Chris Lytle's stock closed at an all-time high. | Photo: Mike Fridley
Perfect endings are rare in the fight game; far scarcer than landing the big money, a championship, or legendary status. But for Chris Lytle, his third-round submission over Dan Hardy was a fitting end to a career that deserved a closing act as special as this.
Announcing his retirement after the weigh-ins Saturday for the main event of UFC Live 5, Lytle waged a standup battle through the first two rounds, inching ahead on volume and persistence. Then, in the final minute of the bout, Hardy, tiring and trailing on points, shot for a takedown with Lytle cinching in a fight-finishing choke at 4:16 of the stanza.
Competing in his 20th bout in the organization, Lytle cited a desire to spend more time with the his wife and four kids. The Indianapolis-based fighter, who debuted in the UFC in 2003, subsequently transformed himself into one of the game’s most entertaining fighters, securing ten lucrative awards for either the fight, submission or knockout of the night.
Here’s a closer look at the fights, participants and how their prospects were affected with the UFC Live 5 Stock Report.
Chris Lytle: “Lights Out” heads into retirement with a great win under his belt. He’s the first fighter to have twenty fights in the UFC, yet never get a title shot. In fact, outside of his TUF 4 finale with Matt Serra, I’m not sure he was ever even a win or two away from one. Yet his consistency and unbelievable durability -- coupled with his revamped style in recent years -- made him a lock for any card, especially when the organization was in need of a welterweight.
But what really defines Lytle is how tough he was in defeat. Power wrestlers like Matt Hughes and Josh Koscheck planted him to the mat for the better part of three rounds, pounded him relentlessly, yet couldn’t break Lytle. After the Koscheck bout, Lytle had bled so much the Octagon resembled a grisly crime scene. But he never came close to tapping or looking for a way out.
He gave everything he had in the Octagon, and his decision to get out now (he turns 37 this week) is a good one. Things rarely end so perfectly, but it really couldn’t have happened to a better man.
Benson Henderson: “Smooth” is the nickname, but Henderson was a real roughneck in his bout with Jim Miller. Using vicious ground-and-pound and better striking on the feet, Henderson surged ahead. By the third, he was battering Miller so viciously it looked like he might secure a TKO, but the durable New Jersey native survived to go the distance.
Henderson’s excellent wrestling and flexible physique make him exceptionally difficult to take down; Miller’s submission attempts, especially for leg locks, cost him dearly down the stretch as Henderson simply stuffed the subs and punished him.
Donald Cerrone: Using a wicked shovel-hook/uppercut to the body, he dropped Charles Olivera, and then pounced for a finishing barrage in the first. Now 3-0 UFC since debuting Feb. 5, “Cowboy” gives himself a big boost here. His campaign up the tough lightweight ranks is going to be an exciting one: Big-time chin, striking skills and outstanding jiu-jitsu are his assets; takedown defense will probably determine how far he can go up the ranks in the wrestler-heavy division.
Duane Ludwig: With an upset over Amir Sadollah, Ludwig scored a much-needed win at welterweight. Using sharp counters and a diverse attack, Ludwig faded somewhat in the third but won the first two clearly enough to take the match. If you’re gonna beat Ludwig, you’d better take him to the ground and work him over, because in a standing battle, he’s exceptionally tough to deal with even at 170.
Jared Hamman: A rousing performance tonight for Hamman, who showed improved grappling and serious killer instinct in pounding out C.B. Dollaway. Hamman’s finishing assault was so extended and relentless, you started to wonder if he was going to gas out if he couldn’t get the finish. He simply kept pounding away at Dollaway, with referee Herb Dean intervening at precisely the right moment. It was a good win for Hamman, whose drop down to 185 mitigates the wrestling deficits that were apparent at 205.
Joseph Benavidez: A workmanlike decision over Eddie Wineland set the tone for Benavidez’ anticipated move to the 125-pound division, which the UFC will add early next year. Given his five-foot-three stature, it’s impressive that Benavidez is effective at bantam, where he constantly has to deal with reach, height and range deficits.
Given that teammate Urijah Faber and he are two of the world’s three best 135 pounders after champion Dominick Cruz, the move down is a welcome one for
Eddie Wineland: The scrappy bantamweight dropped a decision to Benavidez, showing his good takedown defense once more. As he did against Faber, Wineland showed he’s a tough measuring stick for the best bantams or those trying to prove they belong there, but didn’t let his heavy hands go enough. However, Benavidez’ speed and brilliant countering in spots were precisely why that didn’t happen.
Dan Hardy: With his fourth consecutive loss in the Octagon stretching back to his title-challenge defeat to Georges St. Pierre, Hardy apparently isn’t going to be cut, at least according to Lorenzo Fertitta’s Twitter. He showed some good standup in the battle with Lytle, but once again fell short.
Jim Miller: His red-hot stock cooled down after running into Henderson, whose great size and counter-wrestling blunted Miller’s attack. Shoe leather-tough New Jersey battler didn’t fold despite awful pounding over second half of the bout. With his seven-fight win streak halted, his next bout becomes very interesting -- whether it was an off night or a plateau against the division’s best remains to be seen.
Charles Oliveira: “Do Bronx” never got a chance to get his groove going against Cerrone, and was taken out in a loss that’s a huge setback. Once 14-0, and now loser of two of his last three, his no-contest showing against Nik Lentz remains a hint of the dynamism and promise of this 21-year-old. He might be a tad undersized for 155, but Olivera is still a talented fighter. He just needs more experience and long fights to get acclimated to this level.
Amir Sadollah: After Ludwig stuffed his early attempts to tie up and take him down, Sadollah had little option but to force a standup fight. And that backfired as Ludwig scored heavy shots in the first two rounds. This was a solid opportunity for the TUF season 7 winner provided he could get the fight to the ground when he wanted it, but Ludwig’s takedown defense created the kind of fight Sadollah wasn’t going to win on this night.
C.B. Dollaway: The TUF 7 finalist suffered his second KO loss in a row, and has dropped three of his last six. To his credit, Dollaway absorbed a frightful pounding in Hamman’s finishing barrage, rightfully desperate to change the direction the bout was going. It’s not that something is missing athletically from Dollaway, who’s a talented wrestler, with fair-to-modest striking -- it just seems like he can’t tie it together to make it work as effectively as he should.
Jason Probst can be reached at Jason@jasonprobst.com or twitter.com/jasonprobst.