The first meeting between the two heavy-handed mixed martial artists, which took place on EliteXC's May 31 debut on CBS, ended as a no contest after Lawler accidentally poked Smith in the eye. EliteXC and CBS brought the pair together again for another entertaining, somewhat abbreviated battle.
This time, however, the ending was decisive.
The fight started slow, but picked up midway through the first. After backpedaling for the first minute, Lawler backed Smith against the cage, measured him with a jab and landed a straight left. Two good kicks to the body followed and visibly hurt Smith. Yet Smith, 29, of Elk Grove, Calif., rallied late with a right hand down the pipe that caused Lawler to retreat. Smith pursued with more punches and won the round.
"In the first round, he was pretty much dictating the pace," said Lawler, now 18-4 with one no contest. "I was taking my time, but man, he was coming after me."
The second stanza also started well for Smith. He sliced Lawler open early with a series of forearm smashes on the inside. As blood began to leak out of Lawler, though, the cut fighter launched a pair of left hooks that tore through Smith's defense. Lawler then trapped Smith against the fence and went to work.
"The thing is, I got cut and I knew that I had to step it up and not give the ref anytime to stop it," said the 26-year-old Lawler. "So I just kept the pace up and kept pushing forward."
The middleweight champion hammered away on Smith's body with punches -- his knees did the greatest damage -- and dropped Smith to the mat. Smith rose, but Lawler stayed on him and kept smashing home knees and kicks until referee Herb Dean stopped the fight 2:35 into Round 2.
"I made a mistake," said Smith, who fell to 13-5 with one no contest. "I knew I cut him with an elbow I sat around and waited for the ref to maybe look at it. And he went to work on me, went to work on my midsection with those knees. You live and you learn."
Diaz puts a hurt on Denny
Nick Diaz (18-7, 1 NC) received a wild welcome from his hometown crowd in Stockton, Calif. He also received a fight from Thomas Denny (26-17), at least for five-plus entertaining minutes.
Denny, 37, of Victorville, Calif., came out throwing combinations and inside leg kicks in the first round. Diaz, 24, stayed patient, even after missing two submission attempts -- a kimura and an armbar. Denny escaped the subs and won the exchange that followed with some solid knees.
Midway through the round, however, Diaz began to put a jab in Denny's face and followed that up with a straight left. As Diaz picked up the pace, Denny got hit, got tired and got sloppy. A big left with a minute to go in the round caused Denny to stumble back and take a seat, though "The Wildman" got up for another trade, which Diaz won with an elbow on the inside and more left hands.
The end came quickly in the second. Denny's best moments were behind him, and Diaz approached his peak behind a jab that backed his opponent against the cage. A left hook followed that hurt Denny, who dropped under Diaz's onslaught and was stopped on the ground 30 seconds into the round.
Shields clinches welterweight title
Jake Shields (21-4-1) made beating quality welterweight Nick Thompson (36-10-1) look easy. Fighting out of San Francisco, the 29-year-old Shields dove in for a single-leg takedown to start the fight. Almost instantly he moved to the mount.
Thompson, 27, of Minneapolis, nearly rolled Shields. But nearly wasn't enough, and Shields slipped on a guillotine choke from the mount. The Cesar Gracie-trained fighter posted with his left arm and cranked with his right to force the submission at 1:03.
"All the waiting just made me stronger," said Shields, who finally became the EliteXC welterweight champion with the win and made clear his desire to fight the UFC's best at his weight. "I would love to fight the winner of [UFC champion Georges St. Pierre vs. Jon Fitch] and unify the world titles."
Santos blazes past Baszler
Cristiane "Cyborg" Santos, 23, stopped Shayna Baszler's early submission attempts and finished her late in the second round. The Brazilian, who improved to 5-0, showed strong takedown defense that enabled her hard-punching stand-up game.
In the first round, though, Santos lost her balance and fell to her back. Baszler, 27, of Sioux Falls, S.D., attacked with a toehold. Santos defended while she maintained top position and scored with punches to take the round.
An exchange opened the second, and it was clear that Santos had earned her reputation as a dangerous striker. She threw crisp, straight punches that snapped back Baszler's head. Although the two 140-pound women were fighting three-minute rounds, Baszler's mouth hung open for air as Santos moved in with a flurry. A right hand sent Baszler (9-5) to the floor, and Santos commenced her celebration by straddling the top of the cage. The only problem was that the bout was not over.
Baszler sat stunned on the mat while referee Steve Mazzagatti screamed at Santos, who did not hear him until she had come down from the cage.
"You want to fight?" the referee asked Santos after she had returned to the canvas. "Do you want to fight? Fight!"
After giving Mazzagatti a dumbfounded expression, Santos moved back in for the kill. Baszler fought off the end momentarily, but soon another right hand put her back on the mat and ended the fight for good at 2:48 of the second round.
Silva crowned heavyweight champ
Antonio Silva took a small step Saturday in fortifying EliteXC's claim that the Brazilian is the best big man in the world, as he won the promotion's heavyweight crown with a second-round TKO over a game, but overpowered Justin Eilers.
Both men paced the cage for nearly two minutes before Eilers, a former Big XII college football player and four-time UFC veteran, landed the first meaningful blow. But the 6-foot-4, nearly 280-pound Silva closed the distance and nailed the takedown. A turtled Eilers was overwhelmed by the American Top Team juggernaut's sheer size, but escaped to his feet after Silva was penalized a point for an illegal strike to the back of his opponent's head. Eilers seemed to settle into a comfortable distance, and the pair traded occasional, but competitive blows until the bell.
It looked as if Silva might have a fight on his hands going into the second round, but the scales tipped quickly. With a one-two straight combination, Silva had Eilers on the run. The Iowan turned and then crumbled on the cage with referee Herb Dean at close range. Dean stopped the melee 19 seconds in, as a tempered Silva earned his 11th victory.
Cavalcante makes successful move to light heavyweight
Rafael "Feijao" Cavalcante also made good on his rise up the light heavyweight ranks with a decisive first-round TKO over Canada's King of the Cage champion, Travis Galbraith. The pair clinched aggressively after a brief respite on the canvas, with "Feijao" pouring on the punishment with a whopping hook and a series of pulverizing knees. Galbraith attempted to retaliate with some swings of his own, but his Brazilian opponent had found his target too quickly and too often. The bout was put to an end 3:01 into the round, as Cavalcante improved his record to 7-1.
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