LAS VEGAS, July 6 – With a change in scenery, living and camp wise, fight fans hoped to see the old Chris Leben return for his UFC 162 prelim bout with Andrew Craig Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. But instead, they got an old Chris Leben, as the 32-year-old middleweight veteran lost a three round split decision to Craig in his 21st Octagon appearance.
Scores were 29-28, 30-27, and 28-29 for Craig, who improves to 9-1; Leben, who has now dropped four of his last five, falls to 22-10.
Leben and Craig got to business immediately, with a couple standup exchanges followed by a tie-up against the fence initiated by Leben. After a stalemate, the two broke briefly before Leben sought a takedown and got it, even though Craig rose immediately and then pushed his foe off. An ensuing exchange favoured Leben, who was intent on wearing his opponent out at close range. With under two minutes left, Craig began finding success with his straighter punches, marking up Leben’s face, while “The Crippler” continued to press for the takedown. Looking to finish strong, Craig shot for a takedown in the closing seconds, but Leben defended well.
The pattern of the first round repeated itself in the second, with Craig tagging Leben effectively from long range and Leben trying to rough the Texan up at close range in search of a takedown. The only problem for the Ultimate Fighter season one veteran was that Craig was finding more and more daylight to get his strikes off.
Trying to turn things around, Leben raced out of his corner for the final round and threw caution to the wind with his strikes. Unfortunately that played into Craig’s plan as he hurt and then dropped Leben to the mat. Leben weathered the follow-up attack and the crowd chanted his name, hoping to see their hero pull one out of the bag once more. It wasn’t meant to be though, as Craig controlled the action with two takedowns that sealed the victory and gave him his biggest win to date.
With the win, Craig ups his record to 9-1; Leben falls to 22-10.
PARKE vs. TOKUDOME
Norman Parke’s first Octagon bout since winning the first season of the Ultimate Fighter Smashes series last December was a successful one, as he pounded out a three round unanimous decision win over Kazuki Tokudome in an entertaining lightweight scrap.
Scores for Parke were 30-27 twice and 29-28.
Wanting to show off his standup, Parke got his chance in the opening half of the first round, landing with some crisp shots before Tokudome looked for the takedown. Parke deftly reversed position and got a takedown of his own, but Tokudome just as ably reversed position on the mat, getting into his foe’s guard. Both fighters remained busy, Parke drawing a roar as he switched himself into the top position at the end of the round.
Parke and Tokudome resumed hostilities in the second, trading freely in the middle of the Octagon. And while the Japan native got his share of shots in, Parke’s left was making a distinct impression, jarring Tokudome on a number of occasions. Midway through the round, a Tokudome swing and a miss was greeted with a Parke takedown. Tokudome got back to his feet, but was quickly put back on the mat. Again, Tokudome used his solid grappling to get to his feet, but he was unable to capitalize before the end of the round.
The bout went to the mat in the opening minute of round three, Parke keeping control against the fence as Tokudome rose. In an ensuing scramble, the combatants went back to the mat briefly before resuming their standup duel, this time with Tokudome landing two solid kicks to the head and then following up with a takedown. Parke got up quickly, but he took some punches to the head for his trouble as Tokudome surged moved forward just before the Northern Ireland native delivered two takedowns as the fight ended.
With the win, Parke ups his record to 19-2; Tokudome falls to 12-4-1.
HERMAN vs. GONZAGA
Dave Herman’s return to the Octagon for the first time since October of 2012 came to a sudden end, as longtime contender Gabriel Gonzaga took him out just 17 seconds into their heavyweight bout.
A low kick by Herman seconds in was immediately greeted by a Gonzaga overhand right to the head that put him on the canvas. Follow up strikes by “Napao” brought in referee Kim Winslow to halt the fight seconds later.
Gonzaga improves to 15-7 with the win; Herman, who has now lost four straight, falls to 21-6.
BARBOZA vs. OLIVEIRA
Anyone who says leg kicks don’t win fights has never watched lightweight prospect Edson Barboza in action, and against returning Rafaello Oliveira, Barboza knocked out his foe with repeated shots to the leg, winning by TKO in the second round.
Barboza was on target with leg and body kicks from the start, with Oliveira’s takedown attempts getting tossed off with ease as well. In the final minute, Barboza’s leg kicks really started to affect Oliveira, and “Junior” upped his attack trying to finish. And though he didn’t get it in the first five minutes, it appeared to just be a matter of time.
In the second, Barboza continued his attack, bloodying and bruising Oliveira’s leg and leaving him limping around the Octagon. Finally, after another vicious series of kicks to the left leg, Oliveira fell to the mat and referee Herb Dean mercifully waved the fight off at 1:44 of the round.
With the win, Barboza, who also finished Mike Lullo with leg kicks in 2010, improves to 12-1; Oliveira, who needed assistance walking back to the locker room, falls to 15-6.
MELANCON vs. BACZYNSKI
Strikeforce veteran Brian Melancon made a huge impression in his UFC debut, knocking out Seth Baczynski in the first round of their welterweight bout.
Cooler than any debuting UFC fighter should be, Melancon (7-2) calmly picked at Baczynski with a left hook that rarely missed, reddening the Arizonan’s face and sending him to the canvas midway through the round. Baczynski (17-8) was able to shake the cobwebs off and get back to his feet, but then Melancon showed off his wrestling with a takedown with under 90 seconds left. He wasn’t done yet though, and just before the bell sounded, Melancon scored with a left on the ground and followed up with a series of blows, knocking Baczynski out. The official time of the knockout was 4:59.
Check out the post-fight interview from Brian Melancon
PIERCE vs. MITCHELL
Welterweight up and comer Mike Pierce made it four straight in the opener, halting David Mitchell in the second round.
Round one was a typical Pierce frame: grinding, effective, exhausting on his opponent, and less than exhilarating for the fans, who didn’t take long getting restless and letting their feelings known. Pierce didn’t stray from his plan though, and in round two, he caught Mitchell with a short left that dropped the Californian. A series of ground strikes ended matters seconds later, with referee Steve Mazzagatti halting the bout at the 2:55 mark.
“I love my left hook and I got it to connect finally,” said Pierce, now 17-5. Mitchell falls to 12-3.
Check out the post-fight interview from Mike Pierce
No Miracles for The Crippler, Joy for Parke - UFC 162 Prelim Results
Read on for UFC 162 prelim results...