Jon Fitch was in vintage form at UFC 153. | Photo: Sherdog.com
Of all the fighters who proved the oddsmakers wrong at UFC 153 on Saturday at the HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Jon Fitch made the biggest statement.
Fitch defeated rising star Erick Silva in his home country despite coming into the fight as a +110 underdog -- Silva was favored at -140 -- and also won “Fight of the Night” honors in a rousing back-and-forth performance on a stacked card. Fitch found himself in danger in the second round, when Silva, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, took his back. However, the American Kickboxing Academy representative remained calm and showcased his stellar submission defense in escaping a brutal rear-naked choke attempt.
The 34-year-old Fitch looked nothing like the fighter widely criticized for grinding out wins using his wrestling. He connected with knees, kicks, elbows and punches, and he attempted to finish Silva with a standing arm-triangle choke, rear-naked choke, armbar and even a guillotine choke in the waning seconds.
“I needed to step up and I needed to have confidence in myself and my game and just go for it and know that even if I made a mistake or if I got put in a bad position I would still be able to come up on top,” Fitch said at the post-fight press conference. “Great fights are made when both guys are coming in to finish and take risks, and, tonight, he was the perfect opponent for me to show what I’m really about and kind of restart my career and give myself a fresh breath and help my family and make some money.”
His career certainly needed some life after he suffered a 12-second knockout loss to Johny Hendricks at UFC 141 on Dec. 30, in his first fight after a majority draw with B.J. Penn. Fitch had also suffered through a string of injuries that forced him to pull out of a scheduled rematch with Penn at UFC 132 and a matchup with Aaron Simpson in July.
Even UFC President Dana White had praise for the former welterweight title contender in the aftermath of the bout, which Fitch won by unanimous decision.
“People complain about Jon Fitch laying on people? This is mixed martial arts; you’re supposed to keep him from doing it, and tonight Erick Silva did that. Fitch was grinding him against the fence the way that he does, and Silva got out and countered, and it was a back-and-forth fight,” said White, who awarded Fitch a $70,000 post-fight bonus. “The people who bitch about him laying on people? You’ve got to be well-rounded enough to get him off you.”
The other two fighters who beat the odds at UFC 153 competed in preliminary fights that streamed to the UFC’s Facebook page.
Luiz Cane did not fare well in his middleweight debut, perhaps due to a difficult weight cut for which oddsmakers may not have adequately accounted. Cane entered the cage as a -137 favorite, with “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 11 alum Chris Camozzi a +107 underdog. Like Fitch, Camozzi escaped an attempted rear-naked choke and was all over the Brazilian southpaw, unleashing kicks, knees, jabs and left hooks in an aggressive and spirited match.
Though Cane had some moments of his own, including a stiff right hand in the final seconds of the fight, all three judges scored it 29-28 in Camozzi’s favor. Cane’s place on the UFC roster may now be in danger, as he has lost four of his last five bouts. Camozzi, on the other hand, has won three in a row.
In the opening fight at UFC 153, Pride Fighting Championships veteran Cristiano Marcello (+160) defeated former Swedish national wrestling champion Reza Madadi (-200) in a controversial split decision at 155 pounds. Madadi was the more technical fighter and landed with precision punches. However, Marcello, the onetime Brazilian jiu-jitsu coach at Chute Boxe, scored with some significant strikes of his own, coming forward with looping punches, stiff jabs, knees and kicks, including a flashy spinning back kick in the third round.
Two judges scored the bloody bout for Marcello: 29-28 and a head-scratching 30-27 courtesy of the United Kingdom’s Aaron Chatfield. The remaining judge ruled 29-28 in Madadi’s favor.