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UFC 157 Prelims: Bermudez Wins Fight, Grice Wins Fans

Fans inside Honda Center were numerous and vocal during the preliminary action on a historic card. Despite two submissions and a matchup of heavyweight knockout kings, it was an all-out scrap between two under-the-radar featherweight wrestlers, Dennis Bermudez and Matt Grice, that electrified the crowd.Brendan Schaub vs. Lavar JohnsonHeavyweight Lavar Johnson has his first fight ever go to the judges‘ scorecards; unfortunately, he spent the bulk of those 15 minutes underneath the equally massive Brendan Schaub. Schaub earned an easy 30-27 win but no fans inside the Honda Center that had earlier been on its feet for a featherweight scrap. Schaub ”“ who lost his last two fights by KO and was facing a fellow lights-out artist — took things to the mat about 20 seconds in. As Johnson worked to his feet from half-guard, Schaub locked in a modified anaconda. Though his hands were secured, his legs were free, and Johnson spun around, punching with his free hand as the two spun in an absurd-looking quarter-ton of fighter. Eventually Johnson got free and stood as Schaub tried to take his back. But after a quick clinch, Johnson got a trip takedown of his own and punched away from top position. Schaub used a kneebar to sweep, stood, and got a takedown of his own to end the round. Schaub raced to close the distance against the dangerous Johnson again in the second, and though Johnson threw body shots from clinch, Schaub quickly took him down again and recovered in half-guard until a referee standup. Johnson winged uppercuts, Schaub closed the distance and went back to the mat. This time Schaub managed to advance from guard to half-guard, but that was about all of note and the crowd voiced its displeasure at the bell. Schaub’s record now stands at 10-3 while Johnson slips to 17-7.Michael Chiesa vs. Anton KuivanenTUF 15 winner Michael Chiesa won his second UFC fight and his second by submission with a second-round rear-naked choke over Finland‘s Anton Kuivanen. The first round was mainly a range-testing mission between the lightweights, with first Chiesa and then Kuivanen pressing the action. The taller Chiesa worked his jab and Kuivanen powered into a center-of-cage clinch, but the real action came with under a minute left, when Chiesa caught a flying Kuivanen knee and turned it into a takedown. Kuivanen then scrambled through mount and back to his feet before another flash trip takedown by Chiesa. Chiesa dove for a single-leg early in the second, and Kuivanen defended over the course of a prolonged struggle against the fence. With Kuivanen cornered, Chiesa worked his way behind him, climbed the fence and sank his hooks in for a takedown. Kuivanen fended off the first two rear-naked choke attempts, but the third one was good and he was forced to tap at 2:29. The win keeps Chiesa‘s record perfect at 9-0; Kuivanen departs 17-6. “Before we came out we said the only round he can win is the first,” said Chiesa. “We knew he‘d go for the KO early and then we‘d take over in the second and that‘s what happened. Everyone has a ”Ëœgo-to‘ move and I‘m just good at taking backs.” Schaub ate a punch and dove for a single leg but again got the takedown. This time he stayed in guard until the referee standup. On the feet, Johnson charged so hard with his right hand that when he missed, he flung himself down, and Schaub pounced, briefly getting mount and trying an arm-triangle choke before landing back to half guard. Schaub backed off and dove with a punch, then tried for another anaconda, but Johnson whiled away the remaining minute on the bottom. Watch Chiesa’s post-fight interviewDennis Bermudez vs. Matt GriceIn a crowd-pleasing featherweight show of striking, stamina and steel chins, TUF 14 runner-up Dennis Bermudez scored his third Octagon win via razor-thin split decision over fellow college wrestler Matt Grice in a thrilling frontrunner for Fight of the Night.Grice, who wrestled for the University of Oklahoma, started the fight by hunting for a takedown, Bermudez generally defended and threatened with guillotines. Add in the fact that Grice‘s one completed takedown ended with Bermudez in mount, raining down punches, and it was enough to shut down that gameplan. It turned out to be the athletes‘ striking that provided the bout‘s biggest drama ”“ and while it was Bermudez who connected first, the impending explosion was first suggested in the round-one left hook that dropped Bermudez flat on his face. Bermudez was the aggressor throughout the later rounds and landed right hands particularly well, but Grice‘s punches had power. The third round was one of the most entertaining in memory, as Bermudez surged forward, backing Grice against the fence. He dropped Grice with an uppercut, then followed to the ground with blows from half-guard, applying heavy cross-face pressure while punching from the top. Somehow Grice made it back to his feet, as the crowd erupted halfway through the first. Bermudez then…

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