UFC 133 Prelims: Mendes Stays Unbeaten, Eyes Title Shot

By Brian Knapp Aug 6, 2011
Chad Mendes bested Rani Yahya at UFC 133. | Photo: Sherdog.com

Undefeated Team Alpha Male standout Chad Mendes cruised to a unanimous decision over 2007 Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships gold medalist Rani Yahya at UFC 133 “Evans vs. Ortiz 2” on Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.

Mendes (11-0, 2-0 UFC) swept the scorecards by matching 30-27 counts. The 5-foot-6, 145-pound powerhouse dominated from start to finish.

Believed to be next in line for a featherweight title shot, Mendes used his wrestling to keep the fight standing in the first round. Counter right hands, leg kicks, body blows and a flying knee carried him to a lead he would not relinquish. He mixed in takedowns in the second period and flirted with Yahya’s guard, ripping occasional elbows as the grounded Brazilian searched in vain for submissions.

Round three had a similar feel, as Mendes outstruck Yahya (16-7, 1-1 UFC) and scored with takedowns when the situation called for them. The 26-year-old Hanford, Calif., native has gone the distance in six of his past seven fights, including four in a row. Mendes paid a price for victory, however, as he appeared to injure his right hand.

“I think it was in the beginning of the second [round],” he said. “I felt [my hand] pop, so I don’t know if it’s broken or what. It’s hard to get in there and fight when you can’t squeeze.”

Gustafsson Stops Hamill in Second Round

Alexander Gustafsson File Photo

Gustafsson stopped Hamill with punches.
Promising Swedish prospect Alexander Gustafsson tore through “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 3 alum Matt Hamill en route to a spectacular second-round technical knockout in a preliminary light heavyweight matchup. The end came 3:41 into round two.

Backed by superior speed, technique and lateral movement, Gustafsson (12-1, 4-1 UFC) popped Hamill from the outside and moved in with powerful combinations when opportunities to do so arose. Hamill cut the Swede near the right eye with a left hook in the first round but offered little else in terms of meaningful offense. Unable to secure a takedown, the 34-year-old wrestler was reduced to an immobile target standing flat-footed in the center of the cage. Against Gustafsson, it was a recipe for disaster.

Gustafsson put it all together in the second period. He fired off a glancing front kick, followed up with a left uppercut and drove Hamill to the canvas with consecutive right uppercuts.

Gustafsson ultimately moved to mount and showered the bloodied Hamill (10-4, 9-4 UFC) with punches and elbows for the finish.

“I was super happy, man. I can’t believe it. It’s a dream come true,” said the 24-year-old Gustafsson, who has rattled off three consecutive victories. “I felt good. I’m not super pleased because I didn’t really know what to do in the beginning, but in the second round, I felt better. That’s the combination we’ve been working back in the gym.”

Mejivar Decisions Pace

Tristar Gym representative Ivan Menjivar won for the third time in four outings since returning from a four-year sabbatical, as he captured a hard-earned unanimous decision from former Ring of Combat champion Nick Pace in a preliminary bantamweight bout. All three judges scored it 29-28 for Menjivar.

Pace had his chances. He scored with a first-round takedown, passed Menjivar’s guard and worked for a rear-naked choke after the El Salvador native surrendered his back and stood up. Menjivar (23-8, 2-1 UFC) turned the tide in his favor in round two, as he stepped up his attack with a variety of high-impact strikes: counters, front kicks, knee-punch combinations and even a side kick. Pace covered up when faced with the barrage and secured a late takedown, defending the only way he knew how.

Menjivar fought an intelligent and tactical third round, as he kept Pace (6-2, 1-1 UFC) at a distance and attacked with leg kicks and multi-punch combinations. He weathered a late encounter with a Pace knee that left him with a damaged eye and had him backpedaling from danger.

Hendricks Outduels Pierce to Split Nod

Two-time NCAA wrestling champion Johny Hendricks eked out a close split decision against fellow fast-rising contender Mike Pierce in a preliminary welterweight matchup. All three judges scored it 29-28, two of them in favor of Hendricks (11-1, 6-1 UFC). It could have easily gone against him.

Round three will likely give rise to debate over the decision. Both men fought effectively in close quarters, but Pierce (12-4, 4-2 UFC) delivered the only takedown of the round, eating some solid punches for his troubles. The fight remained on the ground only briefly, as Pierce unleashed a vertical elbow that referee Mario Yamasaki deemed clean. Later, Yamasaki halted the action following a glancing upkick from Hendricks, even though Pierce appeared to be fair game in a standing position.

Hendricks zoomed out to a strong start, as he scored with a first-round takedown and attacked with knees and punches, including a crisp left hook. Round two seemed to favor Pierce, however, as the former Sportfight champion re-established himself, slowed the pace, sprawled with effect and peppered his foe’s body with punches from the clinch.

Brown Lands First UFC Victory

Mike Thomas Brown File Photo

MTB earned a much-needed win.
Former WEC featherweight champion Mike Thomas Brown outpointed “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 12 semifinalist Nam Phan and won a much-needed unanimous decision in a 145-pound dark match. Brown, who entered the cage on a two-fight losing streak, swept the scorecards by 29-27, 29-28 and 29-28 counts.

Brown (25-8, 1-3 UFC) was in prime form in the first round. Overhand rights flew from the American Top Team representative before a left hook altered the course of the match. The punch allowed Brown to move inside, secure a takedown and work on the ground. Phan was no match for him there. Brown bloodied him with short punches, mounted and whacked him with sharp horizontal elbows, putting an exclamation point on what turned into a decidedly one-sided frame.

The fast start did not carry over to round two, as Phan (16-9, 0-2 UFC) established himself in the fight with savage hooks to the head and body. An uppercut found its mark, too.

Brown tried in vain to put him back on the mat but left the door open for his younger counterpart. Though visibly fatigued, the 35-year-old Brown pressed the fight over the final five minutes, as he struck for an early takedown and twice took Phan’s back from a standing position. The judges rewarded his efforts, as he notched his first victory in four trips inside the Octagon.

Natal Outstrikes, Outpoints Bradley

A steady diet of wicked low kicks carried Rafael Natal to a unanimous decision over UFC rookie Paul Bradley in a preliminary middleweight duel. All three judges scored it for the Gracie Fusion representative: 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27.

Natal (13-3-1, 1-1-1 UFC) set the tone from the start with his stiff jab and repeated kicks to Bradley’s legs. Before round one was in the books, blood trickled from the American’s nose; however, it was the blows to his legs that took him out of the fight. Bradley (18-3, 1 NC, 0-1 UFC), a two-time NCAA All-American wrestler at the University of Iowa, did not secure his first takedown until the second round. Even then, he went nowhere, as Natal threatened with a leg lock, forcing him out of his comfort zone and back onto his feet.

Bradley’s situation did not improve in round three. There, Natal stepped up his offensive attack, pairing his leg kicks with punishing knees. Bradley mustered a late takedown in the closing seconds, only to be met with a knee to the gut. The decision was lost.


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