T.J. Grant and Evan Dunham had an all-out war. | Al Bello/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images
T.J. Grant and Evan Dunham threw caution -- and their bodies -- to the wind.
Grant notched perhaps the most significant victory of his career, as he took a unanimous decision from Xtreme Couture Mixed Martial Arts export Evan Dunham in a memorable lightweight slugfest at UFC 152 “Jones vs. Belfort” on Saturday at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. All three cageside judges scored it for Grant (19-5, 6-3 UFC): 29-28, 30-27 and 29-28.
From the start, it became clear that Grant and Dunham had only one intention: to fire away at one another. Fists, feet and knees flew, and neither man backed down. A second-round knee strike from Grant was the most decisive blow of the bout and left the Oregonian with a nasty vertical gash on his forehead. Dunham secured takedowns in all three rounds but did little else to neutralize Grant’s advantage on the feet, as he attacked with a barrage of punches, leg kicks and knees to the body. The 28-year-old Canadian has won three consecutive fights.
Magalhaes Armbar Submits Pokrajac
Former M-1 Global champion Vinny Magalhaes made a triumphant return to the Octagon, as he submitted Igor Pokorajac with a second-round armbar in an undercard battle at 205 pounds. Magalhaes (10-5, 1-2 UFC), who had not fought in the UFC in more than three years, closed it out 74 ticks into round two.
A successful but ill-fated takedown from the Croatian led to the finish. Magalhaes lured Pokrajac (25-9, 4-4 UFC) into his guard, trapped him first in a triangle choke and then transitioned to the armbar. A finalist on Season 8 of “The Ultimate Fighter,” Magalhaes has rattled off six straight victories, the longest such streak of his career.
Pierson Withstands Late Benoist Rally
Toronto’s Sean Pierson banked two rounds and withstood a furious late surge from Lance Benoist to post a unanimous verdict in an undercard showdown at 170 pounds. Pierson (13-6, 3-2 UFC) swept the scorecards by identical 29-28 counts.
Outside of a brief first-round skirmish on the canvas, Benoist (6-2, 1-2 UFC) never had a chance to engage his potent submission game. Pierson kept him off balance with airtight takedown defense and volley after volley of rights and lefts. In the third, Benoist landed a straight left out of nowhere and turned the tide in an instant. Somehow, Pierson survived the onslaught and escaped to his feet after an ill-advised choke attempt from his opponent.
ATT’s Brimage Outpoints Hettes
A steady diet of power punching and solid defensive grappling carried American Top Team’s Marcus Brimage to a unanimous decision over the previously unbeaten Jim Hettes in an action-packed preliminary tilt at 145 pounds. All three cageside judges scored it the same: 29-28 for Brimage (6-1, 3-0 UFC).
Brimage controlled rounds one and three with his stiff right jab and heavy left crosses, one of which had Hettes (10-1, 2-1 UFC) in serious trouble inside the first five minutes. Hettes did his best work in the second frame, when he grounded the Alabaman twice, softened him with ground-and-pound and fished for chokes. Brimage survived to see a third round, where he resumed his excellent work on the feet and outlasted the fading Pennsylvanian.
Baczynski KO Pushes Streak to Six
Power MMA Team export Seth Baczynski kept up his stellar work, as he knocked out Simeon Thoresen with a ringing counter left hook in the first round of their preliminary welterweight affair. Baczynski (18-8, 4-1 UFC) brought down the hammer 4:10 into round one.
Thoresen (17-3-1, 1-1 UFC) spent much of the encounter frustrating “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 11 alum with his length. Punches and kicks from the perimeter racked up the points and left Baczynski with a bloody lip. However, his left hand proved to be quite the equalizer and sent the 28-year-old Norwegian to the canvas for good, erasing all that had transpired before it.
“He has a really long reach, and it was going to be difficult because I usually fight smaller opponents,” said Baczynski, who has won his past six fights. “Soon, I’m going to be fighting better guys, so I have to get a little more patient. I had to tell myself to calm down in the tunnel, because there were the [two] quick finishes. I was, like, ‘You don’t have to live up to those fights, man. Just go out there and do your thing.’ And I was having trouble getting off early. He was doing well.”
Gagnon Choke Submits Watson
Canadian Mitch Gagnon needed a little more than a minute to put away Walel Watson with a rear-naked choke in an undercard bout at 135 pounds. Watson (9-5, 1-3 UFC), a loser in three straight, tapped out to the hold 69 seconds into round one.
A wicked left hook from Gagnon (9-2, 1-1 UFC) spelled the beginning of the end for the man they call “The Gazelle.” The 27-year-old Team Shredder representative followed Watson to the mat, battered him with punches and secured back control. From there, the choke was a mere formality. It was the eighth first-round submission of Gagnon’s 11-fight professional career.
“It feels great. I knew I belonged in here, but my last bout I didn’t come out on top,” Gagnon said. “I’m used to being aggressive, and sometimes I blow my load. I didn’t want to just punch and punch and exhaust myself. Instead, I kept calm and found my shots smarter this time.”
Noke Stops Brenneman, Halts Skid
“The Ultimate Fighter” Season 11 alum Kyle Noke made a successful debut at welterweight, as he stopped AMA Fight Club standout Charlie Brenneman on first-round punches in a preliminary encounter at 170 pounds. Noke (20-6-1, 4-2 UFC) brought it to a close 45 seconds after it began.
A stiff jab from Noke had “The Spaniard” on uneasy footing and a beautiful right cross put him on the ground. Brenneman (15-5, 4-4 UFC) clung to the Australian’s legs in desperation, but referee Dan Miragliotta intervened on his behalf after a few more punches found their mark. The beaten fighter protested briefly after rising on wobbly legs.
“The cut [to welterweight] was easy,” Noke said. “I wasn’t cutting to make 185, so I felt great. It’s a fight. You can’t blame the ref. I would have liked Charlie to keep going, too. I wanted to keep fighting.”