By Thomas Gerbasi
In theory and in practice, reality television shows are at their best when the underdog rises from nowhere to win it all. Saturday night at The Pearl at The Palms in Las Vegas, Amir Sadollah completed his improbable run through The Ultimate Fighter: Team Rampage vs Team Forrest, submitting CB Dollaway a second time to win the competition and earn a UFC contract.
“I’m trying to think up some funny stuff to say but it won’t come out, so I’ll just say that I’m blown away by the fact that that just happened,” said Sadollah, 2-0, after the bout.
A fighter with no professional bouts when he joined the Spike TV reality show, Sadollah earned a legion of fans and a ton of respect as he defeated Steve Byrnes, Gerald Harris, Matt Brown, and Dollaway to earn a shot in the final. And though Dollaway seemed to be in control just before the bout ended, Sadollah’s never say die attitude prevailed once again.
Dollaway (7-2) opened the bout strong with a hard leg kick, but was answered by Sadollah’s own kicks to the belly. As the bout approached its second minute, Dollaway scored a takedown and worked his ground and pound game. Within a minute, Dollaway was in side control, but only briefly as he found himself back in Sadollah’s guard and landed ground strikes again. Sadollah, as was his custom throughout the show, pulled victory from the jaws of defeat, locking in an armbar. Dollaway tried to slam his way out but was unable to, and he tapped out at 3:02 of the opening round.
Welterweight contender Diego Sanchez was sharp and focused in his bout against Luigi Fioravanti, stopping the American Top Team product in the third round of an exciting bout that was fought predominantly on the feet.
“For a long time people have underestimated my striking ability,” said Sanchez. “Joe Riggs (a first round KO for Sanchez in 2006) wasn’t a fluke. I’m back.”
Scowling from the opening bell, Sanchez (21-2) opted to keep it standing with the hard-hitting Fioravanti (12-4), scoring with a crisp flurry and just missing with a flying knee moments later. Midway through the round, Sanchez landed with a hard kick to the head, but his subsequent takedown attempts were shut down by Fioravanti, and it was the Florida native who ended the round in style with a takedown of his own.
The fight continued at a similar pace in the second, but 20 seconds in, Fioravanti appeared to hurt his right leg. Sanchez moved in, and seconds later he dropped his foe with a right hand. After some dicey moments, Fioravanti worked his way back up, but Sanchez kept the pressure on, eventually hurting his opponent again with the right hand. Fioravanti showed his resilience by shaking off the punch, and it was the Marine who ended the round with a strong flurry that got the crowd roaring.
With five minutes left to go in the fight, the two kept testing each other’s standup, with both Sanchez and Fioravanti having their moments. It was Sanchez though who had the final word as a left kick to the head stunned Fioravanti as the bout approached its final minute. A follow-up right knee put Fioravanti down, and a furious barrage of ground strikes forced referee Josh Rosenthal to halt the bout at the 4:07 mark.
Lightweight contender Spencer ‘The King’ Fisher rebounded from his loss to Frankie Edgar last November, pounding out a three round unanimous decision over Jeremy Stephens.
Scores were 29-28 across the board for Fisher, who improves to 22-4; Stephens falls to 15-3.
“I knew I had better be in shape because he’s a tough guy,” said Fisher of his former training partner.
It only took the smiling Iowans 30 seconds to start engaging, but after a quick standup exchange, the action hit the mat, with Fisher firing away with strikes from inside Stephens’ guard. While on his back, Stephens looked to catch Fisher in submissions in between his own strikes, but Fisher’s active pace was keeping him in control of the bout. With under 1:30 left, Fisher got Stephens’ back, but the ‘Lil’ Heathen’ quickly broke loose and was able to make it out of the round.
Stephens started off the second with a hard right to the head, but after a quick scrum against the fence, Fisher responded with a series of strikes that got his foe’s attention. After a halt of the action at the 3:00 mark due to a lost mouthpiece, the two resumed hostilities, with each fighter trying to make each punch or kick count. Fisher reversed a takedown as the two minute mark approached, and he took advantage of being on top by outworking his younger foe. It was Stephens who had the last word of the round though as he secured a slam after the two stood just before the bell rang.
Both combatants came out swinging in the final round, with Stephens showing more of a sense of urgency. After landing with his own retaliatory blows, Fisher responded by shooting in for a takedown, only to almost get caught by a guillotine choke. After escaping, the two stood, but Stephens took the fight back to the mat, opened a cut over Fisher’s left eye with his strikes, and once again went for the guillotine, holding on until the bout ended.
Nothing like making your pro debut in front of a national television audience, but if anyone can handle it it’s probably precocious 22-year old Matthew Riddle, who made it 1-0 in the pro ranks with a three round unanimous decision win over TUF castmate Dante Rivera in Spike TV’s middleweight opener.
Scores were 30-27 twice and 29-28 for Riddle.
“Being with Arizona Combat Sports, I’m at a real camp now,” said Riddle. “I’ve got the conditioning, the strength, the technique, and I feel like I belong here.”
Rivera (10-3) controlled the early going at close range, nullifying much of the offense of Riddle, save for a few knees to the body. Midway through the round, there was a halt to the action when Rivera lost his mouthpiece, but after a few moments the two locked up once against the fence again, where Riddle went back to his strategy of firing away with knees before a late round takedown saw the Allentown native take control on the mat until the bell.
Riddle opened up the second with a takedown, but then opted to stand and score with some leg kicks before Rivera rose to join his foe. The two locked up against the fence, and Riddle was busier, leaving Rivera not hurt, but tired. With under two minutes left, Rivera landed with a looping left, but the ensuing trip to the canvas saw Riddle land in the mount position. He wasn’t able to finish, and Rivera turned the tables for a moment until Riddle almost landed a submission in the final seconds of the stanza.
There was more of the same in the third, with Rivera showing heart and determination, but Riddle’s strength and athleticism was too much for the New Jersey resident, who was unable to mount enough of an offensive to pull out the victory.
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