by Ken Pishna (Photos by Scott Petersen)
LAS VEGAS – Before 10,583 fans at the Mandalay Bay Event Center on Saturday night, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira took the overused term of “warrior” and put it into a new class with his 11:28 performance.

From the opening moments, Tim Sylvia established control of the bout, battered Nogueira with his stand-up game and looked to be running away with the fight. In the first round in fact, he dropped Nogueira and nearly finished him on the ground.

But being the warrior that he is, Nogueira found a way to hang in, biding his time. Early in the third round, the Brazilian found himself in the position he had been waiting for. Missing the armbar attempt that he was zoning in on, Nogueira quickly switched to a guillotine choke and just like that, he is the Ultimate Fighting Championship interim heavyweight champion.

Ranked as the No. 2 heavyweight in the world coming into the fight, Nogueira became the first man to have held a Pride championship belt and come into the Octagon and capture UFC gold.

Nogueira showed much respect for Sylvia after the fight, saying, “I could see his hands coming. I tried to grab his hands and keep them close. His stand-up is amazing.”

Two years of training and what amounted to a warm-up fight under the K-1 banner came to a bump in the road at Mandalay Bay as Frank Mir slowed down the Brock Lesnar train by submitting the former WWE superstar with a kneebar in a minute-and-a-half.

Lesnar started out strong, putting Mir on the mat and battering him with punches and hammer fists, looking like he was close to a stoppage, but referee Steve Mazzagatti ruled that he had been hitting Mir in the back of the head, took a point and restarted the fight.

It appeared Lesnar would pick up where he left off, but after Mir caught one of Lesnar’s legs, that was all she wrote and the big man was tapping out.

“Let’s face it, I had Brock Lesnar dropping elbows on my head and I still pulled through it,” said Mir after the fight, happy to be leaving the Octagon with an impressive submission after a rocky start.

For his part, Lesnar is not considering this an experiment and doesn’t plan on tucking tail to run. Indicating that he would be back to continue his new career, Lesnar was humble in his post-fight comments, saying, “No excuses; he’s a top notch jiu-jitsu guy and he got me tonight. He’s the better fighter. You win some; you lose some. I’d like to win them all, but you can’t.”

Nearly seven months after losing by TKO to middleweight champion Anderson Silva, Nate Marquardt proved why he has long been ranked among the top fighters in the division.

He and Jeremy Horn were supposed to have fought several years ago in Sturgis, S.D., but in Las Vegas on Saturday night, Marquardt re-established himself by dominating the first round action with a strong ground and pound attack and then finishing the fight in the second with a guillotine choke.

“I realized he was shooting with his head down and over-committing, and he just gave it to me,” said Marquardt in his post-fight interview.

Making his return to mixed martial arts after more than a three-year layoff, Ricardo Almeida proved he is still the “Big Dog,” scoring a first round submission victory over UFC newcomer Rob Yundt, who accepted the fight in three days’ notice when Alan Belcher withdrew due to illness.

With Almeida’s return, and a past victory over Marquardt, a rematch may not be too far down the road for the two UFC veterans.

Coming away with his third decision victory in a row, Tyson Griffin still wasn’t satisfied, “To be honest, I’m not totally satisfied with this victory. I wanted to finish the fight. From a personal perspective, I’m really disappointed in this fight.”

He was swinging for the fences the entire time against Gleison Tibau, with what looked like a much improved striking game, especially his kicking, but Griffin just couldn’t find a way to put Tibau out.

For his part, the American Top Team fighter didn’t make things easy for Griffin either. He scored several takedowns throughout the bout and appeared to be the stronger of the two fighters.

Despite a chorus of boos, Griffin did say, “I can’t complain, at least I’m coming away with a ‘W.'”

Veteran Chris Lytle wasted no time welcoming Kyle Bradley to the Octagon. He opened with some leg kicks, hurt Bradley with a hard right hand and then devastated him with a succeeding flurry of right hands that put him out of the fight in just 33 seconds.

“That’s what I’m trying to do from now on,” said Lytle after the fight. “I don’t want any fight to go the distance.” And this one didn’t.

Despite taking the fight on little more than a week’s notice, Tim Boetsch made the most of his first opportunity in the Octagon, pushing the pace and never giving David Heath a chance to implement his game plan. The first few minutes of the bout started slowly, with Boetsch edging ahead, landing the occasional punch or kick. It ended in a flurry though as Boetsch secured the Thai clinch, kneeing Heath and tossing him to the mat before finishing him with a barrage of punches to the head and face.

The 38-year-old Las Vegan, Marvin Eastman, controlled most of the efforts in the Thai clinch, eking ahead in the second and third rounds as Terry Martin tired, to win a much closer than the score indicated unanimous decision.

The night started off with a stand-up battle between Ultimate Fighter veteran Robert Emerson and Japanese fighter Keita Nakamura. It was a tremendous back and forth battle that saw Emerson edge ahead with the more powerful punch combinations and some damaging leg kicks. In the end, the judges saw it as a close one, awarding Emerson the split decision after three rounds.

At the post-fight press conference, UFC president Dana White handed out the promotion’s fight night awards, with each recipient receiving a $60,000 bonus in addition to his pay for the fight. “Knockout of the Night” went to Chris Lytle, “Submission of the Night” to Frank Mir, and “Fight of the Night” honors were doled out to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Tim Sylvia for their stunning title bout.

-Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira def. Tim Sylvia by Submission (Guillotine Choke) at 1:28, R3
-Frank Mir def. Brock Lesnar by Submission (Kneebar) at 1:30, R1
-Nathan Marquardt def. Jeremy Horn by Submission (Guillotine Choke) at 1:37, R2
-Ricardo Almeida def. Rob Yundt by Submission (Guillotine Choke) at 1:18, R1
-Tyson Griffin def. Gleison Tibau by Unanimous Decision, R3
-Chris Lytle def. Kyle Bradley by TKO (Strikes) at 0:33, R1
-Tim Boetsch def. David Heath by TKO (Strikes) at 4:52, R1
-Marvin Eastman def. Terry Martin by Unanimous Decision, R3
-Robert Emerson def. Keita Nakamura by Split Decision, R3