The Strike Exchange
Leben gained some serious steam with a pair of wins in 15 days. “The Crippler” TKO’d Aaron Simpson at the TUF 11 Finale and then slapped a triangle submission on Yoshihiro Akiyama at UFC 116. Leben’s UFC status had been flagging (from main event to main card to prelims), but Knockout of the Night (vs. Simpson) and Fight of the Night (vs. Akiyama) bonuses prove that he can still wow the crowd.
The Bellator Featherweight Champ was outclassed in the first round by Patricio Freire, coming seconds away from a submission loss. However, the former world champion wrestler returned to his roots to score successive takedowns in the second and third rounds and eke out a decision. The win proved that it’s okay to be one dimensional…if you have an awesome dimension.
The TUF 6 vet reeled off four consecutive victories inside the Octagon before matchmaker Joe Silva finally tested him against Joe Stevenson at UFC 110. The Australian won a unanimous decision and then threw a beating on Kurt Pellegrino at UFC 116. Next up: a contender.
Many pundits wrote off the Hall of Famer after successive losses to Georges St-Pierre and Thiago Alves, but Hughes has rebounded with three consecutive victories over Matt Sera, Renzo Gracie, and Ricardo Almeida. The most impressive win was at UFC 117 when he choked Almeida unconscious with a front headlock. Look for “The Country Boy” to be back in the Octagon after a brief hunting hiatus.