The Minnesota wrestler broke up a tentative first minute by taking the experienced Pyle (17-6-1) down. It was wall-to-wall action from there though, as Larson (26-2-1) was forced to defend consecutive armbar, leglock, and triangle choke attempts at the hands of the crafty Xtreme Couture fighter. Larson waded through Pyle’s quicksand ground game, before he latched on a guillotine choke of his own.
Pyle, 33, who took the bout on Friday after Chris Wilson could not file his medical paperwork in time, escaped and transitioned to an oma plata, but Larson was too wily. The 31-year-old Larson lined up a tight arm-triangle for the finish, to emphasize a great effort by the technical couple.
Heavyweight newcomer Tim Hague made the most of his first trip to the dance, as he toppled Patrick Barry with a guillotine choke at 1:42 into the first frame.
Barry (4-1) had the Edmonton, Alberta native’s number in the early seconds, shocking the 26-year-old Hague (10-1) with a hard right and a glancing head kick. A bloodied and wobbly Hague nailed a frantic takedown and used his heftier carriage to stifle the former kickboxing champion. Hague cinched the choke in as Barry tried to squirm out from underneath him.
Kyle Bradley grasped his first Octagon victory in three outings with a controversial first-round TKO against debutante Phillipe Nover in their lightweight bout. Bradley shrugged off Nover’s first takedown attempt, then connected on “The Ultimate Fighter 8” runner-up with a stinging right hand. Reaching for a single leg, Nover slipped forward onto his face. Referee Yves Lavigne stepped in and halted the bout, but backed away when a cognizant Nover rolled onto his back.
Krzysztof Soszynski blasted Andre Gusmao with a blistering right to crumble the Brazilian on the fence for a technical knockout at 3:17 into the first round.
The touted Gusmao (5-2), who went undefeated in the ill-fated International Fight League, was never given the opportunity to pull from his jiu-jitsu black belt pedigree, as Soszynski (18-8-1) struck fast and early with a left-right combination that hurt the retreating groundsman.
Team Quest Temecula’s Soszynski, who submitted former WEC light heavyweight champion Brian Stann at UFC 97 six weeks ago, has seemed to have found his stride. The 31-year-old late bloomer has been unstoppable in his last four fights.
Yoshiyuki Yoshida submitted Brandon Wolff with what began as a standing guillotine choke at 2:24 into the first round of their welterweight matchup. Yoshida (10-3), who’d been knockout out cold by Josh Koscheck at UFC “Fight for the Troops” last December, maneuvered the hold from mount to his closed guard after referee Steve Mazzagatti didn’t see the Hawaiian tap out the first time.
George Roop eked out a spilt decision against former TUF 8 housemate David Kaplan in the night’s lightweight opener. Roop (9-4)) picked the blonde-tressed Kaplan (2-3) apart with jabs and front kicks in the first round. Kaplan rallied with two takedowns in the second, but seemed too winded to capitalize from top position.
An exhausted Kaplan mustered all he had for a hard-fought takedown in the third and passed to side control, then mount. However, Roop bucked the 29-year-old Kaplan off and found his footing again, finishing the bout in a flurry of wild strikes with his partner.
Two judges gave Roop 30-27 scores, while Kaplan was awarded a 29-28 tally by the remaining judge, sealing his second straight defeat in the Octagon.
Mike Sloan contributed to this report from Las Vegas.