Melvin Guillard vs. Jeremy Stephens
This fight was dubbed as the early favorite for “Fight of the Night”, and no wonder considering the two guys matched up against one another. The round opened with Guillard being tripped to the canvas, but he quickly got back up and carried on as usual. Stephens moved forward, right hand cocked, looking to land a big punch. Guillard made it tricky for him with solid head movement and foot work. Stephens landed a few shots throughout the round, but it was Guillard who landed the most significant shots, working his combinations better in the opening frame.
The second round was much like the first, as both fighters were content to trade, but do so intelligently.Guillard landed a nice shot in the early going, sending Stephens backwards in an effort to avoid the onslaught to come. He did, as the two clinched against the cage, but just briefly. The remainder of the round consisted of each fighter taking a shot to the groin and more back-and-forth action. No significant happenings throughout two, and the fight that was supposed to take home the evening’s top honor fell out of consideration very quickly.
By the third round, the fans had had enough. Even Dana White tweeted about how wrong he was concerning this fight. The fighters reached the midpoint of the final round with no significant action whatsoever. The crowd booed, yet the pace of the fight did not change. Guillard continued to stick and move, while Stephens continued to try to get the timing of his opponent down to counter. Guillard did well in his efforts, Stephens did not, until he tagged Guillard with a vicious left late in the round. He chased after his opponent, throwing a flying knee that nearly sent him out of the cage. However, Guillard recovered and the two finally decided to throw down during the final ten seconds of the contest. This fight was a letdown in every sense of the word. Guillard def. Stephens via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 30-27).
Evan Dunham vs. Sean Sherk
The fight starting out with a short feeling-out process, but Sherk was quick to make some noise with a big slam that sent Dunham to the canvas. Incidentally, Dunham took the position as an opportunity to lock on a guillotine, which Sherk survived, though it was an early scare. The next time he decided to slam Dunham, the result was much better. Sherk was able to utilize ground and pound effectively before Dunham managed to stand back up. The next time Sherk tried for the takedown, he once again nearly got choked out. Somehow managing to escape, Sherk got top position and sliced through Dunham’s forehead with an elbow. The referee stopped the fight to have the cut checked, restarted it, and the bell rung. Highly eventful first round.
In the next round, the fight quickly went back to the ground, and (you guessed it) Sherk was nearly choked out by a guillotine choke once again. Dunham let it go and walked his way up the wall to the standing position. Back to the center of the cage, Dunham’s cut reopened and blood began to spill out once again. The two exchanged, each landing some big shots, seemingly content to trade on the feet. Dunham began working knees very well, landing shot after shot throughout the latter half of the second round. He may have been a bloody mess, but he was winning over the crowd and he was clearly gaining momentum heading into the third.
The third round opened with a bang, as Dunham floored Sherk with a shot to the head. “The Muscle Shark” recovered and immediately realized the striking game was a terrible idea. He exploded to get the takedown, but Dunham worked his way back up and continued in his efforts to fend off the takedown. The two finally separated, Dunham’s blood rose red on the back of Sherk. The lightweight prospect began turning it on, picking Sherk apart against the cage. The exhausted former champion had no answer for him, desperately trying to counterstrike. The fight ended with a vicious exchange that can only be described as chaotic. The bell rang, and Sherk and Dunham embraced in the center, both understanding that they had just put on an incredible show. Sherk def. Dunham via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28).
Chris Lytle vs. Matt Serra
Serra vs. Lytle, like Guillard vs. Stephens, was a definite possibility for Fight of the Night honors. Unlike Guillard vs. Stephens, however, this fight actually lived up to the hype.
In the opening round, it was made clear by both fighters that this was indeed going to be a stand up battle. The pace was fast early, if not frantic. Both Lytle and Serra exchanged blows for a good 20 seconds before they both realized that the fight could go for 15 minutes. From that point on in the first, it turned into a back-and-forth striking match, with neither fighter doing anything significant. However, Lytle’s strikes were piling up and, in an effort to steal the round, Serra went for a late takedown. Lytle stuffed it and went on to take the round.
The second round picked up where the two fighters started in the first. However, it quickly slowed down and went right back to the back-and-forth tactical battle. Aside from a few sloppy exchanges here and there, the entire round was spent trading shots. Lytle would get hit, so he would hit back. Serra would take a kick to the leg and would sink one into Lytle’s side as well. Yet, once again, Serra was not the one getting the better of this striking match, and when the bell rang, he found himself down two rounds to none after nearly being stopped by strikes with time ticking away on the round.
In the third and final round of this fantastic fight, the fighters left everything they had in the cage. The pace was a bit slower than the first, but that was simply due to the fighters solid pace up to that point. Lytle began picking Serra apart and it was clear the heavy-handed former champion was not going to be able to win if the fight was on the feet. He attempted to move it to the ground on a few occasions, but failed continuously. Meanwhile, Lytle continued pounding away on Serra, scoring points and delivering damage to Serra. “The Terra” fought through the adversity and gave all he had on the feet against Lytle. However, it would not be enough, as the Indianapolis native rolled away with a three-round sweep on all scorecards. Lytle def. Serra via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27).
Antonio Rogerio Nogueira vs. Ryan Bader
In this veteran vs. prospect match, Ryan Bader was looking to take another step towards the elite level of the UFC light heavyweight division. Unfortunately for him, early in the action he could not get his striking going against the stellar boxer. However, he did get his takedowns going, and that proved to be the biggest factor in this fight. He wrestled Nogueira to the floor a few minutes into the first, scoring big points with some huge ground and pound directly after the takedown. When Nogueira worked his way back up, he once again neutralized any striking of Bader, but the bell rang and the younger fighter had won the round.
The second was similar to the first, as the striking game was a bit of a stalemate. Bader could not get anything going, while Nogueira was not able to either. The back-and-forth striking match was not what Bader was interested in, electing to go for the takedown. For the majority of the round, he could not lock one down, but in the waning moments, he was able to score the takedown, scoring meaningful points in the process.
Onto the third round, Bader was looking good, as he clearly took the first round and probably took the second. Nogueira continued to work his striking, but did not get anything major done. Bader also continued his gameplan, looking to take the fight to the floor. Neither fighter was able to do much of anything, as any takedown of Bader’s was ineffective and Nogueira’s striking never mounted to much. It wasn’t necessarily pretty or extraordinarily entertaining, but Ryan Bader took a big step forward with his unanimous decision win. Bader def. Nogueira via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27).
Frank Mir vs. Mirko Filipovic
Mir vs. Filipovic was in all honesty a terrible fight. Neither fighter was eager to engage and every time they did it ended in a clinch. Throughout the entire fight, “Cro Cop” threw only a handful of punches, and barely any landed. Mir, on the other hand, seemed out of rhythm and uncomfortable throughout the first two and one-half rounds. Then it happened.
Literally out of nowhere, Mir threw a big knee that landed flush to the head of “Cro Cop”, sending the former mixed martial arts champion to the canvas. A few extra punches and Filipovic was unconscious, while Mir was being pulled away from his victim. The knockout was terrific, but it hardly made up for the 14 minutes of agony before it. Mir def. Filipovic via knockout at 4:02 of Round 3.