I was very disappointed when Wanderlei had to pull out of this fight due to training injuries. My disappointment quickly turned to surprise and mounting curiosity, though, when I found out that Chris “The Crippler” Leben, the original bad boy of The Ultimate Fighter series, had agreed to take Wanderlei’s place.
The Ultimate Fighter 11 finale. Leben had won that fight and looked to be in spectacular form, but it’s still very odd for a mixed martial artist to fight so soon in this day and age. I think the last time something like that was done in the US was during the 90’s, when the UFC was still extremely notorious for being “no holds barred” and everything was way more hardcore and uncontrolled than it is now.
I like Leben as a fighter, I really do. He stands I front of people, takes boatloads of shots, never falls down (unless it’s against Anderson Silva) and knocks most of his opponents out consistently. It’s literally like watching some sort of crazy street fight inside the cage when this guy’s fighting. So to see this kind of fighter against a top level Japanese MMA superstar fighting again after two weeks? Damn, this I wanted to see!
In this prefight press conference, Leben revealed that, after his Saturday bout against Simpson, he quickly caught a train home, watched movies and ate pizza while relaxing on Sunday, got the call Monday morning, and was back in the gym training that afternoon. That’s awesome.
The fight was amazing, to say the least, and pretty much met and broke my expectations. The first round was mostly about Akiyama. The two stood up and traded blows for a while, but Akiyama quickly used his judo skills to take Leben down to the ground and control him there.
The second round is where everything becomes really crazy awesome. Obviously winded from trying to pin down and control the mad Chris Leben for an entire round, Akiyama seemed much slower this time around. Leben, on the other, seemed to only get stronger. With the cardio advantage seeming to fall on Leben’s side, Akiyama failed to take him down this time around, forcing the fight into Leben’s preferred territory: a bar brawl.
What’s surprising here is that Leben is unable to finish Akiyama, and, at one point, almost breaks his neck trying to arm bar his opponent. The third is much like the first, except that Akiyama is now more tired than ever, and Leben seems even stronger than ever. The fight quickly goes to the ground with Akiyama yet again controlling the environment, but it is his opponent doing most of the damage. With tons of crazy elbows and double punches, Leben looked astounding with his ground game, so much so that he manages to submit Akiyama 4:40 into the final round with a desperate triangle choke attempt. It was very dangerous territory for The Crippler, especially since he spent most of the fight on his back, which has been proven to score particularly low on the judges’ scorecards. He made it, though, and proved to the world that he’s much more reputable than some people think.
Akiyama, on the other hand, looked close to death. He couldn’t get up on his stool, and when Joe Rogan tried to interview him, he could hardly talk. Leben really totaled this elite Japanese warrior. That said, Akiyama still showed a tremendous ground game and proved that he can stand up with even the best of them. The fight was one of the most awesome I’ve ever seen and I’d absolutely love to see these two in the Octagon again!
Check out more amazing pics of UFC 116 over at the official UFC website!