By Thomas Gerbasi
LAS VEGAS, February 6 – Chael Sonnen is the worst kind of fighter to be in the Octagon with. Not because he will knock you out in 30 seconds or submit you in the same amount of time. It’s because he will punish you and make you miserable for 15 minutes, and that’s precisely what he did to Nate Marquardt in the UFC 109 co-main event Saturday night at the Mandalay Bay Events Center, pounding out a unanimous decision victory that earned him a shot at April’s middleweight title fight between champion Anderson Silva and challenger Vitor Belfort.
“I don’t want to be an also-ran,” said Sonnen. “I want to be king of the mountain and I think I can beat any man God ever made.”
Scores were 30-27 across the board for Sonnen, who ups his record to 26-10-1. Marquardt falls to 32-9-2
Sonnen charged right at Marquardt to open the fight, and the Wyoming native eagerly shot back with some strikes to keep Sonnen at bay. Sonnen kept marching forward though, eventually getting a takedown late in the opening minute. While on top, Sonnen scored well, using his free right hand to land wherever he could. In an ensuing scramble, Marquardt made it back to his feet, but after a flying knee, he was sent back to the canvas by Oregon’s Sonnen, who continued to do impressive work until the end of the round – especially with his elbows.
Taking the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ route, Sonnen got Marquardt to the canvas seconds into the second round, clearly intent on grounding and pounding his way to victory. By the second half of the round, Sonnen - bloodied from a cut on his forehead -was really starting to open up on Marquardt, but Marquardt was firing back with elbows of his own. With a minute left, Marquardt jumped into action and scrambled to his feet, but Sonnen was right with him, making sure he ended the round on the mat again.
With the crowd roaring, Sonnen and Marquardt resumed their ground war early in the third and final round, with Sonnen again the busier of the two. After another punishing segment on the mat, Marquardt and Sonnen rose, and a takedown attempt from Sonnen was met with a tight guillotine choke attempt from Marquardt. But after a few dicey moments, Sonnen was able to escape, and while he was on the receiving end of some final shots from Marquardt, when the bell rang, there was no question who the victor was.
Swick vs. Thiago
The first round may have not been something to write home about, but in round two of the welterweight battle between Paulo Thiago and Mike Swick, Thiago was dazzling, dropping Swick with a left hook before submitting him seconds later to further his climb up the 170-pound ranks.
After some tentative standup from both fighters, Thiago scored first with a high kick to the head, drawing an ‘ooh’ from the crowd and a smirk from Swick. Swick, stalking his foe, responded with a kick to the leg and a quick flurry upstairs that fell short. After more feinting and missed shots from both men, Swick made sure he got on the board before the end of the round as he took Thiago to the mat.
Not happy with the boos from the crowd, both fighters came out fast for round two, with Swick trying to lead Thiago into something big while the Brazilian kept cool in the pocket in an effort to counter. With three and a half minutes left, it looked like Swick found that shot as he briefly jarred Thiago, but the Brazilian countered right back with a shot of his own, a left hand that dropped the Texas native. The two scrambled on the mat, but out of nowhere, Thiago sunk in a D’Arce choke that put Swick to sleep and forced referee Herb Dean to halt the bout at the 1:54 mark.
With the win, Thiago improves to 13-1; Swick in his first bout since a November 2009 loss to Dan Hardy, falls to 14-4. It was Thiago’s second win over a member of the American Kickboxing Academy, following his 2009 win over Josh Koscheck, his original opponent for tonight’s bout before ‘Kos’ was injured, bringing Swick in as a replacement. Thiago also dropped a three round decision to AKA’s Jon Fitch at UFC 100 last year.
Scores for Maia were 30-27 and 29-28 twice.
Miller was able to keep the southpaw Maia at bay with his quick strikes in the opening minute, but soon Maia closed the gap and pinned his foe to the fence in search of a takedown. Miller resisted and broke free, landing with more strikes, but Maia got in a hard kick of his own before finally getting the takedown. Miller got up quickly, but was caught with a low knee, bringing the action to a momentary halt. When the bout resumed, it was with the same pattern as before – Maia looking for the takedown and Miller trying to keep it standing, with both having varying amounts of success in doing so.
The fight remained standing for all of round two, with Miller the more active puncher and Maia the one with a little more pop behind his shots when they did land, making the frame difficult to score.
In the opening minute of the third, Miller was able to rock Maia, but in the ensuing trip to the canvas, it was the Brazilian ground wizard in control. New Jersey’s Miller wouldn’t be there long though, as he got back to his feet quickly, only to be dumped to the seat of his pants by Maia moments later. Miller’s ground defense was rock solid, the best we’ve seen thus far against Maia, but being on the receiving end of Maia’s offensive attempts ultimately cost him on the scorecards.
With the win, Maia improves to 12-1; Miller falls to 11-3 with 1 NC.
Serra vs. Trigg
Former UFC welterweight champion Matt Serra’s first birthday gift to his daughter came a week early, as he drilled out a devastating first round knockout victory over Frank Trigg that ensured that ‘The Terror’ would be unscathed for little Angelina’s party next week.
“My daughter’s first birthday is next week,” said Serra. “I was saying ‘man, I hope I don’t show up there like a Cyclops.’
He didn’t have to worry, as he took care of business early.
Serra was busy from the opening bell, but Trigg’s reach advantage was proving to be an issue, leading the Long Islander to attack the body in order to close the distance. The southpaw Trigg (19-8) patiently waited in order to counter, but it was clear that he was the more tentative of the two on the feet, and Serra proved why when he drilled Trigg with an overhand right to the jaw. Trigg fell to the mat and three flush power shots followed, bringing in referee Josh Rosenthal to halt the bout at 2:23 of the first round.
“I believe in my standup,” said Serra, now 17-6. “It’s not pretty, but I land it, and it hurts.”