UFC 89: "Bisping vs. Leben" took place this evening from The National Indoor Arena (NIA) in Birmingham, England, airing via tape delay on Spike TV.
In the main event, Michael Bisping and Chris Leben teed off on one another for three straight rounds as expected. "The Count," however, took the smart approach and decided to box the brawler rather than brawl with the brawler.
And it worked.
His "straight punches" were the deciding factor as opposed to the "Crippler's" looping power-packed punches. Bisping picked apart the new and improved Leben for three rounds en route to a big unanimous decision win.
Just the way he wanted it.
In fact, he admitted in the post-fight interview that his plan was to win on the judges scorecards -- not the sexiest thing to admit, but perhaps the smartest. He countered beautifully and even though he wasn't the aggressor he was certainly the winner.
Didn't see that much controversy in this one.
Physically, Leben looked like a new man -- his preparation for this bout was clearly next to none in his career. However, he did not change the label he has earned in the past as a one-trick knockout pony. Although he did have Bisping wobbled a bit in waning seconds of that last round, proving that at anytime in any fight Leben has the ability to end a fight fast.
There's no doubt he'll be back ... in terms of setbacks this loss, while disappointing, more than likely does not register very high in the life and times of the rough and tumble Chris Leben.
Bisping must be on top of the world. The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 3 light heavyweight winner has enjoyed great success inside the Octagon. And now that he is in the middleweight division he looks to be a force.
He'll serve as the U.K. coach on the next season of TUF and after that a championship opportunity is likely in the cards. It's a good time to be "The Count."
In the co-featured fight of the evening, light heavyweight kickboxing specialists Keith Jardine and Brandon Vera went toe-to-toe for three rounds. It was billed as an explosive match up that would end early.
It didn't happen.
While it had its moments, the fight did not necessarily live up to its expectations. The first round had some high points, particularly an exchange in the waning seconds where both fighters got dropped.
"The Dean of Mean" ended the round with a flurry of punches that had Vera dazed.
From that point on, the fight seemed to taper with Vera seeming to wait to land the next big shot. And while he did score points in the second round, he seemed hesitant in the final frame, which could have been his undoing.
Without question, it was a close fight and worthy of the split decision -- it could have gone either way. But with so much on the line it didn't appear that either Jardine or Vera had a sense of urgency.
It was up for grabs heading into the third and apparently Jardine did enough in the judges eyes to earn the victory.
Vera has now lost three of his last four, including a lackluster unanimous decision win over Reese Andy during that stretch. Of course, Tim Sylvia, Fabricio Werdum and Jardine are no pushovers.
Regardless, Vera needs to get things going again. And perhaps the UFC event in the Philippines -- where he is a big star because of his heritage -- in 2009 is just what he needs.
Jardine now holds recent wins over Forrest Griffin, Chuck Liddell and Vera in his last five fights. It's safe to say that he has the ability to hang with the best in the division ... even though it may not be in the prettiest fashion.
Now he just has to stay consistent and notch another "W" in his next appearance to get right back in the title hunt.
Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou had his hands full heading into his light heavyweight fight against the very dangerous and relatively Luis Cane. The Cameroonian came out guns blazing, setting a fast pace with lightning fast and powerful kicks.
The Brazilian, however, seemed unphased and surprisingly unhurt throughout the punishing onslaught. He actually began to turn the tide and register some damage of his own as the first round came to a close.
"Banha" carried that momentum into the next round, and after a brief stoppage because of a low blow, continued to stalk his opponent. Soku seemed to tire from the pressure and toward the end of the stanza he got torched with several knees and a big left hook.
That was enough to drop Soku and Cane pounced on the injured fighter and pounded his way to victory.
It's clear that Soku had tremendous power, athleticism and kickboxing. However, at this level it just does not appear to be enough to earn him consistent wins, especially if his opponents such as Lyoto Machida and Cane are able to either short-circuit or whether his attack.
There's no telling where or when he fights next, but he does have tremendous promise and ability, which has to count for something. Just not tonight.
On the flip side, this is a nice win for Cane who -- despite his heel-ish personality -- is very quietly working his way up the 205-pound ladder. Expect to see him begin to take on bigger names like ... Brandon Vera?
Prior to that on the main card, Chris Lytle and Paul Taylor got their welterweight tilt started immediately, trading big punches early and often. "Lights Out" even encouraged "Relentless" prior to the start of the bout to make it the "Fight of the Night."
He was apparently game.
After the first round ended with some good dirty boxing up against the fence, the second round began just like the first with fists flying. The pair exerted so much energy that it seemed both fighters appeared to tire as the second round wound down.
It didn't last long, however,
The the third round was more fireworks, with Lytle seemingly getting the better of the exchanges before Taylor drilled the Indiana fireman with a nice combination with about 25 seconds left in the fight.
Lytle was somehow able to hang on, and in the process, nab a close unanimous decision win.
It's too bad Taylor has lost three of his last four bouts. If Lytle is any indication, the UFC rewards fighters for exciting performance win or lose and Taylor certainly falls into that category.
Hopefully, Taylor -- who has three "Fight of the Night" honors to his credit, including this one -- gets another bite at the Octagon apple to prove once again that he belongs ... he likely won't disappoint.
The veteran Marcus Davis rebounded with a slick second round submission of the 23-year-old Paul Kelly, getting back on track after a disappointing unanimous decision loss to Mike Swick in his last performance.
He showed no ill effects of the shoulder injury that hampered him in the defeat -- his first in 11 fights -- demonstrating a nice in-and-out stand standup up attack while mixing in several nice kicks to the belly of Kelly in the opening frame.
In the second round the British native decided to switch things up and take the fight to the mat -- a decision that ultimately cost him the fight. The submission-savvy Davis was able to get in good position and slip his arm under the throat of Kelly.
It was all academic after that ... Davis sat down and locked in a fight-ending guillotine choke that forced Kelly to tap.
"The Irish Hand Grenade" scored a nice win tonight and we could see him back in action in Dublin at UFC 93 on January 17 -- he requested as much in his post-fight interview.
And UFC President Dana White will more than likely oblige because Davis is a staple on the European cards. As for Kelly, he showed his inexperience but it's clear he has a bright future.
A move to lightweight might be a great idea if he can make the cut ... he'd be dangerous opponent for anyone in that division.
For the complete UFC 89 coverage and blow-by-blow main card commentary click here.