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Dominick Cruz waited for more than four years for another crack at Urijah Faber, and he made sure he did not let the opportunity pass him by.
Cruz (18-1, 1-0 UFC) bobbed, weaved, punched, kicked and wrestled his way to a unanimous decision over Faber, as he defended his bantamweight crown in the UFC 132 headliner Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Scores were 50-45, 49-46 and 48-47 for Cruz, who avenged the only defeat of his career and cemented his place atop the 135-pound division.
Cruz utilized all his tools against "The California Kid," lateral movement chief among them. He pressed forward relentlessly and landed brilliant multi-strike, multi-level combinations throughout the memorable 25-minute encounter, tagging Faber with blows to the head, body and legs.
"I knew he was going to come in awkward like that," Faber said. "I decided to come straight forward. I didn't feel like I was in danger at any point, but it is what it is."
More than one round was too close to call, as the evenly matched bantamweights went toe-to-toe with one another for five rounds. Faber found a home for his powerful straight right hand on several occasions and knocked Cruz off balance with it in the fourth round, sending the champion into scramble mode. He recovered soon after, and the two resumed their duel in the center of the Octagon.
"I gotta say, Urijah hits hard," Cruz said. "His hands are very fast. Urijah's hands are good. Don't [sleep] on his hands."
The fifth round was arguably Cruz's best. He backed up Faber (25-5, 1-1 UFC) with a textbook flying knee and scored with multiple takedowns. Faber was quick to return to his feet each time, but Cruz often beat him to the punch and left him swinging at air.
"I hit him with a jumping knee, and that rocked him," Cruz said. "He's tough, man. He's a veteran, and he did well to recover from it."
The defeat halted Faber's two-fight winning streak.
"I knew it was going to be a tough fight," Faber said. "I thought I landed the heavier punches. I had him rocked a couple of times, but congratulations to Dominick; he won. It wasn't enough of an output on my side, and I didn't finish him. I felt like I won the fight, but congratulations to Dominick."
|Chris Leben wasted no time getting the job done against Wanderlei Silva.|
In less than 30 seconds, Chris Leben chopped down one of his heroes.
Leben (26-7, 12-6 UFC) stopped Brazilian icon and former Pride Fighting Championships middleweight titleholder Wanderlei Silva on first-round strikes in the co-main event. It was over in just 27 seconds, as Leben won for the fourth time in five appearances.
"I can't believe it's real," Leben said. "Holy s---."
Ever aggressive, Silva (33-11-1, 1 NC, 3-6 UFC) unleashed an opening salvo that backed up his red-headed opponent. However, Leben clipped the Brazilian with a left hook behind the ear, wobbling the fan favorite. Silva tried to clinch and recover, but he was met with a series of powerful uppercuts that brought him to his knees. A string of brutal Leben lefts finished it and left "The Axe Murderer" face down on the mat.
"I'm going to tell you where he messed up," Leben said. "He hit me right on the button. You know what happens when [opponents] hit me there. He cracked me, and I fired back on autopilot. It was a heavy shot right on my nose. I think it might be broken."
Silva, who turns 35 on Sunday, has lost six of his last eight bouts.
"Wanderlei, I love you. You are my hero," Leben said. "Thank you for honoring me with that fight."
|Dennis Siver, left, and Matt Wiman traded on equal terms for much of their three-round bout.|
Dennis Siver survived a harrowing second round and eked out a controversial unanimous decision over "The Ultimate Fighter" Season 5 alum Matt Wiman in a featured lightweight affair. All three cageside judges saw it 29-28 for Siver, who has pieced together a four-fight winning streak inside the promotion's deepest division.
Siver (19-7, 8-4 UFC) stuffed Wiman's early takedown attempts and controlled the standup for much of the encounter. However, Wiman grounded the Russian-born German kickboxer in the second round and tattooed him with heavy elbows from inside his guard, opening a pair of cuts on his forehead. By the time the period ended, Siver's head and torso were covered in blood.
Round 3 was close and competitive, as Wiman (13-6, 7-4 UFC) connected with a nice overhand right and scored with a trip takedown. Siver had his moments, too, highlighted by a precision front kick to the face and thudding leg kicks. He closed in better position, as he swept Wiman off his feet with a low kick, attacked with punches from the top and threatened with a guillotine choke as the horn sounded.
"It was a very close decision. That's a fact. I don't know who won," Siver said. "Next time, I'm going to try to improve my takedown defense. Altogether, I was satisfied with the fight. This guy was horribly strong, and it was very hard for me to hit him."
|Ryan Bader's success against Tito Ortiz, left, was short-lived.|
Former UFC light heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz submitted "The Ultimate Fighter" Season 8 winner Ryan Bader with an arm-in guillotine choke less than two minutes into the first round of their featured light heavyweight duel. Bader asked out of the fight 1:56 into Round 1.
Ortiz (16-8-1, 15-8-1 UFC) buckled Bader with a short right hand, pounced on his fallen foe and cinched the choke on his exposed neck. Bader (12-2, 5-2 UFC) struggled briefly to free himself, but Ortiz's grip was not to be broken, and surrender became the only option. It was Ortiz's first submission since he finished Yuki Kondo with a neck crank at UFC 29 in December 2000. He had not won a fight in nearly five years.
"I hit him with a right hook, and I saw his knees buckle, so I just pushed forward, got on top and sunk an arm-in guillotine," said Ortiz, who tied UFC hall of famers Matt Hughes and Randy Couture for career appearances in the Octagon (24). "A lot of wrestlers tap to this. I secured my elbow on the inside. He tried to pull his head out, but I was strong. He wasn't going anywhere."
|Carlos Condit, right, came out with guns blazing from the opening bell.|
In a brilliant performance that could launch Carlos Condit into title contention, the former WEC welterweight champion blasted the previously unbeaten Dong Hyun Kim with a picture-perfect flying knee and follow-up punches en route to a clean first-round finish. The end to their 170-pound showcase came at 2:58 of the round.
Kim (14-1-1, 1 NC, 5-1, 1 NC UFC) delivered a takedown inside the first minute, only to be swept by the experienced and well-rounded Condit. The judoka never again took it to the ground. Condit (27-5, 4-1 UFC) softened him with kicks to the body as he patiently set up the finish. The 27-year-old Jackson's Mixed Martial Arts representative launched himself into the air and fired the knee, sending the dazed South Korean to the ground in a seated position next to the cage. Condit trailed him there and polished off Kim with unanswered punches.
With that, Condit -- a winner in 12 of his last 13 appearances -- likely established himself as the next top contender for the UFC welterweight crown.
"How about it, [UFC matchmaker] Joe Silva?" Condit asked. "Am I ready for a title shot or what?"
|Standing tall: Melvin Guillard stated his case for a lightweight title shot.|
The surging Melvin Guillard recorded his fifth consecutive win, as he blitzed three-time collegiate All-America wrestler Shane Roller with speed and power in a preliminary lightweight bout. Guillard finished it 2:12 into the first round.
"I've been training hard. I feel great," Guillard said. "I feel a lot of emotions right now. My whole life, I've battled so much, and now I'm coming back to the top of my game. My life is in order, and this is a great feeling. I know I'm making my dad proud right now."
Guillard cracked Roller with a beautiful, short counter left hook, caught him with a knee from the clinch as he returned to his feet and dropped him again with a straight left. He then showered Roller with hammerfists for the finish. At 28, Guillard, a Jackson's Mixed Martial Arts representative, has become a definite factor in the lightweight division.
"I just keep knocking them out as they line them up," he said. "I don't know how close I am [to a title shot]."
|A counter from Rafael dos Anjos ended George Sotiropoulos' night a little early.|
Rafael dos Anjos needed less than a minute to dispatch fellow Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt George Sotiropoulos, as he uncorked a blistering counter right hook that left the dazed Aussie flat on his back in the center of the cage. Referee Yves Lavigne quickly moved in to protect Sotiropoulos (14-4, 7-2 UFC) from further damage. The end to the preliminary lightweight tilt came 59 seconds into Round 1.
The knockout blow found its mark during a brief exchange between the 155-pounders. Dos Anjos' fist met Sotiropoulos' chin and sent "The Ultimate Fighter" Season 6 semifinalist to the ground, his head bouncing off the canvas. Dos Anjos (15-5, 4-3 UFC), who had not fought in nearly a year, has won four of his past five bouts.
|Brian Bowles might have got his hand raised but he also might have injured it in the process.|
Former WEC bantamweight champion Brian Bowles took a unanimous decision from Takeya Mizugaki in a preliminary matchup at 135 pounds, despite appearing to suffer another hand injury. All three cageside judges scored it for the oft-injured Bowles: 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28. The 31-year-old remains undefeated in the UFC.
Mizugaki (14-6-2, 1-1 UFC) countered effectively throughout the first round but lost his way in the second. Bowles trapped a low kick, cracked him with a straight right hand, put him on the ground and pounced, moving quickly to the back. From there, he latched a body triangle and worked for a rear-naked choke until the end of the period.
Bowles (10-1, 2-0 UFC) all but abandoned his right hand in Round 3 and looked to be in considerable discomfort. Still, he fought through the pain, secured a takedown and again moved to Mizugaki's back, this time from a standing position. He closed the stronger of the two, the wounded limb notwithstanding.
|Brad Tavares, facing, suffered his first loss at the hands of Aaron Simpson.|
Aaron Simpson did what he does best, as he controlled the clinch, scored with takedowns, landed on occasion with his powerful right hand and picked up a unanimous decision over the previously unbeaten Brad Tavares. Simpson swept the scorecards -- 30-27 from all three judges -- in the preliminary middleweight duel.
Simpson (10-2, 5-2 UFC) did much of his work in the clinch, as he neutralized the talented but raw Hawaiian in tight quarters. His approach may not have been pleasing to the eye, but it was effective. Simpson secured multiple takedowns in the third round, and though he failed to keep Tavares (7-1, 2-1 UFC) on his back, he zapped his energy and racked up points.
|Muay-thaied down: Anthony Njokuani's kickboxing skills helped chop down Andre Winner.|
WEC alum Anthony Njokuani outclassed Team Rough House representative Andre Winner en route to a one-sided unanimous decision in an undercard bout at 155 pounds. Scores were 30-26, 30-26 and 30-27 -- all for Njokuani. The Nigerian-born muay Thai stylist entered the cage with losses in three of his last four appearances.
It became clear in the first round that Winner was outgunned on his feet. Njokuani (14-5, 1 NC, 1-1 UFC) landed a series of low kicks, beautiful counter uppercuts and various other strikes to the head and body. He had winner on rubbery legs late in the period, as he unleashed a hellacious flurry on "The Ultimate Fighter" Season 9 finalist. Somehow, Winner (11-6-1, 2-4 UFC) survived to see Round 2.
An overhand right and knees to the body and head, along with kicks to the inside and outside of Winner's leg, kept momentum in Njokuani's corner in the second and third rounds. Winner has suffered three consecutive defeats, likely putting his roster spot in the UFC in jeopardy.
|Donny Walker blue: Jeff Hougland attacked early and often to earn the judges' approval.|
Rumble on the Ridge champion Jeff Hougland made a successful promotional debut, as he defeated Donny Walker by unanimous decision in a preliminary bantamweight matchup. All three cageside judges scored it for Hougland: 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27. The 32-year-old Chicago native has won nine consecutive fights, none more significant than this one.
Hougland (10-4, 1-0 UFC), a WEC veteran, was the aggressor from the outset, as he delivered a first-round takedown and threatened Walker with a guillotine choke. In the second, he picked up the pace on his feet, as he landed a spinning-back fist, popped Walker with repeated jabs and opened a cut above his opponent's right eye. Late in the period, he cinched another guillotine and nearly finished it. Only the horn broke his grip.
To his credit, Walker (15-7, 0-1 UFC) tried to make a move in Round 3, fighting effectively in the clinch and sprawling successfully on attempted takedowns. However, he could not dig himself out of the early hole. It was Walker's first defeat in nearly three years.