UFC 71 middleweight: Kalib Starnes vs. Chris Leben
This bout features a couple of TUF alums who are both coming off losses. This should be a good one -- it's definitely a fight I've been looking forward to.
The Garden Arena crowd appears to have finally arrived. It looks like we have close to a sellout in the arena. Starnes comes in with Rage against the Machine. Leben comes in with Tupac and an interesting dye job -– he has what looks like an “X” painted on the back of his head.
In the first round, the two measure each other before Leben begins to push the issue, moving in and striking with punches and knees. Leben attempts a kick but loses his footing and falls but the fight remains standing. Leben continues to push the issue though Starnes does land a nice right kick to the body. Starnes attempts a number of takedowns before finally converting with a minute left in the first round. From full guard, Starnes ground and pounds. As they get to their feet, Starnes lands some shots but the round ends. This is a close round, but I give it to Starnes for his takedown and work in the last minute or so of the first round.
In the second round, Starnes scores another takedown and pounds on Leben. The fight returns to standing and Starnes lands a nice kick to Leben’s leg. Leben returns the favor a minute or so later. Leben appears to have a burst of energy and attacks Starnes but Starnes puts an end to that with a knee to Leben’s abdomen. The two fighter continue to exchange punches as the round ends. I give this round to Starnes as well.
In the third round, the two exchange a number of punches and kicks to start the round. Starnes gets Leben with a kick that stops him in his tracks. Leben takes Starnes down and works on top from the full guard. Leben is able to get to half-guard but Starnes reverses and he now works from the full guard on top of Leben. Starnes lands a nice elbow to Leben’s head. The two punch with little effect on the ground. Starnes moves to half-guard and begins to ground and pound. I give this round to Starnes as well, though barely.
It was a great fight. Both fighters showed a lot of heart in this fight and receive a standing ovation from the appreciative crowd as they hug in the Octagon.
I score the fight 30-27 for Starnes.
Interestingly, Starnes says he thinks Leben won the fight in his post-fight interview with Joe Rogan.
Winner: Kalib Starnes wins by unanimous judges’ decision (29-28, 30-27, 29-28)
Referee: Mario Yamasaki