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Velasquez Passes Trial by Kongo, Wins War at UFC 99

COLOGNE, June 13 – Unbeaten heavyweight Cain Velasquez still has the “0” at the end of his record after his three round unanimous decision win over Cheick Kongo Saturday night at the Lanxess Arena, but what the end result doesn’t show is the heart both fighters showed in engaging in a memorable 15 minute war that saw Velasquez graduate to contender status while Kongo solidified his spot in the heavyweight pecking order.

By Thomas Gerbasi

COLOGNE, June 13 – Unbeaten heavyweight Cain Velasquez still has the “0” at the end of his record after his three round unanimous decision win over Cheick Kongo Saturday night at the Lanxess Arena, but what the end result doesn’t show is the heart both fighters showed in engaging in a memorable 15 minute war that saw Velasquez graduate to contender status while Kongo solidified his spot in the heavyweight pecking order.

Scores were 30-27 across the board for Velasquez.

Velasquez stalked Kongo at the start, but got hurt with the first bombs Kongo unleashed. Velasquez, responding quickly, went back to what got him here, his wrestling, and he took Kongo to the mat. Within a few moments, Velasquez cleared his head and got his offense in gear. He got Kongo’s back and looked for a choke, but the Frenchman escaped and got back to his feet. Velasquez sent him right back to the canvas and began another ground and pound assault. To his credit, Kongo kept trying to get up and turn things around, but Velasquez was relentless.

Velasquez tried moving his head more as the second round started, and he clipped Kongo a couple of times but then got dropped again by the Frenchman’s powerful right. The two then locked up, with Velasquez getting the fight back to the mat. While there, Velasquez kept trying to finish his foe off, but Kongo wouldn’t go away, firing back with elbows just when it seemed that the unbeaten rising star was going to pull away. Kongo was taking large amounts of punishment though.

Kongo started the final round like he did the previous two, rocking Velasquez with an audibly thudding right hand. This time, he even followed up with a takedown, but Velasquez, a former All-American wrestler, quickly turned the tables and resumed his ground and pound attack. With 2:15 left, both fighters rose, and Kongo started attacking with knees and punches, but just as he looked to press his advantage again, he was taken down, and this time Velasquez got in the mount position. But despite the precarious situation, Kongo refused to give in, courageously making it to the bell.

With the win, Velasquez improves to 6-0; Kongo falls to 24-5-1.

An eye poke began what most believed was an inevitable conclusion in the return of Mirko Cro Cop, as he stopped Mostapha Al Turk in the first round, showing that –foul excluded – he still has the power in his strikes. Whether he can still do it against elite competition remains to be seen.

“I feel good, I am satisfied with my performance,” said Cro Cop, who went 1-2 in the UFC in 2007.

Al Turk – who has now lost both of his UFC fights while falling to 6-5 as a pro - came right at Cro Cop, showing little respect for the Croatian star, even throwing a high kick at him that missed. Cro Cop wasn’t rattled though, and it looked clear that Al Turk was going to exhaust himself if he kept this pace up. Midway through the round, Cro Cop pounced, hurting Al Turk and sending him sprawling across the Octagon. After a brief reprieve, Al Turk caught an inadvertent poke in the eye and turned his back on Cro Cop. The former PRIDE standout didn’t let Al Turk off the hook, and a flurry of thudding shots brought referee Dan Miragliotta in to halt the fight at the 3:06 mark.

“I’m sorry,” said Cro Cop of the eye poke. “I didn’t want it to be this way.”

The win ups Cro Cop’s record to 25-6-2 with 1 NC.

Mike “Quick” Swick put together perhaps his most impressive win at 170 pounds, calmly controlling his bout against previously unbeaten Ben Saunders until taking “Killa B” out with pinpoint strikes in the second round.

“I want to keep moving up,” said Swick. “I have 10 fights in the UFC, I’m 9-1, and I want to fight top guys.”

Surprisingly, the fight went to the canvas almost immediately, with Swick taking the top position as he pinned Saunders against the fence. Saunders tried to keep Swick close to force a standup, but Swick stayed busy enough to keep the dominant position. With 1:39 left, referee Leon Roberts restarted the bout, and Saunders and Swick took turns going on the attack before locking up against the fence until the end of the frame.

Saunders got on the board first in round two with a kick upstairs, With 4:20 left, Swick took the fight to the mat and quickly got into the mount position. He was unable to keep it though, and Saunders kept looking for a way to escape. With 2:43, he got it, as Roberts restarted the bout, but the Floridian was still having trouble figuring out Swick, who was impressively controlling the action. Then suddenly, Swick staggered Saunders with a series of hard shots to the head. Saunders fell to the mat, and at the 3:47 mark, Roberts stepped in to halt the fight.

Swick improves to 14-2 with the win; Saunders falls to 7-1-2.

Lightweight contender Spencer Fisher made it three wins in a row as he drilled out a three round unanimous decision over two-time title challenger Caol Uno, who was making his first UFC start since 2003.

Scores were 29-28 across the board for Fisher.

After some tactical early action, Uno shot for the takedown, but was rebuffed by Fisher. Uno didn’t let up on his attack, as he locked up his foe against the fence, but Fisher reversed the position and tried to muscle the lightweight pioneer. The rest of the round was fought pretty much at a stalemate, as each fighter tried to win battles along the fence.

Uno got the takedown to open round two, but was unable to capitalize on his advantage before Fisher got back up. Uno did take the Iowan down again though, scoring points on the scorecards, but not getting the crowd amped up. That was unfortunate, because the balancing of the two stylistically meant that there would be many of these intriguing chess moves throughout the bout, making it enjoyable for the MMA purists.

The war of attrition continued in the third round, with neither fighter able to break out with the type of offensive spurt that would allow one or the other to pull away. Fisher’s more accurate striking may have been the difference though as he took the decision win.

With the win, Fisher improves to 24-4; Uno falls to 25-12-4.

The trash talk was fast, furious, and personal between welterweights Dan Hardy and Marcus Davis in the weeks leading up to their bout tonight, but it was Nottingham’s Hardy who was able to take home bragging rights after a razor-thin split decision victory.

Scores were 29-28 twice, and 28-29 for Hardy.

“At this level of competition, you take any advantage you can get,” said Hardy of the pre-fight banter. “Marcus Davis is one of the toughest guys out there, and I respect him a lot and all his team.”

"I won the fight,” said Davis. “I won 12 minutes of the fight and they gave it to him? You bet I want a rematch, right away. Let’s do it in Ireland or Boston. He landed one elbow which cut me and they judge the whole fight on that?”

The action was understandably tense early on, with both fighters trading range-finding kicks. 45 seconds in, Davis closed the gap and locked Hardy up, looking for the takedown. Hardy defended well, but was eventually taken to the mat. While there, Davis fired away with both hands, looking to punish his foe. With less than two minutes remaining, Davis tried to get Hardy’s back completely, but settled for tossing in some strikes to the head as Hardy fought his way back to this feet and landed his first significant shots of the fight moments before the bell sounded.

Hardy started the second off strong behind some long range strikes, and the area around Davis’ left eye began to swell. Hardy capitalized, moving in with a left knee to the head that put Davis on the canvas. Davis quickly cleared his head and attempted an armbar, but Hardy broke loose and continued his ground and pound strategy. Davis didn’t sit idly by, firing back his own strikes from the bottom until referee Marc Goddard called for a standup with a little over a minute left. Davis and Hardy commenced to nail each other with hard shots before going to the mat again, this time with Davis on top, pounding away until the end of the frame.

With the fight possibly up for grabs in the third, Davis came out and sent Hardy to the mat with a left to the head. Davis looked to outmuscle Hardy before trying to lock his leg up for a submission, but Hardy escaped and got back to his feet. Davis keeps Hardy pinned against the fence, but midway through the round, Hardy reverses position and gets the takedown. With 1:40 left, Goddard halted the action to have the Octagonside physician check out the cuts on Davis’ face. In the final minute, the two are stood up and the bloodied Davis looks to land the home run punch, but it doesn’t come, sending the fight to the scorecards.

With the win, Hardy improves to 22-6 with 1 NC; Davis falls to 21-6.
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