By Thomas Gerbasi
DALLAS, September 19 – Rising star Junior Dos Santos has already displayed the ability to blast opponents out with ease. Tonight at American Airlines Center, he showed that he can stick to his gameplan, punish, and then finish a foe late, as he forced Mirko Cro Cop to verbally submit in the third round of their pivotal UFC 103 heavyweight bout.
“I feel very good,” said Dos Santos, now 9-1 as a pro (3-0 in the UFC). “My training was very hard, and tonight I have one more victory in my career.”
Dos Santos went right at Cro Cop (25-7-2, 1 NC) from the opening bell, showing little regard for the reputation of the former PRIDE star. Cro Cop kept cook as he looked to counter, drawing a roar as he threw his patented left kick to the head. Dos Santos blocked the kick and continued to move forward, landing shots on the inside that raised a welt above Cro Cop’s right eye. Dos Santos was also bruised from the exchanges, under his left eye, and the two looked to be settling in for a long battle as the round came to a close.
The second round began slowly, but within 30 seconds the action started to heat up again, with Cro Cop scoring with a couple leg kicks while Dos Santos sent Cro Cop backwards with punches to the head. As the round progressed, the bruise under Dos Santos’ left eye worsened, but the Brazilian, in unfamiliar territory as far as being in the second round goes, refused to move backwards until a Cro Cop kick strayed low and forced a halt to the action. After a brief break, the fight resumed, and Dos Santos was able to cut Cro Cop above the left eye just before the bell.
Cro Cop, perhaps sensing the need for more urgency, became the aggressor as the final round opened, but was unable to break Dos Santos’ defenses. Instead, it was Dos Santos starting to land more and more, particularly with his knees, which visibly rocked the Croatian, Moments after another couple hard shots from Dos Santos, Cro Cop turned away and was unable to continue at the 2:00 mark, rendering ‘Cigano’ the winner via verbal submission.
“I hope everybody enjoyed my fight,” said Dos Santos. “The United States has been wonderful to me.”
The last time Martin Kampmann was one win away from a UFC title shot, he got injured before a middleweight fight with Rich Franklin. Tonight, after Mike Swick was injured, Nottingham, England’s Paul Daley stepped in and went on to upset Kampmann via a first round stoppage in welterweight action.
The two European strikers went to work immediately, trading hard shots at close range. Neither Kampmann or Daley held an early edge, but as the round approached its midway point, Daley finally nailed Kampmann with a flush shot and staggered him. Kampmann tried to get his legs back under him, but Daley kept coming, and after a few more hard shots, referee Yves Lavigne stopped the bout at the 2:31 mark.
With the win, Daley, who was making his long-awaited Octagon debut after building his resume internationally, improves to 22-8-2; Kampmann falls to 15-3.
Considering the wrestling acumen of both Josh Koscheck and Frank Trigg, it was expected that the deciding factor in their welterweight fight would be the standup. And it was, with Koscheck’s lethal right hand paving the way for an emphatic first round TKO that spoiled Trigg’s first UFC bout since 2005.
“Getting back to the winning ways is awesome,” said Koscheck, who was knocked out by Paulo Thiago in February. “This is what I’ve been training for and I’m super motivated right now.”
After a tactical start, Koscheck starting timing Trigg with his right hand, and eventually, he hit paydirt. Trigg fell to the mat, and a follow up barrage forced referee Leon Roberts to step in at the 1:25 mark of the opening round. While Trigg (19-7) protested the stoppage, Koscheck was already looking to the future.
“There’s a guy who just signed a new contract – Matt Hughes. I’ve been asking for that for a long time,” said Koscheck, now 15-4. “I don’t care who I fight. I’ll fight anybody, any place. I’ll fight every month.”
Lightweight contender Tyson Griffin scored the biggest win of his career in the opener, stopping Hermes Franca in the second round and earning his first UFC finish since his Octagon debut against David Lee in 2006.
“He’s one of the toughest guys I ever fought,” said Griffin. “I had to worry about getting knocked out, so it made me fight my best.”
Griffin controlled a slow first round, peppering Franca with shots at close range as an inactive Franca only tried to throw an occasional haymaker, all of which missed.
Having heard the boos, Franca (20-8) came out fast for round two, and while he landed a few punches, they were so wide that Griffin was able to counter with a right hand and stagger the Brazilian briefly. It was a precursor of things to come when with under two minutes left, Griffin scored again with the right hand, this time dropping Franca. Franca gathered his wits quick enough and looked for a submission from the bottom, but Griffin’s unyielding attack was finally too much for Franca, and referee Dan Miragliotta halted the bout at 3:26 of the second round.
“When I dropped him, I went to work and didn’t stop until the referee pulled me off,” said Griffin, now 14-2.