Thiago, who had defeated Fitch teammate Josh Koscheck, was ready for the former Purdue wrestler’s attack, slapping on a guillotine choke in the opening frame of the fight.
Fitch was also ready for the submission attempts he knew he would face. Despite Thiago’s knockout of Koscheck at UFC 95, his best chance was on the mat.
Thiago stayed true to his roots, and didn’t give up there and transitioned to as many submissions as he could attempt from the bottom. But every time, Fitch powered his way out and landed strikes from the top.
Fitch nearly submitted Thiago by getting his back in the scramble, but the Brazilian was too experienced to fall prey to the choke.
All judges gave Fitch the fight 30-27, 29-28, and 29-28 scores.
The hype train hasn’t even begun to roll yet, and Paul “The Headhunter” Buentello (27-10) feels he’s been cast as the underdog for his fight with Gilbert Yvel at Affliction “Trilogy.” And that’s exciting to him, because there’s nowhere to go but up.
“Everybody’s already counting me out. I’ve gotta be able to do this, and be able to do that, and I love being in that position,” said Buentello. “I don’t like being in the top position. I love being counted out.”
The 35-year-old Texan doesn’t name his accusers, and says the pessimists are “people giving their opinion.” He often takes cues from Internet message boards, and likes to have fun with the MMA public’s perception of him, frequently enlisting fans to provide feedback on his career path. Apparently, somebody out there doesn’t like the match-up.
Five weeks ago, Buentello began training with the knowledge he’d be back in the ring on Aug. 1, against whom he didn’t know. Gilbert Yvel emerged as his opponent for Affliction “Trilogy,” earning a spot on the event’s main card with a blistering knockout of veteran Pedro Rizzo.
Until the event, Buentello will reside at American Kickboxing Academy, getting ready to combat Yvel’s stand-up centered attack.
Buentello says he hasn’t shot for a takedown once in his career, and unless Yvel offers him a surefire way to get on top, doesn’t plan on making an exception.
His trainer, Bob Cook, says his pay will be earned that night.
“This is going to be a long night, your cardio has to be really, really good,” said Buentello.
It’s safe to say that he will face a far greater challenge than his last fight, against Kiril “Baby Fedor” Sidelnikov, who he systematically punished for three rounds before the referee took mercy on the Russian. Sidelnikov later tested positive for steroids and was suspended for a year by the California State Athletic Commission.
Yvel, now under the tutelage of MMA pioneer John Lewis, appears to have turned a corner in his training. He’s more patient and less “Hurricane.” Still, he retains the aura of a bully who’s sudden streaks of violence – whether in or out of the ring – destroy fighters who let him play his game. Those who take him to the ground are virtually guaranteed a chance to be not only competitive, but dominant.
Buentello’s heavy hands and willingness to engage are his best allies in the fight.
“Just try to break that aura,” he said of his model for bullies. “Stay in their face. Throw as many punches as I can. If you’ve ever heard that saying, a fighter can never be made, you’re either born with it or you’re not? Everybody knows I don’t have the skill. I don’t have that look. But I guarantee, and everybody knows, if I show up to fight, I’m gonna bring it. I’m a gamer.
“That’s one of the things that makes it interesting. He don’t care, and I’ve been through some really tough fights and I don’t care what happens. I’m going to let my hands go no matter what. Yvel’s going to bring it 110 percent and I’m going to match him every step that he goes.”
Buentello also carries the belief that fate will decide who shows up that night; if he’s on his game, if Yvel’s off, or if they’re both on. Training, dieting, and sleeping – those are the variables that can be controlled.
“If I’m on the top of my game and he makes just a couple of mistakes, and I’m on, I’ll probably be able to stop him,” Buentello continued. “But if he’s on, and I’m on, it’s going to be a long fricking night.
“That’s the thing I love about the sport. Just like Fedor, you can come in 29-1 and if it’s your day, it’s your day. You don’t have that choice to pick that… you put in your hard training and go out there and give it 100 percent.”
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