By Thomas Gerbasi
LAS VEGAS, November 15 – The third time was the charm for veteran Aaron Riley at the MGM Grand Garden Arena tonight, as he finally got his first UFC win in three tries with a razor-thin unanimous decision victory over Jorge Gurgel in their exciting UFC 91 lightweight bout.
Scores were 29-28 across the board for Riley, who returned to the UFC for the first time since a January 2006 loss to Spencer Fisher.
After a slow start, an inadvertent low kick by Riley caused a stoppage to give Gurgel time to recover. When the fight resumed, the action picked up, with quick flurries by Gurgel keeping Riley off-balance while Riley’s heavier return fire reddened Gurgel’s face. Riley soon found a home for his kicks, both upstairs and downstairs, but Gurgel kept didn’t want to miss out on the fun, so he started firing off kicks of his own in-between his sporadic punching flurries, and he finished the round as the stronger of the two.
There was no let up in the heated exchanges in round two, and while Riley’s defense continued to show holes, Gurgel’s punches were getting wider, allowing the Indiana native to score more frequently. A little over two minutes in, Riley switched things up by tripping Gurgel to the canvas and firing off shots from the mat. But the fighters stood up and resumed their standup fight shortly, both taking turns pounding the other until the round ended.
Gurgel got back to his gameplan early in the third, using movement and pinpoint shots to keep Riley at bay, but Riley rebounded with a big kick to the head that knocked the Fortaleza native on his heels and allowed Riley to take advantage until Gurgel cleared his head and went back on the offensive. With 90 seconds left, Gurgel missed a kick and fell to the canvas, with Riley following him down there and getting a few punches in until Gurgel got back to his feet. Riley, now bleeding from the nose, finished strong, drilling Gurgel with a couple of 1-2s just before the round ended.
With the win, Riley improves to 27-10-1; Gurgel falls to 15-5.
Up and comer Jeremy Stephens survived some slick submission work by newcomer Rafael Dos Anjos to knock the Brazilian out in the third and final round of their lightweight scrap.
Stephens (16-3) showed solid defense in the first round, a situation he was forced into thanks to Dos Anjos’ consistent ground attack, which put the Iowan in a number of dicey situations in the first five minutes.
Determined to keep the fight away from the mat, Stephens rebounded early in the second with some solid punches and knees. Almost two minutes in though, Dos Anjos (11-3) had put his foe back on the canvas, where he worked from Stephens’ back until the ‘Lil’ Heathen’ got into the top position and started to fire off hard ground strikes to the bell.
Stephens continued to press in the third round, throwing punches just to keep Dos Anjos off-balance. Less than a minute into the frame, He fired off two haymaker uppercuts from long range that had no business landing, but the second did, dropping Dos Anjos as if he had gotten shot. A follow-up barrage was a mere formality as referee Mario Yamasaki stepped in at the 39 second mark.
Lightweight Mark Bocek scored the most impressive win of his UFC career, submitting a game Alvin Robinson in the third round.
Bocek (6-2) secured an early takedown and briefly had side control before settling in Robinson’s guard. After a quick scramble at the 3:13 mark, Robinson (10-4) reversed position briefly before Bocek regained side control, and fired off some hard close range elbows before sinking in a late choke that almost took ‘Kid’ out before the bell intervened.
Following up on his attack from the previous round, Bocek went right after Robinson’s neck early and often in round two. Robinson’s heart was unquestionable though as he repeatedly fought his way out of danger, drawing roars from the crowd for a strong second round finish.
Robinson came out fast to start the final round, only to get locked up and slammed to the mat by Bocek, who continued to be the busier of the two fighters. Eventually, Bocek again got into position to end it, and this time he did, sinking in the rear naked choke that finished the bout at 3:16 of the final stanza.
“He’s a really tough guy,” said Bocek. “He was going hard all three rounds, but I trained really hard. I felt like I could go five rounds today.”
In the opener, The Ultimate Fighter season seven’s Matt Brown continued to show improvement in his game, submitting Ryan Thomas in the second round of their welterweight bout.
The end came at 57 seconds of the second, as Brown (11-7) sunk in an armbar off a sloppy takedown attempt by Thomas (13-3), survived a slam, and got the tap out win.
“I’m so excited. I took this fight on two weeks notice and dropped 25 pounds to be here,” said Brown, who replaced the injured Matt Riddle.
Riley Gets First Octagon Win in UFC 91 War with Gurgel
Thomas Gerbasi, UFC - The third time was the charm for veteran Aaron Riley at the MGM Grand Garden Arena tonight, as he finally got his first UFC win in three tries with a razor-thin unanimous decision victory over Jorge Gurgel in their exciting UFC 91 lightweight bout.