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Ultimate Return for Escudero in UFC 103 Prelims

Thomas Gerbasi, UFC - It took more than nine months for Ultimate Fighter winner Efrain Escudero to get his first UFC win, but it was certainly worth it for “Hecho en Mexico”, as he thrilled fans at American Airlines Center Saturday night with a first round stoppage of Cole Miller in UFC 103 preliminary action.

By Thomas Gerbasi

DALLAS, September 19 – It took more than nine months for Ultimate Fighter winner Efrain Escudero to get his first UFC win, but it was certainly worth it for “Hecho en Mexico”, as he thrilled fans at American Airlines Center Saturday night with a first round stoppage of Cole Miller in UFC 103 preliminary action.

“My respect’s to Cole,” said Escudero. “The plan was to stay off the ground and work my strikes.”

The crowd was restless early as the two fighters looked for openings from long-range. The lanky Miller was content with this pace thanks to his reach advantage, but Escudero appeared to be having difficulty getting inside. But the Arizona resident kept pressing, and when he landed a perfect right hand to the jaw, Miller fell hard to the mat. Escudero moved in immediately, and moments later, referee Yves Lavigne intervened and stopped the fight at the 3:36 mark.

With the win, Escudero improves to 13-0; Miller falls to 15-4.

Tomasz Drwal made his middleweight debut a successful one, winning his third fight in a row by submitting Drew McFedries in the second round.

As advertised, both fighters came ready to fight and began throwing punches at each other as soon as they were in range. McFedries left the early exchanges with a cut under his left eye, with Drwal unafraid of his foe’s vaunted punching power. With two minutes gone, Drwal got McFedries to the mat, but the Iowan quickly got back to his feet and began throwing wild shots at Drwal. Soon, the Poland native had a bruise under his left eye, and he took McFedries to the mat, where ended the round with ground strikes and a brief rear naked choke attempt.

McFedries looked tired as he came out for round two, and Drwal immediately pressed the action with a couple solid strikes and a takedown. Soon, he had McFedries’s back and he sunk in a rear naked choke attempt that produced a tap out at 1:03 of the round.

With the win, Drwal ups his record to 17-2; McFedries falls to 8-6.

The UFC debut of Indiana lightweight Steve Lopez ended in abbreviated fashion, as a dislocated shoulder ended his bout against Jim Miller and awarded Miller the second round TKO victory.

Miller (15-2) and Lopez stood and traded for the first half of the round, with neither fighter pulling into the lead. That changed when Miller, who looked to have been poked in the eye, responded by dropping Lopez with a straight left to the head and then following up with a furious ground assault that included a guillotine choke attempt and a series of ground strikes. Despite Miller’s attack, Lopez was able to make it out of the round.

Yet just as things were heating up in round two, Lopez (12-2) threw a straight left and dislocated his shoulder. With Lopez unable to continue, referee Don Turnage immediately halted the bout 48 seconds into the round. Lopez’ shoulder was popped back in by doctors in the locker room following the fight.

“He’s a tough kid,” said Miller.” I’m very unsatisfied. That’s not how I want to get the win. I want a knockout, submission or the ref to pull me off a fighter. Not like that.”

UFC newcomers Nik Lentz and Rafaello Oliveira both came to fight in their entertaining lightweight scrap, but it was El Paso native Lentz who took home the victory via unanimous decision.

Scores were 29-28 twice and 30-27 for Lentz, who improves to 19-3-1; Oliveira falls to 9-2.

Round one had it all for MMA aficionados, whether it was Lentz sinking in two guillotine chokes, Oliveira slamming his foe twice, or both fighters rocking each other with flush head shots. Given the back and forth nature of the round, it was a tough one to call, with Lentz probably holding a slight edge,

The shifts of momentum continued in round two, with Oliveira’s solid ground work perhaps evening things up on the scorecards in a difficult to call bout. The frantic pace did seem to be affecting Oliveira, at least by looking at his face, but the minute’s rest between rounds must have done him good, as he outworked Lentz on the mat in the first half of the final round. By the time the two rose, it was Lentz who looked like he needed a breather, but he still went on to score a takedown and land a series of hard ground strikes that proved to be the difference in the fight.

Lightweight prospects Rick Story and Brian Foster let it rip for 6:10 seconds in their bout, but it was Story who pulled off the victory via second round submission.

Story and Foster wasted no time getting to know each other, as they met in the middle of the Octagon and began swinging. Foster struck first with a big uppercut that almost put Story down on a knee, but after Foster tossed his opponent down to the mat, it was the bloodied Story who took control on the ground. With 1:10 left in the round, Foster was able to make it to his feet, but only for a moment, as Story re-deposited him on the mat. Foster kept battling though, rising with less than 40 seconds to go.

Taking the fight to the mat almost immediately to start round two, Story went to work on Foster and soon locked in an arm triangle. Moments later, Foster was forced to tap out at the 1:09 mark of the second stanza.

With the win, his first in the UFC, Story improves to 8-3; Foster falls to 14-4.

Light heavyweight prospect Eliot Marshall rode an effective takedown defense and some long-distance striking, but little finishing intent to an uneventful split decision win over Jason Brilz, who was aggressive but largely ineffective throughout the bout.

Scores were 30-27 twice and 28-30 for Marshall.

Marshall (8-2) was the busier of the two fighters in round one, as he flicked out a quick jab occasionally mixed in with some uppercuts and hooks. Brilz’ first two takedown attempts were turned back, but as the round came to a close, Marshall’s focus on avoiding the takedowns allowed Brilz to get in some punches to the head.

Brilz (17-2-1) kept the pressure on in round two, but was unable to get Marshall to the mat or hurt him standing. A low blow midway through the round gave Marshall a brief rest to recover, but when the action resumed, his game plan was unaltered, as he peppered Marshall from the outside and stuffed takedowns when Brilz got close. And though a good left right was scored by Brilz, the bell sounded before he could do any further damage.

Desperate to make something happen in the final round, Brilz started swinging his overhand right with reckless abandon, but he was unable to hit the mark. For his part, Marshall was content to stay outside and play defense as the clock wound down on the bout.

“I wanted to get more power behind my punches,” said Marshall. “I was confident in my ground game going in, but I didn’t want to be on the bottom. I felt like I won the fight.”

Former UFC light heavyweight title challenger Vladimir Matyushenko made a triumphant return to the Octagon at the expense of Mirko Cro Cop protégé Igor Pokrajac, who was outpointed unanimously by ‘The Janitor’ over three rounds.

All three judges saw it 30-27 for Matyushenko, whose last UFC appearance was in 2003.

“I’m very excited to be back in the UFC,” said Matyushenko. “The fight game has improved. There are no easy fights anymore.”

Matyushneko (23-4) began the fight behind a jackhammer jab that couldn’t miss the mark, but it was Pokrajac (21-6) who landed the first major blow of the fight with a left hook that jarred Matyushenko. Matyushenko responded with a quick takedown, but despite getting the mount late, he was unable to finish, with Pokrajac reversing the position just before the bell.

The inside punches of Matyushenko jarred Pokrajac repeatedly in round two, and as Pokrajac staggered, Matyushenko threw him to the mat and got into the mount position, where he pounded away with strikes before looking for a kimura. After giving up the kimura attempt, Matyushenko took Pokrajac’s back, but the Croatian was able to fight his way free just before the bell.

The pace dipped in the final round, but the result was the same – Matyushenko in control against the game Pokrajac, who simply wasn’t able to deal with the experience and strength of ‘The Janitor.’

Brazil’s Rafael Dos Anjos earned the first UFC victory of his career in the lightweight opener, pounding out a unanimous decision over Rob Emerson.

Scores were 30-27 across the board for Dos Anjos, who improves to 12-4. Emerson falls to 10-8 with 1 NC.

Dos Anjos controlled the first round thanks to solid leg kicks, and though Emerson’s takedown defense was solid for much of the opening stanza, the Brazilian finally got him to the mat with less than 30 seconds left, ending the frame emphatically with ground strikes.

Emerson started to land more frequently with his punches as he kept the fight off the mat in round two, but Dos Anjos’ inside leg kicks continued to pay dividends, as ‘The Saint’ was simply not checking the kicks.

Looking to finish things off in the third, Dos Anjos got an early takedown, but despite some success there, Emerson got back to his feet and stalked his foe, looking for a knockout. It didn’t come though, as Dos Anjos’ leg kicks again proved to be the deciding factor in a hard-fought win.