In a welterweight war of attrition that featured low blows, illegal knees and a steady diet of entertaining action, Hardy defeated the Pride Fighting Championships veteran by a narrow split decision at UFC 89 “Bisping vs. Leben” on Saturday at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham, England.
Hardy (20-6) dictated the pace with his strikes and survived a late surge from Gono that included a takedown and a knee-buckling punch in the third round. The hard-nosed Englishman often went for broke on his feet and had Gono bloodied and swollen by round two.
Gono (28-13-7) did his best to close the distance and turn the fight into a clinch war, but in the end, two of the three judges scored the bout in Hardy’s favor by identical 29-28 tallies. A third gave a 29-28 nod to Gono, who still has not been finished in more than three years.
A showdown between unbeaten heavyweights warped into a decidedly one-sided affair, as Shane Carwin blasted through Neil Wain in just 91 seconds.
The monstrous 6-foot-4, 264-pound Carwin clinched early and scored with a takedown that led him directly to side control. From there, Wain (4-1) had no chance. Carwin unleashed a volley of strikes that forced the stoppage 1:31 into the first round.
Based out of Greeley, Colo., the 33-year-old Carwin (10-0) has won all 10 of his bouts inside one round and has finished his last nine foes in less than two minutes. A former collegiate wrestling champion, he has quickly emerged as a legitimate threat in a heavyweight division weakened by the recent departures of Andrei Arlovski and Tim Sylvia.
Meanwhile, Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt David Bielkheden showed some resolve in his lightweight debut, as he conquered Jess Liaudin by unanimous decision. Judges scored it 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28 in the Swede’s favor.
Bielkheden (13-6) scored with takedowns in all three rounds, as he won for the third time in four fights and answered some lingering questions hovering above him after he was thrashed by Diego Sanchez at UFC 82 in March. The match remained close into the third, when Bielkheden opened a gash on Liaudin’s forehead with elbows from top position.
In what some may consider a mild surprise, Liverpool, England’s, Terry Etim outlasted Canadian striker Sam Stout and pulled out a unanimous decision before a partisan crowd. Scores were 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28, as Etim snapped a two-fight losing streak.
Working off jabs and low kicks, Etim mixed in a timely second-round takedown and did enough to keep Stout off balance in a bout between two evenly matched competitors. The Canadian connected late, but by then, Etim (11-2) had opened a considerable lead and coasted to a decision, using textbook head movement to avoid danger.
Stout (13-5-1), the reigning TKO lightweight champion, still has not found his comfort zone inside the Octagon. The 24-year-old kickboxer has dropped four of his six bouts in the UFC, three of them on decisions.
Elsewhere, International Fight League veteran Jim Miller made an impressive statement in his UFC debut, as he dominated David Baron -- a Shooto mainstay who, in May, became just the second man to submit Japanese standout Hayato “Mach” Sakurai. This time, it was Baron who tapped.
One of the rising stars on the East Coast scene, Miller (12-1) outgrappled the Judo black belt from the opening bell. Under constant duress, the 35-year-old Baron spent virtually the entire match defending himself and ran out of steam as the fight deepened.
Miller caught a low kick in the third and took down the Frenchman, mounting him in the scramble that ensued. The American then dropped punches, forced Baron to surrender his back and cinched a rear-naked choke for the finish. Baron raised the white flag 3:19 into the third round, as he tapped out for only the second time in his career.
Finally, Per Eklund solidified his spot on the UFC roster, as he recovered from an early knockdown and delivered a third-round submission victory against Samy Schiavo.
The Swede mounted Schiavo (10-6) late, eventually latched himself onto his opponent’s back and locked in a fight-ending rear-naked choke 1:47 into round three. Eklund (14-3-1) has won five of his last six fights.