By Thomas Gerbasi
LAS VEGAS, May 23 – The grudge is over. After a closely contested 15 minute battle in the co-main event of UFC 98 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, fierce rivals and former welterweight champions Matt Hughes and Matt Serra finally settled their differences in the Octagon, with Hughes emerging victorious via a razor-thin unanimous decision.
Scores were 29-28 across the board for Hughes.
Not surprisingly, there was no touch of gloves to start the bout. At the sound of the bell, the crowd alternated cheers for both fighters, and then erupted as a clash of heads hurt Hughes and dropped him. Serra tried to finish the fight on the mat, but Hughes escaped and got back to his feet, only to get rocked once again.
“I didn’t know exactly what hit me, but he obviously hit me pretty good,” said Hughes.
“I wanted to keep my cool and try to finish him off,” said Serra. “He’s got a good chin and he hung in there.”
Once Hughes cleared his head, he was able to bull Serra into the fence. After a stalemate, Serra got loose and looked to strike paydirt once again. With 1:40 to go though, it was Hughes getting back in tht game with a huge takedown that jarred Serra. Hughes then was able to take the New Yorker’s back, but Serra escaped and waved Hughes in, yelling “come on,” moments before the bell intervened.
The standup was tense for the first minute of round two before Hughes closed the distance and took Serra to the mat. While there, Hughes fired away with his free hand as Serra tried to weather the attack and find a way back to his feet. But it wasn’t going to happen until referee Steve Mazzagatti stood the fighters up with ten seconds left in the round, not nearly enough time for Serra to make something happen and salvage the round.
With the fight possibly up for grabs, Serra tried to keep it standing in the final round, but Hughes wasn’t having it, as he got the takedown with a minute gone. Hughes tried to score points by staying busy with his free hand, and with under three minutes left, he bulled Serra into the fence. Serra briefly tried for a submission from his back, but Hughes easily pulled free and resumed his ground attack. With 1:45 left, Mazzagatti stood the fighters, and Serra taunted Hughes to hit him. Moments later, Serra stunned Hughes with a takedown and then began his own ground attack, but before he could do anything, the bell sounded, and when it was over the two finally shook hands.
“As a fighter, I always held him and high regard,” said Serra. “I really wanted this win though and I trained so hard for it. But I take my hat off to him.”
With the win, Hughes improves to 44-7; Serra falls to 16-6.
No one expected the middleweight fight between Drew McFedries and Xavier Foupa-Pokam to last long, and the fans certainly weren’t disappointed, as McFedries blitzed Foupa-Pokam and stopped him in a single round.
“I come in emotional and ready to throw down,” said an ecstatic McFedries, now 8-5. “I just want to go, go, go.
The end came at 37 seconds. McFedries first hurt Foupa-Pokam (20-11) with a big right hand, and though the Frenchman tried to get his wits about him, McFedries assault was relentless, and after a second knockdown and follow-up attack, referee Yves Lavigne had seen enough.
Veteran middleweight Chael Sonnen issued Dan Miller the first loss of his UFC career as he pounded out a three round unanimous decision victory.
Scores were 30-27 across the board for Sonnen.
The first takedown of the night for Sonnen almost proved to be the end of his night, as Miller sunk in a tight guillotine choke. But after some dicey moments, Sonnen fought his way free and began to work his ground and pound attack. By the midway point of the frame, Sonnen was in control on the mat, and his punches and elbows were doing damage up until the bell sounded.
Sonnen began round two with a slam. And again Miller tried to finish him with the guillotine choke, but this time Sonnen escaped easily and began raining down strikes again. With a little over two minutes left, Miller saw daylight and tried to sink in an armbar, but Sonnen tore loose and got back to his ground and pound for the remainder of the round.
Miller tried to make something happen on the feet early in round three, but Sonnen again put him on his back and controlled matters from there. And while the action for the rest of the round wasn’t particularly compelling, Sonnen’s dominance was clear.
With the win, Sonnen improves to 24-10-1; Miller falls to 11-2 with 1 NC.
Matt Hughes. Georges St-Pierre. BJ Penn. Now you can add the name Frankie Edgar to the short and prestigious list of people to beat former UFC lightweight champ Sean Sherk, and he did so impressively by winning a shutout three round unanimous decision in the main card opener.
All three judges saw the bout 30-27 for Toms River, New Jersey’s Edgar.
The early going was characterized by a clash of standup philosophies, with Edgar using speed, footwork and straight punches, while Sherk stalked and looked to land the heavier blows. Edgar had the greater success, peppering Sherk and using good head movement to avoid any incoming fire. With under two minutes left An off-balance fall to the canvas by Sherk gave Edgar a chance to try for a guillotine choke, but Sherk was never in danger and the two got back to their feet, with Edgar going back to the successful in and out style that ultimately won him the round.
Sherk started to get closer in round two, and he began landing more frequently. Edgar wasn’t going anywhere though, and his scoring didn’t let up. In addition, With Sherk chasing and throwing so hard with both hands, he was rapidly depleting his gas tank, while Edgar looked fresh while bouncing around the ring and ripping off the occasional combination that got a roar from the crowd. In the final minute, both men scored during a particularly heated exchange, but it was Edgar finishing stronger.
Sherk took no chances early in round three as he took Edgar to the mat. Unfortunately for “The Muscle Shark”, he wasn’t able to keep him there, and soon Sherk was showing blood from over his left eye. Edgar was starting to show signs of slowing down, and that allowed Sherk to score with some strikes, but he was rebuffed on his second takedown attempt of the round. With 90 seconds remaining, the pace slowed, and that worked to Edgar’s advantage as he was able to pick the shots for his quick combinations and then back off and reload. But Edgar wasn’t done, as he closed the show with a tight guillotine choke that may have finished the bout if not for the intervention of the bell.
With the win, Edgar improves to 10-1; Sherk falls to 37-4-1.
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