Robbie Lawler. Photo by Tom Casino/EliteXC.
Robbie Lawler prevented history from repeating itself Saturday night as he wore down Scott Smith before finally finishing him with a barrage of knees in the second round of their EliteXC middleweight title fight at the Stockton Arena in California.
The two exchanged blows for the second time in two months, this instance serving as the main event of EliteXC’s “Unfinished Business” event, which became the promotion’s second such show to be broadcast on primetime network television via CBS. Their original meeting saw both men battle back and forth for fifteen minutes before Lawler inadvertently poked Smith in the eye in the third round. The ringside doctor ultimately ruled that Smith was unable to continue due to vision problems and the fight was ruled a no-contest.
Early on, it looked as if Lawler would once again earn a decisive opening round in his favor, stunning Smith with a trio of jabs. Smith bounced back however, continuing to push the pace and catching Lawler with a right hand late in the round, following up with a flurry that swung momentum in his favor. Smith then opened up a cut just inches away from the previous one Lawler suffered in their first bout. The blood forced Lawler to turn it up a notch, leading to a flurry of knees in the clinch that knocked Smith down twice.
Lawler pounced on his fallen foe and followed up a right hand with two unanswered body kicks, forcing referee Herb Dean to step in and stop the fight. Lawler celebrated by busting out some dance movies to the tone of the post-fight music. After the official decision, Lawler praised Smith for the constant pressure he displayed during the fight.
“I just got close [throughout the fight],” Lawler said. “I felt like I was pummeling with him. I could feel him breathing. I was dictating the pace and taking my time, but man, he was pushing me. I got cut and I knew I had to step it up because if there was a lull in the action, the referee would have gotten it looked at. So I knew I had to keep up the pace and go forward.”
Smith (13-5, 1 NC) visibly slowed down immediately after cutting Lawler (18-4, 1 NC) with a series of elbows at the start of the second round. It was an error that he disappointingly admitted cost him the win.
“In the second round I made a mistake,” Smith said. “I cut him with one of my elbows and like an idiot, like he said, I sat around and waited for the referee to come in and take a look at it. He went to work on me. He went to work on my midsection. You live and you learn I guess.”
The night’s co-featured attraction saw one of the more entertaining fights of the year take place as hometown favorite Nick Diaz hammered Thomas Denny for nearly two rounds before eventually stopping the scrappy veteran with some unanswered shots after knocking Denny down with a combination.
Nick Diaz and Thomas Denny. Photo by Tom Casino/EliteXC.
Denny surprised Diaz early, keeping him off-balance with leg kicks and short punches inside. After going for a pair of submission attempts on the ground, Diaz was quick to find his rhythm on the feet, putting his reach advantage to use in the form of peppering jabs and outside hooks. Denny was able to survive Diaz’s onslaught and make it to the second round, despite being caught flush with a number of punches during the closing minutes of the first.
His dream of knocking off Stockton’s toughest son would be shattered though as Diaz continued to blast Denny, who continually came up short with his punches during exchanges. A hard left hook forced Denny to sit against the cage for a moment. After he got back to his feet, Denny was knocked down again by Diaz (18-7, 1 NC), who pounded away on his defenseless opponent until referee Josh Rosenthal saved Denny (26-17) from any further punishment.
Jake Shields made quick work of BodogFight welterweight champion Nick Thompson and won a belt of his own in the process, finally picking up EliteXC’s vacant welterweight strap after months of opponent problems and unfortunate injuries.
Shields (21-4-1) swiftly took Thompson (36-10-1) to the mat with a single-leg takedown in the bout’s opening seconds. To the surprise of many, Shields quickly transition to the mount position with ease, despite Thompson’s reputation as being a heralded ground specialist. A scramble saw Shields able to sneak his right hand underneath Thompson’s neck. Despite Thompson’s best efforts to lift Shields off of him, he was quickly forced to tap out due to a modified guillotine choke.
“I think all the waiting just made me stronger,” Shields said after the fight. “I would love to fight the winner of [UFC welterweight champion Georges] St. Pierre and [Jon] Fitch and unify the world titles.”
CBS’ opening fight saw Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos, wife of Chute Boxe product Evangelista Santos, fight off opponent Shayna Baszler’s early submission attempts before stopping the fight with a straight right hand that sent Baszler to the canvas for good.
Shayna Baszler and Cris Cyborg. Photo by Tom Casino/EliteXC.
Santos stumbled and fell down in the first round, allowing Baszler to rush over and slap on a toehold. However as with all leg-related submission, Baszler left herself open to be punched and that’s exactly what Santos did until Baszler let go of the hold. The bout stayed on the feet in the second round and Santos’ striking advantage came into play early and often with crisp jabs and hard right hands that hurt Baszler.
Santos cracked Baszler with a right hand that sent Baszler falling backwards. Santos, thinking that the fight was over, jumped onto the top of the cage and began to celebrate, only to have referee Steve Mazzagatti inform her that the fight wasn’t over. With the bout restarted, Santos knocked Baszler (9-5) down with yet another right hand and Mazzagatti opted to wave off the bout, allowing Santos (5-0) to celebrate her then-official victory.
In the main event of Showtime’s part of the event’s broadcast, Antonio Silva became EliteXC’s first-ever heavyweight champion when he stopped former UFC title challenger Justin Eilers just seconds into the second round of their bout. Silva used his superior grappling ability to take Eilers down midway through an extremely uneventful first round, that saw Silva be penalized a point after illegally striking the back of Eilers’ head.
Silva went on to send Eilers retreated to the fencing with a left-right combination at the start of the second round. A flurry of punches from Silva (11-1) caused Eilers (20-8-1) to turn his back, only allowing Silva to inflict even more punishment until Eilers was sent down to a knee, signaling referee Herb Dean to stop the fight just 19 seconds into the second stanza.
Rising light heavyweight prospect Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante (7-1) scored an impressive-first round TKO of one-time PRIDE Fighting Championships veteran Travis Galbraith (15-6). Also victorious was another popular prospect as grappling wizard Wilson Reis (5-0) picked up yet another victory with a unanimous decision over Brian Caraway (10-3).
In the night’s opening bout, Brandon Tarns (1-2) used superior wrestling to stifle Drew Montgomery’s attempts to keep their fight on the feet. Both men were cut during the course of the bout, but Tarns’ injury was worse. A cut on the top of his forehead impaired his vision and would not stop bleeding, handing him his first loss inside the confines of EliteXC and Montgomery (5-3) his first win. Carl Seumanutafa (4-0) moved things along much quicker in the show’s second fight, knocking out Mike Cook (5-3) with a first-round slam.
The two advertised swing bouts of the night took place after the televised portion of the show was over. David Douglas (4-1) stopped last-minute replacement opponent Marlon Matias (5-3) just 12 seconds into their fight while Anthony Ruiz (21-11) and Jeremy Freitag (6-7) fought for the third time in their respective careers. Ruiz remained undefeated against Freitag in the end, winning a hard-fought unanimous decision.