Middleweight contender Michael Bisping extended his 185-pound win streak to three-straight on Saturday night, defeating challenger Chris Leben via unanimous decision in the main event of UFC 89 “Bisping vs. Leben” in front of a sold out crowd at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham, England.
Despite entering the bout in his best physical and mental shape of his career, Leben pressed forward but was unable to connect with his knockout power, while Bisping employed a perfect strategy to top Leben on the judge’s scorecards, avoiding Leben’s power while countering with precision strikes.
Leben opened the bout aggressively with leg kicks but Bisping took control midway through the close opening round, countering with punches and bloodying the nose of his opponent. In the second it was all Bisping, who dodged Leben’s attacks while carefully countering with punches. In the close final round (which MMAFrenzy.com scored in favor of Leben), a desperate Leben was again aggressive, chasing Bisping down with wild strikes, but was unable to score a knockout.
The judges rendered a unanimous decision victory in favor of Bisping with scores of 30-27, 30-27, and 29-28 in favor of the English fighter.
With the win Bisping improved to 17-1 on his career, including a perfect 3-0 record at 185-pounds, and moved closer to a middleweight title shot, though when questioned on a potential title fight after the victory, Bisping said he feels he needs several more wins over quality opponents before he’d be prepared for the middleweight title holder.
Up next for Bisping is a stint as a coach on The Ultimate Fighter 9 with a key middleweight matchup against Dan Henderson or Rich Franklin looming in 2009.
The obviously-improved Leben dropped to 18-5 in the loss, but was gracious in defeat, thanking the UK fans and Bisping for a fight he called the most-enjoyable of his career, despite being a losing effort.
In the co-main event of the evening, Keith Jardine defeated Brandon Vera via split decision after three close rounds. After a exchanging early, Jardine captured the first round with a takedown and ground and pound, escaping a near-submission by the Jiu Jitsu brown belt to punctuate the round with a late-flurry of strikes. Vera countered by winning the second with a knee-buckling kick and better striking, but Jardine rebounded to win the final frame on two of the judge’s scorecards to take the split decision with scores of 29-28, 29-28, and 28-29.
Despite losses in two of his last five fights, the win moves Jardine, now 14-4-1 on his career, back into the light heavyweight title picture with wins over current light heavyweight title-holder Forrest Griffin, former champion Chuck Liddell, and now the former heavyweight contender Vera in three of his last five.
Vera, suffering his third loss in his last four bouts inside the octagon, saw his record drop to 9-3 in the loss, including a 1-1 mark at 205-pounds.
In other main card action, Luiz Cane stopped Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou for the “Knockout of the Night” with strikes late in the second round, Chris Lytle and Paul Taylor went toe-to-toe in the “Fight of the Night” with Lytle walking away with a controversial unanimous decision win (29-28, 30-27, 29-28), and Marcus Davis submitted Paul Kelly via guillotine choke midway through the second round in the first televised bout of the evening.
The wins likely line up Davis and Lytle for an early-2009 meeting at UFC 93 in Ireland.
Lytle, Taylor, Cane, and Davis each took home an extra $40,000 bonus for their efforts.
On the preliminary card, Dan Hardy topped Akihiro Gono via split decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28), Shane Carwin pounded out Neil Wain early in the first round, David Bielkheden defeated Jess Liaudin via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27), Terry Etim topped Sam Stout via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27), Jim Miller earned “Submission of the Night” honors by choking out David Baron with a rear naked choke midway through the third round, and Per Eklund forced Samy Schiavo to submit to a rear naked choke early in the third round of the opening bout of the evening.
The UFC’s next event is just one week away as the promotion returns to the US and heads to Chicago, Illinois for UFC 90 “Silva vs. Cote”. The middleweight title will be on the line in the main event as UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva battles top contender Patrick Cote. Welterweights Josh Koscheck and Yoshiyuki Yoshida are set to clash in the evening’s co-main event.
As always, MMAFrenzy.com will have extensive live coverage of UFC 90 “Silva vs. Cote” on Saturday, October 25th.
UFC 89 “BISPING VS. LEBEN” OFFICIAL RESULTS
- Michael Bisping def. Chris Leben via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
- Keith Jardine def. Brandon Vera via split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)
- Luiz Cane def. Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou via TKO (strikes) — Round 2, 4:15
- Chris Lytle def. Paul Taylor via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 29-28)
- Marcus Davis def. Paul Kelly via submission (guillotine choke) — Round 2, 2:16
- Dan Hardy def. Akihiro Gono via split decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Shane Carwin def. Neil Wain via TKO (strikes) — Round 1, 1:31
- David Bielkheden def. Jess Liaudin via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
- Terry Etim def. Sam Stout via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
- Jim Miller def. David Baron via submission (rear naked choke) — Round 3, 3:19
- Per Eklund def. Sammy Schiavo via submission (rear naked choke) — Round 3, 1:47