Mauro haters, hit mute now. Actually, everyone hit mute and read what I say about the fights below. (Video: YouTube/ShoSports)
Bruised and battered. Cut and bloodied. Josh Barnett‘s face wasn’t one of a man who got out-wrestled last night. Olympic-level or not, wrestling doesn’t leave you looking like you put your head through a meat grinder. Don’t get me wrong, he did get out-wrestled last night, he just got out-struck as well. He got out-everythinged, if you want to get technical.
It didn’t have to be that way, of course. A lot of men would have wilted earlier–much earlier–in the onslaught of Daniel Cormier’s attack. But Barnett never thought of taking the easy way out, and today his face testifies to the evolving game of Cormier. The AKA product showed great versatility in his striking, staggering Barnett with heavy hands, head kicks, and knees. His combinations come fast, hard, and often, which explains why his hand surgeon is on retainer (yeah, he broke his hand again last night). When he did grab hold of “The War Master”, his grappling pedigree shone as well. He sent Barnett stumbling across the cage from the clinch and dolled out single-leg frequent flier miles, at one point flipping the former UFC champion in the air before slamming him to the mat.
If Cormier looked great last night it was only because Barnett forced him to. Josh had DC in trouble on more than one occasion, visibly hurting him in the second frame with a right hand-left knee combination, and later working dutifully for leg-locks on the ground. He too will have to nurse a broken hand suffered in the opening frame, but hopefully he’ll find his way to the Octagon soon.
The rubbermatch between Gilbert Melendez and challenger Josh Thomson was far more evenly contested and therefor far more difficult to judge. The old rivals started off slowly in a pair of cautious opening rounds. Both men found a home for their fists in those first two frames, but with the more active hands and several short-lived takedowns the champion edged out Thomson on the cards. “The Punk” came alive in the third, turning up the heat in a pivotal swing-round that could arguably have gone either way on a night where the scorecards bore little resemblance to the action taking place inside the cage.
Thomson took control in the championship rounds. Another slick trip takedown in the fourth round ended with the challenger taking Melendez’s back and threatening with several rear naked choke attempts. “The Punk” outlanded the champion two-to-one in significant strikes in the final round, taking Melendez down and maintaining top-control to close the bout.
Thomson suffered from repeated unintentional eye pokes throughout the bout, and a potential point deduction would have yielded a majority draw in a bout that either man could have been awarded under the Unified Rules. Under Melendez’s hometown ‘Stockton Rules‘, however, that belt is changing hands. “El Nino” got busted up in the exchanges and looked far more worse for wear after the fight. Though Thomson wasn’t exactly unleashing hell from above as the final bell rang, momentum had clearly shifted in his direction in the latter half of the battle. No matter who you had ahead, there will be no fourth fight and Melendez is keeping the strap.
In a far more decisive battle, Rafael Cavalcante evened the score in his rematch with Mike Kyle. Only seconds into their bout, “Feijao” connected with a knee to the grill that sent Kyle flying back against the cage. The Brazilian swarmed him on the ground with a torrent of hammerfists, many to the back of the head, before Kyle worked his way back to his feet. Perhaps inspired by Jon Jones pulling guard at UFC 145–not!–Feijao jumped around MAK’s waist and sunk in a guillotine. Kyle stayed standing for a bit before attempting to slam his way free of the choke, but Feijao rolled with the momentum and cranked away for the tap once they hit the ground.
In the evening’s opening tilt, late-replacement Chris Spang needed less than a round to dispatch Nah-Shon Burrell and even up his family’s MMA record over the weekend. Spang dropped Burrell halfway through the first then threw more high knees than a Rockettes performance. Fortunately for Burrell, he was out on his feet for much of the abuse, and referee Josh Rosenthal mercifully called the bout once Burrell collapsed his way out of Spang’s thai clinch and sprawled out on the canvas.
Also, if you didn’t catch the Virgil Zwicker-Carlos Inocente throwdown in the prelims, do yourself a favor. The only part of Zwicker’s body that Inocente doesn’t smash was his heart. It’s an entertaining scrap that casts Zwicker as the loveable anti-Sapp.
Full Results: (via: MMAWeekly.com)
Main Card (on Showtime):
-Daniel Cormier def. Josh Barnett by unanimous decision (49-46, 50-45, 50-45)
-Gilbert Melendez def. Josh Thomson by split decision (48-47, 47-48, 48-47)
-Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante def. Mike Kyle by submission (guillotine choke) at :33, R1
-Chris Spang def. Nah-Shon Burrell by KO at 1:35, R1
Preliminary Card (on Showtime Extreme):
-Isaac Vallie-Flagg def. Cesias “JZ” Cavalcante by split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)
-Carlos Augusto “Guto” Inocente Filho def. Virgil Zwicker by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
-Gian Villante def. Derrick Mehmen by unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
-Quinn Mulhern def. Yuri Villefort by split decision (30-27, 28-29, 29-28)
-Bobby Green def. James Terry by split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)