Last September, TJ Grant and Evan Dunham went toe-to-toe for 15 minutes in a
Fight of the Night-winning performance at UFC 152. Grant won the bloody battle by unanimous decision, making a case for main card positioning in the future.
Saturday, he closed out the preliminary portion of the UFC on FOX 6 event in Chicago opposite Matt Wiman, and once again, the Nova Scotia native showed that he is a serious dark horse contender in the lightweight division.
The 28-year-old Grant showcased his impressive and steadily improving Muay Thai skills, battering Wiman with standing elbows, and knees to the body in the clinch. After opening him up early in the contest, Grant continued to press the action, dropping the longtime lightweight veteran in the final 30 seconds of the frame. Sensing a chance to finish, the Cole Harbour, N.S.,-based fighter followed Wiman to the canvas, dropping power shots that prompted referee John McCarthy to step in with just nine second left in the round.
This was a standout performance for Grant, who now moves to 4-0 since dropping to lightweight. That mark is the second-longest win streak in the UFC’s 155-pound division, trailing only the mark of six straight held by current champion Benson Henderson.
With fighters like Frankie Edgar and Clay Guida having departed the weight class, there are now great opportunities to climb the ladder for the surging Canadian contender.
Every fight card needs a debatable decision, and Saturday night, that was the featherweight bout between Clay Guida and Hatsu Hioki.
The Japanese veteran Hioki looked to clearly win the opening round, landing the better strikes throughout, stifling Guida’s advances. In the second, the frenetic fan favourite Guida completed a big takedown early, but did little from top position, and ate a late headkick once referee Rob Madrigal stood them up late in the frame. The third was very similar to the second, with Guida completing an early takedown, but offering almost no offence on the ground. Hioki threatened with a triangle choke at one point, and did a very good job of nullifying Guida’s attempts to pass.
When the scores were announced, each man earned a 29-28 result, with the third judge inexplicably scoring the fight 30-27 for Guida. The 29-28 scores either way are accurate, depending on what criteria you weigh the most, but the clean sweep for Guida is inexcusable. What’s worse is that everyone watching knew something shaky was coming midway through the contest. That’s not a good thing at all.
After a frustrating two year stretch that saw him compete only once — and suffer the only loss of his career in that one fight — Pascal Krauss delivered an impressive performance in picking up his second UFC win in Chicago. The Duke Roufus-trainee found his range midway through the first, and picked apart Mike Stumpf from then on, including introducing a new strike into the mix, a Superman uppercut.
Krauss picked apart Stumpf over the full 15 minutes, and didn’t show much of a decline in his output as the fight wore on. He’s a solid up-and-comer who should have time to continue his development in the deep welterweight division, and if he can stay healthy, has the upside to potentially be a factor in the division in the future.
Former Ultimate Fighter winner Ryan Bader made a statement Saturday night, earning the fastest submission in light-heavyweight history with a modified guillotine choke on Vladimir Matyushenko.
Bader, who won Season 8 of the long-running reality TV show, clipped Matyushenko with a quick left hand, and then grabbed a front headlock that he turned into a choke, trapping the arm similar to a head-and-arm choke as he dropped to his back to tighten the hold. Matyushenko fought the hold initially, but Bader locked down his inside leg, bringing his body in closer, making the choke even tighter, forcing Matyushenko to tap at the 50-second mark.
Coming off is knockout loss to Lyoto Machida last August and having struggled to solidify his place as a contender, this was the kind of impressive, dominant performance Bader needed in order to keep himself in the light heavyweight conversation.
Shawn Jordan and Mike Russow took turns pushing the pace and dictating the offence in their heavyweight contest. In the first, Russow, a Chicago police officer, came out fast, stinging Jordan early and pressing hard for the finish. He battered Jordan with straight rights down the pipe, and looked to wear him out along the cage, but the former LSU fullback pushed through and survived.
In the second, Russow was gassed, and Jordan took full advantage. He opened up with his hands quickly, and dragged Russow down to the ground with a sloppy single. Jordan moved to mount, and then back mount. While Russow eventually made it back to his feet, it wasn’t for long, as Jordan once again dropped him to the canvas with a single leg takedown. From there, “The Savage” moved to mount and rained down strikes. Russow gave up his back, Jordan continued firing away, and referee Herb Dean was forced to stop the fight.
Last time out, Rafael Natal got a little too impressed with his handiwork and started taunting Andrew Craig. The ornery Texan prompted to put shin to head, handing the Brazilian a loss. This time, however, the man known as “Sapo” was much more composed and focused, leading to a dominant victory over newcomer Sean Spencer.
The Brazilian controlled the majority of the striking in the first before scoring a late takedown. He quickly transitioned into mount, but didn’t have enough time to work for the finish. Natal came even closer in the second, finishing the frame with a deep choke locked in, but Spencer gutted it out to the bell. Early in the third, Natal put Spencer on the canvas again, and the late replacement never made it back to his feet.
Natal started with a mounted crucifix, landing elbows on the prone Spencer, before switching to an Americana. When that didn’t work, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu tactician locked on a head-and-arm choke that eventually forced the UFC newcomer to tap. Natal moves to 3-2-1 in the UFC with the victory, while Spencer will drop down to welterweight for his inevitable “thanks for helping us out” appearance later this year.
In the opening bout of the evening, David Mitchell collected his first UFC win in three tries. After spending more than a year on the sidelines, the jiu-jitsu specialist showcased improved striking when he outworked Norwegian welterweight Simeon Thoresen on the feet en route to a unanimous decision win.