They gave Mark Munoz five rounds. He needed only two.
In the first five-round non-title bout in Ultimate Fighting Championship history, Munoz utilized his considerable wrestling skills and electric ground-and-pound to stop Chris Leben after two rounds in the UFC 138 headliner Saturday at the LG Arena in Birmingham, England. Cut near the eye and bleeding heavily, Leben informed referee Marc Goddard after the second round that he could no longer see, and the fight was halted.
"It's hard to fight when you're choking on blood," Leben said. "He caught me good. I couldn't stick to anything. There was blood everywhere. He was the national champion in wrestling. It doesn't get any better than that. I'm going to need to reevaluate my ground game after that. I wanted to keep it standing, but he outwrestled me. My hat's off to Munoz."
A two-time All-American and the 2001 NCAA wrestling champion at Oklahoma State, Munoz (12-2, 7-2 UFC) struck for multiple takedowns in the match and then proceeded to batter Leben with heavy punches and elbows. A right hand in the second round lacerated Leben, leaving him badly damaged and on the brink of defeat. Elbows from Munoz only worsened the Portland, Ore., native's situation. Munoz later moved to mount, dropping punches and eliminating what was left of the Leben resolve. By the end of Round 2, Leben (22-8, 12-7 UFC) had endured enough.
"Chris Leben is a tough competitor," Munoz said. "I knew I had to look out for his left hand. He came with it. I had to get rid of my brawling instincts and stick to my wrestling. I had to get my angles and utilize my wrestling and my single-leg and my ground-and-pound."
Afterward, Munoz called for an opportunity to face reigning middleweight champion Anderson Silva.
"I've paid my dues in this weight class," said Munoz, having rattled off four consecutive victories. "I think I deserve a title shot. Anderson Silva is by far the best pound-for-pound fighter. I give him all the respect and honor. I consider him a friend, but I think I deserve a title shot."
Barao Taps Pickett, Streak at 17
Perhaps now the MMA world will take Renan Barao more seriously.
Barao, a 24-year-old Nova Uniao representative, submitted American Top Team's Brad Pickett in the co-main event, as he staked his claim to bantamweight title contention with a first-round rear-naked choke. Pickett (20-6, 0-1 UFC), his Octagon debut spoiled, conceded defeat 4:09 into Round 1.
Barao (27-1, 1 NC, 2-0 UFC) has won 17 consecutive fights since his December 2007 encounter with Claudemir Souza ended in a no contest.
"It was a very hard training camp," he said. "We did our best. I trained in all areas. I feel very complete, but I have a lot [of room] to grow. I will do my best in my next performance."
A firefight between the bantamweights developed almost immediately. Pickett staggered the Brazilian with a left hand, only to be answered with a kick, an attempted takedown and a ringing left hand and jab. A knee sent Pickett to his back and altered the course of the fight, as Barao hovered above his prey, perhaps sensing a finish was within reach. Punches followed, and Pickett unwisely surrendered his back in an ensuing scramble. Barao was quick to sink the choke, wrenched the hold with brute force and secured the tapout.
"When I hit the knee, I knew I could put the combinations on him," he said. "Then I jumped on his back and submitted him."
Alves Hammers, Submits Abedi
Alves wrecked the 33-year-old judoka with hard, clean strikes, ultimately trailed him to the mat and finished their featured welterweight battle with a first-round rear-naked choke. Abedi (8-1, 0-1 UFC) surrendered 3:32 into Round 1, giving Alves the first traditional submission victory of his stellar career.
Alves, a former welterweight title contender, rocked Abedi with a left hand and followed up with a right that had him ripe for the picking. The American Top Team ace moved to full mount, from which he unleashed elbows and punches that forced Abedi to surrender his back. The choke followed soon after, as Alves (19-8, 11-5 UFC) won for the second time in three fights.
Perosh Chokes 'The Snake'
Australian Anthony Perosh grounded and submitted Pride Fighting Championships veteran Cyrille Diabate with a second-round rear-naked choke in a light heavyweight showcase. Unable to free himself from Perosh's suffocating top game, Diabate (17-8-1, 2-2 UFC) asked out of the match 3:09 into Round 2.
Perosh (12-6, 2-1 UFC), who was largely kept at bay by the reach of "The Snake" in the first round, bullied his way to a takedown in the second. He mounted, forced the Frenchman to yield his back and cinched the choke for the tapout. Perosh, a 10-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu national champion in his native Australia, has secured nine of his 12 career victories by submission.
Etim Guillotine Submits Faaloloto in 17 Seconds
Terry Etim waited nearly two years for 17 seconds of ecstasy.
In his first appearance since April 2010, the former Cage Gladiators lightweight champion and three-time "Submission of the Night" award winner coaxed a tapout from an overzealous Eddie Faaloloto with a first-round guillotine choke in a featured matchup at 155 pounds. Etim (15-3, 6-3 UFC) has posted five wins in his past six outings.
"I'm back now," Etim said, "and I'm ready to make an impact in the 155-pound division."
Faaloloto (2-3, 0-2 UFC), victimized in three consecutive defeats, figures to be met with a pink slip.