The UFC’s return to England was a treat for fans who like a good fight. With Brazilians Renan Barão (bantamweight) and Thiago”Pitbull” (welterweight) coming up with first-round tapouts and middleweight Mark Muñoz outworking Chris Leben on the main card, the English crowd at the LG arena in Birmingham were not left wanting by UFC 138, with a total of four submissions in ten bouts.
Mark Muñoz and Chris Leben entered the arena bearing the burden of having to show the fans a fight a cut above the rest. And they were up to the task. Using his takedown-and-pound game to good effect, the Rafael Cordeiro-trained Muñoz outpointed a game Leben in the first.
The second frame was no different. Leben won over the crowd with his solid chin and perseverance, having persisted after retaining a gruesome gash to his brow. But even with the local support urging Leben forward, it didn’t keep referee Marc Goddard from waving an end to the fight during the break between rounds one and two, due to the bleeding cut on Leben’s face. Leben’s seconds agreed, and Muñoz notched another victory.
“He (Leben) is really tough. I knew I had to dodge that left hand of his; it’s really strong. I had faith in my wrestling. That’s what I did,” said Muñoz in summary, to then address his future in the organization: “I’ve done a lot in this division. I feel Anderson is the best of all pound for pound. I consider Anderson a friend, but I feel I deserve a shot at the title.”
Renan Barão is one of those fighters who lays it all out there in the octagon and often expose themselves in pursuing the result. Owner of a dextrous game that would cause Jean-Claude Van Damme envy, once again the Brazilian didn’t disappoint, and went to town against Brad Pickett, who had the whole house behind him.
And with an array of strikes, Barão left the Englishman disoriented: with knees, elbows and punches from all angles, he wore away at his opponent until a series of strikes on the ground forced Pickett to give up his back. Barão didn’t falter and sunk a rear-naked choke, finishing his second UFC fight perfectly, one minute from the first-round bell.
After the referee raised his arm, Barão, who just had a son one month ago, celebrated vibrantly with his team, Nova União, and stated through the interpreter, Braulio “Carcará” Estima, that he has a lot more to show in the event: “I trained all the styles for this night. I’m really happy, but I feel I still have a lot to improve on to put on better and better performances for my fans.”
After finding out at weigh-ins on Friday that he still had 1 kg to lose in less than an hour in order to make the weight ceiling for his division, an enraged Thiago “Pitbull” had to be pulled away from Papy Abedi to keep him from starting the first round one day early, during the traditional staredown.
And if at the ring of the opening bell things were already hot, they heated up even more after it. Early on, Papy stalked the Brazilian, landing some good shots. However, “Pitbull” held firm and, with a solid hook, knocked Abedi to the ground, where he pounced with elbows and punches until his hapless opponent turned his back and succumbed to a rear-naked choke 3:32 minutes into the first round.
“I love England. You guys are the best,” said “Pitbull” in thanks to the home crowd, which had always been on his side.
Another highlight of the night was Terry Etim’s guillotine just 17 seconds into his fight, to the delight of the noisy crowd.
November 5, 2011
Mark Muñoz defeated Chris Leben by TKO during break before R3;
Renen Barão tapped out Brad Pickett via rear-naked choke at 4:09 minutes of R1;
Thiago Alves tapped out Papy Abedi via rear-naked choke at 3:32 minutes of R1;
Anthony Perosh tapped out Cyrille Diabete via rear-naked choke at 3:09 of R2;
Terry Etim defeated Edward Faaloloto via guillotine at 0.17 of R1.
John Maguire defeated Justin Edwards via unanimous decision;
Phil De Fries defeated Rob Broughton via unanimous decision;
Michihiro Omigawa defeated Jason Young via unanimous decision;
Che Mills knocked out Chris Cope at 0.40 minutes of R1;
Chris Cariaso defeated Vaughan Lee via split decision.