by Ken Pishna – MMAWeekly.com
SACRAMENTO, CALIF. – A stacked card from top to bottom, it was the preliminary card at UFC 73 that provided the most and most-exciting finishes. While the first three fights of the pay-per-view went the distance, only one of the four preliminary bouts were left in the hands of the judges.
Just prior to the pay-per-view, Stephan Bonnar made a triumphant return after a nine-month layoff due to a suspension for failing a post-fight drug test in Nevada. His opponent, fellow The Ultimate Fighter alum Mike Nickels, took the fight to Bonnar early, backing him up with punches before catching a Bonnar kick and putting him on his back. But it was Bonnar who would reverse position and after searching on the ground, would secure Nickels’ arm, leaving his neck exposed for a fight-ending rear naked choke at 2:14 of the first round.
The lone preliminary decision went to Jorge Gurgel and Diego Saraiva. In a battle between to great ground tacticians, the better part of the fight was staged on their feet. All three rounds saw Gurgel and Saraiva open with brief exchanges, primarily with Gurgel getting the better of them and being a little more aggressive.
But there were then moments that would define the fight. In the latter stages of the first round, Gurgel stunned Saraiva a couple of times with some hard combinations. And in the last minute-and-a-half of the second stanza, Gurgel landed a head kick that seemed to awaken the spirit in Saraiva as he then rocked Gurgel with a few stinging punches of his own. Closing out the back and forth action in the third, Gurgel had a stint of excellent ground and pound attack that likely secured the fight for him.
Gurgel won a unanimous decision, but both fighters were later rewarded as the UFC awarded them the “Fight of the Night,” which includes an addition to each of their respective paychecks. Unfortunately for Gurgel, he was expected to spend the night in a local hospital under observation with a broken jaw and other complications.
Chris Lytle wasted no time getting back on the winning track. He came out swinging on late replacement Jason Gilliam, dropping him early and then ground and pounding from his guard. Gilliam was able to sweep Lytle, but Lytle then nearly caught him in a heel hook. Following Gilliam’s escape, Lytle again started to ground and pound from his guard, but quickly moved to side and then top position. Here Lytle secured a reverse triangle choke from the top while simultaneously working towards a Kimura shoulder lock. At 2:15 of the first, Gilliam tapped out from the triangle choke giving Lytle the victory and the UFC’s “Submission of the Night.”
In the opening bout, Frank Edgar and Mark Bocek, two seasoned grapplers fought most of their fight on the ground as expected. But it would be Edgar who would utilize his superior wrestling skills to dominate position and secure a ground and pound TKO from side control with a mere five seconds left in the first round.