Chris Leben entered middleweight his bout against Andrew Craig with a lot to prove. He'd lost his last two fights, against Mark Munoz and Derek Brunson, mixed in between those fights was a stint in rehab for an oxycodone addiction. For Craig the fight was an opportunity to get a big win over a name fighter, for Leben an opportunity to put a halt to a series of diminishing returns.
Andrew Craig took the fight to Leben for three rounds, forcing the slower fighter into a clinch heavy strategy as Leben was unable to keep pace and track Craig down, or find him consistently in exchanges. In the Clinch the fight was competative, but became less so as Leben and Craig went strike for strike. Craig looked close to finishing the bout in the second, but was unable to find the steam behind his punches to really get Leben out. From there fans were rewarded with a sloppy third round in which Leben continued to push forward, and Craig looked to slide away and pot shot when possible. Craig took a clearly one-sided split decision, in which Leben had no business winning a round. Andrew Craig def. Chris Leben via Split Decision.
What was the high point?
A close finish provided a brief glimmer of action in an otherwise tiresome fight. If you're really looking for a reason to watch this one, the second round is as good a one as you're likely to find.
What was the low point?
The fight in general was a sad affair. No amount of "doing the right things" or changing camps is going to make Leben younger or faster, or bring back his iron chin. Watching him get beat up by Craig for three rounds was a major low point on the night, and one that I hope we don't see repeated anytime soon.
Where do they go from here?
Craig got the big name win he needed. It wasn't fun, or pretty, but it was decisive and clearly showed that he can hang around for a bit in the division. I'd still keep him with the relative newcomers, of which there are many. A fight against Luke Barnatt, or Tor Troeng would be about right for where he is right now.
I really hope this drives Leben to retirement. I don't know that the UFC will ever cut him, even though that might be the best thing for him if he has to keep fighting. If he's going to stay and wont hang 'em up I'd put him in against Buddy Roberts or Joao Zeferino.
Watch it now, later, or never?
NEVER. Unless you really like un-polished slogs that depress more than they entertain, avoid this fight at all costs.