By Mark Ruzomberka
The more things change the more they stay the same. The UFC made its return to Atlantic City after a seven-year and nearly 100 event layoff. Their last trip to this historically fight friendly town was in 2005 for UFC 53 where Rich Franklin won the Middleweight title. Oddly enough Franklin fights tomorrow night at UFC 147 in Brazil. First let's detail the differences. The event was held on a Friday instead of their normal Saturday. The brand new Revel Casino, though small, was well suited for a non-title card, while fights had been held at Boardwalk hall in the past. Inside the cage post fight personality Jon Anik subbed for Joe Rogan, while outside the cage Brittney Palmer took the place of Arianny Celeste as the lone ring girl. Oh, and there was clay Guida's hair which became a story of it's own earlier in the week.
The similarities though made it seem like the promotion had never left the sea side town. As always right before going live the highlight reel set to Baba O'Riley always gets the fans excited. Excellent fights, with fighters striving to be world champions,combined with the UFC's slick packaging proved there is always a demand for top notch prize fighting. Let's not forget Bruce Buffer lending his voice to the most exciting introductions in sports.
Clay Guida vs. Gray Maynard
Though not a title fight, this bout was scheduled for five rounds. Maynard has fought into the 4th and 5th rounds in his past two fights with Frankie Edgar, and Guida is well known for his endless supply of energy. After the "hairgate" dust up earlier in the week, Guida entered the
cage with his especially long hair well tied down. In Round one Guida pushed the pace and the New Jersey crowd made it well known they were not fans of Gray Maynard after his past bouts with NJ native Frankie Edgar.
Guida attacked out of the gate, and split Maynard's nose open early. Constantly moving, Maynard could not land any punches of consequence in the first or second round. Guida's constant motion made it hard for Maynard to get a hold of him and most of the rounds consisted of a lot of thrown punches but few landed. The third round opened with a flurry of punches landed for each fighter but then it was back to Maynard chasing the hyper motive Guida around the cage. Maynard caught Guida against the cage two minutes into the round but Guida was able to defend the take-down. Guida appears to have adopted the hands down shoulder rolling style seen by Dominick Cruz, and a frustrated Gray Maynard could not catch up to the longtime UFC vet. After the third round of what was being whispered as "worst fight of the night" Maynard yelled at Guida obviously frustrated at the bell.
Entering the fourth round, this could not have been what the UFC wanted when they added the extra two rounds to non-title headline bouts. A chorus of boos started as Maynard could still not chase down Guida. How quickly things changed. Maynard dropped his hands, and punched himself in the face egging on Guida to engage. He finally did, after Maynard barked at him and the crowd erupted. After a few punch attempts Guida rushed in and
Maynard slapped on a deep guillotine as they went to the mat. Guida struggling to escape tried to slam Maynard but could only get him a foot or so off the canvas. Overall round four was by far the most exciting, and it clearly went to Maynard.
Round Five opened to cheers for "Maynard" by the crowd, appreciating his desire to finish the fight in the fourth round. Looking much more well rounded, with plenty of energy in the tank Maynard tried to corner Guida who was still running backward for most of the round.
After one warning by the referee Guida continued his circular game plan but time ticked away as Maynard tried to push the pace. By the end of the round Maynard had won over the New Jersey crowd and he looked strong and ready for title contention.
Bottom line Gray Maynard came to fight, and it is not clear what Clay Guida came to do other than run around for twenty five minutes. The fight ended as a split decision with two Judges scoring it 29-28 for Maynard, and the other scoring for Guida.
Spencer Fisher vs. Sam Stout
This trilogy dates back to 2006 where Stout won, they met again in 2007 with Fisher winning the second match. As they opened round one it was clear these two both wanted to declare the better fighter once and for all. It was mostly back and forth in round one.
Fisher closed out the round with a spinning back fist at the closing bell, which Stout blocked, but muttered a "nice" as they headed to their corners. Stout landed a nearly perfect double leg takedown in the second round after a few minutes of the fighters trading punches on
their feet. These two were so evenly matched it looked like the third round would be the equalizer. Both men took their shots in the third and traded some serious leather on their feet. Stout again prevailed as the superior wrestler landing a take-down in the middle of round three. Stout looked content to grind out the win by holding Fisher down for the rest of the fight. But, with thirty seconds left the Ref restarted them on their feet. Stout again looked like he wanted to play it safe and did not engage, but Fisher attached. They stood toe to toe trading shots until the bell. Both fighters had bloody noses by the end, and the fight went to the judges score cards for the decision. Sam Stout won the fight 30-27, but the fight was much closer than the score indicated. At 36, with three losses in a row, Fisher's days in the UFC are probably numbered, and it looked like he knew this all too well as he left the cage with a towel over his head.
Brian Ebersole vs. T.J. Waldburger
Though he had a huge up arrow shaved into his chest, Ebersole was down on the canvas within seconds of the opening bell. Waldburger came to battle and knocked down Ebersole with a straight fist to the head. Unable to capitalize on the knockdown Waldburger attempted a submission attempt, a gator choke, in the first round. It looked like the submission was close but Ebersole, gave the ref a thumbs up, ironically enough to show he was fine. Waldburger attacked again and controlled much of the second round. He came close on a triangle choke toward the end of the round but the ever resilient Ebersole wiggled free. In the third round Ebersole looked like he wanted to show off his Muay Thai but Waldburger found a way to get him to the ground as fatigue set in for both fighters. Waldburger kept looking for his signature move, the triangle choke, but just couldn't get his brown belt level jiu-jitsu to translate into the MMA game. Ebersole walked away as the victor winning two of three rounds and getting a unanimous 29-28 decision.
Ross Pearson vs. Cub Swanson
Both fighters have benefited from heavy TV exposure via Ultimate Fighter or WEC and added an air of familiarity to the event. Swanson tried some sort of flying head kick in the first round but it never landed flush, Pearson was unable to capitalize but the round
could have been scored for either fighter. On to the second round where Swanson blodied Pearson early, but it did little to slow down the British fighter. Pearson seemed to be dictating the pace of the fight while Swanson was on the retreat. Finally, Swanson threw a kick
that was caught by Pearson almost at shoulder level. Pearson rushed in to take advantage but was popped by a Swanson Jab. Utilizing perfect footwork while moving backward, Swanson side stepped backward, and hit a left hook that sent Pearson to the mat.
Swanson finally closed the ground and looked for the finish, but was met immediately by the ref who ended the fight.
The finish was a bit early, but Pearson was in serious trouble. This will go down as Swansons signature performance. Cub Swanson looks to move up to a number one contender fight or possibly a title shot depending on how the rest of the division shakes out.