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UFC: Fight Night 20 review
by Scott Newman (MMA)
Posted on May 2, 2010, 11:10 AM

<UFC: Fight Night 20

Fairfax, Virginia

-Your hosts are Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan. They discuss the talent-rich 155lbs division, leading into the main event of tonightís card, a TUF rematch between Nate Diaz and Gray Maynard.

-Must be added that I think itís a great idea for the UFC to take the Fight Night series to all these different states and cities rather than staying in Vegas. It guarantees hot crowds and also opens the market for them further. I mean sure, take the numbered PPV shows to the big cities like Philadelphia and Atlanta and stuff, but for places like Fairfax and Omaha the UFNs are perfect.

Welterweight Fight: Amir Sadollah vs Brad Blackburn

Not a bad opener here with Amir Ė coming off what was basically a career-saving win over Phil Baroni Ė taking on midcard staple Blackburn, who at this stage was still unbeaten in UFC action although his last two wins (vs. Edgar Garcia and Ryo Chonan) came via somewhat questionable decisions. Being a Virginia native Amir gets quite the crowd pop from the fans.

We begin and they exchange some early strikes from distance with neither man really gaining an advantage. Short trade leads into a brief clinch, but Amir breaks with a knee. Good right to the body from Blackburn. Exchange continues with both men landing body kicks. Nice right hand into a leg kick from Amir. Pair of front kicks follow for the TUF winner. Amirís really working the low kicks again like the Baroni fight. Crisp combo from Amir leads into another clinch but Blackburn breaks with a body shot. Blackburn begins to push forward some more, but takes a kick to the body en route to forcing Amir into the fence. Knee breaks for Sadollah. About a minute to go and a right hand stuns Blackburn, buckling his legs badly. Amir closes in, landing a couple of knees from the clinch, but then he surprisingly gets a takedown and goes into side mount. Blackburn manages to scramble back to guard and kicks Amir off, but he takes a beautiful front kick to the face and has to grab a clinch to finish the round. Fun round and I think Amir takes it for putting Blackburn in trouble late on.

Second round and both men exchange some combinations to begin. Amir is getting the better of the majority of these exchanges though. Into a clinch and they trade knees before Blackburn breaks off with a one-two. Couple of jabs by Blackburn, answered with a combo from Amir ending in a leg kick. Blackburn half-heartedly goes for a takedown and Amir easily stuffs it into a clinch. They exchange inside before referee Mario Yamasaki separates them. Three leg kicks land for Amir before Blackburn catches one and trips him down. Amir gets right back up and Brad closes the distance and gets another clinch, forcing the TUF winner into the fence. Momentary break before Blackburn looks for a takedown, but Amir stuffs it and weíre back to the clinch. Amir manages to muscle him off, and we go back to the striking exchange with the cleanest blow being a body kick from Amir, followed by a front kick to the gut. Couple of nice combos land for Blackburn. Good leg kick from Amir. Combo from Blackburn, answered by a combo from Amir that seems to hurt the IFL veteran a little, and then the round ends there. Closer round but I think Amir landed the more telling blows, so Iíve got him up 20-18 now heading into the third.

Final round and they exchange strikes again before Amir throws a leg kick and follows with a BEAUTIFUL FLYING KNEE that buckles Blackburn again. Bradís sliding all over the place but again Amir surprisingly goes for a takedown and gets it again. No idea why heís not swarming standing. Good elbow from Amir on the ground as Blackburn manages to lock down on half-guard. Blackburn manages to get to full guard, but he still looks hurt by the knee strike I think and heís just trying to hold on. Couple more elbows from Amir and he manages to work into side mount. He almost goes to full mount, but gets stuck in the guard instead where he lands with another clean elbow. Blackburn looks to kick him away, but he takes some hard ground-and-pound shots instead and then it looks like Amirís setting up for a DíArce. He gives up on that as Blackburn gets double underhooks from the bottom, but then moves back to half-guard. Amir works to pass the guard, landing some decent blows in the process, but Blackburn manages to do a solid job defensively and doesnít really take too much damage. Fight ends with a flurry from the top from Amir.

Pretty clear decision here; all three judges have it the same as me, 30-27 for Amir Sadollah. This was another impressive fight from him against a far more experienced veteran, and after that bad start to his post-TUF career he seems to be developing into the contender that I thought he would when he won the reality show. Overall this was largely a fun kickboxing-based fight.

-Randy Couture joins Joe Rogan for a quick interview and immediately denies that heís a living legend. Ha! They talk about Randyís upcoming fight with Mark Coleman with Rogan saying if someone had told him Couture would be fighting Coleman in 2010 and the winner would possibly get a title shot, heíd have asked them what they were smoking and could he have some. Iím sure he would, knowing Joe Rogan!

Middleweight Fight: Tom Lawlor vs Aaron Simpson

Bit of a grudge match here if youíre into such things. See, TUF 8ís Lawlor had upset CB Dollaway at UFC 100 and Simpson is Dollawayís long-time friend and wrestling coach. While Dollaway was undoubtedly a great win for Lawlor though, I couldnít see him getting past Simpson, whose brand of great wrestling, sick athleticism and punching power had lead him to two UFC wins already. Itís not shown on TV, but Lawlor also made a classic entrance for this fight, coming out to Hulk Hoganís Real American theme wearing the yellow vest and everything.

We begin and they both look to strike early, throwing some punches out and surprisingly itís Lawlor who lands cleanly, snapping Simpsonís head back with a combo! Takedown attempt from Lawlor but Simpson stuffs it nicely. They break off and Lawlor really pushes the action, forcing him back into the fence. Uppercut breaks for Simpson and they circle out. Lawlor again closes in with a combo, this time landing again and dropping Simpson down to one knee! Simpson gets back up swiftly but Lawlor swarms with punches, considering a single leg attempt before opening up with another combo. Did not expect to see Simpson get lit up standing like this. Simpson manages to recover and Lawlor backs up a little, but as Simpson steps in throwing a right, Lawlor catches him with a counter and wobbles him again. Big right hook and uppercut have Simpson on queer street and he desperately tries to grab Lawlor to slow him down. Big uppercut and another right hook hurt Simpson again, and now heís all over the place taking blows. Takedown attempt is stuffed by Lawlor and he pushes forward landing shot after shot, and damn does Simpson have a good chin. Big knee from Lawlor follows by a right hook and an uppercut that snaps Simpsonís head back sharply. Takedown attempt from Simpson is stuffed and a right hook from Lawlor almost takes him off his feet. Big left from Lawlor now before he finally slows down a little as they clinch. They break off and Simpson looks like heís walking on ice. Simpson tries to throw some punches back, but he canít get anything off and Lawlor seems supremely confident now. One minute to go and another left hand lands hard for the Filthy Mauler. Looks like Simpson might make it out of the round though. Round ends with another right from Lawlor. Incredible opening round for the TUF 8 man. Iím actually going 10-8 for Lawlor there as he had Simpson on the verge of going out about three times while taking very little damage himself.

Round Two and they circle with Simpson managing to avoid a couple of early combinations. Takedown attempt from Simpson is stuffed and Lawlor hits him with a counter left hand. Lawlorís striking has improved beyond belief. Simpson manages to close the distance and force Lawlor back into the fence, and this time he manages to open up with a combo before going for a single leg. Lawlor looks to lock up a guillotine but Simpson slips free as they go down, and he ends up in half-guard. Couple of elbows from Simpson before Lawlor tries to turn to get up, giving his back in the process. He escapes to his feet with Simpson holding him in almost a headlock, but Lawlor escapes into a clinch and breaks off. Big right hook from Lawlor almost drops Simpson as he comes forward, and then a takedown puts Simpson on his back for a second before he wall-walks to his feet. They exchange some uppercuts in the clinch, and then Simpson shakes him off. Both men land some punches as Simpson pushes forward into the clinch, and then Lawlor grabs a standing guillotine but canít lock it up. Good knee to the body from Simpson and he breaks with a nice left hook. Simpson follows with a right hand and they trade for a moment before Lawlor drops to guard for a guillotine attempt to end the round. Very close round there but Iím going 10-9 for Tom Lawlor. Could go either way though.

Round Three and Simpson comes out aggressively, but Lawlor fights fire with fire and lands a heavy combo that slows Simpson down. Body kick lands for the A-Train though. Takedown attempt from Simpson but Lawlor stuffs it and lands with a knee. Simpsonís really pushing forward here though and you wonder if he thinks Lawlor might be gassed. Into the clinch and they muscle for position before Simpson gets a BIG SLAM from a single leg! Lawlor immediately explodes to his feet though and drops for a double leg himself. Simpson defends for a moment, but Lawlor gets him down, only for a second though as Simpson gets back up. They clinch again and Simpson drops for a single leg, but Lawlor rolls for a kimura on the way down! Simpson pops free though and winds up on top in half-guard. Mount from Simpson but heís got it at an odd position and Lawlor turns and gives his back. One hook in for Simpson but he canít quite get the second one in, and Lawlor scoots his way towards the cage. Lawlor looks for a double leg now but he canít get Simpson down, and the A-Train spins to take a rear waistlock. He looks to get the back and this time gets both hooks in, and now itís Lawlor whoís in trouble. Simpson looks to flatten him out, but he loses a hook and Lawlor crawls forward for a single and then gets to his feet. He looks exhausted. Simpson sprawls out to avoid the takedown and then spins onto the back again, but Lawlor escapes and falls face-first going for a single. They both come back to their feet and Simpson lands some uppercuts in the clinch, and the round ends with a trade of punches. That was a hell of a fight in the end.

Iíve got this 29-27 for Tom Lawlor but it was one of those fights that you could score tons of different ways. Judges have it a split decision, 29-28 Lawlor, 29-28 Simpson and 29-28 for Aaron Simpson to take the win. Crowd boo that verdict wildly, but while Iíd agree that the wrong guy got the decision it was a very close fight and a very good one at that. I think, if anything, it shows a flaw in the judging system because even if you give Simpson the second and third round, which is feasible, I donít think those two rounds together should outpoint Lawlorís first round, which obviously they wouldnít if you give Lawlor the first 10-8. I think the bottom line is the judges need to be giving out more 10-8 rounds. Still, both men came away from this looking really good Ė Lawlor for his improvement, Simpson for his heart and tenacity Ė so unless youíre Lawlor you canít have many complaints really.

-Joe Rogan interviews the stars of some new TV series called Blue Mountain State which is apparently about college and drinking. Iíve seen American Pie, dude, I donít need to see some show like this. Even the actors seem really annoying.

Lightweight Fight: Efrain Escudero vs Evan Dunham

This is why I love the UFN cards Ė for fights between great young up-and-comers like these two. Dunham had practically come from nowhere in 2009 to pick up two major UFC wins over Per Eklund and Marcus Aurelio, while Escudero, after a layoff following his TUF win, took out Cole Miller in what was a very impressive display. Both men seemed to have even skills in all areas but I ended up taking Escudero basically because I like him more.

First round gets started and Dunham throws some punches out before avoiding a half-shot from Escudero. Both men look pretty tentative here actually. Good body kick from Efrain and he follows by forcing Dunham into the cage. They break after little action and go back to pressing and throwing strikes. Neither manís landed yet. Escudero pushes forward and manages to grab a rear waistlock, landing some knees to the hamstrings, but Dunham prevents him from dragging him to the ground and works to turn into him. Efrain breaks with a right. Good uppercut from the TUF winner as Dunham steps in. Flying knee from Efrain lands glancingly and he follows with a right hand that stuns Dunham. Escudero closes in with a flurry, throwing some wild right hooks that land flush, and a big right hook puts him down! Efrain pounces looking to finish, but Dunham uses his long legs to tie the TUF winner up and immediately looks to lock up a triangle. Efrain postures out of that but Dunham rolls for an armbar. Efrain pulls out and then grabs a guillotine as Dunham looks to get up, rolling into top position, but Dunham holds on and manages to survive. Efrain ends up on top, but they stand back up and Evan still looks a little wobbly to me. Flying knee attempt ends with Escudero being shoved onto his back, but as Dunham looks to get on top Efrain scrambles and winds up in a front facelock as the round ends. Good opening round. 10-9 Escudero.

Second round and Dunham pushes forward, landing a combo as Efrain looks to counter. High kick glances off Efrainís head and Evan follows with a decent combination. Dunham seems to be having more success with the striking in this round, not sure whether Efrainís slowed down or if Evanís settled down a little more. Another nice combo lands for him. Good straight right from Escudero though. Another exchange and both men land. Big right hook narrowly misses for Escudero and Dunham follows by shooting on a single. Efrain defends it, but Dunham keeps pushing forward and manages to get him down into half-guard. Grinding short elbows from Dunham and some right hands to the body for good measure. Some really good shots land for Evan, bouncing Efrainís head off the ground, but he smiles and seems okay. Dunham stands up as Efrain gets his feet on the hips, but he canít land any upkicks and Dunham drops back into the guard. Dunham manages to hit a beautiful transition, taking the back with a body triangle, but thereís less than a minute to go in this round. Escudero looks very calm and he works to defend any choke attempts, but Dunham ends the round by flattening him out and landing punches. 10-9 Evan Dunham.

Round Three and Dunham quickly catches a kick and looks for a takedown. Escudero locks up a guillotine and pulls guard, then sweeps to top position, but to me it doesnít look sunk in properly and Dunham pops his head free. Scramble from Dunham allows him to his feet, and from there he grabs a bodylock and forces Escudero into the cage. Beautiful takedown from Dunham drops him into side mount, where he lands a couple of elbows. Full mount now for Dunham and Efrain rolls and gives his back. Dunham locks up the body triangle and then transitions off to an armbar ala Lilí Nog! Escudero looks in DEEP trouble as Evan extends the arm, and the TUF winner holds on desperately for as long as he can before the arm ends up at a SICK ANGLE and forces him to tap.

Ouch. Post-fight Escuderoís arm looks jacked, and understandably so! That was a sick armbar. Donít think his arm ended up actually being injured badly though which was lucky. Great fight overall and really; both men came away looking pretty good even if it was Dunham who ended up winning. To me it looked like Efrain got a little wild in trying to finish Dunham in the first, and blew himself out of gas, and when Dunham was able to take him down Ė which very few of his opponents have managed to do from what Iíve seen Ė he largely dominated. Should be interesting to see who they match both guys up with next, although if I recall correctly, Dunham has Tyson Griffin who is an insanely hard opponent for him.

Lightweight Fight: Gray Maynard vs Nate Diaz

Word coming into this was that Maynard might be due for a title shot if he could win this fight, a rematch with the only man to have beaten him in his MMA career (albeit a TUF fight that didnít count on his professional record). While Maynard had certainly improved his game since that fight Ė his boxingís come on leaps and bounds mainly Ė I actually went against the grain and picked Diaz here, thinking Nateís long, languid striking style could still give Gray problems and when that happened, heíd instinctively take Nate down which as we all know is always a bad idea. Plus Iím a bit biased towards the Diaz brothers, sue me.

We get underway and Diaz takes the center of the cage as Maynard circles around. Couple of big swings miss for Gray. Both men landing a couple of glancing blows but nothing significant yet. Cut over the right eye for Maynard but I have no idea what opened it. Couple of low kicks land for Nate. Maynard throws a big right hook but it doesnít land cleanly. Combo misses for Diaz as Gray backs up. Weíre three minutes in now and still nobodyís landed anything of note really. Uppercut by Gray but it doesnít seem to faze Nate. Left hand into a low kick from Diaz but Maynard lands with a counter right. Both men are taunting one another now but still nobodyís really landing. Round peters out standing. How do you score around like that? Got to be 10-10 really I think.

Into the 2nd and it looks like more of the same. Diaz keeps extending his right hand to keep his distance. We get a couple of little exchanges, but nothing significant. I wouldnít call this a bad boxing match as itís not sloppy or anything, but itís hardly exciting. Good right hand finally lands for Maynard with about 1:15 gone in the round. Good one-two from Diaz to answer. Clinch and Maynard grabs the head and delivers a knee that sends Diaz down, but it looked to me more like he threw him down after landing. Nate stays on his back and throws some upkicks, then gets to his feet. Right hand from Gray knocks Diaz off balance slightly. Diaz really begins to push forward but Maynardís landing counters more often now. Nothing too damaging but heís outlanding Nate and winning the round. Minute to go and they start taunting one another again, dropping their hands, but still nothing really opens up. Couple of combos land for Diaz late but Gray easily shrugs off a clinch attempt. Round ends on the feet again. Close round, probably 10-9 Maynard by a slim margin. Crowd shower the cage with boos between rounds.

Third and final round and it begins in the same way; Diaz throwing more punches but Maynard landing the cleaner counters, just about. Dull. 1:30 gone in the round and Diaz throws an odd side kick to which Maynard counters with a wild overhand right that misses. Nate taunts him but doesnít really follow up. Good right hand from Nate on the retreat. This might actually be a hard fight to score because almost all of the aggression is coming from Diaz. Decent little exchange for a moment with just under two minutes remaining, but itís about the only highlight thus far. Crowd do not like this at all. Nate with a knee from a clinch but Maynard quickly muscles him off. Big right hand from Gray wobbles Diaz and causes him to drop for a takedown, but it doesnít work and theyíre back on their feet. Another right lands for Gray and he follows with a left to the body and another right. Ten seconds to go and Maynard lands a knee and some short uppercuts from a clinch. Round ends there. 10-9 Maynard for the work very late in the round, just about. 30-28 Maynard overall.

Judges have a split decision; 29-28 Diaz, 30-27 Maynard and 29-28 Maynard for The Bully to take the win. Very close fight and you could make a case for a draw I think, but I wouldnít have said Diaz won two rounds there. Fight was horrendously dull for the most part; it wasnít sloppy like you get sometimes when two grapplers decide to stand and strike, but both men were so tentative, particularly Maynard who throughout his career now seems to have perfected a style where he looks to score points for the win as opposed to going for a finish. It worries me in a way as this style is very, very hard to beat when itís used by a guy like Maynard with top-class wrestling and solid boxing fundamentals, and yet itís hardly pleasing to watch Ė which is probably why he didnít get the title shot while a guy he already beat in the past (Frankie Edgar) did. Hopefully itís not a trend that continues for Gray as we have seen wrestlers like that suddenly develop finishing skills before (see Evans, Rashad) but I have my doubts.

-Pretty bad main event to end the show with a sour taste in the mouth. And Gray doesnít even get an interview as Goldberg quickly finishes by introducing Blue Mountain State or whatever itís called!

Final Thoughts....

This show was going well with two really good fights and a perfectly acceptable one before the main event, but Maynard-Diaz stunk out the cage for the most part and really brought proceedings down. I really enjoyed Escudero-Dunham and Lawlor-Simpson, but neither one was a FOTYC or anything and youíd need something of that calibre to offset a main event like that, as the lasting memory of this show will be Gray Maynard eking out a close decision in a dull fight. Thumbs in the middle, leaning down for this one.

Best Fight: Lawlor-Simpson
Worst Fight: Maynard-Diaz

Overall Rating: **1/2

Coming Soon....

UFC: 109-112, Fight Night 21, Versus 1
WEC: 47 and 48
King of the Cage: Various shows

Until next time,

Scott Newman:

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