Chris Leben vs. Yoshihiro Akiyama
Judging by Jay Silva's quotes earlier, a win by Chris Leben will get him a big fight (maybe he takes Akiyama's spot against Wanderlei Silva?).
Just spoke with Anthony Johnson. He definitely has no love lost for Josh Koscheck. In fact, he believes GSP will "smash Koscheck easily".
Akiyama with the quick ankle trip, but Leben gets back up. Akiyama looks very crisp early. Hopefully for Akiyama, his cardio holds up. Crowd is behind the Crippler with "Leben" chants. A small contingent fires back saying "Aki". Akiyama tries a hook but Leben counters with a straight left. Akiyama with a kick to the groin. For the mental image, Leben is "shaking it out" in order to recover. He's ready to go in about 20 seconds. Akiyama with the takedown to mount. Leben goes for an armbar, but Akiyama reverses into his own attempt. Leben is struggling to hold on, and he breaks free. Akiyama to side mount. Lebens escapes, and they are back on their feet. Leben glances up at the clock with 15 seconds left. Akiyama with the late takedown. Akiyama looks like the superior fighter, but Leben has come back from worse. Akiyama 10-9.
Leben charges out looking for the big shot. Akiyama stays composed. He looks more talented, but Leben is still very dangerous. Leben connects with a left hook. Akiyama staggers but fires back. This is a battle. Akiyama goes down, but he is back up. Leben glances at the clock. Akiyama connects. Leben connects. Leben is tiring fast. Akiyama with the takedown. Leben needs the break. Akiyama taking it slow as well. Akiyama connecting with short punches on the ground. Fighters back up. Leben tries a standing guillotine. It looks tight. Akiyama gets out. Leben is cut under the right eye. Both fighters exhausted but firing away. Leben gets the advantage. Fantastic round. Standing ovation. If you are not watching this fight, order the pay-per-view now. Leben 10-9.
Both fighters get a well-deserved round of applause to start the third. Big hand shake to start. Leben connects with a couple of jabs and a high kick. Akiyama still coming forward. Akiyama connects with a right that drops Leben. Akiyama in mount. Leben with a quick transition to an armbar attempt. Akiyama shakes free. That was close. Either Leben has been working on his jiu-jitsu or Akiyama desperately needs to. Akiyama into half-guard. Crowd chanting "Leben". Akiyama now in full guard. Both fighters looking to be offensive on the mat, but they do not have much left. Leben is more active from the bottom, but Akiyama is on top. Will be interesting to see the scoring if it goes to the end. Leben with a Triangle attempt. Its tight. Akiyama taps. Leben wins by impressive submission.
I don't know how many fight of the night bonues they can give out, but this one is the winner. There should be at least three. Leben also likely to get submission of the night.
Leben wasted no time calling out Wanderlei Silva.
Chris Leben wins by submission at 4:40 of round 3.
Matt Brown vs. Chris Lytle
Both fighters are known for their striking. They open the fight accordingly. Neither man getting a distinct advantage, but they are showing a willingness to throw bombs. Brown connects with a knee, but Lytle pushes him into the cage. Somewhat suprisingly, there is a lot of dirty boxing and Brown gets the takedown. Brown looking for a d'arce choke. It looks tight, but Lytle has never tapped before. Finally, Brown lets go when Lytle does not give up. Lytle's mouth is open and he does look tired, but he is still throwing back. Brown looks very good against the veteran Lytle. Brown 10-9.
Lytle starts the round throwing with more purpose. He appears frustrated with how the first round went. Brown keeps to the more technical style. Lytle gets the takedown. He is going for a guillotine, but transfers to mount. Lytle then transfers to half-guard in order to lock in a reverse armbar. Brown is defending well, but he is visably grimacing. Brown taps out.
Lytle wins by submission at 2:02 of round 2
Goran Reljic vs. Kendall Grove
(not on Spike)
After Grove's disparaging comments about Spike, he could definitely use an impressive performance here.
Round opens with both guys circling. Grove looks content to stand and trade instead of using his submissions. Reljic gets Grove down, but Grove unleashes an upkick that knocks Reljic to the mat. Reljic is able to quickly recover. Grove gets the close nod due to the kick 10-9.
Reljic takes Grove down but doesn't get much done. Groves tries to sweep, but Reljic breaks out and remains on top. Crowd is voicing their desire for a stand-up. We're at 5:47pm with one round to go. This needs to hurry up before Spike goes live. Yamasaki orders the stand up. Reljic gets the round because Grove didn't do anything offensively. 10-9 Reljic.
We're at 5:50pm with one round to go. This will cut it very close for Spike to get started on time. Don't be surprised if there are no entrances for Ricardo Romero or Seth Petruzelli - which could be very disappointing.
Third round opens with both guys looking to stand. Grove looks a little more agressive. Not too much offense. Reljic backs Grove into the cage, but he isn't really looking to advance. Reljic finally gets Grove down into north-south position. He looks to be trying for a strange choke, but Grove easily pushes him off. Another round where it's just difficult to give it to Grove.
The judges disagree:
29-28 Reljic, 30-27 Grove, 29-28 Grove. Grove by split decision.
Dave Branch vs. Gerald Harris
If you've never seen Branch before, well, join the club. With a quick check, I can see that Banch is 6-0 with 3 KOs. No one of note on his record. Harris is best known for his short stint on the Ultimate Fighter, and his phone call to Dana White on mmajunkie.com that got him back in the UFC.
Both guys look to want to stand and bang. Branch connects and staggers Harris into the cage. Harris is able to quickly recover. Harris goes for (and gets) a big slam on Branch into the mount, but he can't advance from there.
A close one, but Branch 10-9.
Harris gets Branch down into full guard. Brnach does not look to have much in the way of submissions from his back, but he is able to scramble back to his feet. Harris now wants to wrestle while Branch wants to box. Harris sneaks in a decent right jab, but neither fighter is hurt much. Due to the takedown, Harris 10-9.
Branch pushes Harris against the cage and in unison, the crowd boos. Herb Dean looks closely then finally breaks it up. Branch goes for and missies a high knee. Harris pushing Branch up against the cage. Branch tries to pull guard for some reason. Very bad idea. Harris catches Brnach and jumps forward firing Branch ito the mat. Fight over. Knockout.
At 2:35 of round 3, Harris wins by KO.
Clubhouse leader for knockout of the night.
Forrest Petz vs. Daniel Roberts
Roberts with the early takedown, but Petz scrambles back to his feet. Both guys circling but nothing being thrown. Roberts pullies Petz up against the cage which seems to be the early theme of the night. Petz breaks free. Both guys look very tentative tonight. Roberts takes Petz down and get his back. Both hooks in. Choke looks very close, but Petz hangs on to the end of the round. Roberts 10-9.
Roberts with another takedown. He switches to the back and gets both hooks in. He can't lock up the choke, and Petz scrambles out. On the feet, Petz starts throwing big shots - knowing he can't win a a ground battle. Regardless, Roberts takes him down for a second time this round. Roberts changes position and goes for a guillotine. Can't get the submission. Roberts 10-9.
Petz is gaining more confidence on his feet, but he's unable to land anything too damaging. Roberts is circling while looking for the takedown. Petz is able to keep the fight standing, but he's unlikely to come back without a knockout. He is still not able to connect with anything more than a jab. Roberts finally times a strike and gets inside for the takedown. Roberts transitions to full mount but Petz holds on like a kid with his favorite teddy bear.
The takedown helps, but probably not enough to take the round. 10-9 Petz. 29-28 Roberts.
Two judges score it 29-28 for the winner Daniel Roberts. One judge 29-28 for Petz.
Arena is maybe 1/2 full at this point, but people are coming in.
Quick hitter: Just spoke with Jay Silva. He made note that a loss here would not hurt Chris Leben much because Leben was doing Silva a "favor". He added that Ryan Jensen is another guy always willing to take a fight on short notice.
Jon Madsen vs. Karlos Vemola
Heavyweights about to collide. From the looks of these two, it could be a short night.
Or maybe not - Madsen bullies Vemola against the cage looking for a takedown. Vemola is able to block it. Vemola responds with a fast arm-drag attempt (see: Ricky Steamboat) but Madsen blocks it half-way through to end up on top. Vemola scrambles out.
Madsen gets Vemola down and he is on top in half-guard. Vemola locks down on Madsen's head so Madsen cannot get much offense going - a few shots to the ribs but not much else.
First round ends without much taking place. A close round, but I'll take Madsen 10-9.
Madsen takes Vemola down in a similar fashion to round 2. Nothing really happening. Vemola again clutches Madsen's head. It's only round 2 of the first fight, and the crowd is already booing. The ref finally stands the fighters up to the delight of the crowd. The fighters lock up against the cage for another 30 seconds then the ref breaks it up.
For two heavyweights hoping to make an impression... well, maybe they actually are.
Mercifully, the bell sounds. Madsen gets the slight nod for the takedown, but they probably should cut that round from the DVD. Madsen 10-9.
Madsen takes down Vemola (again), and Vemola grabs onto Madsen's neck (again). If Vemola doesn't do something quick, he may have a very short UFC stay. Vemola attempts a kimura from the bottom, but it looks like he may just be stalling and hoping for a stand-up. The ref finally obliges.
Vemola goes for a standing guillotine, but Madsen pushes him off. Madsen ends up on top again. The ref wastes no time in standing them back up. And then the bell sounds. Madsen 10-9. 30-27 Madsen overall.
Side note: Robbie Lawler was in Madsen's corner.
All three judges agree. 30-27 Madsen.