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'Pitbull' Getting Better, Getting Closer to a Title Shot

Thomas Gerbasi, UFC - Thiago ‘Pitbull’ Alves made a strong case for being next in line for a shot at the welterweight crown with a methodical, yet exciting, three round unanimous decision win over gutsy fellow contender Josh Koscheck in the UFC 90 co-feature at Allstate Arena Saturday night.

By Thomas Gerbasi

ROSEMONT, IL, October 25 - Thiago ‘Pitbull’ Alves made a strong case for being next in line for a shot at the welterweight crown with a methodical, yet exciting, three round unanimous decision win over gutsy fellow contender Josh Koscheck in the UFC 90 co-feature at Allstate Arena Saturday night.

Scores were 30-27 twice and 29-28 for Alves, who improves to 22-4. Koscheck, who stepped in for the injured Diego Sanchez on two weeks notice, falls to 13-3.

After a tactical opening, Alves pounced with a left hook that dropped and hurt Koscheck. Koscheck looked to be in serious trouble, but he shook off Alves’s follow-up, and after a few seconds to clear his head, the former NCAA wrestling champ was firing back. Alves was calm and focused though, and his kicks to the legs and punches to the head were landing with accuracy. In the final minute, Koscheck tried for a takedown, only to be rebuffed by the ‘Pitbull’, who finished the round strong with some solid up and down combinations.

Koscheck opened the second aggressively, throwing a series of right hands that landed but didn’t particularly affect Alves, who again, was patience with his attack. But patience was going to score points, and Koscheck’s busier style was piling them up. Alves got back in gear in the second half of the round as he fired off thudding kicks on Koscheck. The series of leg shots forced Koscheck to shoot for the takedown with one minute remaining, but Alves kept his feet for the remainder of the frame.

Alves came out stalking, and after taking Koscheck’s leg out with a kick, Alves scored with a knee that staggered his opponent. Again, Koscheck weathered the storm, but now he had dug himself a hole, and after the two traded accidental eye pokes that forced stoppages in the action, he was apparently in a position where he had to finish the fight to win it. Alves didn’t let up though, and to his credit, neither did Koscheck, and the two traded big shots until the bell ended the bout.

Lightweight rising star Gray Maynard continued his trip up the 155-pound ranks with a shutout three round decision win over Rich Clementi, breaking ‘No Love’s six fight winning streak.

All scores for Maynard were 30-27.

There was little action for much of the first round, with Maynard (7-0, 1 NC) doing much of the scoring as Clementi (40-13-1) moved forward and looked for his opening. As the round ticked down to the one minute mark, Maynard took Clementi to the mat and fired off ground strikes, ending the frame in his opponent’s guard.

Looking to pick up the pace, Clementi moved in fast and was more busy with his strikes. Maynard responded with a takedown and a series of ground strikes. Clementi was game, but as the round progressed, it was clear that he was getting overpowered.

Maynard kept the pressure on to start the third round, with another takedown putting him back in control. Clementi tried to land with strikes from the bottom, but he was unable to trick Maynard into a mistake. With under two minutes left, Clementi got to his feet, but was unable to stay there for long as he was put back to the mat. Clementi briefly had a shot to get Maynard’s back, but the ‘Bully’ closed the door with another takedown to seal the win.

“I thought he’d slow down a little bit but he was still trying to catch me in a lot of stuff,” said Maynard. “He’s a vet, he’s crafty.”

In the flash of a single right uppercut from Junior Dos Santos, heavyweight contender Fabricio Werdum saw a title shot in the near future disappear, as he was knocked out just 80 seconds into the first round.

After a few tentative early moments that saw Werdum confidently stalking his younger and smaller foe, Dos Santos saw his opening and made the most of it, drilling Werdum with a right uppercut that sent the Porto Alegre native down to the canvas face first. A follow-up barrage brought referee Marc Fennell in to halt the fight at the 1:20 mark.

With the win, Dos Santos improves to 7-1; Werdum falls to 11-4-1.

Lightweight contenders Sean Sherk and Tyson Griffin fought at a torrid pace in the UFC main card opener, and after 15 minutes of war, it was Sherk, the former lightweight champion, emerging victorious via a close but unanimous decision.

Scores were 30-27, and 29-28 twice for Sherk, who improves to 37-3-1. Griffin falls to 12-2.

Both fighters approached each other warily, and after a crisp standup exchange, Sherk took Griffin to the mat and quickly got his back. Griffin stood up and walked Sherk off and the two resumed their standup battle, with each man getting his shots in. Sherk scored another takedown, but Griffin again stood up and tagged Sherk with a hard right hand. The two men continued to trade fast punches and kicks, almost mirroring each other in method of attack. Griffin’s first takedown attempt was stuffed with a little over a minute left, and Sherk again got his foe’s back before letting the grip go. The finals seconds were punctuated by even more toe-to-toe exchanges, with Griffin going back to his corner with a cut over he left eye.

The standup war continued in round two, with both fighters landing flush shots that would have crumbled other lightweights. Midway through the round, the two upped the ante again, with Griffin even lowering his hands and calling Sherk in for more. Sherk obliged, but Griffin fired back just as hard, delighting the crowd.

Griffin roared out of his corner in the third round, jarring Sherk with a right to the head. Griffin, looking extremely confident with his standup, was firing off combinations while Sherk threw back, but without the same frequency or variety he had earlier. Both fighters had basically given up on their wrestling, choosing to bang it out. Sherk got busy again in the final minute though, securing the hard-fought win.

“I felt like I was a little more active and landed more punches, and I had a couple of takedowns and I got his back twice,” said Sherk. It was a close fight, but I was convinced that I won the fight.”