Andrew Craig used Chris Leben as a springboard.
Knees from the clinch, well-disguised takedowns and crisp, accurate combinations spurred the former Legacy Fighting Championship titleholder to a split decision over Leben at UFC 162 “Silva vs. Weidman” on Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Two of the three cageside judges ruled in Craig’s favor by 29-28 and 30-27 scores; a third cast a dissenting 29-28 nod for Leben (22-10, 12-9 UFC).
Craig (9-1, 3-1 UFC) utilized a multi-pronged standup attack, oftentimes using Leben’s relentless aggression against him. “The Crippler” kept moving forward, and the well-rounded Houston-based middleweight kept feeding him punches, knees and standing elbows. Craig punctuated the most significant victory of his career with a strong third round, where he nearly finished Leben with a shower of surgical strikes to the head.
“I wouldn’t say I avoided all of [his punches],” Craig said. “He hits as hard as a rock. He makes other people feel like they hit soft, so I’m just happy with the win. My hands hurt like crazy. I can’t believe I didn’t finish him.”
Parke Outpoints Tokudome, Wins Eighth Straight
A steady stream of overhand lefts, timely takedowns and strong defensive grappling carried “The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes” winner Norman Parke to a unanimous decision over Pancrase veteran Kazuki Tokudome in an undercard bout at 155 pounds. All three cageside judges scored it for Parke (18-2, 2-0 UFC): 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28.
Tokudome (12-4-1, 1-1 UFC) never adjusted to his opponent’s approach. Parke blasted him repeatedly with left hands over the top, mixed in the occasional takedown and briefly transitioned to full mount in the second round. Tokudome did his best work in round three, where he stayed in the Irishman’s face with punches and countered a takedown with one of his own. Still, it was not enough to woo the judges.
Parke has won eight consecutive fights.
Gonzaga Fells Herman in 17 Seconds
Team Link’s Gabriel Gonzaga dispatched the enigmatic Dave Herman with a short counter right hand and follow-up blows in the first round of their brief preliminary heavyweight matchup. Gonzaga (15-7, 10-6 UFC) sealed the deal just 17 seconds into round one.
Herman (21-6, 1-4 UFC) pecked away with a few front kicks and made the mistake of lowering his guard against the brick-fisted Brazilian. Gonzaga answered an inside low kick from the 28-year-old Fort Wayne, Ind., native with an exquisite counter right hand. A dazed Herman collapsed, and “Napao” swarmed him with punches for the finish.
Barboza Leg Kicks Overwhelm Oliveira
Former Ring of Combat champion Edson Barboza wrecked Rafaello Oliveira with a volley of savage leg kicks, as he halted the South Carolina-based Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt in the second round of their undercard tilt at 155 pounds. Oliveira (16-6, 2-5 UFC) succumbed to the blows 1:44 into round two.
Barboza (12-1, 6-1 UFC) zeroed in on the leg from the start, and his countryman was powerless against his attacks. Oliveira did what he could to withstand the barrage and landed the occasional punch, but his inability to get the fight to the ground made him a sitting duck on the feet.
Two final leg kicks forced a crippled Oliveira to his back and led referee Herb Dean to intervene on his behalf.
Melancon Beats Buzzer, KOs Baczynski
Strikeforce veteran Brian Melancon wowed the crowd in his promotional debut, as he wiped out “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 11 alum Seth Baczynski with first-round punches in a preliminary welterweight affair. Melancon (7-2, 1-0 UFC) left “The Polish Pistola” bloodied and unconscious 4:59 into round one.
The Houston-based Melancon had Baczynski (18-10, 4-3 UFC) reeling throughout their encounter, as he put his powerful left hand to use and also countered to great effect. Late in the first round, he delivered a takedown, moved to half guard and blasted away with punches until his work was done.
Pierce Stops Mitchell, Pushes Streak to Four
Sports Lab representative Mike Pierce put away David Mitchell with a second-round left hook and follow-up punches in an undercard battle at 170 pounds. Pierce (17-5, 9-3 UFC) drew it to a close 2:55 into round two, as he won for the fourth time in as many appearances.
Mitchell (12-3, 1-3 UFC) more than held his own through the first five minutes, as he frustrated the rugged Oregonian with his defensive wrestling and did some solid work in the clinch. Pierce made his move in the second, as he floored the Nor-Cal Fighting Alliance export with a left hook and then finished it with a series of right hands.