As has become custom, UFC 133 kicked off Saturday with a slate of four preliminary bouts that aired live on Facebook from the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
Menjivar started to take over the opening round with lots of movement and a varied striking attack, using his wealth of experience to keep Pace off his game. But Pace came back strong in the final couple minutes, taking Menjivar’s back and nearly scoring a rear naked choke submission.
Menjivar picked it back up in round two, unloading on Pace, mixing up his punches, kicks, and doing a vast amount of damage with knees in close. As the round wore on, Pace visibly slowed, but scored a well-timed takedown controlling the final minute of the round.
The third round was more of the same from Menjivar, using has striking prowess to keep Pace off his mark, and looking for the finish. He kept the pressure up until Pace cracked him hard with a knee to the face in the final minute, causing Menjivar’s eye to immediately swell up, possibly from a facial fracture. Pace fed off the sudden turn and amped up his attacks until the final bell.
After a tremendous battle, Menjivar walked out of the Octagon with a swollen eye, but also with a unanimous decision victory in the pocket.
“I happy with the win, he took me down so it was a very close fight,” Menjivar said afterwards. “I think I punched him more than he did so I was more in control, but he hit me hard twice and that made my legs shake.”
In a fairly even battle between two strong, former wrestlers, welterweights Johny Hendricks and Mike Pierce didn’t make it easy on the judges.
While both mostly negated the other’s wrestling abilities, Hendricks and Pierce displayed some much improved stand-up. Pierce kept it tight and powerful, while Hendricks was quicker on the feet, and pulled ahead in the clinch, where he was extremely effective.
Hendricks’ athleticism, and a more diversified striking game, pulled him just enough ahead to eke out a split decision victory over Pierce.
“It was a very tough fight. It’s always hard with other wrestlers, and he changed levels often making it even harder. I feel that the takedowns were even, in fact, I don’t think he took me down at all,” Hendricks assessed. “I feel awesome, my ground game is good, my knees are great and I am really happy with my improvement.”
Mike Brown and Nam Phan, in a featherweight bout, were both trying to shake off the effects of losing four of their last six bouts.
It appeared to be all Brown from the bell as he stormed Phan, got him to the mat, and pummeled him for all but the last few moments of the first round. But Phan came back strong in round two, stuffing most of Brown’s takedowns, and getting his boxing ramped up. He worked Brown over with solid combinations, particularly with body shots.
After splitting the first two rounds, neither was able to establish his dominance and close out the fight. Brown kept up his takedown attack and controlling tactics, while Phan continued his boxing attack. In the end, Brown did just enough to sway the judges, who scored the fight a unanimous decision in the former WEC featherweight champion’s favor.
It wasn’t pretty, but Brown will take it after losing his last two fights.
“At the beginning my back was haunting me so that’s why I was a little conservative, but I’m glad I got the job done. There was a lot of repetitive trauma there for over four minutes so even though I didn’t knock him out, I know that I was breaking him down. It wasn’t the most perfect fight, but I’m happy I got the victory.”
Opening the fight card was a stellar performance by Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Rafael “Sapo” Natal, only it didn’t go as you might expect. Natal won his fight with Paul Bradley by keeping it on the feet.
Bradley is a product of Minnesota Mixed Martial Arts, training alongside former UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar, so he has a strong wrestling base. Natal stayed away from Bradley’s wrestling, only giving up a couple of takedowns, and never giving Bradley enough time on the mat to do any damage.
Instead, Natal kept the fight standing and chopped at Bradley’s legs with a healthy dose of leg kicks round after round to win a unanimous decision.
“I am really, really happy about this fight,” Natal said afterwards. “I feel like I needed it, I worked really hard for it. It was a tough fight and I’m glad I came through winning. Thank you God and thank you UFC.”
Ivan Menjivar def. Nick Pace by Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28), R3
Johny Hendricks def. Mike Pierce by Split Decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28), R3
Mike Brown def. Nam Phan by Unanimous Decision (29-27, 29-28, 29-28), R3
Rafael “Sapo” Natal def. Paul Bradley by Unanimous Decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28), R3
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