LAS VEGAS -- Former light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans fought through a furious third-round comeback attempt from Thiago Silva and outpointed the Brazilian in the UFC 108 main event on Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Evans shot out to an early lead, banking the first two rounds on the strength of powerful double-leg takedowns he set up with punches.
“It was a strategy I got away from for a long time because I’ve been having success doing other things, but I got back to it,” Evans said. “It was difficult, but I stuck with the game plan.”
Evans repeatedly hacked his way into the pocket before changing levels and snatching Silva’s legs. He picked him up and slammed him to the canvas on a number of occasions and looked to suck the life out of the American Top Team-based standout, who could not get anything going in the first 10 minutes.
That all changed in round three.
Silva picked himself up off the mat after another takedown and raised his arms to incite the crowd. He then stuck his chin out, inviting Evans into a firefight. When his antics failed, Silva began mocking Evans’ emphatic head movement.
The ploy nearly worked. Silva caught the favorite with a right hand that sent him stumbling backward into the cage.
“I didn’t realize how hard it was until I tried to take a step back, and then I was like, ‘Where’s my legs at?’” Evans said. “It was a good shot. I got lazy a little bit in the third, and it cost me.”
Silva desperately chased him down, but he could not find the mark with a flurry of punches he directed at Evans. With less than two minutes left, the former champion was holding on for dear life, but it became apparent that Silva had punched himself out. The once-beaten Brazilian turned and walked back to the center of the cage, with Evans still reeling and trying to clinch and regain his composure.
As the clock ticked down, Silva could not muster any more significant offense, and Evans clutched and grabbed his way to the end of the fight.
Scores were 29-28 across the board for Evans. The win sets him up for a highly anticipated match against his archrival, Quinton Jackson. UFC President Dana White has indicated that bout could take place as soon as March.
“I hear that there’s an actor that came back to the fighting game, the UFC, and Rampage, I know you’re watching,” Evans said. “Come back, and let’s get it on.”
Daley Knocks Out Hazelett
Paul Daley has boasted about his striking skills ever since he inked a deal that brought him to the UFC. He backed up the talk with a devastating first-round knockout over Dustin Hazelett.
The British striker closed the deal with a crushing left hook that floored Hazelett and a trio of left hands that sank the grappler into unconsciousness 2:24 into the opening period.
The fact that Daley, a big puncher with legitimate knockout power, finished the bout was not a huge surprise; the same cannot be said for Hazelett’s decision to stand and trade with him. Hazelett, who did not try to take the fight to the ground, seemed content to take the center of the cage and use a front push kick to keep Daley at bay.
“I wasn’t surprised he chose to stand with me,” Daley said. “Dustin’s a great guy, a great fighter, and he knew he had to stand with me. All fights start standing, so I wasn’t surprised at all.”
Daley kept his distance for the most part, circling Hazelett and looking as if he was trying to decipher a riddle. Once he committed, it was over.
“He caught me with a jab,” Daley said. “I was always going to come with an overhand right over his jab, so I led with an overhand right, came back with a left hook and, luckily, I caught him.”
It was Daley’s second victory in as many appearances since joining the UFC’s 170-pound division. With two impressive knockouts, he could find himself on the short list of contenders for the welterweight title. His teammate, Dan Hardy, will square off with champion Georges St. Pierre in March, and Daley may not be far behind.
Stout Dismantles Lauzon
Sam Stout used a varied stand-up attack to pick apart a game Joe Lauzon in their lightweight tilt.
Stout survived an early cut on the left side of his forehead -- the product of some Lauzon elbows after he was taken down early in the first frame -- and punished his opponent with multi-strike combinations en route to a unanimous decision. Scores were 30-26, 30-27 and 30-27.
Stout, a nearly 3-to-1 underdog, nearly saw an early end to his night, as Lauzon locked up a kimura that forced him to roll three times before he could extract his arm.
“I just started rolling and twisting and turning, and, luckily, I got out of it,” Stout said.
Lauzon seemed to tire after the fast-paced first round and had difficulty getting the bout back to the canvas. He took down Stout again in the second, but the kickboxer stood right back up and continued his striking offensive.
After being battered for most of the second round and the first three minutes of the third, Lauzon looked for a “Rocky”-like comeback and finally got Stout back to the mat. He locked up a guillotine choke but failed to finish the submission or keep his Canadian foe on the ground.
Once back on his feet, Stout picked his shots and hammered Lauzon with just about everything he threw. Punches, kicks, elbows and a flying knee all slammed into Lauzon.
“He was tough,” Stout said. “That was a great fight. I had a lot of fun doing it.”
Miller Floors, Finishes Ludwig
Jim Miller stopped Duane Ludwig by armbar midway through the first round of their lightweight bout. The finish may have been expected for the heavy favorite from New Jersey, but the road to the conclusion was not.
Many thought the rising 155-pound contender would take his fight with Ludwig, a kickboxing specialist, to the mat, but Miller displayed an improved stand-up game, trading blows and getting the better of the exchanges.
He knocked an off-balance Ludwig to the floor with a right hook and body shot, as he set up the fight-ending sequence. Miller pounced on his fallen opponent and quickly established a dominant mount position. From there, he locked up the armbar that elicited the tapout 2:31 into round one.
“I just try to train and get better everyday,” Miller said.
Dos Santos Stops Yvel
Junior dos Santos added his name to a growing list of UFC heavyweights who have made the transition from prospect to contender with a first-round stoppage of Pride Fighting Championships veteran Gilbert Yvel.
Dos Santos absorbed a few single shots from Yvel but never backed down. Instead, he moved forward, with his right hand loaded, and looked for the big shot. The Brazilian heavyweight collapsed Yvel with a left hook on the back end of a lead right to the body.
“I noticed that, when he was coming in, he was trying to counterattack me with a punch,” dos Santos said. “So I came in low, and I knew that I would come up with a high hook, and that’s exactly what I did. We train that.”
Dos Santos quickly followed the Dutchman to the mat, where his punches kept Yvel from regaining his faculties. Referee Herb Dean stepped in to end the bout 2:07 into the first round.
UFC 108 Prelim Results & Play-by-Play