Birmingham, England - With the backing of thousands of his fellow countryman, Michael "The Count" Bisping was able to "stick and move" his way to a unanimous decision victory over Chris "The Crippler" Leben this past Saturday night.
UFC 89, which aired on SPIKE TV via tape delay, marked the fourth time Bisping (17-1 MMA, 6-1 UFC) has fought in his home country under the Ultimate Fighting Championship, and he has yet to disappoint his legions of fans upping his record to 4-0.
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Michael "The Count" Bisping
Chris "The Crippler" Leben
Facing a rededicated and refocused Chris Leben, Bisping stuck to his game plan of staying elusive and counter punching the heavy-handed Leben earning him valuable points on the judges' score cards. "That was my plan: stick and move and get the unanimous decision victory," Bisping said after the fight.
Leben (18-5 MMA, 8-4 UFC) was able to land some damaging blows early in the fight, but none provided him with that knockout blow he is known for. Puzzled by the reach and size advantage of the speedy Brit, Leben was punished each time he attempted to land a bomb.
"I was trying to get in there and knock him out," Leben said. "That's what I do, but he was a little faster on his feet." The win over Leben moves Bisping to 3-0 in middleweight division and legitimizes his claim for a potential title shot, but is he ready?
"If I had a pound for every time someone asked me, I probably wouldn't need to get in the ring and fight," joked Bisping. Bisping was recently announced as the next coach of "The Ultimate Fighter 9" reality series and would face either Dan Henderson or Rich Franklin.
Keith "The Dean Of Mean" Jardine
Brandon "The Truth" Vera
The night's co-main event featured two of the UFC's top light heavyweights. "The Dean of Mean" Keith Jardine earned a razor thin split decision victory over Brandon "The Truth" Vera.
Surprising many, Jardine pounced on Vera and earned a quick take down early in the first round. "The Truth" quickly pulled guard and drew first blood with sharp elbows to the bald head of Jardine. Fending off a kimura attempt, Jardine (14-4-1 MMA, 5-3 UFC) pounded the grounded Vera.
Vera briefly got back to his feet and stunned Jardine with an uppercut that dropped Jardine to one knee, but he quickly answered with a right hook that floored Vera. With seconds to go in the first round, Jardine ended the round with a flurry of wild hooks which seemingly won him the first round.
Vera (9-3 MMA, 5-3 UFC) was able to shake the cobwebs in the second round as he landed and nearly crippled Jardine with a leg kick that bent Jardine's knee in an awkward way.
"That took me out of most of the second round," Jardine said of the blow to his left knee. "I had surgery on that knee before." The second and third rounds didn't see much action from either fighter, and they heard it from the crowd. While looking for openings, Vera was the most accurate landing more punches and kicks and won round two.
It was anyone's fight to win going into the third round, and Jardine seized the moment. The aggressor much of the fight, Jardine was able to string together nice combinations and leg kicks that won him the round and eventually the fight. Two of the judges scored the 3-round bout 29-28 for Jardine and the third judge scored it the same, but for Vera.
Back on the winning track, but a long road awaits Keith Jardine as he attempts to get back in the crowded light heavyweight title picture. Jardine, the last man to defeat current 205-pound champ Forrest Griffin, may be two to three wins away from a title shot. If teammate Rashad Evans defeats Griffin at UFC 92, the wait might even be longer.
Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou
Luis "Banha" Cane
The once promising Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou hit yet another road block in his young UFC career. The road block came in the form of a Luiz Cane left hand, that floored "The African Assassin" late in the second round.
Both fighters disappointed in their respective UFC debuts with losses, but rebounded in stellar fashion with knockout victories. Looking to establish themselves as legit threats within the light heavyweight division an impressive win was needed.
Sokoudjou (5-3 MMA, 1-2 UFC) looked strong in the first round, with a highlight reel of body kicks and thundering counter punches that battered the Brazilian Cane. Sokoudjou's aggressiveness seemed to win the first round, but could he keep up the torrid pace?
That question was clearly answered in the second round as Sokoudjou was clearly gassed. Smelling blood, Cane (9-1 MMA, 2-1 UFC) was able to connect with stinging lefts and landed a few big knees to the head.
The southpaw Cane was able to land a left hook that crippled Sokoudjou against the cage and then followed it up with a barrage of punches that ended the fight 4:15 into the second round.
Paul "Relentless" Taylor
Chris "Lights Out" Lytle
Promising "fight of the night" at the weigh-ins, welterweights, Chris "Lights Out" Lytle and Paul "Relentless" Taylor did not disappoint. Chris Lytle was able to earn an unpopular unanimous decision victory over England's own Paul Taylor.
From the opening bell this fight quickly became a slobber knocker as both fighters took center stage and tee'd off. Lytle (26-16-5 MMA, 5-8 UFC) got the better of the early exchange landing some wild punches, but Taylor shrugged off the abuse and was relentless with punches of his own.
The fighters quickly locked up against the cage as the pace slowed. The action continued during rounds two and three, where each fighter was able string together combos that nearly put each other away. Taylor (9-4-1 MMA, 2-3 UFC) was able to land accurate short punches that peppered the dome of Lytle.
Feeling the pain, Lytle took the fight to the ground, but eventually both fighters would stand up. As the end of the fight neared, Taylor went to town on Lytle's face but it was too little too late for the hometown hero.
Lytle was gracious during his post fight interview, "I love the way Paul fights," Lytle said. "I love his style. The fights exactly what I wanted. We standed toe to toe and banged. I landed some good ones, and he landed some good ones on me." This was Taylor's third "fight of the night" award.
Paul "Tellys" Kelly
Marcus "The Irish Hand Grenade" Davis
The former professional boxer, Marcus Davis, continues to impress with his ever evolving MMA skill set. "The Irish Hand Grenade" was able to submit the formerly undefeated Paul "Tellys" Kelly via rear-naked choke in the second round.
Kelly (7-1 MMA, 1-1 UFC), a training partner of Michael Bisping, was unsuccessful trading blows with Davis during the first round. Davis was able to utilize an effective jab to keep Kelly at bay, until he took down the Brit and opened him up late in round one.
Davis (15-4 MMA, 7-2 UFC) took advantage of the over zealous Kelly in round two. Kelly shot in on Davis, but left himself open for a rear-naked choke, Davis took full advantage and sunk it in deep. Kelly was forced to tap 2:16 of round two. The win puts Davis back on the winning track and is now 7-2 in the UFC.
- Dan Hardy def. Akihiro Gono via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
- Shane Carwin def. Neil Wain via TKO (strikes) -- Round 1, 1:31
- David Bielkheden def. Jess Liaudin via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
- Terry Etim def. Sam Stout via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
- Jim Miller def. David Baron via submission (rear-naked choke) -- Round 3, 3:19
- Per Eklund def. Sammy Schiavo via submission (rear naked choke) -- Round 3, 1:47