Fighting in the United Kingdom for the first time in nearly five years on Saturday, Michael Bisping did what he's always done in the European region -- he won.
Bisping (27-7) defeated Thales Leites via split decision at UFC Fight Night on Saturday in Glasgow, Scotland. The middleweight bout headlined the event, which took place at SSE Hydro Arena.
The 36-year-old British veteran, who has never lost a fight in the UK, kept Leites (25-5) guessing in a mostly standup fight, but it was far from an easy win. Despite Bisping clocking Leites with 113 strikes, according to Fightmetric, the Brazilian continued to walk forward with power punches and had Bisping hurt on multiple occasions.
Judges Mark Collett and Howard Hughes scored the five-round fight for Bisping, 49-46 and 48-47, respectively. Judge Paul Sutherland had it for Leites, 48-47. ESPN.com saw the 185-pound contest 49-46 for Bisping.
"I felt I was in control of the fight for the most part," Bisping said. "He hit me with a couple of good shots on two occasions, but other than that, I felt great and I felt in control. I think I'm 17-0 in the UK now and it means the world to me to still be taking out top 10 guys after 10 years with the organization. I am capable of fighting for that title."
As much as Bisping's varied attack had Leites bewildered at times, it never had him hurt. Bisping mixed his strikes up beautifully, scoring almost at will with inside leg kicks, the jab and overhand right. He maintained constant movement as he threw, circling away from Leites' power while utilizing every inch of the Octagon.
Leites wore all of Bisping's offense incredibly well, however, and his stamina held up in what was his first trip into a fifth round since a loss to Anderson Silva in a UFC title fight in April 2009.
Early in the third round, Leites landed a big right hand that had Bisping on uncertain legs. The punch opened a small cut over Bisping's left eye and he quickly tied Leites up in a clinch to prevent further punches. Leites failed to capitalize on the moment, showing perhaps a small sign of temporary fatigue. Later in the round, he caught a Bisping leg kick and turned it into a takedown, but couldn't keep Bisping down and, in fact, barely appeared to try. It was the only converted takedown of the fight for the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt.
By the fourth round, it was clear Leites was only looking for the big knockout punch. Usually so good at slipping that big punch, Bisping's legs looked heavy, perhaps from leg kicks landed by Leites earlier in the fight and there were several close calls for him in the pocket. Midway through the fifth, he loudly asked his corner how much time was left in the fight.
"I'm upset of course, because I committed a lot of mistakes," Leites said. "That's five, five-minute rounds, you know? He knows how to use the Octagon space very well."
Bisping earned his first winning streak since December 2011. Prior to Saturday, he had alternated wins and losses in his last nine fights. Leites saw an eight-fight win streak snapped.
Dunham manhandles hapless Pearson
Evan Dunham worked Ross Pearson over on the floor and completely stifled his standup en route to a lopsided unanimous decision.
Dunham (16-6) took Pearson's back in the first and second rounds and nearly submitted him with an armbar early in the fight. There was no suspense as the cards were read, as Dunham won comfortably: 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28.
"Ross is a tough dude," Dunham said. "He hits hard. It would be dumb to play into his game. I've been around the sport for awhile and decided to go the smart route, grapple him."
Pearson (17-9) defended a handful of takedowns, but when he did give one up, he was at a complete loss on the ground. Dunham locked Pearson into a body triangle in the opening two rounds, where he looked to secure a rear-naked choke. Near the end of the first round, Dunham transitioned into an armbar that had Pearson twisting in agony, but the Brit refused to tap.
Although Pearson managed to escape all of Dunham's submission attempts, he looked somewhat hesitant on the feet due to the threat of the takedown. Any time he did put his weight forward and lay into a right hand, Dunham would drop levels and shoot on a double leg. In the third, with Pearson needing a knockout, Dunham kept him in a clinch along the cage wall.
After losing three consecutive fights from 2013-to-2014, the Las Vegas-based Dunham has bounced back with consecutive wins.
"I try to consider myself a journeyman -- a fighter's fighter," said Dunham, when asked what he wanted next. "They'll call me with a name and I'll be there."
Duffy submits Jorge in Round 1
Irish lightweight Joseph Duffy cruised to his second win in the UFC, tapping out Ivan Jorge via triangle at just 3:05 of the first round.
Duffy (14-1), who has best-known for a 2010 win over UFC interim champion Conor McGregor, extended his win streak four with the victory. It is the 27-year-old's ninth career win by submission.
"This is my life," said Duffy, who has competed in professional boxing as well as mixed martial arts. "This is what I love doing. I feel no reason to be nervous. This is the place I want to be in everyday."
A member of Tristar Gym in Montreal, Duffy has been nothing short of spectacular thus far in the UFC. He kept the fight against Jorge (26-5) out in space, utilizing head movement to slip the Brazilian's punches while lighting him up with inside leg kicks, right hands and then two knees up the middle. Jorge attempted to drive Duffy into the fence and get him to the floor, but he calmly defended the shot and then circled away.
Midway through the round, after eating a hard right uppercut, Jorge grew very desperate for the takedown. In an ensuing scramble, Duffy fell to his back, locked in the triangle immediately and produced the tap.
"I'm confident in my game," Duffy said. "I'm training with some of the best guys in the world, week-in and week-out. No matter where a fight goes, I'm comfortable I can beat them."
After the result of the fight was read, Duffy requested a spot on the UFC's recently announced Dublin event, which takes place Oct. 24 at 3Arena.
Calderwood brawls past Casey
Joanne Calderwood managed to outlast late-notice replacement Cortney Casey in an absolute slugfest to earn her first win of 2015.
Calderwood (10-1), a Glasgow native, survived a nasty flurry by Casey in the opening seconds of the strawweight bout, before going on to win a unanimous decision. Judges scored the bout for Calderwood via scores of 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28.
Although it was a loss, it was an impressive UFC debut for Casey (4-2), who accepted the fight on 10-day's notice after Calderwood's original opponent withdrew. According to Fightmetric, Calderwood landed an insane 254 total strikes, but Casey was active as well, landing 109 of her own and gutting through a crippling spinning back kick to the liver in the third round.
"It wasn't pressure, it was pleasure," said Calderwood, on fighting in front of the hometown crowd. "I just get paid to come out and put on a performance, so that's what I'm going to do from now on. It's been so emotional the past eight weeks."
Casey had Calderwood in trouble as early as the first exchange. She ate a few leg kicks but fired back with a counter left hook and right cross that had Calderwood retreating backwards. Calderwood, a former cast member on The Ultimate Fighter reality series, regained her sense, however, and tied Casey up in the clinch. Later in the round, Casey pulled guard and went for an armbar, but Calderwood escaped and ended up in top position.
The pace only picked up in the second round, as Calderwood bit down on her mouthpiece and walked forward into the Thai clinch. She targeted Casey's midsection with knees, while throwing short elbows upstairs. The right hand started to land frequently for Calderwood and she scored several more takedowns that kept Casey guessing.
A spinning back kick to the body dropped Casey early in the third and it appeared Calderwood was headed for a finish, as she followed her to the ground with strikes. Casey survived, however, and even managed to land several more good punches later in the round, but her power had been mostly zapped by the high pace.
Calderwood, 28, improves to 2-1 in the UFC. She suffered a first-round submission loss to Maryna Moroz in her last fight in April.
Edwards cruises past Pawlak
Leon Edwards earned his second consecutive win inside the Octagon, out-pointing fellow welterweight Pawel Pawlak in a three-round unanimous decision.
Edwards (10-2) landed a beautiful left head kick in the third round that dropped Pawlak in the center of the cage, but was unable to turn it into a finish. All three judges scored a shutout for Edwards, 30-27.
Both Edwards and Pawlak (11-2) landed their fair share of offense, but it was Edwards who clearly scored the harder strikes. He knocked Pawlak into the fence on several occasions with the straight left and popped him in the second round with a high spinning wheel kick.
Edwards, who fights out of England, also demonstrated his wrestling at times -- particularly in the second round, as he reversed a takedown attempt by Pawlak and spent a good amount of time in top position.
"Everyone thinks I'm a striker, but I practice all martial arts," Edwards said. "I came out here to prove that."
Pawlak, 26, drops to 1-2 in the UFC. Both of the Polish welterweight's losses have come via unanimous decision.
Ray knocks out Mafra in Round 1
Scotland's Steven Ray delivered a first-round knockout for the hometown crowd against an overmatched Leonardo Mafra.
Ray (18-5) wobbled Mafra with a counter right hook before knocking him down moments later with a straight left. Referee Marc Goddard called an official stop to the lightweight contest at 2:30 of the opening round.
After the fight, the 25-year-old admitted he'd had a 'nightmare' camp after a motorcycle accident sidelined him for two weeks during training.
"I couldn't even get warmed up in the back -- that first round was my warmup," Ray said.
The setbacks in camp did not show up in the fight, as Ray was mostly dominant on the feet. Mafra (12-3) didn't appear to have any clue how to close on the southpaw, eventually just running forward with kicks that left him open to the counter.
Ray improves to 2-0 in the UFC. He won a short-notice fight against Marcin Bandel via TKO in April.