Jon Fitch. Photo property of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Jon Fitch’s journey back to the top of the UFC’s welterweight division started off with a win on Saturday night as the former collegiate wrestler grinded out a unanimous decision over Japanese pioneer Akihiro Gono in UFC 94’s most high-profile preliminary bout.
After a spectacular and somewhat odd walk to the Octagon by Gono (29-14-7), the PRIDE veteran spent the first few minutes of his bout against Fitch (18-3) defending constant takedown attempts. Fitch, an American Kickboxing Academy product, was eventually able to bring his opponent to the mat, where the majority of the fight took place.
The former UFC welterweight title challenger nearly finished the fight in the second round with an armbar just before time expired, and survived a last-minute comeback effort from Gono on the feet to win a clear-cut decision on the scorecards.
In all, the remainder of the dark matches also went the distance as well. Brazilian grappler Thiago Tavares (14-3) bested former “Ultimate Fighter” cast member Manny Gamburyan (8-4) via unanimous decision in a wild fight on the feet.
UFC 94’s first three fights of the night were all decided by split decision. UFC newcomer John Howard (11-4) scored an upset over Team Quest product Chris Wilson (14-5), Jake O’Brien (11-2) fought his way to a win over Christian Wellisch (8-5), and Dan Cramer (1-0) was a winner in his professional debut, earning the nod over Matt Arroyo (3-3).
Complete preliminary results:
Dan Cramer def. Matt Arroyo - Split Decision
Jake O’Brien def. Christian Wellisch - Split Decision
John Howard def. Chris Wilson - Split Decision
Thiago Tavares def. Manny Gamburyan - Unanimous Decision
Jon Fitch def. Akihiro Gono - Unanimous Decision
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