By Thomas Gerbasi
LAS VEGAS, July 11 – Welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre made it look easy Saturday night in the UFC 100 co-feature at the Mandalay Bay Events Center. But it was far from that, as his five round unanimous decision win over number one contender Thiago Alves was categorized not only by a gritty challenger who refused to go away without a fight, but a third round groin injury that forced the Canadian superstar to dig deep in order to finish off the championship rounds.
“I’m in real bad pain,” said St-Pierre after the bout. “It (the injury) happened in the third round. It could have been a real bad night for me.”
Instead, it was a bad night for Alves, who lost the bout via scores of 50-45 twice and 50-44. But in defeat, the challenger earned the respect of fans and the champion.
“Thiago Alves was my toughest opponent so far,” said St-Pierre. “He’s gonna gain from this experience.”
With the crowd chanting “GSP”, Alves looked to silence them with kicks to the champion’s legs. St-Pierre responded with a takedown, and each time Alves tried to rise, the Montreal native had an answer. By the time two minutes had passed, St-Pierre appeared to be closing in on a submission from the back, but Alves took the opportunity to get back to his feet, and he again began attacking his opponent’s legs. With 90 seconds remaining, Alves stuffed St-Pierre’s next takedown attempt, but when he landed a few strikes and got over aggressive, ‘Rush’ put Alves on his back again. By the end of the round, the Brazilian scrambled back to his feet, but went back to his corner with a cut over his right eye.
Judging by the early second round action, St-Pierre was just getting warmed up in the first, as he pulled off a slick superman punch / low kick combo before scoring another takedown. While on the mat, St-Pierre controlled matters with not only strikes, but his always impressive athleticism, With under a minute left, the bloodied Alves took advantage of a lull to get back to his feet, but he was unable to make anything happen before the bell rang.
Alves, still resilient, kept marching forward, but as soon as he moved in to land more than one punch, St-Pierre would drop him with another takedown. And late in the round, he put Alves down with a right hand, but ran out of time before he could finish ‘The Pitbull.’
The fourth round began like the others, with St-Pierre getting his takedown and keeping Alves from mounting any offense. But with two minutes gone, Alves finally turned the tables and got into St-Pierre’s guard, where he fired away with punches until the two rose with under two minutes left. Despite this being his first time into the fourth round, Alves didn’t look fatigued, though getting dropped by a right hand in the final 30 seconds didn’t help matters.
With only five minutes to turn things around, Alves’ intensity was evident as he came out for the final round, but St-Pierre was not about to let his foot off the gas, and he took the bout back to where he had dominated from the start – the mat. Alves battled his way up quickly this time around, and he marched forward, oblivious to pain and fatigue. What he couldn’t stop were St-Pierre’s takedowns, and that ultimately proved to be his undoing.
With the win, St-Pierre improves to 19-2; Alves falls to 22-5
Michael Bisping had the right stick and move plan heading into his middleweight bout with Dan Henderson, but when you’re dealing with the former two-division PRIDE champion, it only takes one wrong move and one right hand to end matters, and that’s what happened as Henderson knocked out ‘The Count’ in the second round of the long-awaited showdown between the coaches of The Ultimate Fighter’s ninth season.
The first minute was tense as Bisping used the Octagon to his advantage and Henderson tried to close the distance. In the second minute, Henderson jarred Bisping with a left, but the Brit cleared his head quickly and fired back. Henderson smelled blood though, and he methodically tracked his opponent down, looking for another flush shot. By the second half of the round, Bisping had his legs under him again, and he was sticking and moving effectively, despite the fact that Henderson was packing the heavier artillery. With under a minute to go, the two locked up against the fence, Henderson scoring with some knees at close range. Bisping looked for a takedown late in the round, but fell short, drawing jeers from the crowd.
Bisping was the more active of the two fighters early in round two, and he took two big right hands from Henderson well. As the round progressed, Henderson continued to stalk, but Bisping was outworking him, and when the two got close, Bisping was able to get out before any danger struck. But then out of nowhere, Henderson landed with his trademark right hand again, and this one was right on the mark, sending Bisping down hard to the canvas before a final and unnecessary forearm brought in referee Mario Yamasaki to halt the bout at 3:20 of the round.
With the win, Henderson improves to 25-7; Bisping falls to 18-2.
Welterweight contender Jon Fitch continued his climb back towards a title shot, handing Paulo Thiago his first pro loss via unanimous decision.
Scores were 30-27, and 29-28 twice for Fitch, who improves to 23-3 with 1 NC. Thiago, who had knocked Fitch’s AKA teammate Josh Koscheck out earlier this year, falls to 11-1.
After some tentative early action, Fitch got down to business with a takedown of Thiago, who looked to sink in a guillotine choke. Fitch slipped free and pushed his foe against the fence, but it was Thiago who did the most damage and he again worked for a choke. After some dicey moments, Fitch escaped again, and he continued to control where the bout was taking place even if he wasn’t doing any significant damage.
The second round and third rounds played out much like the first, with Fitch in command on the mat and continually working to make something happen. Midway through the third, Thiago began to show signs of life again, but Fitch quickly nullified his attack, almost finishing the Brazilian in the closing seconds.
Japanese star Yoshihiro Akiyama made a smooth transition to the UFC, scoring an exciting split decision win over Alan Belcher in his Octagon debut.
Scores in the punishing three rounder were 30-27, 29-28, and 28-29 for Akiyama, who ups his record to 13-1 with 2 NC. Belcher falls to 13-5
Belcher’s advantage in size was evident from the start, but Akiyama didn’t shy away from exchanges as he traded kicks with his foe. Unfortunately, a low kick by Belcher forced a halt to the action. Once the fight resumed, both got right back to business, this time trading punches that reddened both men’s faces. With 2:15 left, Belcher dropped Akiyama with a punch to the jaw, but the Japan native quickly rose to his feet and resumed his pursuit of Belcher, landing some flush shots in the process. Belcher responded with punches of his own before bulling his opponent into the fence. After the two broke, Akiyama landed with a right hand that dropped Belcher, but before he could capitalize, the bell rang.
After trading kicks at the start of the second round, Akiyama immediately closed the distance and took Belcher down. Belcher scrambled to get loose, but Akiyama was just as busy as he moved into side control. With under four minutes left, Akiyama got into Belcher’s guard and fired away with strikes. Eventually, Belcher got back to his feet, and despite fatigue setting in, he was still able to pick up points with sporadic punches upstairs and kicks downstairs.
With the fight still close, Akiyama and Belcher stood at close range and looked for the home run that would finish things. This resulted in brief bursts of action that saw each man getting his shots in, but with not enough oomph to get the other out of there. With 1:30 left, Akiyama - his left eye swollen nearly shut - put Belcher down a second time, and though the Biloxi product rose quickly, Akiyama scored a late takedown and secured the victory.
UFC 100 post fight Press Conference: Watch Now
GSP Guts Out Win over Alves; Hendo KOs The Count
Thomas Gerbasi, UFC - Welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre made it look easy Saturday night in the UFC 100 co-feature at the Mandalay Bay Events Center. But it was far from that, as his five round unanimous decision win over number one contender Thiago Alves was categorized not only by a gritty challenger who refused to go away without a fight, but a third round groin injury that forced the Canadian superstar to dig deep in order to finish off the championship rounds.