McKenzie, dos Anjos earn submission wins in Virginia
The preliminary card of UFC on FUEL TV 3 is in the books from the Patriot Center in Fairfax, Va., with just two of the six winners managing to earn victories without the nod from the cageside judges.
Brazilian lightweight Rafael dos Anjos was one of the two, as he found an early submission victory against former WEC contender Kamal Shalorus.
The 155-pound contest began slow, as the first 20 seconds of the contest came and went without a strike being thrown. Dos Anjos, however, quickly changed the pace with a vicious head kick, his heel connecting square the the head of Shalorus. The Iranian mixed martial artist dropped to the ground, but was not out cold.
Even though his opponent survived the initial blow, dos Anjos could see a stoppage was near, pouncing on Shalorus to deliver vicious hammerfists. After being warned by the referee repeatedly about shots to the back of the head, dos Anjos elected to take his opponent's back and sink in his hooks. After channeling his inner B.J. Penn, dos Anjos trapped an arm with his leg, sinking in a choke, and forced a tap.
The victory, which came at the 1:40 mark of the opening frame, was just the win dos Anjos needed to ignite a run up the lightweight ranks, while Shalorus finds himself in a very different situation.
A victim of age and a late start in the sport, Shalrous finds himself without a win in the UFC after what was a very promising WEC career. The Iranian likely will be on the outside looking in after three straight stoppage losses.
In the only other contest that did not go for the full 15 minutes, Cody McKenzie looked to earn a much-needed victory, no doubt hoping to pull off yet another win via guillotine choke. His opponent Marcus LeVesseur appeared to have different plans.
LeVesseur landed early with several big shots, and it was clear from the opening bell that McKenzie did not have much of a shot on the feet. The wrestler dropped McKenzie on a couple of occasions, finally deciding to follow him to the ground after landing a crushing blow.
On his back, McKenzie remained composed, working his way to an upright seated position. From there, he looked to sneak in his left arm. LeVesseur remained inactive, though still on top, as McKenzie slid his arm under the neck and cranked. LeVesseur was forced to roll over and tap out, giving McKenzie yet another submission victory by way of his infamous guillotine choke.
As for the rest of the preliminary action, Alex Soto and Franciso Rivera kicked off the card with a three round contest that featured most notably Rivera's power. He found success early and often, hurting Soto on several occasions. But Soto's apparent iron chin allowed him to survive three rounds, though not the judges, as Rivera walked away with a unanimous decision win.
In the next contest, longtime veteran Jeff Curran looked to finally earn a win in the UFC, but could not compete with the striking of Johnny Eduardo. Curran shot in for takedowns rarely and needed almost two and one-half rounds to find his comfort zone on the feet, while Eduardo spent the first two rounds tearing up Curran's lead leg with vicious kicks.
After Eduardo was allegedly poked in the eye in the third, Curran showed life, landing several very nice shots on the feet. However, it was too little, too late for "Big Frog," who once again finds himself in a very uncomfortable place in his career, as the Octagon door may have closed on him for the last time.
Wedged between the submission victories, T.J. Grant and Carlo Prater squared off in the most uneven bout, as far as odds are concerned. As a 4:1 favorite, Grant displayed a well-rounded game right out of the gate, landing more often on the feet and seeming far more confident.
After two successful first rounds, Grant could have coasted to a victory, but the Canadian was hardly ready to waltz to victory lane. Grant dominated the third even more so than the prior to rounds, putting Prater on his back and out-grappling him at every turn. In the waning moments of the fight, Grant switch from the back to an armbar attempt, nearly locking it on. But the bell rang, saving Prater from the finish. Still, Grant earned the unanimous nod from the judges in one of his more impressive showings to date.
In the final preliminary contest, Brad Tavares returned from a lengthy layoff to face Dongi Yang in what ended up becoming a rather controversial contest. Neither fighter was ever really able to find a rhythm early and, thanks to several breaks in action, never really found a rhythm late, either.
Both fighters needed breaks from the referee due to eye pokes, and Tavares struggled throughout the fight due to blurriness. Yang, meanwhile, also needed a break in action due to an inadvertent groin strike.
As neither fighter was able to get much going, the fight ended up becoming rather ugly, featuring errant combinations and misplaced strikes. Tavares walked away with the unanimous decision, but it was hardly the victory he had in mind.