Curtis Millender utilized a knee-heavy counter-striking approach, and overcame an early “brain fart” to battle his way to a unanimous decision win over Max Griffin at UFC 226.
Any number of fans and pundits overlooked Max ‘Pain’ Griffin when he took on Mike Perry earlier this year. After an upset win saw him earn victory over ‘Platinum,’ however, it seemed as if the sky was the limited for Griffin, who took on fellow rising star Curtis Millender at UFC 226 on Saturday at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV.
Millender, for his part, was coming in off a big win in his UFC debut against Thiago Alves. In the end, his size, length, and vicious knees made the difference.
Griffin was the much more active, mobile fighter early, taking the fight to Millender, who had settled back looking to counter. Millender tooked for a knee that seemed to graze Max Griffin, but they battled on. Griffin mixed in leg kicks and threw combos, landing on Curtis Millender as he launched yet another knee. Yet it was Griffin setting up and completing a takedown, moving straight to half guard. From there, he remained on top the remainder of the ground, dropping a number of elbows, ground strikes, and generally using ground n’ pound and a strong top game to prevent Millender from escaping.
Despite a noticeable size advantage, ‘Courteous’ Curtis Millender had been controlled for most of round one. In the second, he looked to avoid the ground, working kicks and another flying knee, that missed. Griffin would connect with a right, but take a knee to the body while moving in. Another knee to the body at the end of the round, followed up by a punch connecting for Millender, led to him scoring a takedown, and heading into the third, it was likely one round a piece for the welterweights.
Millender continued to go back to the well, launching those big knees to keep Max Griffin at bay in round three. Griffin was looking for a way in on the bigger, longer man. Finally he’d drive forward, pressing Millender into the cage looking for a double leg. Millender was able to fend it off, while Griffin added foot stomps and battled to maintain the attempt. With a minute to go it was still anyone’s round, and possibly fight. Millender moved forward with a knee, went high with kicks, and began connecting on Griffin along the cage. Another big knee opened things up for a moment, but they’d go the distance. By turning things up in the third round, it was Millender taking the unanimous decision.
“I just had a brain fart in the first round,” Millender said of the frame that saw him badly outclassed on the ground. “I felt like I couldn’t get up from the bottom.” However, as he pointed out, he battled back, and made it work, doing enough to earn two rounds from every judge.
Curtis Millender def. Max Griffin by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)