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Silva sneaks in submission, escapes defeat by a whisker at UFC 117

Fans tuning in to Saturday night’s ”UFC 117: Silva vs. Sonnen” main event likely sat with their mouths ajar throughout the first twenty-three minutes of the bout before having their jaws dropped even further by the fight’s dramatic conclusion.

The action took place at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California and could be seen on PPV.

Chael Sonnen, who many viewed as being more of a mouthpiece than menace entering the match-up, dominated UFC middleweight champ Anderson Silva with takedowns and ground-control throughout the duration of four-plus rounds before falling victim to triangle-choke with a little less than three minutes remaining in the fifth. The win was Silva’s seventh successful title defense and his twelfth straight in the Octagon.

Also using high-level wrestling to smother his opponent, though to an ultimately more-successful result than Sonnen, was perennial welterweight contender Jon Fitch. As expected, the American Kickboxing Academy product prevented opponent Thiago Alves from utilizing his power and fearsome stand-up by continually taking him down, working from the top, and ultimately grinding his way to a unanimous decision victory. The performance marked Fitch’s fifth win in a row since losing a hard-fought, twenty-five minute war against current 170-pound champion Georges St. Pierre two years ago at UFC 87.

The night was also kind to another welterweight competitor with a background in wrestling – former champ and current UFC Hall of Fame fighter Matt Hughes. The polarizing, iconic Hughes’ third straight win came in surprising fashion, submitting respected BJJer Ricardo Almeida for the first time in the Brazilian’s MMA career courtesy of a unique modified-choke.

A full list of results from the event are below:

Dennis Hallman def. Ben Saunders via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 29-28)

Stefan Struve def. Christian Morecraft via TKO (punches) – Round 1, 0:22

Tim Boetsch def. Todd Brown via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)

Johny Hendricks def. Charlie Brenneman via TKO (punches) – Round 2, 0:40

Phil Davis def. Rodney Wallace via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-27)

Rick Story def. Dustin Hazelett via TKO (punches) – Round 2, 1:15

Junior dos Santos def. Roy Nelson via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-27)

Matt Hughes def. Ricardo Almeida via submission (modified arm-triangle choke) – Round 1, 3:15

Clay Guida def. Rafael dos Anjos via submission (jaw injury) – Round 3, 1:51

Jon Fitch def. Thiago Alves via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)

Anderson Silva def. Chael Sonnen via submission (triangle-armbar) – Round 5, 3:10

29 COMMENTS
  • What a night of fights.

    Big Country showed that if he were to get in great shape he’s unstoppable, Hughes let everyone know that he’s still as good or better than most of the WW division, Jon Fitch not only out grappled but he outstruck Thiago last night and the title fight….WOW.
    I just find it funny that “everyone” is a GSP fan or was in awe of what Sonnen did last night, but Fitch gets booed for being MORE active than Chael or GSP.
    Great night though, one of the few times the challenger backed everything he said up and yet still lost.

  • MCCastaneda says:

    What a good night of fights. I agree with you dave, it was interesting to note that Fitch got booed & people cheer Sonnen…. Although, I think that Fitch went out there with the NEW “standard” game plan that we are seeing more and more ala Rashad, GSP, Edgar, Randy and a few others. Be better than your opponent, rather than beat your opponent. This is the evolution of UFC fighting because of the judging system that is in place.

  • elsicilian says:

    Actually, a lot of people think GSP’s more recent fights are generally boring demonstrations of superior wrestling, capped by decision victories. He heard some boos himself after that Hardy fight, remember? He acknowledged them, and admitted that he was disappointed in himself too.

    Last night’s middleweight championship fight was interesting because nobody had ever dominated Silva like that before, so the suffocating wrestling was neither tedious nor predictable. Also, rather than a grind-it-out decision, the fight was finished in thrilling and dramatic fashion.

    All in all, it was not really comparable to Jon Fitch (who has earned his boos by making a career of grinding out decision victories via tedious demonstrations of superior wrestling).

  • sides666 says:

    Well it was a very entertaining card. I was in a state of shock throughout most of the title fight. The whole fight seemed to be going silvas way it seemed like he was willingly getting beat up. the first round he got hit with some bombs from chael so silva decided well maybe i should just drop my hands and let him hit me. Wtf? I think he once again toyed with all our emotions still some crazy shit the fourth round silva Just layed down for chael come on guy my ribs hurt cant we just cuddle. Crazy triangle

  • cocoonofhorror says:

    one of the best 23 minutes of title fight action ever, followed by the worst 10 seconds i’ve ever seen. utterly predictable, but profoundly sad anyway.

  • @elsillian
    AND GSP HASN”T made a career out of doing nothing but smothering people? That’s all he did the entire Alves and Hardy fights and mostly all he did during the second BJ fight. Secondly There were entire three minute blocks where sonnen literally just tapped Anderson with hammerfists while Anderson held his head in place from guard. That used to warrant a standup and it still should’ve. I admit Chael smothered Anderson and for the first two rounds he landed BOMBS. After that all he did was tap The Spider into the face keeping the ref from standing it up when it should’ve been.
    Im takin nothin away from Chael he did what he said he’d do, minus beating/retiring the p4p best. and yes last night PROVED he is the best ever. It takes a real champion to get dominated round in and round out yet try to end the fight in every round (that elbow he dropped Sonnen with was nasty) and then somehow still slap on a triangle. Im just glad chael didnt dispute the tap. I know he rethought it, but it was too late.

  • qat says:

    why are you comparing fitch and sonnen?

    fitch really grappled alves out, but he also showed he could hang with him on the feet. but the most of the time he scrambled for better position, and alves had to counter that.

    sonnen on the other hand showed that silva can be touched in standup, but of course he took it to the ground when he could. but boy was he active there. there wasnt as much scrambling, mostly gnp..

    according to fight metric fitch threw 70 punches in 3 rounds, while sonnen threw 320 in (almost) 5 rounds. and sonnen threw much hard punches trying to knock silva out.., fitch often just tries to soften the opponent up a little. i dont think its really comparable.

  • GIKE MOLDBERG says:

    I have never seen a wrestling based fighter be so effectively aggressive for almost five rounds-It was like Chael Sonnen went into supersonic mode or something-I thought his dirty tactics were brilliant-I also think anyone fighting today at that bodyweight would have been utterly defeated by Chael-except of course-Anderson Silva, who showed an amazing amount of fortitude and pulled out the incredible victory in a fantastic fight!

  • Rich S. says:

    This was a nice card. We saw both Matt Hughes and Clay Guida get their second straight FINISHES against respectable opponents, which is incredible, and frankly, a rarity. I would’ve been in complete awe if Fitch could’ve served up the shocking finish-hat trick..

    Roy Nelson has one hell of a chin. He survived what 5 other UFC greats haven’t been able to, Dos Santos’ aggression and power. I still thought he had a chance to end it in the third with those looping overhands, but he was just too tired and battered. If his previous knockouts didn’t label him as a threat in the UFC’s Heavyweight division, surely this show of heart and will, will.

    Hughes looked fearless in the standup, not to mention fast and strong. It’s yet to be determined how he’ll manage when he’s back in there with a deadly striker, but for now, he looks to be on the rise again, and headed for the belt. I still can’t believe he submitted Almeida.. That’s just awesome.

    Guida had his work cut out for him in the first round and early parts of the second, but once he got Dos Anos down and crawled all over him, he wore him out. You could literally see the momentum shift between fighters midway through the second, and carry on until Dos Anos called it quits in the third. I guess a broken jaw in the first round helps things a bit, though.

    Struve is tough, but he’s in for a short career if he plans on taking shot after shot without blocking, just to come back and win later on, after the damage has already been done to himself. It’s a wonder the ref didn’t call it in the first, Struve took every shot to the face, while his arms flailed through the air. It appeared, on more than one occasion, that he was unconscious. I’m sure he had a “plan” the whole time, but that’s a dangerous way to fight.

    Alves was a completely different fighter than the one that pummeled Karo, Hughes, and Koscheck. Completely different from the one that fought GSP, for that matter. His takedown defense was nowhere to be found, and I only really saw him land two or three punches the whole time. He just couldn’t find Fitch’s head. Obviously the cut took alot out of him. I’ve gotten over the fact that Fitch is kind of boring, and never finishes fights. It doesn’t annoy me anymore. But, it does confuse me a little bit. How can you be THE BEST fighter in your respective division, aside from it’s champion, and still not have the ability to finish any of your opponents? I mean, he’s leaps and bounds better than anyone else he’s fought, aside from GSP, so why can’t he put them away? Are his opponents just that good? Or does he choose to go the distance? I just find that a tad weird.

    I will admit that I am in complete denial over the fact that Chael Sonnen, in about a year, has completely dominated the long time top 3 MIddleweights in the world. I’ll accept the fact that he beat Okami. But, I still feel that Marquardt is far more skilled than Chael, and of course I think Silva is. But, apparently, Chael really is the best Middleweight out there right now.

    Anderson was overly aggressive in the beginning, which led to him getting clipped and taken down. And that is a typical outcome when someone is overly aggressive. But, do you mean to tell me that a Black Belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and the best fighter on the face of the Earth, only attempted maybe three submissions over the course of 25 minutes? And the world’s most feared striker only decided to strike from his back two, maybe three times, in 25 minutes? There are some things I can’t explain, like Chael’s fearlessness on the feet, or his ability to take all of Anderson’s shots. But as for Chael’s dominant wrestling performance, I can’t help but think it was made possible by what Silva decided to do, not by what Chael decided to do.

    Like sides666 said, it seemed like more of a stupid, and bad fight from Silva, than a good one from Chael. Again, I commend Chael for what he accomplished. But Silva NEVER blocked a single shot. Not one. He took every bomb straight to the face. He only defended one takedown. With all the others, he seemed to help Chael finish the takedown by falling back on his own. Especially that one in the 4th or 5th, where he just fell backwards and let Chael get on top of him. I’m not sure what goes on in that crazy mind of Silva’s, but, if he doesn’t change something, he’s not going to be fit to fight in the UFC anymore. He has lost his will to be the best. Maybe his own allure is getting to him. Or maybe Chael just beat his ass fair and square. I don’t know anymore.

  • elsicilian says:

    @superdavenorcal

    yes indeed, GSP HAS made a career out of smothering people, and like Fitch, he’s facing some fan-driven backlash over it (not being universally praised for it, as your original post seems to imply). That’s exactly my point.

    Conversely, I wasn’t totally bored watching Sonnen do that to Silva last night, because NOBODY had ever done anything CLOSE to that to Silva before, and despite a lot of deliberate ground control during the fight, it was finished in dramatic and spectacular fashion, so the fight itself was neither tedious nor predictable. Instead, it was one of the best fights I have ever seen.

    It’s not exactly clear what YOUR point is though (you seem to vaguely insinuate that the Sonnen/Silva fight was boring and/or the officiating was poor, sandwiched between equally unclear statements in which you totally contradict that thought). Perhaps you are just trying to be disagreeable … if so, thumbs up on a job well done!

  • qat says:

    you got some points there, rich.
    i wanted silva to win, and multiple times in the bout, i just screamed “wtf are you doing?”, like when he decided to jump onto an elite wrestler from a distance with no real chance to get a solid strike out of it.. and got taken down, or when he took him down and just.. waited some seconds?!.. and got taken down, and on some other occasions as well.
    i cant explain why, but it feels like silva is not able to show all his talent every time. got to be some mental problem or whatever..
    but lets not take anything away from chael, he really gave it his all, and i was very impressed with him.

  • FierceFlamingo says:

    What’s interesting is that Sonnen stayed in Silva’s Guard for almost the entirefight, never really attepting to pass into half guard or side control. Obviously it paid off for 4 and a half rounds but staying in someones guard is always dangerous. Allot of guys don’t do gnp from the guard that much anymore , like GSP and fitch, they are always trying to get better position and end up not getting many strikes in or forgetting about strikes altogether and trying to get submissions instead like in GSP vs Hardy. .

  • crane_style says:

    If Roy Nelson got in shape, he could fight at light heavyweight and be a beast. Although he’s always around 265, it’s all belly. He’s way to small to fight at Heavyweight. JDS was huge compared to him, and is only 240. Next to Brock, Roy would be ‘Little Country’ Nelson.

    Although Anderson Silva showed more heart and spirit than he has ever before, he also got hit more than he ever has before. Striking isn’t Sonnen’s forte, so it makes you wonder…

    Did Chael’s stand up improve dramatically, or are we seeing the beginning of the end for ‘the Spider’? He’s 35, and depends a lot on his speed. If starts to go, he could be out of the sport in a year.

    To be honest, it wouldn’t surprise me if he retired now.

  • Slightly yes, im being disagreeable. I do believe that Chael was doing nothing to warrant the fight being left on the floor. i’ve seen people doing more damage than that (Roy Nelson Vs. Arlovski for example) and still be made to stand up. Yes seeing the spider controlled for 4 + rounds was an outright shock, however seeing Chael do nothing but love taps in order to keep the fight on the ground(which isn’t damaging OR improving position) got very tedious and very predictable The end of course was another story. GSP is now finally getting a bit of criticism but most people still want to place him as the best or second best P4p fighter in the world which just irks me to no end.
    My point is that lay and pray (or in chael’s case lay in guard and tap your opponents face for two straight rounds with maybe one or two big shots in between) is becoming more acceptable and I for one disagree with that. If your shots aren’t damaging OR you’re not improving position the fight should be moved back to your feet due to your opponent neautralizing your preferred method of attack. Granted that’s at the ref’s call which i guess makes bad officiating is open to interpertation.

    @qat
    I also compare Fitch and sonnen effectively by this following statement. Fitch may have only threw 70 shots in 3 rounds but MORE of Fitch’s shots were actual shots not just 30% hits that the ref feels don’t warrant a standup. Fitch actually changed position and continuously tried to finish the fight whereas Chael stayed in guard and once the first two rounds were over threw maybe 5 shots intended to do damage plus dozens of others from a closed guard with Anderson controlling his posture, doing no damage but controlling(something everyone whines about Fitch doing fight in and out, and last night he simply didnt.) his opponent.

    on the plus side to all of our comments agreeing or disagreeing with each other its nice to see this board get lit up like this again. Last night’s card was just as good as 116 to me and I hope this trend continues.
    WAR UFC for being the BEST organization out there.

  • Rich S. says:

    Uh, superdavenorcal, Fitch did not “continuously try to finish the fight”. I’ll agree to him continuously moving and changing position, but never once did he stop to drop some shots on Thiago, or give his all to a submission. The most work Fitch did to finish that fight was on the feet and he certainly doesn’t have the power to drop Thiago, or any of the top contenders at Welterweight.

    There were multiple moments where I thought Chael was one shot away from putting Spider to sleep. Again, I’m not sure if I would credit that to Chael’s power, or Silva’s unwillingness to block.

  • MCM says:

    superdavenorcal, I think your misunderstanding what Chael was doing. It’s easy to say that they were just love taps and your correct in that they didn’t have much power behind them, but Sonnen is a wrestler not a BJJ black belt. He was being held in full guard without the skill set to get out, so he did what he knew how to do and that was continually hit Silva until he loosed his grip and Chael could posture up to deliver more powerful strikes. I think that for him that was no different than when a BJJ fighter tries to break guard without delivering any punches. It was the best way he knew how to improve his position and didn’t warrant a stand up.

    oh and the Nelson/Arlovski stand up was not an example but a tragedy.

  • Guthookd says:

    Junior dos Santos vs. Roy Nelson was a great fight to open it up with. Big Country is a tough dude and in shape he will improve further still.

    I looked like JDS had really trained for the overhand right, but every time BC threw the lead left hook it landed; the only damage on JDS was on the right cheek. I wish Roy’s corner would have pushed him to throw that punch more and forget about the overhand right.

    Matt Hughes vs. Ricardo Almeida was more exciting than I thought it would be too. Great to see Matt get a finish especially with that inverted arm triangle type dealio. Awesome.

    Clay Guida vs. Rafael dos Anjos was another high paced fight. Glay is starting to buck the reputation of not being a finisher, in my mind. Two in a row, and this was against a great grappler.

    Jon Fitch vs. Thiago Alves turned out about as I had expected. I was surprized to see Fitch get the better of the stand up though. Alves was focusing on the TD I guess.

    Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen…..more than I had expected and everything I’d hoped. Instant rematch.

  • Dufresne says:

    Finally got to watch the fights I recorded.

    Man, JDS has the most beautiful uppercuts in all of MMA today. Those things are fast, accurate, and devastating. Can’t believe Big Country ate that many of them and stayed awake, gotta give the Buddha Belly props for that.

    Hughes surprised and impressed the hell out of me with a pretty hook while cutting the angle and then with what appeared to be a headlock+squeeze-the-shit-out-of-you-with-my hay-hauling-muscles. To sub a 3rd degree black belt in BJJ is damn impressive, but to put him completely to sleep with an unorthodox choke is amazing.

    Struve needs to figure out how to use that ridiculously long frame of his for something other than absorbing punishment the 1st round and trying to get even the 2nd. His come back was impressive, but he got his ass handed to him 5 ways to Sunday in that 1st round. If he were in there with someone that threw a little heavier leather (Nelson, JDS, almost any of the top HWs) he would have been asleep early. How about that “if he’s got a good surgeon, it’ll be fine” line coming from the cutman? That’s pure gold there.

    Guida is starting to actually look like more than a gate-keeper at 155 these days. He wasn’t doing so well in that 1st round, but he was still avoiding most of the damage while evidently breaking his opponents jaw. But once his corner got in his ear on what he needed to do differently, bam, it was like a completely different fighter came out in the next round. Those were the most dramatic and effective adjustments I’ve ever seen a fighter make between rounds. The guy is incredibly coach-able, and with Greg Jackson in his corner that could be bad news for a lot of LWs in the world.

    Fitch/Alves… Alves throws some shots, some land, goes for a weak looking sub, doesn’t get it, Fitch owns his ass in the grappling department without doing damage… Didn’t we already see that movie? God that was predictable and awful. I’m as much a fan of grappling as the next guy, but come on. As easily as he was getting takedowns and passing guard, he could have at least thrown in some legit GnP or really tried for a sub instead of just pretending.

    Sonnen surprised the shit out of me. Going into the fight I really was really thinking/hoping he was gonna get his face rearranged early and violently, but Sonnen came out and backed up his trash-talk. He actually had me pulling for him by the end of the match simply because I almost never see someone come into the ring and actually do what they’ve been saying they were going to do for the past 3 months, but Sonnen did. He’s still a douche for some of the things he’s said, but at least he’s not a liar.
    I’ve never seen anyone hit Silva as often as Sonnen did in those first 2 rounds, and it seemed like Silva either didn’t care about getting taken down, or more likely, he didn’t have an answer to that level of wrestling. Sonnen was winning that fight 4-0 going into the 5th and up until 3:00 into the 5th he was winning that round as well. But then he finally slipped up and left that head up and Silva caught him. Unbelievable.

    I wouldn’t mind a rematch of that one to be honest.

  • mu_shin says:

    Always amazed at the variety and disparity of the perceptions of humans witnessing the identical event…

    One man’s humble opinion: Sonnen/Silva was one of the highest most complete expressions I’ve seen of modern MMA, and I’ve been with this sport since day 1. It’s about TECHNIQUE, and Sonnen had it, used it, and came within an inch of making good on his deathbed vow to his Dad.

    The ref played this fight absolutely perfectly: he was INVISIBLE. The fighters are supposed to determine the outcome of the contest, not some idiot standing over bleeding gladiators yelling at them to “Work or I’ll stand you up…”

    Sonnen maximized the wrestler’s paradigm as applied to modern MMA, as has GSP, and John Fitch. Fans can bemoan the fact, but these guys are fighting to win a championship, not a popularity contest with the fans. I know this is an entertainment medium, and the fans support the sport, but to criticize John Fitch or Clay Guida or GSP for having superior technique that their opponents could not surmount, but to have dominated their rivals in a manner deemed not exciting enough, sorry guys, I don’t think you know what you want from this sport…

    Incredible win for Anderson Silva, who took a beating for twenty two minutes from as determined a fighter as I’ve ever seen, maintaining his composure and falling back on the basics like Royce in the old days, waiting for your opponent to make a mistake, open the door, and then capitalizing on the error to sink in a great submission. I feel for Chael Sonnen, who did almost enough to win, but almost is just that, almost…

  • JBAR says:

    I for one do not think that Sonnen / Silva should have been stood back up. Silva was doing nothing on the bottom for the majority of the time except trying to tie up Sonnen and get the stand up. Sonnen did what he needed to do by staying active until he could work free and posture up. We are quick to bash a lot of the wrestling guys for “lay and pray” tactics but many times it is the guy on bottom who can do nothing more than hold on for dear life and pray for the stand up that is causing the lack of action. Plus if the guy on bottom has any submission ability at all you have to be a little cautious with your efforts to break their hold and strike.

  • manny says:

    Finally a good card that was hyped and was backed up by the performance.
    Props to Sonnen for taking it to Silva but in the end its who one the fight.
    Silva is still the #1 PFP Champion no matter the first 23 mins. Brock was beaten up in the 1st round & came back to win in the 2nd by sub, that’s what makes a Champ. I dont believe Sonnen deserves an imidiate rematch, its not like it was a controversial decision (Shogun vs Machida I) he was SUBMITTED so get back in line and work for another shot.
    Vitor should be next.

  • elsicilian says:

    @superdavenorcal

    In the final analysis, I don’t think you and I are disagreeing at all. In general, I too would like to see fights getting stood up more regularly (though I think you are underrating Chael’s GNP, which though not dominating, was certainly more than “love taps” for the most part).

    I’m just emphasizing that (even conceding your assertion that Anderson Silva got layed and prayed) it was a pretty novel experience, and vastly superior to watching him prance around doing nothing, a la the Maia/Leites fights. Furthermore, the fight’s conclusion was so thrilling and dramatic, that there was really no reason for anybody to boo either competitor. Fitch on the other hand probably deserves boos until he proves he can finish somebody, because outside of a few uber-hardcores and some wrestling fetishists, the vast majority of MMA fans find his approach unappealing from a spectator’s standpoint.

  • Rece Rock says:

    With all the crap sonnen spewed I would have thought he would have rather passed out than tap out… I give him props he did an amazing job and I would have appreciated his efforts more if he wasn’t such a douche. Respect the fighter, dislike the persona.

  • JBAR says:

    I am sorry but when the guy on bottom is doing nothing but locking on like a 2 year old kid on mama’s leg at the day care center in hopes that it will get stood back up where they are comfortable it would take a lack of effort by the guy on top for me to stand it back up. Sonnen went through his spurts where he was posting up and punching and when he would get locked back down he remained busy enough with the love taps to warrant not giving up his advantage. This is MMA after all and if you do not want to fight off your back learn to get up or go to kickboxing. If the wrestler ran around the ring and refused to engage with a striker would you stop the action and put them on the ground? The guy on bottom grabs on for one of two reasons. He is hoping to get stood back up or he is a good BJJ guy hoping to get his opponent to be over aggressive and catch him in a submission. The guy on bottom is just as responsible for the lay and pray as the guy on top, they don’t want to risk getting hit trying to stand up so they latch on and try to slow it down till the ref does it for them. To hell with that, I say if you don’t want to be on your back learn to get out of it and have the same guts to risk getting hit as the guy on top had when he shot in for the takedown. I think that if it took more inactivity to get stood up then the guys on bottom would work harder to get up on their own instead of waiting for the ref to do it. OK I will stop my rant now.

  • MCM says:

    spot on JBAR, spot on.

  • cocoonofhorror says:

    if Nelson got in shape, he would be a fucking WW.

  • Angry Mike says:

    Rece Rock

    I think Sonnen was out, or close to it. I’m no lip reader, but I thought he was asking the ref “What happened” after he pulled Silva loose. I think Sonnen was far enough gone that he was on autopilot when he tapped.

    Poor bastard. I thought Sonnen was pulling off the upset of the decade, and really wanted to see him do it. Re-match!

  • Rich S. says:

    Well said, JBAR.

    That, to me, is one of the most infuriating traits in a fighter.

    There simply isn’t enough time in a fight (even a title fight) to hold on to your opponent and wait for a stand up. Fighters who do that are COMMITTING SUICIDE in the ring. Stalling on bottom does two things: it wastes time, and it gives your opponent the round.

    If you truly want to win the fight, you better have the drive and the skill to stand up on your own.

  • JBAR says:

    Rich S.
    You are correct that there is not enough time unless you have a ref who is quick to stand the fighters back up. I enjoy a good stand up war as much as the next guy but I also appreciate a good technical ground fight when both fighters are working and scrambling.

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