Published Saturday, June 20, 2009 | 5:15 p.m.
Updated Saturday, June 20, 2009 | 11:30 p.m.
Las Vegas Sun reporters Brett Okamoto and Andy Samuelson break down recent boxing/MMA news. This week: Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao, UFC 99 and The Ultimate Fighter No. 9.
Diego Sanchez may have won the main event Saturday night but it was the nearly 2,000 or so fans in the Pearl theater at the Palms who were the real winners, seeing several back-and-forth battles — including one epic bloody main event that inexplicably went the distance.
"We're you not entertained!" Sanchez shouted into commentator Joe Rogans' microphone to the delight of the crowd after his split decision victory over Clay Guida at "The Ultimate Fighter" No. 9 finale.
Sanchez, who with the win becomes the lightweight's top title contender to face either B.J. Penn or Kenny Florian after their bout at UFC 101 in August, nearly stopped the fight in the first round with a wicked head kick. But Guida, true to his ultra-energetic persona, stayed in the bout until the bloody end — even earning a 29-28 edge on one judge's scorecard.
Sanchez may have had beef with Guida before the bout, but it was abundantly clear in the post fight press conference how much honor he had for "The Carpenter's" tremendous heart afterward.
"I just got tremendous respect after tonight for Clay Guida,” said Sanchez, who hugged his opponent before calling him his new "blood brother."
“I hit him with punches, kicks and knees right on the button and he kept coming. That was a battle, a real war. That's what the UFC is all about."
And it wasn't just the fans in Las Vegas that were treated to what turned out to be an awesome card. Several casual fans likely viewed the stellar event that was broadcast free on Spike TV, unlike most UFC cards which require a pay-per-view purchase.
So much so that UFC president Dana White for the first time in company history gave out three "Fight-of-the-Night" awards. Joining Guida and Sanchez taking home an extra $25,000 was Joe "Daddy" Stevenson and Nate Diaz (Stevenson won by a unanimous decision in an entertaining grappling fest), and Chris Lytle and Kevin Burns (Lytle nearly punched a hole through Burns' head as he opened a huge cut that sent Burns to the hospital afterward).
"It was a night with some great fights," said a disappointed Guida — who joked it would have been the best fight of his career had he won, but acknowledged the fan's intense support let him know it will be a good one to watch on replay.
"I don't know if people stopped cheering the whole fight."
"Daddy" Stevenson got his Father's Day weekend off to a great start and broke his recent struggles in the Octagon with his victory over fellow Californian Diaz in the first televised bout of the night.
"Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there. I can't wait to see my boys tonight," said Stevenson, whose been away from his family in Victorville, Calif., for the last eight weeks while training with Greg Jackson in New Mexico.
Stevenson — who had lost three of his last four, including a unanimous decision loss to Sanchez his last time out — said he didn't feel any extra pressure because he knew he had Jackson in his camp.
"Man, it's like having Chuck Norris in your corner," Stevenson joked. "It's unfair. Those guys bring so much positive energy."
Britain's Ross Pearson became the first "TUF" No. 9 winner, scoring a unanimous decision victory over fellow Team U.K. mate Andre Winner.
"It was one tough fight. I trained my butt off with a lot of different people," Pearson said.
Team U.K.'s James Wilks added his name to Pearson's, becoming the second TUF winner with a first-round submission of lone American finalist DaMarques Johnson.
"I'm very happy, it was the best fight of my life," said the welterweight Wilks, who like Pearson also earned a six figure contract.
Main event (8:30 p.m.)
Time for the finals and both fighters look pumped.
Of course so too is Bruce Buffer who screamed his trademark "It's Tiiimmmeee!"
Clay Guida walks into Alkaline Trio's "Stupid Kid" with his long locks swinging.
Diego Sanchez walks into Queen's "We Will Rock You," let's out a couple of crazy screams and fist pumps and even spits out his mouthpiece while trying to yell at Guida
The crowd loves it.
Clay Guida vs. Diego Sanchez
One question comes up after watching the first round — How is Clay Guida still standing?
Known for coming out aggressively, Guida gets a taste of his own medicine as Sanchez came out firing. Sanchez has landed a little bit of everything, jabs, knees, a straight kick, but Guida continues to fight back.
It's already clear that to win this fight Guida has to get Sanchez down. That's easier said than done. No matter what happens it's already lived up to the hype.
Immediately a better round for Guida as he's able to take down Sanchez early. Sanchez is preventing Guida from landing any serious blows though by tying up his arms. It's turned into a scrap on the ground as Sanchez ties up Guida's right arm and lands elbow after elbow from the bottom position.
Guida has already shown he can weather a blow though. At this rate he's cruising to a decision loss, but wrestlers are always dangerous. The pace is absolutely frantic. Sanchez looks for an armbar but Guida slips out. Guida stands up at the end of the round with a face covered in blood.
Sanchez knows he's ahead by a little so he's not in a rush to fall into a trap by Guida. Sanchez lands a few more jabs. Guida is relentless though. "The Carpenter" must not feel pain. The crowd is chanting his name but he can't seem to land any big blows.
Another kick by Sanchez connects. Guida goes for a takedown but Sanchez reverses it. He's got him in a guillotine choke, but Guida slips out.
Clay's mom has walked her way over to the action and is screaming at her son to keep going. Officials have to ask her to step back. One minute left. Sanchez looking for an armbar now. With 10 seconds left Guida reverses position and strikes down elbows.
The horn sounds and this one somehow made it the distance. Guida wants a hug but Sanchez isn't interested, he holds his hands up and continues to walk away. Should be a decision for Sanchez but what a performance by Guida.
Main card (6:00 p.m.)
Damarques Johnson vs. James Wilks
Damarques Johnson might have had the Palms crowd on his side, but little else.
From the onslaught Wilks took control. Just when Johnson looked to avoid trouble from one choke hold from the Brit, he rolled into a seemingly worse position.
He got out of an omoplata, but fell into a triangle choke. But with 4:54 in the first, Wilks’ rear-naked choke seals Johnson's fate of winning the six figure contract when he taps out.
Kevin Burns vs. Chris Lytle
Remember when the Grinch broke the heart-meter with his heroics when all the Whos' presents were falling off that cliff?
UFC welterweight Kevin Burns showed even more heart in the final round against Lytle. Burns lost to Lytle by unanimous decision, but it was a miracle he made it through the final round.
It took Lytle one punch to open up a floodgate over Burns's left eye in the opening moments of the third round. Burns had tried to throw a kick but Lytle caught it and unleashed a wild haymaker to his opponent's face.
The cut poured blood the rest of the fight, especially since Lytle used it for target practice. Burns absolutely refused to give up though, standing and throwing with Lytle and even pressing him in the final moments.
"If you guys don't get fight of the night, I'm calling the cops," said Rogan.
Lytle showed some heart as well in the first round when he found himself in trouble due to a flurry from Burns. If the first round had lasted another 30 seconds, Lytle may have found himself on the mat, but time ran out for Burns and Lytle regrouped and won the next two rounds.
"I'm an experienced fighter I knew the onslaught was coming," Lytle said. "I just tried to weather the storm. I was almost on the ground in the first round, I just knew I had to stand back up."
Ross Pearson vs. Andre Winner
After taking a knee or jab to the face, fighters usually don't smile and nod a "nice job" to their opponent. But that's exactly what Pearson and Winner did repeatedly during their civil war with each other in the lightweight finals of TUF.
In the end it was Pearson that proved he truly is worthy of the nickname, "The Real Deal," winning by unanimous decision.
Pearson and Winner are known to be close friends and usually train together for each other's fights. But with a contract with the UFC on the line, the two friends had no problem putting that relationship on hold.
"It wasn't difficult for me," said Pearson immediately following the fight. "You could have put anyone out there and I would have trained to beat him."
Winner gained the early edge, using his speed to land a couple flurries to Pearson's face to take the first round. But as the stand-up clinching continued in the second and third rounds, Pearson found his rhythm, using effective uppercuts to dictate the action.
Although it was officially a decision win for Pearson, there was no question who won the fight. By the time the final horn sounded, it was clear Winner was hurt. He spent a few moments on the canvas trying to catch his breath while Pearson took the winner's jump onto the Octagon cage.
Joe Stevenson vs. Nate Diaz
Stevenson showed his commitment to returning to his ground game early on, taking Diaz down. He locked in a guillotine deep enough that it looked like it could end things, but after 30 seconds Diaz was able to get free.
Diaz grabbed control at the outset of the second round, before both traded tough grappling maneuvers. Stevenson got a few shots to the head and was able to avoid a couple of tricky submission attempts by the lanky Diaz.
The third round probably went to Diaz, who had to know he was down on the judges' scorecards and connected with a couple of late strikes. Stevenson did enough in all three to secure the key victory though.
"Nate is a very dangerous guy. Luckily, I had great coaching and I didn't wear myself out," Stevenson said. "There was no monkey on my back in this fight."
Undercard bouts (4:00 p.m.)
Gleison Tibau vs. Melvin Guillard
Guillard scored a split decision win over Tibau in a very even fight.
Tibau tried to use his strength as an advantage over Guillard and his numerous takedowns over the course of the fight certainly gained him points on the scorecard. But in the end it was Guillard that landed the majority of damaging strikes and proved to be elusive enough to slip out of trouble when Tibau threatened to gain control.
"A lot of people are used to seeing me come out and throw hands, but I showed superior wrestling," Guillard said. "I had a lot of growing up to do. Dana White and the UFC believed in me. I just want to be a better asset to this company."
Edgar Garcia vs. Brad Blackburn
"Fight of the Night" material from Garcia and Blackburn. This one went to the ground a grand total of one time as both fighters appeared content to trade strikes on their feet.
After two very close rounds, the final one turned into a brawl with neither fighter owning an advantage. The result was a split decision for Blackburn, despite a right hand from Garcia in the final 20 seconds that briefly knocked him down.
"I threw an uppercut and my right shoulder popped. I had to stay with jabs and kicks," said Blackburn, who was booed by the crowd. "He's a tough guy. He's only been fighting three years."
Mike Ciesnolevicz vs. Tomasz Drwal
It's never good when the crowd goes, "Ooooh," and the next thing you know, you're on your back.
That's what happened to light heavyweight Mike Ciesnolevicz, as he fell victim to a devastating right knee strike from Drwal. Drwal controlled the fight throughout and wasted no time finishing it once Ciesnolevicz was in trouble.
Frank Lester vs. Nick Osipczak
Osipczack had a feeling his superior submission skills would carry him through this fight against Frank Lester. He was right.
Osipczack caught Lester in a rear naked choke 3:40 into the first round and earned the submission win. The Brit was more than happy to welcome to the boos from the crowd that followed for beating the American.
Cameron Dollar vs. Jason Dent
Jason Dent got things started a the TUF finale choking out fellow American Dollar in the first round.
”I got him with the anaconda choke. I got him on the show a couple times too. I thought he worked the defense,” Dent said.
The Pearl is the Palms premier concert venue, hosting some of the most legendary and popular names in entertainment.
Andy Samuelson can be reached at [email protected] or 702-948-7837.