Lutter and Serra Survive the Fray to Win TUF 4

By Josh Gross Nov 12, 2006
That one man was victorious via tapout during a first-round submission and the other a strange decision did not matter. Saturday evening at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas had little to do with the means for Travis Lutter (Pictures) or Matt Serra (Pictures); it was simply about the end.

With No. 1 contender slots in the middleweight and welterweight divisions on the line at the finale of The Ultimate Fighter 4 — not to mention $100,000 from the UFC, $100,000 from Xyience, a car and a high-priced watch — Lutter and Serra met Patrick Cote (Pictures) and Chris Lytle (Pictures) respectively to finish what began months ago during the taping of the fourth season of Spike TV’s massively successful reality show.

For the first time, however, TUF was being used as more than a UFC promotional vehicle. Rather than the usual rag-tag lot of neophyte mixed martial artists, it was established fighters, contenders even, who came to Las Vegas in hopes of rekindling careers that appeared as full of life as the surrounding desert landscape.

Saturday’s final bout pit Serra and Lytle. Friends during their six weeks living together in Las Vegas, the welterweights fought a conservative, often boring contest that had Nevada judges once again render a rather unique verdict.

Lester Griffin and Marcos Rosales scored it 30-27 for Serra, while Glenn Trowbridge had the mirror-image total in favor of Lytle. Sherdog.com disagreed with each judge, rendering a tight 29-28 tally for Indiana’s Lytle.

Serra spent much of the fight clinched with Lytle, trading foot stomps for short hooks to his side. To his disservice, Lytle rarely moved forward — most likely the reason he did not walk away with the prize. When he wasn’t fighting off Serra’s takedown attempts, Lytle offered open-palm strikes to the head and short knees to the body.

Lytle used a nice takedown to put Serra, 32, on his back in the first. He looked comfortable in the stocky BJJ black belt’s guard, easily pulling out and standing when Serra made an attempt for his right arm.

With neither man landing a significant strike in the opening stanza and the period’s only takedown coming courtesy of Lytle, Sherdog.com scored the first round for the 32-year-old Hoosier.

If the opening five minutes was tough to call, the middle round could have easily been called even. Serra again pushed the taller Lytle into the cage and controlled in the clinch, but the Long Islander offered no offense.

With just under a minute remaining, separated only because referee Herb Dean (Pictures) stepped in, Lytle fired a right straight that barely missed Serra’s jaw. As seconds ticked down to end round two, Lytle once again prevented a Serra takedown attempt.

Between periods, under the assumption that their charge had taken the just concluded round, Lytle’s corner said he needed the third “just to be sure.”

Sporting a mouse under his right eye, Serra was asked by his team if he could “push it.”

At the start of the final period Serra enjoyed his finest moment of the fight. Taking a page out of Shonie Carter (Pictures)’s book, the five-foot-six “Terror” unleashed a spinning backfist before scoring a beautiful trip takedown.

But Lytle, who in his previous 39 fights had never been submitted, locked in Serra from the bottom. After giving Serra a minute to pass or work in some offense, Dean stood the welterweights. For the remaining two-plus minutes they exchanged short shots in the clinch.

“I just fought my hardest,” Serra said. “I’m happy.”

“I’m not really sure what they’re looking for,” a distraught Lytle told Sherdog.com “I took him down with a vicious takedown and did more damage.”

With a title shot against Matt Hughes (Pictures) or Georges St. Pierre (Pictures) now in his future, “happy” may be a short-lived emotion for Serra.

“I’d rather fight Hughes,” the new No. 1 contender said. “But I’ll fight whoever they put in front of me like I always have.”

Lutter won’t have to wait a week to know whom he’ll challenge for a UFC strap. With Anderson Silva sitting ringside, the 33-year-old from Dallas put on a masterful performance against French Canadian Patrick Cote (Pictures).

We’ve come to learn in mixed martial arts that when a quality grappler faces an opponent whose weakness is on the floor, the outcome can be fairly easy to predict. Such was the case with this bout.

After an early takedown, Lutter capitalized when Cote scrambled to reestablish position. With the BJJ black belt on his back, Cote seemed to lose track of his left arm.

“I had his back and was kind of coming off the side thinking maybe a triangle,” Lutter said. “His arm was available. I kept it moving and adjusting and ended up getting an armbar.”

“I really did expect that we were going to end with a [submission] tonight,” he said. “I didn’t expect it quite that fast, but sometimes you get lucky.”

Two minutes 18 seconds after the opening bell, Lutter had procured a title shot versus Silva. The lanky Brazilian rose from his seat and sauntered into the Octagon as Lutter offered his post-fight thoughts.

“Congratulations to [Lutter] on that victory and now he has the opportunity that I had to fight the champion when I fought Rich Franklin (Pictures),” Silva said through an interpreter. “And I’m going to have to train some jiu-jitsu.”

Anderson Silva is the best striker,” Lutter suggested. “He may be the best all-around striker in the UFC or whatever. But I’m going to take him down. That’s my job. That’s what I’m here to do. And I will see him soon.”

Televised Bouts

Fighting down 15 pounds from the welterweight limit they competed at during TUF 4, Din Thomas (Pictures) and Rich Clementi (Pictures) put on an quality lightweight fight.

The long-armed Thomas, who fights out of Southern Florida with American Top Team, used his reach to connect with punches. This is largely how Thomas controlled the first. Clementi’s best moments came inside the clinch, but Thomas’ length allowed him to find success here as well.

Thomas continued his impressive performance in the second, made easier by the fact that Clementi, 30, was clearly fatigued. Following a far-too-easy takedown from the clinch that allowed Thomas to mount, Clement ate several punches before turning his back. “Dinyero” locked in the rear-naked choke to seal Clementi’s fate, forcing a tap at 3:11 of the second.

“I knew he was a frontrunner,” said the 30-year-old Thomas. “I knew he was going to gas out. He had cut a lot of weight. I was just waiting for my time for him to gas out a little bit. Finally I took him down. I felt him kinda weak and he just turned over and I just choked him.”

It was a solid return to the Octagon for Thomas, whose win tonight puts him at 3-2 in the UFC.

“Everybody needs a little break,” Thomas said of his three years away from the UFC. “I took a break and now I break people.”

Despite Edwin Dewees (Pictures)’ best efforts, the 24-year-old middleweight out of Phoenix, Ariz. did not have enough to get past a gritty Jorge Rivera (Pictures) during the evening’s first televised bout.

Rivera, 34, pushed forward from the start, scoring with low kicks before with a left straight and then uppercut put the experienced kid to the canvas. The Massachusetts-based Rivera followed Dewees to the floor and pounded away with right hands.

To his credit, Dewees prevented clean shots from landing, yet referee Yves Lavigne determined that the young fighter had endured enough, calling the contest at 2:38 of the first period.

Preliminary Bouts

A sudden tapout by Jeremy Jackson (Pictures) gave Pete Spratt (Pictures) a victory in the UFC for the first time since he stopped Robbie Lawler (Pictures) in 2003. It was announced that Jackson tapped due to an injury to his neck.

Scott Smith and Pete Sell (Pictures) gave the crowd watching live in The Joint and those who caught the televised replay one of the most stunning finishes in UFC history. After a hard-fought opening period, the middleweights continued to pound on each other before Sell clocked Smith with a left hook to the ribs. Smith retreated and found it within himself to unleash a huge straight right as Sell rushed forward. The perfect punch dropped the New Yorker on the spot at 3:25 of round two.

Charles McCarthy (Pictures) made the most of an early takedown, catching Gideon Ray (Pictures) with an armbar from the top at 4:43 of the first.

Denmark’s Martin Kampmann (Pictures) handed Brazil’s Thales Leites (Pictures) the first loss of his career. Kampmann took over in rounds two and three to score a unanimous decision (29-27, 29-27, 29-28).
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