ATLANTA, April 21 - Arguably the best MMA prospect to come out of Hawaii since the great BJ Penn, heavyweight Travis Browne ran his record to 13-0-1 with a speedy annihilation of an overmatched Chad Griggs in prelim action on Saturday’s UFC 145 card at Philips Arena.
In a frightening display of athleticism for a 6’7” 250-pounder, Browne unleashed a flying knee and followed up with a hail of quick knees from the Muay Thai clinch that dropped the Tuscon, Ariz., fighter early in round one. An arm triangle not long thereafter forced Griggs (11-2) to tap out.
“My kids go through so much with me being away for eight weeks,” an emotional Browne, who trains under Greg Jackson and Mike Winklejohn, said afterward. “I have two beautiful boys, man, it’s so hard.”
Browne, now 3-0-1 in the Octagon, issued a message to everyone else in the division: “I belong here. UFC heavyweights, watch out, baby.”
BROWN VS. THOMPSON
The uglier and grittier this fight was, the better it was for welterweight veteran Matt Brown. And so it was early on, with Brown eschewing his traditional brawling instincts in favor of a smothering wrestling style that put Stephen Thompson on the mat, where the Karate phenom proved much less dangerous. Brown controlled the unbeaten South Carolinian with four takedowns in the opening frame, depriving him of the distance needed to execute his potent array of kicks.
But all that suffocating, not normally in Brown’s nature, took a toll on him. By round two, a resurgent Thompson sent a wobbly-legged Brown retreating with a ferocious storm of kicks and punches. Just when he seemed most vulnerable, Brown suddenly turned the tide and made Thompson pay for a habit of holding his hands low, flooring “Wonderboy” with a crisp right hand. An ensuing ground and pound assault opened a gash on Thompson’s forehead that would grow bloodier in the third round. Brown (16-11) ate more punches in the final frame but nevertheless scored another takedown and tormented Thompson (6-1) with ever more ground and pound en route to a unanimous decision victory by scores of 30-27 twice and 29-27. Watch Brown's post-fight interview
MAKDESSI VS. NJOKUANI
Throughout round one of this lightweight clash, Anthony Njokuani switched stances often and pretty much landed whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted. Behind a wide-ranging attack, the lanky standup specialist punished his shorter and stockier foe with left hooks, head kicks and kicks that welted John Makdessi’s lead leg. The one-sided domination left no doubt that if Makdessi was going to rally, it would hinge on a homerun shot or him quickly resorting to Plan B.
Yet in round two, Njokuani’s beautiful dancing style continued, with the slower Makdessi kicking more but finding it difficult to land upstairs or close the distance to his liking. Not once did the heavy-handed Canadian (7 KOs, cornered by welterweight champ Georges St-Pierre) attempt a takedown, stubbornly sticking to his strength.
In the final stanza, Njokuani (16-6) further demonized the Firas Zahabi protégé by fighting like a poor man’s Anderson Silva. Makdessi (9-2) never found his groove and Njokuani easily cruised to a unanimous decision nod with scores of 30-27 across the board. Watch Njokuani's post-fight interview
DANZIG VS. ESCUDERO
In a lightweight battle of past winners of The Ultimate Fighter, Mac Danzig and Efrain Escudero seemed about as evenly matched as it gets. So despite their best efforts and nonstop hustle, neither man was able to impose his will on the other or inflict much damage. You will be hard-pressed to find another fight where both men gamely stood in the pocket, let punches fly, and yet NO punches of great consequence ever landed. When they weren’t exchanging punches, the fighters spent a lot of time grinding away in the clinch. The ugly work may have been what swayed the judges, as it was Escudero, teammate to UFC lightweight champ Benson Henderson, whose back was against the cage much of the time.
Danzig (22-9-1), MMA’s most prominent vegan and also an accomplished photographer, escaped with a unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27 and 29-28).
Escudero lost his second straight, falling to 19-5. Hear what Danzig had to say after his win
CLEMENTS VS. WISNIEWSKI
When the fight was standing, it was all Chris Clements. When the action hit the mat, it was all Keith Wisniewski. But in a grinding and crowd-pleasing welterweight tussle, it was Clements’ cardio and damaging punches that proved the difference and carried him to a split decision triumph.
The veteran Wisniewski (28-13-1), out of Hobart, Ind., found momentum early with a trip takedown, back control and ground and pound in round one. But his Canadian adversary stole his thunder shortly thereafter with a hard overhand right and a rippling body shot that froze Wisniewski in his tracks and dropped him to the canvas.
Round two played out in similar fashion, with Wisniewski eating hard shots from Clements but retaliating with a takedown, threatening with a rear naked choke and scoring with ground and pound.
Round three was not as suspenseful or close, as Clements (11-4), the fresher fighter, battered his flat-footed opponent with hard right hands and dropped him with a knee.
Wisniewski survived but fell short on the judges’ score cards by scores of 29-28 and 30-27 for Clements and 29-28 for Wisniewski. Hear what Clements had to say about his UFC debut
BRIMAGE VS. BLANCO
In the end, with their three rounds in the books, Marcus Brimage and Maximo Blanco squared off in an unprecedented back-flipping contest – probably the first time that’s ever been done in the Octagon (each man executing three backflips). The brief dance-off, combined with Brimage accusing Blanco of running for much of their fight, was much more entertaining than their 15-minute boxing match.
Neither featherweight fighter seemed to really lay it all on the line, prompting sporadic boos from the live crowd. Brimage, a contestant on The Ultimate Fighter 14, emerged as the more assertive fighter in round one, landing 1-2 combos with conviction, though they never seemed to disrupt the composure Blanco displayed in his UFC debut.
In round two, Brimage countered a Blanco low kick with a hard straight left. Blanco would soon land his best blow of the fight, a kick to the face, that did little damage. Despite being unfazed even when on the short end of the exchanges, Blanco was never really able to find his rhythm or string together punches. Brimage, who threw punches with more conviction early and was the aggressor, was awarded a split decision victory via scores of 30-27, 29-28, and 28-29. He improves to 5-1. Blanco fell to 8-4-1, 1 NC.
“I was watching him for a long time and waiting for the right opportunities. It wasn't the same guy I thought I was going to fight,” Brimage said. “He was running from me a bit. I was trying to pick my shots. I wanted to outdo the main event and even though it's not the fight I thought it would be, I'm happy.” Watch Brimage's post-fight interview
Watch the Post-Fight Brimage-Blanco "Dance Off"