LAS VEGAS - Entering the Octagon inside the MGM Grand Garden Arena Saturday night with 13 UFC fights each and a combined 15 post-fight bonuses, lightweights Jim Miller and Joe Lauzon quickly lived up to their fight’s hype, outshining UFC 155's three middleweight bouts and adding a last-minute entry to year-end Fight of the Year lists.
Jim Miller vs. Joe Lauzon
Both durable, well-rounded and nimble submission artists, Miller vs. Lauzon was billed as a match-up of mirror images. By the end of three rounds, those mirror images were coated in blood, with a screaming arena celebrating Miller's decision win and thrilled by the performances of both men..
Known for coming out aggressively, Lauzon did just that, but Miller answered with equal intensity, landing uppercuts and low kicks as Lauzon came forward. He forced Lauzon against the cage, wobbling him with uppercuts, and at one point dropping him with a low leg kick. An elbow from close quarters opened a cut on Lauzon’s forehead, and Miller grabbed for a standing head-and-arm choke that only caused it to pour, drawing a temporary checkup from the doctor. Lauzon bounded back, but Miller continued the onslaught of punches, which Lauzon merrily weathered and returned in kind. At one point, the two traded kicks and both dropped backward. Neither relented as the round buzzer sounded and the crowd stood to its feet.
Miller, a BJJ black belt, landed a takedown early in the second, and Lauzon – himself a submission expert -- worked to tie up one of Miller’s arms. Lauzon eventually got the sweep, and another brief stoppage occurred as the cutmen removed a piece of tape from Lauzon’s glove that had come unraveled. Back in Miller’s rubber guard, Lauzon stood and slammed Miller down, which had little tactical result but further endeared Lauzon to the crowd. Lauzon reached for an armbar then rolled for a kneebar, but both men were slicked enough with blood that Miller escaped. Both men again drew a standing ovation at the end of the second.
Back on the feet for the third, the pair moved in and out as they boxed, with Lauzon working the body until slipping on the mat. He tried to goad Miller into his guard, but Miller’s success on his feet had him happy to keep things there. Lauzon scored with a left and a knee, while Miller worked to hold Lauzon in the clinch and throw right elbows. With less than a minute left, Lauzon dove and spun for a flying leglock, then pulled Miller into a guillotine.
“I knew I was going to have to bring my best effort to put him away and I was never able to," said Miller post-fight. That’s how good he is. Even in the last minute, look what he was trying to do to win the fight."
Judges gave the bout to Jim Miller with three scores of 29-28, as Miller rises to 22-5; Lauzon slips to 22-8; both men saw their bonus counts grow for their troubles when the bout was named Fight of the Night at the post-fight press conference..
Tim Boetsch vs. Costa Philippou
After two less-than-crowd-pleasing middleweight decisions in a row, Costa Philippou finally gave the fans a finish at 185 pounds, TKOing Tim Boetsch in the third round.
Boetsch immediately put the former pro boxer on the fence, then dropped for a single leg that gave Philippou his neck before returning to the fence. Eventually things returned to the center of the mat, where Philippou fired off a body shot and one uppercut that sent sweat soaring off Boetsch’s head. But as he moved forward again, Boetsch plowed him to the ground. The Serra-Longo trained Philippou used a closed guard and one trapped arm to tie things up and earn a standup with 35 seconds left. From there he surged forward with relentless combinations, only to back off and be wobbled by a seemingly casual high kick thrown by Boetsch at the end of the round.
The men quickly made their way to the fence in round two, then meandered back to the center where they took turns cracking one another. One punch from Philippou simultaneously poked Boetsch in the eye and removed his mouthpiece, prompting a short break. After having a takedown denied, Boetsch lured Philippou onto the ground, and while he worked for an armbar, Philippou drew more blood with his boxer’s hands from top position.
Boetsch, possibly injured and dripping blood from a cut on his forehead, lunged for takedowns in the final round that repeatedly left him on the bottom. In between ground-and-pound, Philippou stood, with Boetsch more reluctant to rise each time. On the final ground exchange, Philippou finally did enough to inspire referee Kim Winslow to call the bout at 2:11.
"I made a few rookie mistakes in letting him take me down, but once we started trading blows back and forth later in the fight I had him, said Philippou, who now boasts a five-fight win streak and a record of 12-2 (1 NC). Boetsch tastes his first loss in the middleweight division, dropping to 16-5 overall.
Watch Philippou's post-fight interview
Yushin Okami vs. Alan Belcher
In 2006, middleweights Alan Belcher and Yushin Okami first fought in what was the UFC debut for both men, with Okami eking out the decision win. Six years and 28 combined UFC fights later, they met again and the outcome was the same – if more one-sided – as Okami’s ground domination netted him a unanimous decision win.
After enjoying a few low and high kicks courtesy of Belcher, Okami drove things to the fence and tied up the action as Belcher struggled mightily for an underhook. Finally, a trip by Okami sent both men to the mat, where Belcher grabbed for a guillotine then tried for a gogoplata to boot. Once Okami was out of danger, Belcher stayed as tight with his guard and half guard as Okami had stayed against the cage. Okami eventurally advanced to side control, Belcher worked his way to his knees, and the round ended with Okami trying to take Belcher’s back.
Belcher tripped Okami backward in the second, only to let him up, lock on a guillotine and pull guard. But Okami popped out, and again struggled to do damage from half-guard. The referee stood them up at 2:30 left, and Belcher celebrated the freedom by wobbling Okami with a punch. But Okami charged forward, and it was then another fight on the fence for control until Okami dragged his way to another takedown ticket to Half Guard City, followed by another stand-up.
Belcher came out reinvigorated for the third, and his active assaults clipped Okami briefly before things went back to the fence, then the mat. But this time it was Belcher on top, and he hung on Okami’s neck backward so that he was positioned for a guillotine when Okami stood. After pulling guard again, he lost the submission, and the bout went back to more of the same half-guard ground control. Despite the crowd’s increasing boos, Okami worked his way into mount. With Belcher’s head against the fence, he threw body shots and shoulder shots until he could clear the route for more ground and pound. Belcher turned away, and Okami continued the assault from the back with both hooks in until the buzzer sounded.
Judges saw it for Okami 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28, as the one-time title contender improves to 29-7; BJJ black belt Belcher sees his record slip to 17-6.
Watch Okami's post-fight interview
Chris Leben vs. Derek Brunson
After months of lobbying on social media for a match-up, middleweight Strikeforce import Derek Brunson made the most of a last-minute opportunity when he was offered a main card bout against UFC veteran Chris Leben after “The Crippler’s” original opponent was injured. The Div. II All-American wrestler used that skill to control the fight and wear down Leben, earning himself a unanimous decision victory with eight days of prep time.
It was Brunson who worked the first offense, testing with a couple of kicks. Leben caught a kick but Brunson grabbed hold and tripped him backward in the center of the cage. Leben nimbly worked for an armbar, but Brunson escaped with a slam, then returned to throwing elbows from guard. As Leben stood, Brunson threw him back down again, then passed into mount and briefly worked for a head-and-arm choke before returning to ground-and-pound from half-guard. Leben found his way back to his feet in the final half-minute of the round and threw a knee from clinch, but his ferocious fists were otherwise stymied by Brunson’s control.
Far more wary of Brunson’s ground game after the first five, Leben defended when Brunson drove him across the cage into the fence. But Leben only had to throw two punches for Brunson to feel his power, which motivated him to grab Leben in a bear hug and trip him right back down. Brunson moved for a guillotine on the way up, but back on the feet, he had his way with a few more punches and leg kicks. Brunson connected with his own elbows and jabs, using whatever openings he could to fight for another takedown. Leben defended most of the them, but his own offense paid the price as his punches came more and more slowly.
Leben hunted for the uppercut throughout the third, but Brunson made difference with jabs, right straights and kicks in between more takedown attempts. A backward trip a minute in did the trick, and Leben wall-walked his way back to the feet. A pawing left by Leben drew a shrug from Brunson, and Leben increased his output; a sharper left drew a less convincing shrug. After looking at the clock for the fourth time in two rounds, Brunson landed one more takedown with about 45 seconds left. Judges all scored the action 29-28 for Brunson, whose UFC debut brings him to a 10-2 record. Leben’s first outing in over a year drops him to 22-9.
"“I knew the type of fight I was getting myself into when I agreed to the bout -- Leben is an all-out slugger," said Brunson. "I started slowing down in the second round and I feel that’s just a matter of taking the fight and training for it on such short notice." He later tweeted to Leben: "I've looked up to you for so long and you're a scary fighter. Thanks for the opportunity; I'm honored."
Watch Brunson's post-fight interview
Miller and Lauzon Overdeliver: UFC 155 Main Card Results
By Laura Gilbert December 29, 2012