INDIANAPOLIS, September 25 – Unbeaten rising star Ryan Bader followed up his February win over Keith Jardine with another big victory in the UFC 119 co-main event at Conseco Fieldhouse Saturday night, outpointing longtime light heavyweight contender Antonio Rogerio Nogueira over three rounds.
Bader’s unanimous nod read 30-27 across the board.
Nogueira vs. Bader
Both fighters looked to get their standup games off as the fight began, yet accuracy was an issue, as Bader (13-0) and Nogueira (19-4) fell short with hard shots. But with two minutes gone, Bader made his move, emphatically taking Nogueira to the mat, where he unleashed some hellacious blows that looked to be close to ending the bout. Nogueira weathered the storm, and with a minute left he got back to his feet, where he was able to knock Bader off balance with a right hand late in the stanza.
The pace slowed in the first half of round two, with Bader breaking the stalemate with a takedown just before the three minute mark. But that would be the end of the significant scoring for the round until Nogueira was able to tag the former Arizona State All-American wrestler with some punches in the final minute.
Bader responded well to an inadvertent eye poke early in round three, as he scored with some hard shots on Nogueira and then took him down. The Brazilian - bleeding from a small cut over his left eye - got to his feet quickly and started pressing the action with more urgency, but he wasn’t able to score consistently enough to hurt Bader, and this led to another takedown as soon as Nogueira got within range, sealing the deal for the unbeaten Arizonan.
Serra vs. Lytle
With friends like these, who needs enemies? In a punishing welterweight battle, good buddies Chris Lytle and Matt Serra erased the memory of their dismal 2006 bout, going toe-to-toe for three rounds, with Lytle emerging victorious by a three round unanimous decision.
Scores were 30-27 across the board for Indianapolis’ Lytle, who improves to 40-17-4; Serra, who defeated Lytle via split decision in The Ultimate Fighter 4 finale, falls to 17-7.
Both fighters dug in and let loose with hooks as the bout began, Serra going downstairs and Lytle firing up top. After a few exchanges, Serra was bruised around the left eye, and Lytle was landing his punches with regularity. The New Yorker came back with under two minutes to go though, scoring with uppercuts and overhand rights as Lytle’s face began to show the scars of battle. By the end of the round it was Serra looking worse for wear as the bruise around his eye turned into a cut.
As Lytle continued to pepper Serra in the opening stages of the second right, he briefly put his foe on the deck with a right hand. Serra bounced back up and got back into the fray, but Lytle’s sharper punches continued to dominate the increasingly one-sided action. One thing Lytle couldn’t break was Serra’s heart, and Long Island’s ‘Terror’ kept throwing back haymakers, hoping to land one that would change the course of the fight. And even when it looked like Lytle was going to end things with under 30 seconds left, the last one throwing bombs was, you guessed it, Serra.
A hug between the two friendly rivals began the final round, and after Serra knocked Lytle off-balance, the donnybrook began in earnest once again. And even with fatigue an obvious issue after the pace of the first two rounds, both veterans continued to scrap, with each fighter getting in his series of shots, but Lytle just a little more accurate with his as the final bell tolled.
Sherk vs. Dunham
Evan Dunham may have suffered his first pro loss via split decision in an exciting 15 minute battle against former Sean Sherk, but his stock only rose in defeat, as he fought through a nasty cut over his right eye to almost finish the former UFC lightweight champion several times before the final bell rang.
The judges’ unpopular verdict read 29-28 twice and 28-29 for Sherk, who improves to 38-4-1 in his first bout since May of 2009. Dunham falls to 11-1.
“I knew I had the first round, the second round was close, the third round was close,” said Sherk. “I felt it could have gone either way.”
Most in attendance booed the decision, letting it be known which way they wanted it to go, but what wasn’t in question was the high-level display of mixed martial arts and heart both 155-pounders showed over three fast-paced rounds. Dana White said at the post-fight press conference that he thought Dunham won the decision and awarded both men $70,000 Fight of the Night bonuses.
Sherk reintroduced himself to UFC fans in the first with one of his trademark slams, but almost got caught in a guillotine choke in the process. After a few tense moments, Sherk pulled himself out and used some ground strikes until Dunham worked his way back to his feet. Sherk sent him back to the mat again, but when Dunham got up, he was pulling out all the stops for a submission, and he almost caught the former champion again. But once Sherk broke loose, he unleashed more furious ground strikes, with one opening a cut over Dunham’s right eye.
Hoping to not let the cut dictate the final result, Dunham came out fast for round two, again almost catching Sherk in a guillotine choke twice before ‘The Muscle Shark’ worked his way free. With under two minutes left, the two traded blows standing, and Dunham, blood staining his face, had success tagging his opponent with punches, kicks and knees, earning him the round.
Dunham opened the final frame by rocking Sherk with a shot to the head. He rushed in for the finished, but Sherk quickly recovered and bulled his foe into the fence. Dunham held his ground and got free and when he did, he was able to continue tagging Sherk from long range and in close. With under a minute left, Dunham staggered Sherk with a knee, but instead of fading, Sherk fired back, and the two went toe to toe until the bell, garnering a well-deserved standing ovation.
Guillard vs. Stephens
Lightweight Melvin Guillard won his third in a row and sixth of his last seven, patiently picking apart Jeremy Stephens en route to a three round split decision victory.
“I trained hard and I felt like I did enough to get the win tonight,” said Guillard. “I did more and I honestly don’t think he hit me in the face one time. I knew he wanted to stand and bang. I was a state champion in wrestling and a brown belt in judo so I could’ve taken it to the ground but I wanted to stick to my game plan.”
Scores were 30-27, 29-28 and 28-29 for Guillard.
Guillard tried to finish things immediately with a haymaker to the head, but was greeted with a short shot to the jaw by Stephens that put him on the seat of his pants. Guillard bounced up immediately, and the two settled down – but not by much, as each punch and kick was designed for one purpose, ending the fight. As the round progressed though, Guillard found success with counters and quick kicks down the middle as Stephens advanced, and the amped up ‘Lil’ Heathen’ wasn’t able to score consistently on his quicker foe in response.
Stephens opened up the second with some leg kicks, hoping to slow Guillard down. Guillard responded by closing the gap and becoming the aggressor with his own punches and kicks, briefly knocking Stephens off balance. Undeterred, Stephens got right back in the pocket, but was forced to take a short break after an inadvertent low kick from Guillard. Following the pause, Guillard started digging to the body with his punches. Stephens took them well, but moments later, it was Guillard taking a low kick and a break. Following another pause in the action, each fighter tried to make his case for a winning round, leading to some solid back and forth action.
Coming out of his corner with a sense of urgency, Stephens went right at Guillard to start the third, but ‘The Young Assassin’s counters and speed were still causing the Iowa native problems, and he was running out of time to figure them out. For his part, Guillard continued to pot shot his foe while maintaining the focus to stay tight defensively. And while Stephens was able to knock his foe off balance with an uppercut, he was not able to finish.
With the win, Guillard improves to 44-9-3 with 1 NC; Stephens falls to 18-6.