Thiago Alves. Photo property of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
All things must eventually come to an end.
Matt Hughes hasn’t officially retired, but his career is now visibly coming to an end. While two straight losses to current welterweight king Georges St. Pierre are nothing to be alarmed about, Hughes, who once said that he would hang up the gloves before becoming anyone’s highlight reel, was stunned again yesterday afternoon at the UFC’s latest event in London courtesy of a Thiago Alves’ flying knee.
Alves, who failed to make weight for the fight and forced the bout to take place at a catch-weight of 174 lbs, was in control from the start of the fight, evading multiple takedown attempts from Hughes, a former All-American collegiate wrestler.
However Hughes was eventually able to take Alves down to the canvas late in the first round. Despite not mounting much offense, Hughes was able to control Alves from top position for a good portion of the round before Alves reversed position and worked some ground-and-pound of his own before the horn sounded to end the stanza.
The second round saw Hughes take a knee to the face after trying another early takedown. The blow opened a cut near the former champion’s mouth and Hughes found himself on his back and avoiding strikes from Alves yet again. After landing a few hard punches, a scramble allowed both fighters to get back to their feet.
Alves then rushed Hughes and connected with a flying knee that sent the Miletich Fighting Systems product crumbling to the mat, his left knee awkwardly bending behind him. Alves pounced on a defenseless Hughes and connected with a couple of unanswered shots before referee Herb Dean stepped in to halt the bout.
The win pushed Alves, winner of his last six UFC fights, that much closer to a potential title shot and a possible showdown with the winner of the scheduled St. Pierre-Jon Fitch matchup later this summer. The thought of future championship gold has crept into Alves’ mind as well.
“Mr. Dana White, I’ve been a good boy,” Alves said to the UFC president after his biggest career victory. “I never choose my opponents. Please give me a title shot. I’m not going to get down on my knees because Georges [St. Pierre] has done it before but please, give me a shot at the belt.”
With his career now obviously winding down, a dejected Hughes answered post-fight retirement questions with a desire to end his career with a bad-blood filled grudge match against fellow former title holder Matt Serra, whom Hughes was originally slated to fight last December.
“I’ve got one more fight in me,” Hughes said. “That’s Matt Serra. My wife wants it, I want it, and all these fans want it. So Serra better start coming up with a strategy right now.”
Hometown hero Michael Bisping continued his assault on the UFC’s middleweight division with an impressive stoppage of Jason Day in the night’s co-main event.
After the two started the fight with an even exchange on the feet, Bisping took Day down to the mat and scored often with an aggressive ground-and-pound attack. Day was eventually able to literally kick Bisping off of him, but the England native quickly forced Day to the canvas after another exchange on the feet.
After taking Day’s back, it became obvious that Bisping was planning on pounding his opponent out instead of going for a submission. His statement to the rest of the middleweight division was made official by referee Dan Miragliotta with a little over a minute left in the first round as Day was saved from taking any further punishment.
“I’ve always said that I never fought to the best of my ability in the UFC,” Bisping said after the bout. “I started to do that in my last fight, and I’m happy with my performance.”
A much-anticipated heavyweight clash between Brandon Vera and Fabricio Werdum was supposed to give the division a clear-cut contender to potentially face the winner of Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Frank Mir’s scheduled fight late this year. Instead, the fight ended in controversy.
The beginning of the fight saw Vera, who was clearly over-matched in terms of size and weight, hold his own against a much bigger Werdum in the clinch and eventually trip the Brazilian to the mat. After scrambling to his feet, Werdum was stunned by a Vera left hook but continued to press forward, earning a takedown of his own seconds later.
Vera was unable to defend Werdum’s highly touted grappling skills very well. Werdum easily transitioned to side control and then mounted Vera. Werdum started to pound away with unanswered punches. Despite Vera covering up well and taking very little punishment, Miragliotta, who was also responsible for the controversial stoppage involving Kimbo Slice and James Thompson last weekend, stepped in and waved off the bout.
Vera immediately jumped to his feet and began protesting the early stoppage. The crowd showered Miragliotta with boos and Werdum’s post-fight explanation of the bout’s final seconds also showed that the referee’s decision may not have been the correct one, even if he was attempting to err on the side of safety.
“Fabricio did his job,” Vera told Joe Rogan. “He mounted me and punched me in the face and I knew I was in a bad position but I said I’m okay. I’m gonna quit? Are you fucking kidding me? It’s 15 fucking seconds left. Let me get my ass whooped and let’s go to a second round.”
Another semi-controversial bout at the event saw Thales Leites escape with a questionable split decision win over Pancrase veteran Nate Marquardt after Marquardt was penalized twice during the fight after delivering an illegal elbow and knee during the last two rounds.
The first round saw both fighters nearly finish the fight. Marquardt walked into a straight right hand from Leites, sending the Denver native falling flat on the canvas. Leites jumped on Marquardt but was unable to finish the fight, evident by the combinations from Marquardt that dazed Leites and left him struggling to stand during the closing seconds of the round.
A point was deducted from Marquardt in the second round after he landed a knee flush to the face of Leites while the Brazilian still had one knee touching the mat. Referee Herb Dean gave Leites a few minutes to recover and he went on to nearly catch Marquardt in a triangle before the end of the round.
With Leites visibly fatigued, Marquardt turned up the heat going into the third round, effectively scoring points early and often with a busy ground-and-pound assault. However his attempt to prevent the fight from going to a decision was spoiled by Dean, who penalized Marquardt for elbowing Leites in the back of the head while replays showed that the blow grazed off the side of Leites’ head, a legal maneuver.
Since his impressive performance was ultimately going to waste, Marquardt pulled out all the stops during the fight’s final seconds, even going as far as piledriving Leites head-first into the mat just before the horn sounded to end the bout. However the point deductions gave the judges no choice but to score the fight in favor of Leites.
Mike Swick, fighting for the second time since dropping down to the welterweight division, handed fan-favorite Marcus Davis his first loss in close to three years, using superior wrestling to earn an unanimous decision. An expected slugfest between the usual fight-finishers never materialized as Swick used a variety of kicks to keep Davis, a former professional boxer, unable to close the distance throughout the fight while scoring multiple takedowns and imposing an effective ground-and-pound attack.
Martin Kampmann was victorious in his long-awaited return from multiple knee surgeries that kept him out of action for over a year, quickly submitting veteran Jorge Rivera in the first round. Newcomer Kevin Burns scored the night’s biggest upset, submitting grappling wizard Roan Carneiro.
Matt Wiman and Luis Cane each put on thundering displays in their fights, using their hands as lethal weapons in stopping Thiago Tavares and Jason Lambert respectively. The only preliminary bout to go to a decision was Paul Taylor’s win over France native Jess Liaudin.
The night’s first fight saw Antoni Hardonk score a vicious second-round stoppage of fellow heavy-hitter Eddie Sanchez in a bout that Sanchez took on extremely late notice due to a broken nose suffered by original Hardonk opponent Neil Wain during a recent training session.
Notes: The official announced attendance at the o2 arena was 15,327. The live gate was $2.93 million. Fight of the night bonuses went to Thiago Alves (Knockout of the Night), Kevin Burns (Submission of the Night), Matt Wiman, and Thiago Tavares (Fight of the Night). Each fighter received $50,000. Fighter base payouts for the event will not be officially released. A total of eight other fighters were originally slated to participate on the card but all were forced to withdraw due to injury with the exception of Rashad Evans, who was removed from the event completely. Alves stated after his win over Hughes that a sprained ankle suffered ten days before the event contributed to his inability to make the welterweight limit of 170 lbs for the fight.