Leben was returning from a 13 month layoff due to a positive drug test and the resulting year-long suspension while Brunson had taken the fight on about eight days' notice after an injury to Leben's original opponent.
Both looked the part after about five minutes.
In all honesty, the less said about this fight, the better, but let's get into it:
Brunson learned from his mistakes, not standing and trading with Leben early like he did against Jacare and instead shooting in and taking "The Crippler" down following his first significant strike thrown. The former Strikeforce prospect was able to keep Leben down for the majority of the round, although he wasn't able to do too much damage from the position barring the occasional elbow.
Rounds two and three were painful as both men were exhausted. Brunson wasn't as effective with his wrestling, particularly when he telegraphed his shots, but when he timed his takedowns, he was still able to put Leben on his back.
To his credit, he wore Leben down early on and completely took the threat of his power away as Leben never was able to throw that scary left hand we've seen him destroy opponents with.
Brunson did a good job of utilizing movement and occasionally darting in and blasting Leben on the feet, punishing the veteran for keeping his hands down and walking into the blows, although he never seemed to hurt him.
When it was all said and done, the judges ruled unanimously in Brunson's favor, although UFC President Dana White wasn't very happy with either performance.
For Chris Leben, he just couldn't get anything going. His inability to fend of that first takedown really sucked the life out of his fight-ending potential. His hooks were lacking and he was slow last night. The one good thing he had going for him were his leg kicks, which actually landed often, but he couldn't do anything to follow up and he didn't throw them enough to do decent damage. When he was taken down, he did a good job of positioning himself near the fence so as to cagewalk back to his feet, but his inability to punish Brunson after his opponent gassed really hurt him.
For Derek Brunson, he definitely had a good gameplan to wrestle Leben and occasionally nail him with some left hands when he was overaggressive, but this one was ugly. Let's not crucify the kid just yet as he took the fight on short notice and he's not the first fighter to have an adrenaline dump in his Octagon debut, but the second and third rounds of this fight were downright ugly. When he timed his takedowns effectively, they were solid and his movement was excellent, never really giving Leben an opportunity to hurt him. I certainly could have done without the screaming/taunting at the very end of the fight though.
It would be wise to give Brunson the slow build off of pay-per-view for his next fight considering this outcome. Potentially up next for him could be Francis Carmont, Nick Ring or perhaps Chris Camozzi.
So what did you think, Maniacs?
Should this bout have opened up the pay-per-view main card? What did you make of Leben's return? Does Brunson have any potential, or are you willing to give him a pass considering the extenuating circumstances?