Mike Trizano was arguably overlooked against Violent Bob Ross heading into UFC Denver, but he hung on in a tough fight to score a split decision win on Saturday.
UFC Denver was four months removed from The Ultimate Fighter 27’s finale. Yet the fight that opened the UFC’s 25th anniversary card in Colorado was the fight many saw as an unofficial finale for the show. Luis Pena, better known as Violent Bob Ross, was injured while the series was filming, and forced to drop out of the running. Mike Trizano would go on to win the show at lightweight, but it was Saturday in Denver that many saw as the real test.
In the cage Saturday, Pena ate a few leg kicks from Trizano early, and answered with push kicks of his own. Then a jumping knee that came up short. Trizano hit home with a counter right, and continued with the leg kick attacks as the round progressed. Pena flashed a head kick that just barely missed. Trizano later caught a kick, which Pena shook off; VBR then shot for a takedown, driving the TUF winner to the fence. He’d tie up Trizano, and later try another jump knee before going back to the takedown. Trizano then attempted to jump guard for a guillotine, but Pena broke free and wound up in guard. That gave Violent Bob Ross an opening, but Trizano quickly escaped and finished the round with a last-second takedown.
Round two saw more kicking attacks from Trizano, while Pena attacked his opponent’s body with kicks, and tried to employ his reach, leaning in for punches. The leg kicks were forcing some sloppy shots and level changes from Pena. Finally latching on for a single despite a good sprawl from Trizano, Pena drove him to the fence and looked for a trip. Yet Trizano defended with elbows. Pena then climbed his back, using his lanky limbs to secure a body lock. Looking for a rear-naked choke, Pena dragged Trizano to the ground, and continued hunting for the sub. He came close, didn’t have it, and Trizano was able to reverse, landing on top! With a minute to go in the round, he was in Pena’s guard. Trizano missed with a big punch as Pena threatened with triangle attempts; Trizano did, however, sneak in a few hammer fists before the end of the round.
The third round was bound to be big, especially with some questionable judging early at UFC Denver. Trizano hit home with a combination early in the third, and followed it up with a left. Pena shook those off, but ate another leg kick. Pena launched in on a sloppy takedown attempt; Trizano fired a head kick that was blocked. Pena then moved in for a clinch by the fence, stepping over Trizano’s leg to secure a takedown. However, he couldn’t keep Trizano down, and Trizano nearly secured top position before the pair got up. A knee by Pena was caught, and Trizano got Pena down again, only to lose the position. Pena then took his opponent’s legs out from under him, and worked to hold on to top position in the final minute.
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Trizano, however, escaped. Pena would take a big swing and a miss back on the feet. Trizano landed a punch, a kick. Both men were firing to the bell — but how would the judges score it? In the end, yet another split decision in Denver, this one going to TUF 27 winner Mike Trizano.
Mike Trizano def. Luis Pena by split decision (28-29, 29-28, 30-27)