Gleison Tibau stifled any thoughts that he may be on the verge of being released from the UFC on Saturday night as he edged out New Jersey's own Kurt Pellegrino via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28).
Tibau came out strong early, throwing massive straight-overhand combinations that found their home in a limited capacity. Pellegrino seemed unaffected, but he was only offering a pawing jab to stop Tibau's forward momentum. After a brief position battle on the fence, both men separated with Pellegrino trying to stalk the Brazilian with ugly windmill punching. Tibau answered with a couple of strong lefts. As the end of the round neared, Pellegrino shot for a takedown, but succumbed to Tibau's own forward momentum and takedown attempt. Pellegrino shot back to his feet immediately.
Pellegrino came out pawing his jab and looking to connect from range in the second round as Tibau attempted to counter. After two minutes of stale action on the feet, Pellegrino stunned Tibau with a counter right hand, slamming Tibau to the ground and stunning him once again from top control. He continued to work from half guard, busting shots into the gut of Tibau and posturing up to attempt to damage Tibau's chin again. With 30 seconds left, Tibau was able to kick out and regain his feet, but he wasn't able to return any of the damage that was done.
Perhaps believing he was down on the scorecards, Tibau quickly came out with the intent to strike in the third round, lunging at Pellegrino with two-punch combos to no avail. The fighters settled in after a minute-and-a-half of action with Pellegrino working over Tibau with a speedy jab from range. Back and forth action as the fight entered the final minute of action, but Tibau secured a takedown with 30 seconds left against a visibly tired Pellegrino. Tibau did some damage from the top, but he was forced to defend a rolling kneebar attempt as the round ended. Too little, too late for Pellegrino.
Tibau had went 2-2 in his last four bouts inside the Octagon, dropping an unanimous decision loss to Jim Miller in his last appearance back in September. Victories over Caol Uno and Josh Neer ensured Tibau's continued presence under the UFC banner, but he's never been able to defeat the better competition in the upper half of the division.
Pellegrino has fallen under the same category, losing notable fights against George Sotiropoulos, Nate Diaz, and Joe Stevenson at crossroads in his career. His recent string of victories over Thiago Tavares, Rob Emerson, Josh Neer, and Fabricio Camoes did lend some credence to the idea that Pellegrino was on the verge of breaking out into the upper-echelon of the division. Sotiropoulos ended those ideas.