Main eventers Mauricio "Shogun" Rua and Chael Sonnen both had some questions to answer heading into Saturday night's UFC Fight Night that capped off the first day of broadcasting on Fox Sports 1. The man that came up with a positive response ended up doing so in much more decisive fashion than most MMA observers would have expected.
The self-described "Bad Guy" proved he's still plenty good in front of a live crowd at Boston's TD Garden, as Sonnen scored a remarkably easy submission victory over Rua. The end came at 4:47 of the first round after Shogun tapped out to a deftly executed guillotine choke.
Though conventional wisdom suggested Rua would look to keep the fight standing to avoid Sonnen's wrestling, he immediately feel prey to it and had to go on the defensive to avoid incoming ground and pound. Sonnen was able to control position almost effortlessly, rendering a former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion almost completely helpless.
Later in the round, Shogun managed to get things back to more equal footing, but Sonnen still found an opening. He jumped to apply a guillotine choke, falling back to the mat with the hold so tightly applied that Rua was forced to tap out. Shogun's night ended with almost no offense, an unthinkable turn of events for the man whose feared striking won him both PRIDE and UFC titles in the past.
As he's known to do, Sonnen ignored Joe Rogan's post-fight questions and cut another WWE-style promo that ended with a challenge to Wanderlei Silva. After such an impressive performance, it's hard to imagine that Sonnen won't have every chance to get the fight he wants from UFC management.
Five other fights were part of the main card in Boston:
Travis Browne def. Alistair Overeem by KO at 4:08 of Round 1 – Heavyweight
As proof that a UFC fight can have dramatic, emotional swings in just a single round, the first heavyweight bout on Fox Sports 1 was a memorable one. Browne was in all kinds of danger early on, but he fought off the damage and came through with a stunning knockout victory.
Overeem had little trouble establishing his striking game, finding the target with punches and knees. He used huge knees along the fence — including one that appeared to be to the head while Browne had a knee on the canvas, making it illegal — to open up Browne for a series of right hands. Somehow, Browne survived and brought the fight back to the center of the Octagon.
And when the end came, it came suddenly. Overeem came forward into a left front kick by Browne that sent him violently onto his back. A series of hammer fists followed, and Browne emerged with a huge win as he looks to position himself for a heavyweight title fight.
Urijah Faber UD3 Iuri Alcantara – Bantamweight
Already in an unfamiliar position on the card, Faber also found himself in strange territory early in the fight. But the "California Kid" escaped some serious trouble and found something that worked the rest of the way to take a decision that looked much wider on the cards than it was in the Octagon.
Alcantara used a nifty throw to put Faber on the mat in the fight's opening seconds, moving quickly into full mount and later taking Faber's back. Faber shrugged off numerous hammer fists and several submission attempts before he hit a big slam and enjoyed a spell of ground and pound on top of Alcantara.
Big chunks of the second and third rounds were spent with Faber in Alcantara's guard, where he landed dozens of elbows and smothered his opponent to prevent most offense. The California Kid almost made a mistake late in the final round, but even then he was able to keep scrambling to stay out of harm's way. The judges were convinced, handing him 30-26, 30-26 and 30-27 scores.
Matt Brown def. Mike Pyle by KO at 0:29 of Round 1 – Welterweight
Is anyone in the UFC hotter than Brown? Already riding a five-bout winning streak, he quickly ran it to six by swarming Pyle on his way to a first-round KO.
Brown charged out of his corner and found the target with his first big left hand. A strong right knee followed, and he was on top of Pyle to make the referee stop it in under 30 seconds. Brown called out division kingpin Georges St-Pierre after the fight, and it will be hard to deny him a title shot given the run that he's on.
John Howard SD3 Uriah Hall – Middleweight
In a bout expected to showcase fireworks, Hall and Howard exchanged more sportsmanlike high fives than bombs. Ultimately, Howard made his return to the UFC a successful one, taking 30-27 and 29-28 scores to the single 29-28 card in Hall's favor.
Hall had some early success using his length advantage to keep the much shorter Howard on the end of his kicks. A left hand from Howard stunned him late in the first, but too late to mean much.
The middle stanza saw the fighters along the cage for long stretches, with the fans voicing their displeasure more than once. Howard seized the momentum late, out-striking Hall and scoring a takedown. That carried over to the third round, and though both men whipped out some flashy techniques in the closing seconds, it's safe to say Hall's former status as a dynamic prospect took another hit.
Michael Johnson UD3 Joe Lauzon – Lightweight
Lauzon was the hometown favorite, but the Boston fans couldn't help him stand up to his foe's stand-up onslaught. Johnson showcased much improved striking en route to a 30-27, 30-27, 30-25 unanimous decision that helped him bounce back from two straight losses.
The trouble started right away for Lauzon, who got blasted by a straight left and knocked down early in Round 1. He managed to weather the storm but was in constant danger thanks to Johnson's quick, accurate combination punching.
After a closer Round 2 that saw Johnson slow a bit, he picked things back up in Round 3. Lauzon couldn't come up with enough movement or any takedowns to help his case, and his bloodied face told the story even before the cards were read.
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