Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Sunday, Nov. 22, 2009 | 1:52 a.m.
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Las Vegas Sun boxing/MMA writer Brett Okamoto talks with fellow sports writer Ryan Greene and videographer Christine Killimayer about what they thought of the fights at UFC 106 at Mandalay Bay Events Center on Saturday.
It may have taken 17 months for Amir Sadollah to find it after earning his UFC contract at The Ultimate Fighter 7 Finale, but the 29-year-old welterweight may have found his starting point.
With a well-earned unanimous decision victory over veteran Phil Baroni, a year of frustration and adjustment found its proper conclusion on Saturday night at the Mandalay Bay Events Center.
"It's hugely gratifying," he said. "What I do from here is up to me. This is obviously a much better starting point than my last fight."
His last time out, it took Johny Hendricks 29 seconds to end Sadollah via TKO at UFC 101 in Philadelphia. What made that night frustrating for Sadollah — beyond the notion that he felt he could have continued when the fight was instead ended — was that it came after he'd had to pull out of two previous fights in the 11th hour because of injuries.
On Saturday, his endurance was truly put to the test.
Baroni, back in the UFC for the first time since Feb. 5, 2005, came out firing with his heavy fists.
He landed several early shots in a powerful, consistent and aggressive first round effort. He made it pretty clear that his goal was to put Sadollah away early on.
But combined with Baroni running out of steam during the second round, Sadollah got him in a clinch and was able to land a couple of devastating knees.
"I wanted to be aggressive the whole fight, but when he hits that hard, you can't get overzealous and get caught, so I just had to bide my time," Sadollah said. "I was looking to work the body to try and slow him down. I've heard people question his gas tank in the past, but I think his gas tank's been looking better recently, so I just thought body shots would make sure that it'd be more in my favor in the later rounds."
Baroni was visibly worn in the third round, but still kept Sadollah at bay for much of it by both swinging hard and simply not going down. Baroni may have suffered a loss which dropped his professional record to 13-12, but he backed up his tough-as-nails reputation.
"Amir went in there tonight against a tough veteran," UFC president Dana White said. "Let me tell you what, since the last time Phil Baroni fought in the UFC, this guy must send me 1,000 texts a month. He wants to be in the UFC so bad and wanted to come back and fight, and Baroni's a tough guy.
"Let me tell you what, Baroni took some tough shots tonight, wouldn't go down, stood there even though he was gassed, and Amir picked him apart. Amir fought a great fight. Tonight was a good win and a good night for Amir."
It could be a start of something nice for Sadollah, who capped off a trying year filled with injuries and relocating his entire life to Las Vegas with a grinder of a victory.
Now he's ready to do it again.
"The whole year has been a learning process for me, I've never stopped learning," he said. "This is now a positive, luckily I don't feel injured at all, so the quicker and sooner I get back in there, the more I learn."