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UFC 116 Main Card: Leben, Bonnar Wow

It was the conclusion to one of the most amazing stretches in UFC history Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
It was the conclusion to one of the most amazing stretches in UFC history, and middleweight Chris Leben pulled it off Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, winning his second fight in two weeks by taking an action-packed war against Japanese contender Yoshihiro Akiyama via third round submission in the UFC 116 co-main event. See post-fight interviews with all of the night's winners plus press conference comments from the main card fighters at UFC.com

Akiyama vs. Leben
GYI0060958542Leben, The Ultimate Fighter season one alumnus who replaced the injured Wanderlei Silva in tonight’s bout, was coming off a knockout victory over Aaron Simpson on June 19th.

After catching Leben’s opening kick and putting him on the deck, Akiyama was able to land with the first blows of the fight, but Leben quickly rose and went back on the attack. This time, his kicks to the leg hit the mark, but Akiyama’s didn’t as he cracked Leben low, forcing a halt to the action. When the bout resumed, Leben engaged, but got thrown to the mat for his trouble. While in the bottom position, Leben looked to trap Akiyama’s arm on two occasions, but the Asian star broke loose and tried to return the favor. With 1:30 left, Leben pulled off an escape of his own, yet Akiyama kept the pressure on as he tried to lock in an arm triangle. Again, Leben got free, this time getting to his feet as well. It was Akiyama with the last word though as he scored with a throw just before the bell.

The fighters traded strikes early in round two, Akiyama landing with a spinning back fist and Leben scoring with his trademark left hand. Within moments, the two began staggering each other with flush shots, and Leben was taking the worst of it. Akiyama sensed this and followed up with a takedown on the now fatigued and bloodied Leben, who, after taking some more hard punches, made it back to his feet. Akiyama kept him pinned against the fence though, not a problem for Leben, who tried to lock in a guillotine choke. With under a minute to go, the two broke loose and again traded with reckless abandon. This time it was Leben forcing Akiyama to hold on until the bell.

With the crowd roaring, the two respectfully touched gloves to begin the third round, and decided to continue where they left off. Leben held an early edge, but Akiyama was able to catch a kick and land a punch to get the fight back to where he wanted it – on the mat. Leben was busy from the bottom, again looking for his opponent’s arm, but Akiyama wasn’t having it, and he shook loose. Then the slugging continued, only this time it was as the two jostled on the canvas. Finally, Akiyama got sloppy and left his arm dangling in front of Leben for too long, and the Oregon native made the most of it, locking in an arm triangle that produced a tap out at the 4:40 mark.

With the win, Leben improves to 21-6; Akiyama falls to 13-2 with 2 no contests. At the time of the finish, the bout was even, 19-19, on all three judges' scorecards.

Soszynski vs. Bonnar
GYI0060958508After three straight losses, including a February defeat against the man facing him tonight, Krzysztof Soszynski, another TUF1 alum, light heavyweight Stephan Bonnar, needed a win in the worst way, but he didn’t just get the victory against ‘The Polish Experiment,’ he and his opponent engaged in an instant classic that saw the Las Vegan emerge victorious via a second round TKO.

“I like winning ugly, and boy do I look ugly right now,” smiled Bonnar, who was halted by Soszynski via cuts at UFC 110 in February.

There was no feeling out process in this one, with both fighters picking up where they left off earlier this year. Bonnar was able to land the first big punch of the fight, but it was Soszynski who almost pulled off an armbar moments later as they grappled on the canvas. In the ensuing scramble, Bonnar got back to his feet and the two traded blows, with Soszynski holding a slight edge. Bonnar bounced back, punctuating his next flurry with a hard knee to the head, but it was ‘The American Psycho’ emerging with a cut under his right eye. The blood didn’t deter Bonnar, and the two just kept throwing, with both men trading turns in momentum and earning a well deserved roar from the crowd at the bell.

Now cut over the left eye as well, Bonnar walked right back into the fray in round two, only to be greeted by a flurry of shots from Soszynski (20-11-1). Bonnar quickly got his bearings back and fired off an array of punches of his own, and after a brief pause, he landed with a knee, more punches and even a kick before taking Soszynski down at the two minute mark. After a brief stay on the mat, the two rose, but Bonnar kept the pressure on, dropping Soszynski with a right knee to the head. Soszynski tried to weather the storm, but Bonnar wouldn’t let him off the hook, and after a series of unanswered blows, referee Mario Yamasaki halted the bout at the 3:08 mark.

“I knew I hurt him and I was gonna keep throwing,” said Bonnar, now 15-7. “I said, they’re not gonna take this fight away from me.”

Lytle vs. Brown
GYI0060958479Veteran Chris Lytle made it two in a row over Matt Brown in welterweight action, repeating his 2007 submission win with another victory due to tap out over ‘The Immortal’.

Brown came out determined not to go 0-2 against Lytle, and his intensity was evident both on the feet and even on the mat, as he almost caught his opponent in a finishing choke. The near-submission served to wake up Lytle, who began landing with more effective blows once he rose from the canvas.

Brown and Lytle traded punches for much of the opening minute of round two, pausing only when “Lights Out” took the bout to the mat. There, Lytle closed out matters with a hybrid triangle / armbar similar to the one that he finished Jason Gilliam off with in 2007, and got the same result, forcing Brown to tap out at 2:02 of the second round.

With the win, Lytle improves to 39-17-4; Brown falls to 13-9.

Sotiropoulos vs. Pellegrino
GYI0060958243Another fight, another win, and another statement for lightweight contender George Sotiropoulos, who followed up his February victory over Joe Stevenson with an equally impressive three round unanimous decision over Kurt Pellegrino in the main card opener.

Scores were 30-27 twice and 29-28 for Sotiropoulos.

The fighters met at the center of the Octagon and immediately began throwing punches at the bell, with Soitropoulos clearly landing the crisper blows. 1:20 into the bout, he dropped Pellegrino with a left hand and moved in for the kill, but Pellegrino cleared his head and got back to his feet. The Australian standout continued to dictate the action for the next minute, but his aggressive attack allowed Pellegrino to score a brief takedown. Immediately springing back up, Sotiropoulos began measuring his attack, which suited Pellegrino fine as he was able to get in more counters. The bout soon went back to the mat, and Sotriopoulos looked to lock in a submission. Pellegrino fought loose and ended the round in his opponent’s guard.

After some brief standup to begin the second frame, Sotiropoulos got the single leg takedown and again tried to work his submission game. Pellegrino stayed active from the bottom position, but Sotiropoulos did the same, delivering punches and elbows while controlling the location of the bout, whether it was on the mat or against the fence. With less than 40 seconds left, Pellegrino finally broke free, but wasn’t able to turn the tide before the bell.

After two minutes of striking kicked off the final round, Pellegrino appeared to play possum as he got Sotiropoulos to move in, leaving him susceptible to the takedown. Pellegrino used the opportunity to land ground strikes and try to find an opening to turn things around, but Sotiropoulos was cool from the bottom position as he tried to catch Pellegrino, and after a stalemate, the two fighters rose with less than a minute left, and though the New Jersey native dropped Sotiropoulos with a right knee to the head just before the bell, there would be no miracle finish in this one, as Sotiropoulos remained unbeaten in the Octagon.

With the win, Sotiropoulos improves to 13-2; Pellegrino falls to 21-5.
 

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