Fitch Dominates Gono; Tavares Ends Skid at UFC 94

By Brian Knapp Feb 1, 2009
In his first appearance since a public dustup with UFC President Dana White, Jon Fitch reminded the mixed martial arts world why he remains relevant in the welterweight division.

Fitch (18-3, 1 NC) dominated Pride Fighting Championships veteran Akihiro Gono en route to a convincing unanimous decision at UFC 94 “St. Pierre vs. Penn 2” on Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Scores from the one-sided affair were 30-27, 30-27 and 30-26.

Based at the revered American Kickboxing Academy, Fitch nearly ended Gono’s night with submissions in rounds one and two, first with a rear-naked choke and then with an armbar. That was a minor feat in itself, as the crafty Gono (29-14-7) has not raised the white flag in a fight in more than 12 years.

When Fitch was not stifling and tying Gono in knots on the mat, he fed him a steady diet of punches, elbows and forearms. The 30-year-old Fort Wayne, Ind. native was particularly impressive in the third round, when he punished Gono standing and on the ground from the knee-on-belly position. He left little doubt about the decision.

Meanwhile, Brazilian lightweight prospect Thiago Tavares picked up a much-needed unanimous decision victory against “The Ultimate Fighter 5” runner up Manny Gamburyan. Scores were 29-28 from all three judges.

The outcome remained in question into the third round, when Tavares (14-3) rocked his Armenian counterpart with a right hand and hearty knee. Sensing he was hurdling towards a second consecutive defeat, Gamburyan grew desperate as precious seconds ticked away, swinging and missing wildly at his elusive target. His efforts proved fruitless.

The 27-year-old Gamburyan has not cracked the win column in almost a year. The judo black belt pressured Tavares with kimuras in the first and second round but slowly lost his foothold in the match. The victory snapped a two-fight losing streak for Tavares.

File Photo

John Howard shocked Chris
Wilson at UFC 94.
Elsewhere, former Ring of Combat champion John Howard staked his claim to some welterweight division real estate with a surprising split-decision win against Team Quest veteran Chris Wilson. The scorecards read 29-28, two of them in Howard’s favor.

Howard (11-4), who has won four straight, took down Wilson with ease in each of the three rounds, as he controlled the fight with superior wrestling and stout strikes. The 25-year-old Boston native finished strong, as he grounded Wilson multiple times in round three, threatened him with a rear-naked choke and scored with solid ground-and-pound.

A one-time Sportfight titleholder, Wilson (14-5, 1 NC) never found a rhythm, disrupted time and again by the relentless pace Howard pushed. The 31-year-old spent a majority of the fight on his heels and back, and his underrated stand-up skills were a non-factor.

In a battle between two former heavyweights making the cut to 205 pounds, Jake O'Brien used powerful takedowns and smothering top control to topple the American Kickboxing Academy’s Christian Wellisch by split decision. All three judges scored the bout 29-28, two of them in O’Brien’s favor.

O’Brien (11-2) broke a two-fight losing streak with the victory, his first since his upset win against Heath Herring in January 2007. The 24-year-old former Purdue University wrestler took down Wellisch at will and had blood flowing from his opponent’s nose by the time the second round ended.

Wellisch (8-5) has lost back-to-back fights for the first time in his career. He tagged O’Brien with right hands in the first and second rounds, but his offensive attack was limited at best.

Finally, rookie Dan Cramer made the most of his golden opportunity to debut inside the UFC, as he edged Matt Arroyo by split decision. Two judges sided with Cramer by matching 29-28 counts; a third scored it 29-28 for Arroyo.

Based out of American Top Team, Cramer (1-0) delivered takedowns in each of the first two rounds and kept Arroyo out of his comfort zone. Spawned by season seven of “The Ultimate Fighter,” the 23-year-old Cramer neutralized the Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt’s submission skills with strikes on the ground.

Round three brought a momentum shift, as Arroyo (3-3) tripped Cramer to the ground, seized back control and sank both hooks. From there, he went to work and positioned himself for a rear-naked choke. Cramer defended well, however, and he escaped to finish the fight inside Arroyo’s guard.
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