The traveling circus of bare-knuckle fistfighting rolled into the Florida State Fairgrounds Expo Center on Saturday night, and based on the boos, they really wanted to see former pro boxer Paulie Malignaggi get knocked out in the main event.
Instead, they got five bloody rounds of dancing with fellow main eventer Artem Lobov, who ate jabs while knocking the one-time sparring partner of Conor McGregor back with his slower—but harder—punches. It was a bit anticlimactic, as the duo had talked up a lot of heat and then appeared to make nice towards the end. Still, it was contest that held the few thousand in attendance in rapt attention.
Afterwards, Lobov had nothing but respect for his foe, and evoked the holy name of bare-knuckle legend John L. Sullivan as inspiration.
“I only got hit with one clean punch,” said Malignaggi. “I thought I out-boxed him.” The former boxer admitted to a possible broken hand. “I think it’s a good sport,” he added.
Malignaggi indicated that he won’t continue with his bare-knuckle career, which ends at 0-1.
In the co-main event, TUF pioneer Chris Leben and MMA mid-lister Dakota Cochrane battle hard and sloppy from the first round to the last, with Cochrane tiring Leben out in the clinch and a racking up points when the formerly retired workhorse was too exhausted to take his head off. Cochrane took the decision, but fans were denied the knockout they had expected.
UFC vet Johnny Bedford won a championship belt beating up an overmatched Reggie Barnett. There were knockdowns, there was showboating, and in the end, there was respect.
Elsewhere on the card, UFC and Bellator vet Joey Beltran scored the knockout over a taller (but older) Jamie Campbell. TUF vet Julian Lane won a unanimous decision over a lackluster Tom Shoaff, while an ancient Joe Riggs fought Walber Barros to a draw.
The partisan Florida crowd seemed to thoroughly enjoy the undercard, which saw Floridians mixing it up with each other or taking on out-of-towners. Most notable was UFC vet Jim Alers, who scored a KO in 45 seconds that left Elvin Brito face-first on the canvas.
Artem Lobov def. Paulie Malignaggi via Unanimous Decision
Dakota Cochrane def. Chris Leben via Unanimous Decision
Johnny Bedford def. Reggie Barnett via Unanimous Decision
Julian Lane def. Tom Shoaff via Unanimous Decision
Joey Beltran def. Jamie Campbell via KO at 1:50, R2
Joe Riggs vs. Walber Barros - Draw
Jim Alers def. Elvin Brito via KO at :45, R1
David Mundell def. Drew Lipton via TKO at 1:35, R1
Abdiel Velazquez def. Travis Thompson via Unanimous Decision
Chris Boffil def. Jared Hayes via KO at 1:55, R3