By Thomas Gerbasi
LAS VEGAS, July 5 – After an 0-4 start to his UFC career, Canadian middleweight Patrick Cote continued his improbable comeback tonight in UFC 86 action at the Mandalay Bay Events Center, scoring a razor-thin split decision win over Ricardo Almeida in a contest that was more tactical than explosive.
Scores were 29-28 twice and 28-29 for Cote, who improves to 14-4
Making no secret of his strategy, Almeida almost immediately jumped to guard, eventually getting Cote to the mat. Cote kept his cool, rising to his feet almost just as fast. With 3:30 left, the two locked up against the fence, and Cote’s takedown defense was solid until Almeida got the fight back to the ground with a little over two minutes left. While down, Almeida was able to land with some strikes as Cote tried to hold his opponent and force a standup. Almeida wouldn’t stop moving though, and his consistent strikes put more points in the bank for the New Jersey resident.
Cote was able to keep the fight standing for much of the second, with a brief trip to the canvas early on, producing no damage for either man. Unfortunately for Cote, he wasn’t able to do much damage on the feet either, though he was earning points for his aggression and a right hand just before the bell put Almeida on the canvas.
Neither man was able to pull ahead in the opening moments of the final round, with a leg kick by Cote 1:30 in being the most telling blow. As the round progressed though, Cote’s aggression increased as a tired Almeida tried to jab to keep the Canadian at bay. With 90 seconds left in the bout, Almeida was able to score with a couple of 1-2s, and with 30 seconds remaining, the ‘Big Dog’ got a takedown, but was unable to capitalize before the final bell sounded.
Seven year old Joe Stevenson Jr. saw his father fight live for the first time tonight, and he will certainly go home with a smile on his face as ‘Joe Daddy’ survived some rough patches to submit Gleison Tibau in the second round of their lightweight matchup.
The pace was fast from the opening bell, with Stevenson (34-8) dropping Tibau (27-5) with a right hand early and almost sinking in his trademark guillotine choke. Tibau escaped and got back to his feet, where the two locked up briefly against the fence. After breaking, Stevenson engaged again, taking Tibau down. Tibau responded well, snapping on an oma plata, but Stevenson held on and made it out of the round.
Tibau got the first two takedowns of round two, with the second seeing him move quickly from side control to the mount. Stevenson escaped though and got back to his feet to resume his standup attack. Tibau again sought the takedown, but Stevenson locked in the guillotine choke on the way down, and that was all she wrote, with Tibau tapping out at the 2:57 mark.
In recent history, cuts have been the Achilles heel of Chris ‘Lights Out’ Lytle, and tonight they cost him again, as Josh Koscheck’s ground and pound attack opened up two cuts that helped him cruise to a unanimous three round decision win in a welterweight bout.
Scores were 30-26, 29-27, and 30-28 for Koscheck, who improves to 13-2. Lytle, who was stopped via cuts by Thiago Alves at UFC 78 last November, falls to 35-16-4.
“I think it was a good fight,” said Koscheck. “Chris Lytle is one of the classiest guys in the UFC. I have a lot of respect for him and I just think that tonight I was better.”
After a tentative opening from both men, the bout hit the mat, with Lytle working a guillotine briefly before Koscheck escaped and worked his way into the top position. Lytle’s defense was solid, but Koscheck was more active with his strikes as he rode out the round in control.
Koscheck tried for the takedown early in the second and as the round approached its second minute, he got it. Koscheck immediately pushed Lytle to the fence, and though he couldn’t get past his foe’s half-guard, his striking bloodied Lytle on the forehead and over the right eye.
Despite the pounding and the cuts, Lytle was allowed out for the final round and almost staged a miraculous comeback as he went for a kimura and two guillotine chokes early in the stanza. But after Koscheck escaped, he resumed his ground and pound attack and crimson continued to paint the canvas. With under 1:30 left, referee Yves Lavigne stood the fighters up, and with the crowd chanting his name, Lytle staged one last stand, but his courageous final flurry was not enough to pull off the win.
Lightweight contender Tyson Griffin continued to improve as he moved closer to a lightweight title shot with a clear cut unanimous decision win over Marcus Aurelio in the pay-per-view opener.
Scores were 30-27 across the board for Griffin.
“Marcus is a tough guy and he’s never been finished, so I wanted to take my time and get the W,” said Griffin.
The fight was tactical for the first two minutes, as both combatants looked for an opening. Griffin’s came in the bout’s third minute, when the fight hit the mat and he implemented his ground and pound strategy while avoiding Aurelio’s submission attempts. With 90 seconds to go, both fighters rose, with Aurelio showing some bruising under his right eye. Griffin finished the round strong with some solid body shots and leg kicks as Aurelio’s late takedown attempt was rebuffed.
In the second, Griffin kept with what was working, as he fired off leg kicks and body shots with more frequency. And after a stint locked up against the fence, Griffin took Aurelio down with a little over two minutes left. Aurelio returned the favor moments later and briefly got Griffin’s back, but the Las Vegan fought free and got in the top position, with a brief triangle attempt by Aurelio the only bad news for Griffin before the bell rang.
Hoping to turn things around, Aurelio came out with more urgency in the third round, but Griffin countered well, making the Brazilian rethink that strategy, and after landing almost at will, Griffin shot in for the takedown with under two minutes left, a curious strategy with a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu master like Aurelio. Griffin’s defense was solid though, and when the bell rang, there was no question as to who the winner was.
With the win, Griffin ups his record to 12-1; Aurelio falls to 16-6
Cote Edges Almeida on UFC 86 Main Card
Thomas Gerbasi, UFC - After an 0-4 start to his UFC career, Canadian middleweight Patrick Cote continued his improbable comeback tonight in UFC 86 action at the Mandalay Bay Events Center, scoring a razor-thin split decision win over Ricardo Almeida in a contest that was more tactical than explosive.