LAS VEGAS - Former light-heavyweight champion Rashad Evans, surviving a late rocky patch, used his wrestling skills to frustrate Brazilian Thiago Silva en route to a unanimous decision at UFC 108 on Saturday night.
The mixed martial arts main event was no barnburner but Evans controlled it for all but the final minutes. Silva was befuddled, and then angry, urging Evans to come at him in the third. The big Brazilian even mimicked Evans' bob-and-weave style, and then finally connected with a big right, leaving a wobbly Evans at the fence.
"I didn't realize how hard it was until I tried to step back and thought 'where are my legs,"' Evans said of the big blow.
Evans somehow survived and the fight ended with some boos from the crowd.
Evans won 29-28, 29-28, 29-28, taking the first two rounds with Silva winning the third.
It was Evans' first outing since losing his title to Lyoto Machida at UFC 98 in May. And Evans used it to show off a more well-rounded game than in previous fights.
Evans' purse was US$375,000, including a $175,000 win bonus, according to the Nevada State Athletic Commission. Silva earned $55,000. That probably does not give the full financial picture, since the UFC does not release other bonus figures.
The win sets Evans up for a 205-pound showdown, possibly May 1 in Montreal, with rival Quinton (Rampage) Jackson in a matchup of coaches from Season 10 of "The Ultimate Fighter."
In the co-main event before 12,555 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, English welterweight Paul (Semtex) Daley floored Dustin Hazelett with a sledgehammer of a left hook, then followed it up with three more lefts to the chin that left Hazelett in la-la land at 2:24 of the first round. The ending earned Daley $50,000 for knockout of the night.
The New Year's show, normally one of the blockbusters on the UFC calendar, was cobbled together somewhat after a rash of injuries but did not disappoint. And it turned out to be a night of quick finishes, with a string of five first-round stoppages at one point. There were six in all on the 10-fight card.
"I think a lot of guys have felt disrespected this week by a lot of the so-called media and whoever else," said UFC president Dana White, referring to the criticism the card had received in advance.
Said lightweight Jim Miller: "I think everybody stepped up tonight. It was a great night of fights and if people don't understand that injuries happen in this sport, they should probably get on the mat and train. Because it's going to happen. We train harder than any other athlete on the planet, so guys are going to get hurt."
Evans, a former Michigan State wrestler, returned to his roots with an early takedown - he had tried just one takedown in his three previous fights. Silva got up and the two traded in the centre of the cage before Evans took the Brazilian down again. And again.
Evans was the aggressor again in the second, forcing Silva into a clinch at the cage. And he was soon dumping the Brazilian on his back again.
Forced on the defensive, Silva never got his standup game going until he got angry in the third. Evans kept taking him down, doing little damage but dominating the fight.
Evans said later he was unfazed by Silva's antics.
"It's not my first fight, I'm not going to get goaded by somebody waving his arms around saying 'Come at me, come at me."'
He did say he was slightly disappointed he had tired in the third round and that he had not been more impressive.
Hazelett, a submission ace, started his fight with a bizarre front somersault towards Daley (23-8-2) that led to nothing but looked nifty. The black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu then stood with the British banger and paid for it when Daley connected.
Daley, who celebrated with an English soccer-style post-goal celebration slide in the cage, apologized for his post-fight antics - which took place as doctors examined a prone Hazelett (14-5).
"After a knockout, you do stupid things," said Daley, who opened his UFC account by stopping Martin (The Hitman)Kampmann at UFC 103 in September.
Hazelett took a while to get up and left the arena unsteadily with one arm on his trainer's shoulder. His next stop was the hospital for a CT scan.
Daley, meanwhile, moves closer to the front of the 170-pound contenders' queue. His next fight could be against either Jon Fitch or Josh Koscheck.
Because he missed weight by one pound, the Brit had to forfeit 10 per cent of his purse.
Joe and Dan Lauzon made history by becoming the first brothers to fight on the same UFC card, but both lost with Canadian Sam (Hands of Stone) Stout winning a decision over Joe, and Cole Miller submitting Dan in a pair of lightweight bouts. Miller collected $50,000 for submission of the night.
The Stout-Lauzon fight was a doozy with a bloody Stout surviving to upset Lauzon, blunting Lauzon's ground game while using his standup superiority to record a 30-26, 30-27, 30-27 win. Both fighters earned $50,000 for fight of the night.
"I've been trying to improve my game and become more of a well-rounded mixed martial artist," said Stout, who needed stitches inside and outside to close a gash on his forehead. "I did get a chance to show I'm not just a one-dimensional fighter who only knows how to strike. That was a great feeling for me and I'm really happy with my performance tonight."
The 25-year-old from London, Ont., was cut via an elbow early on the ground in an all-action first round but got back up to hammer away at Lauzon.
Taken down in the second, Stout (16-5-1) fought his way back up. And wiping away the blood from his facial cuts, he kept banging.
Coach Shawn Tompkins warned Stout to watch out for big shots from a desperate Lauzon in the third. Lauzon (17-5) came out aggressively, as warned, but seemed fatigued and soon felt the brunt of Stout's hands. Stout survived a late Lauzon takedown and choke attempt.
"I want to thank everybody at home," Stout said after recording one of the biggest wins of his career. "I want to thank everyone in Canada for all the support. You guys have been great."
Both fighters were coming off long layoffs. Lauzon had knee surgery while Stout's last opponent, Phillipe Nover, had a seizure in the locker-room just before they were due to face off in September.
Lauzon last fought in February, submitting Jeremy Stephens, while Stout won fight of the night honours in April at UFC 97 when he decisioned (Handsome) Matt Wiman.
Rising heavyweight star Junior Dos Santos (10-1) welcomed veteran Gilbert (The Hurricane) Yvel to the UFC with a first-round TKO in a short but violent bout.
Yvel (36-14-1 with one no contest) complained the stoppage was premature as Dos Santos celebrated. But the Brazilian put him down with a big left hook, as the tattooed Dutchman was launching a left of his own, and then caught him with several big blows on the ground before it was stopped by referee Herb Dean at 2:07.
The big Brazilian has now won all four UFC fights, finishing three in the first round.
"Dos Santos is the real deal," White said.
Yvel took his time walking out to the cage to the sounds of AC/DC's "Thunderstruck." Dos Santos, who dispatched Mirko (Cro Cop) Filipovic last time out, countered with the theme from "Rocky."
The Brazilian walked to the centre of the ring during his introduction and motioned to the ground, as if to say "Bring it on." And when Yvel tried a kick to the head, Dos Santos blocked it, smiled and motioned for Yvel to come at him.
Miller spoiled lightweight Dan (The Upgrade) Lauzon's return to the UFC, winning via kimura at 3:05 of the first round.
Miller (16-4) seemed in a rush in the early going and was knocked down by a left to the head. But he rebounded and put Lauzon (12-3) away on the ground by isolating his arm and trapping him in the submission hold from an inverted triangle position.
Miller consoled Lauzon after his win, eventually kissing his opponent on the top of his head as they both knelt on the canvas.
"I come in here and I don't say I'm going to win every fight, but I will fight every fight," Miller said in the cage.
Lauzon was just 18 when made his only other UFC appearance at UFC 64 in October 2006, losing to Spencer (The King) Fisher but becoming the youngest UFC fighter in the process.
Dan is now 21 while Joe is 25.
Bouncing back from the loss to Daley, Kampmann looked impressive in putting away Jacob (Christmas) Volkmann via guillotine choke at 4:03 of the first round.
Kampmann (16-3) was looking for the takedown from Volkmann, a former three-time all-American wrestler at the University of Minnesota. But Volkmann (9-2) came forward swinging. And while he landed some punches, he paid for it as Kampmann put him down twice with counter rights.
Lightweight Jim Miller submitted Duane (Bang) Ludwig at 2:31 of the first round. Miller (16-2) floored Ludwig with a right, quickly got mount and then rolled into an armbar.
Ludwig (27-10), a late injury replacement, was Miller's third opponent on the card.
Middleweight Mark (The Filipino Wrecking Machine) Munoz (7-1) pounded out Ryan Jensen (15-5) to win via tapout due to strikes at 2:30 of the first round.
Welterweight Jake Ellenberger (22-5) stopped Mike (Quicksand) Pyle (18-7-1) by TKO 22 seconds into the second round for his first UFC win.
Lightweight Rafaello (Tractor) Oliveira (10-2) used takedowns and his superior ground game to win a unanimous decision over UFC newcomer John (Guns) Gunderson (22-7) in a less than spectacular curtain-raiser.
The main event was slated to feature heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar and Shane Carwin, a fight pushed back from UFC 106 in November. But Lesnar's health did not improve and Carwin needed knee surgery. Heavyweights Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Cain Velasquez were drafted as the new main event, until Nogueira fell victim to a serious staph infection.
Other fighters to withdraw were Condit, Steve Cantwell, Gabriel Gonzaga, Tyson Griffin, Rory Markham, and Sean Sherk.
Notes - The UFC confirmed it has signed lightweight star Takanori Gomi of Japan. ... Pro boxer James Toney was at the post-fight news conference. Thre 41-year-old has talked about trying MMA ... UFC boss Dana White says a definitive prognosis on heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar is expected next week.