UFC 144 is underway, with no shortage of action on the undercard as the promotion makes its triumphant return to Japan. A couple of fighters with strong Bay Area fights emerged victorious on the undercard on Saturday night.
Chris Cariaso, who fights out of San Francisco, took on Muay Thai specialist Takeya Mizugaki in the prelims. The bantamweights took it right to each other in the early going, with Cariaso landing some nice combinations. Mizugaki got a takedown midway through the first round. Cariaso managed an armbar attempt from the bottom, but Mizugaki was able to evade it. They closed out the round grappling, with Mizugaki staying on top. Round 2 involved a lot of clinching against the cage before Mizugaki managed another takedown. Cariaso locked on a "100 percent" shoulder bar and neck crank in the final minute and rolled his opponent over, but Mizugaki was quickly out of it and back to his feet. The third round began with more clinching against the cage, with Cariaso looking for a sweep and a single-leg but Mizugaki showing excellent evasion. They went back to the stand-up before ending up on the ground once again, with Cariaso on his back. They stood up once again and Cariaso nailed a solid right hand just before time expired, to no avail. In the end, neither man seemed definitively dominant in the fight. Mizugaki showed excellent defense throughout and was on top for the majority, while Cariaso was continually working for submissions and takedowns, but was usually working from the bottom. In somewhat of a surprise -- and certainly a disappointment for the home crowd --Cariaso picked up the win via unanimous decision, on scores of 29-28, 29-28, 29-28.
As soon as that fight wraped up, Steve Cantwell was taking on Riki Fukuda in a middleweight fight. Both fighters have strong local ties, as Cantwell is a California native fighting out of Las Vegas and Fukuda spends a lot of time training at AKA in San Jose. Cantwell entered the night having lost four straight UFC fights dating back to 2009. The first round was mostly stand-up as Cantwell landed a score of great combinations toward the end. In the second round, Cantwell, grabbed a deep guillotine choke right away, but Fukuda struggled hard until he was able to break free. After standing up again, Fukuda unloaded on Cantwell with a multitude of shots. Cantwell weathered the storm and answered back with some big shots of his own before responding in kind. The two men went toe-to-toe, swinging for the fences and tiring. Fukuda made a halfhearted kick that caught Cantwell low and they took a short injury break. When the fight resumed, Cantwell got a quick double-leg takedown and took Fukuda's back, but Fukuda was out of it as the round ended. Round 3 opened with more stand-up. Fukuda briefly took Cantwell down and established side control, but Cantwell made it to his feet again. Fukuda nailed some big body kicks as the final round wound down, with Cantwell looking noticably spent and battered. Fukuda won the easy unanimous decision, 29-28, 30-27, 30-27.
Here are the complete results from the preliminary card:
Bantamweight bout: Norifumi Yamamoto vs. Vaughan Lee
Lee defeated Yamamoto via submission (armbar) at 4:29 of round 1.