There's no UFC card this weekend, but to tide you over we have fight results from last week's regional shows, which featured a full slate of former UFC, PRIDE, and Bellator talent. In Part 1 of this double-sized edition of Beyond the Octagon, a former UFC heavyweight contender faces what was once one of MMA's most exciting top light-heavyweights...
Abu Dhabi Warriors put together a stacked card for its third event, which was headlined by a heavyweight collision between Paul Buentello (34-16, 3-3 UFC, 3-1 Strikeforce, 2-0 Affliction, 0-1 Bellator) and former light-heavyweight sensation Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou (16-14, 1-2 UFC, 2-0 PRIDE, 2-1 Bellator, 0-1 Strikeforce).
Buentello is one of MMA's most enduring heavyweights, having got his start in the Texas scene of the late 90s. He was already nearly thirty fights into his career when he got the call up to the UFC, where he made short work of Kevin Jordan and the late Justin Eilers to earn a shot at Andrei Arlovski's belt; Buentello was knocked out in fifteen seconds. A comeback win against Gilbert Aldana (who also died prematurely) closed out Buentello's initial contract, at which point "The Headhunter" sought greener pastures in Strikeforce, where he took his second shot at a major promotional title only to again come up short when Alistair Overeem more or less kneed his heart up out of his throat and out of the ring, where it maintained 45 seconds of air before landing on announcer Gus Johnson's head (citation needed). Buentello has endured slumps and enjoyed periods of success since then, including a pair of victories in Affliction and a second tour in the UFC. He entered the fight with Sokoudjou coming off a brief run as a light-heavyweight.
With a 2-1 record, Sokoudjou burst onto the scene in the twilight years of PRIDE, knocking out Rogerio Nogueira and Ricardo Arona, making for arguably two of MMA's most astounding upsets and a nigh-unprecedented tear up the light-heavyweight ranks. His knockout of Arona also made for one of my favorite MMA photos: beyond the figure of Arona crashing to the mat, there's nemesis Wanderlei Silva in the audience, laughing his ass off. Anyway, hopes were high for Sokoudjou, but his hellacious power and appreciable judo skills weren't enough to make up for his porous defense and chronically suspect endurance. A mediocre run in the UFC signaled his slide back down the rankings, and things have been hot-and-cold since. He jumped up to heavyweight for the fight with Buentello following a fair 2-1 stint in Bellator.
The bout unfolded predictably enough, with Sokoudjou alternately bombing away with hooks and kicks and seeking the takedown from the clinch. Buentello, meanwhile, worked a more conventional boxing game, which would ultimately pay dividends as, in the last minute of the opening round, he floored Sokoudjou with a short right to the ear. Ground-and-pound might have ended things right there if not for the fact that Sokoudjou had landed partially out of the ropes, which occasioned a restart on the feet.
The ring again proved problematic in Round 2 when Buentello's arms, hooked around the ropes, prevented a seemingly certain takedown from body-lock. At range, Sokoudjou continued to punish Buentello with kicks to the leg and body while Buentello searched for the chin. He wouldn't find it in Round 2, but he certainly would in Round 3, flooring a faded Sokoudjou with a series of knees and uppercuts before shrugging off a hail-mary kneebar attempt to close in on a ground-and-pound finish. Unfortunately, the briefest pause in action was all referee Yuji Shimada needed to halt the action and restart them on the feet, going so far as to actually help the exhausted Sokoudjou up off the mat. Buentello would, however, not be denied the knockout: after pressuring him out of the ring, at which point Shimada, apparently having bet his mortgage on him, again dragged Sokoudjou back into the fight, Buentello landed a sharp jab that dropped the PRIDE veteran for good.
You can check out Buentello vs. Sokoudjou here. It's as raucous as it is bewildering. Action at 5:25.
In the night's co-main event, Bellator mainstay Alexander Sarnavskiy rebounded from his submission loss to Marcin Held in April with a unanimous decision over former UFC lightweight Jesse Ronson (15-6, 0-3 UFC). It's a rare trip to the judge's scorecards for "Tiger," who improves to 31-3-0 overall. For Ronson, this is the first defeat of his post-UFC career; he's 2-1 since a split-decision loss to Kevin Lee that saw him out of the promotion.
Watch Sarnavskiy vs. Ronson here. Fight starts at 4:45.
Also on the card, Karl Amoussou (20-7-2, 5-4 Bellator, 0-1 Dream) weathered a few minutes of aggressive ground-and-pound before employing his potent submission game to earn his third straight victory by tap-out, putting away Abdulmazhid Magomedov (6-3-0) with an armbar in Round 1. Amoussou is 3-0 since last appearing in Bellator. Magomedov has been submitted in his last two outings.
Amoussou vs. Magomedov is here. Fight starts at 5:05.
And earlier that night, former UFC lightweight Waylon Lowe (16-7, 2-2 UFC, 1-1 WSOF) rebounded from a July loss in Bellator to take a unanimous decision over Vaso Bakocevic (21-9-1). With the victory, Lowe halts Bakocevic's five-fight winning streak and improves to 2-1 for the year.
Lowe vs. Bakocevic is here. Action at 5:05.