Thiago Alves hurt Josh Koscheck early in their UFC 90 welterweight fight. The 25-year-old American Top Team product put a left hook on Koscheck’s ear, which sent him staggering. The end looked close, but Koscheck made a gutsy recovery while working for a takedown. He didn’t get the takedown, but he stayed in the fight and a minute later he was backing Alves into the cage with his own punches.
Alves regained control, though, and maintained it for the rest of the fight. Koscheck came out swinging in the second with an overhand right and knees to the body of Alves, who moved well and kept kicking to Koscheck’s legs. The kicks were hard and quick, and Koscheck had no answer for them.
Koscheck couldn’t get a takedown, either. He shot for a single-leg with a minute to go in the second period, but Alves stopped it and was backed into the cage, where he showed excellent defense and was still standing when the round closed.
Alves staggered Koscheck again with a knee to the face to open the third. Again Koscheck showed his heart while hanging on and fought until the final bell, though Alves punished him with more kicks en route to claiming the unanimous decision: 30-27, 29-28, 30-27.
Afterward Alves, who has won seven straight in the UFC, pleaded to UFC President Dana White for a title shot.
“I’m still a good boy,” he said. “So please, hook me up. Give me a title shot.”
Koscheck, who had gamely replaced an injured Diego Sanchez on two weeks’ notice, fell to 9-3 in the UFC and 11-3 overall.
Gray Maynard outwrestled Rich Clementi and controlled him on the ground in their lightweight bout to earn a unanimous decision, 30-27 on all three cards.
Clementi stuffed his opponent’s first takedown attempt but not many others. Fighting out of Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas, the 29-year-old Maynard dumped his much more experienced opponent to the canvas with a takedown off a kick late in the first. He slammed Clementi several more times in the second and third rounds, which weren’t much different from the first.
Clementi, 32, of Slidell, La., was active on the ground and worked for sweeps throughout. Maynard stayed on top, though, punched and accumulated points to end Clementi’s three-fight win streak in the UFC.
Junior dos Santos made the most of his UFC debut by stopping heavyweight contender Fabricio Werdum 1:20 into the first round. The Brazilians traded leg kicks early. Dos Santos then stepped in with an uppercut that clocked his ducking opponent.
Werdum collapsed to his knees, and Dos Santos hammered away on the ground until the fight was stopped.
“I train with the best in the world, which is ‘Minotauro’ Nogueira. He’s my coach. He’s everything,” said the 24-year-old Dos Santos, now 7-1. “I believed in my hands. I knew that I was a little sketchy going to the ground, but standing up I knew that I could get him.”
With the loss, Werdum dropped to 11-4-1.
In the opener to the main card, Sean Sherk won an entertaining unanimous decision over Tyson Griffin: 30-27, 29-28, 29-28.
Both fighters came out in low stances, but Griffin’s couldn’t keep him from giving up a takedown to Sherk early. The former UFC lightweight champion later picked Griffin’s ankle a second time and took his back twice during the period.
Griffin, 24, fighting out of Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas, landed a good right hand off one break and also planted a solid kick into Sherk’s body. Sherk, 35, was also effective with his hands, particularly with quick, tight combinations on the inside.
Griffin snuck another kick into Sherk’s body to start the second round. In response, Sherk shot for a double-leg that put Griffin on his back momentarily. In fact, Sherk’s takedown attempts never kept Griffin down for long, though they allowed “The Muscle Shark” to score points with punches as Griffin worked himself free.
The best strike of the round may have belonged to Griffin, however. He scored with a heavy leg kick and began to taunt Sherk after it landed. Sherk didn’t wilt under the pressure that followed, but Griffin got the better of the next exchange.
After buckling briefly from a right hand in the opening seconds of the third round, Sherk returned to his punch combinations. He stood in the center of the Octagon, throwing his hands whenever Griffin came in for a trade. Griffin countered with kicks and his own punches, but they were not enough to convince the judges in the end.
“I felt like I was a little more active,” said Sherk, who rebounded from his loss to B.J. Penn in May while giving Griffin his second loss in seven UFC appearances. “I felt like I maybe landed a few more punches, plus a couple of takedowns and I took his back twice. It was a close fight. I did feel confident I won the fight, though.”