 left, Tavares suddenly came alive, jumping to his feet and attempting some strikes before going for a takedown. Pellegrino moved himself into Tavares’ guard, but the bell intervened before he could finish.
The second round started with Tavares cut above and below the right eye, as well as over the left, but he came out fast nonetheless, firing off kicks that he hoped would get him back in the fight. An accidental poke in the eye by Tavares halted the bout momentarily, and when the action resumed, so did Tavares’ attack. Pellegrino eagerly fired back, but it was Tavares – now bleeding from the nose – controlling the action. At the midway point of the round, Tavares got a takedown and started dishing out some ground punishment of his own. Pellegrino almost locked in an armbar from the bottom, and though replays appeared to show Tavares tapping, the Brazilian pulled free, and his busy ground attack got him back in the fight.
The pace remained high in the third, with Pellegrino taking an early lead with some good takedown defense and accurate counterpunching. The two locked in a stalemate against the fence, and though Tavares quickly got a takedown moments later, Pellegrino fought his way back out of trouble and rose back to his feet before any damage could be done. With 1:10 left, Lavigne restarted the action, and Tavares’ ensuing takedown attempt was stuffed by Pellegrino, who ended up putting his foe on his back until the final bell.
With the win, Pellegrino improves to 18-4; Tavares falls to 17-3.
Light heavyweight up and comer Tim Boetsch got back in the win column after his April loss to Matt Hamill, blasting out newcomer Michael Patt in the first round of a scheduled three.
“I’m pumped,” said Boetsch. “I trained real hard to get an explosive finish like this.”
Boetsch struck first with a quick right hand, but after a quick wobble, Patt regained his footing and got back to business. It was only to be a brief respite, as Boetsch drilled Patt with another right hand that put him on the seat of his pants. Boetsch pounced, and a series of unanswered strikes brought in referee Herb Dean to halt the bout at 2:03 of the opening round.
Boetsch improves to 8-2 with the win; Patt falls to 15-3.
Jason MacDonald gave Jason Lambert a rude welcome to the middleweight division, surviving some dicey moments before submitting the former light heavyweight in the second round.
MacDonald (22-10) got to business right away, landing a few quick strikes before going for – and getting – the takedown. Lambert (23-9) responded with a guillotine choke attempt, but MacDonald eventually pulled out and landed a series of close range punches and elbows as he pushed Lambert along the fence. In the closing seconds of the round, Lambert rebounded with a deep guillotine choke, but MacDonald held on and made it out of the frame, throwing punches the whole way.
“It was pretty tight,” said MacDonald of the choke, “but my head was facing the screen, and I knew I could hold my breath for six seconds.”
The two traded punches to open the second stanza, with MacDonald again following up with a takedown. MacDonald would soon transition into full mount and he then got his foe’s back, eventually sinking in the rear naked choke that produced a tap out at 1:20 of the round.
“I knew he was getting tired from making the cut to 185 pounds, so I knew if I could take it into the later rounds I would get him,” said MacDonald, who handed Lambert his third straight defeat.
Ryo Chonan made it two in a row over Roan Carneiro in the opener, grabbing a close split decision victory over the local product in a welterweight bout.
Scores were 29-28, 29-28, and 28-29 for Chonan, who had defeated Carneiro via cuts in a 2005 bout in Japan.
Carneiro controlled the early stages of the bout on the mat, alternating submission attempts with switches in position that kept Chonan guessing. By the time the final 90 seconds arrived, a Carneiro elbow opened up a cut over Chonan’s right eye, but the Yamagata City resident made his way back to his feet, and he was swinging and back in the fight at the bell.
Chonan kept the momentum going in round two, putting Carneiro on the mat while working his ground and pound effectively. The Atlanta-based Carneiro tried to lock in a submission from the bottom, but Chonan’s defense was solid as he built up points and evened things up on the scorecards.
With the fight up for grabs, Carneiro sought the takedown early in the final stanza, but Chonan’s defense held him at bay until the 1:30 mark, when ‘Jucao’ put the ‘Piranha’ on his back. After some ground striking by Carneiro, Chonan got back to his feet briefly before going back to the mat. This time Chonan took the top position and pounded away to finish the bout strong, apparently enough to take the razor-thin nod.
With the win, Chonan improves to 15-8; Carneiro falls to 12-8.