Cruz, Faber deliver in rematch bout

In a classic five-round war for the UFC bantamweight championship, Dominick Cruz avenged his only career loss in front of 12,947 fans on Saturday at UFC 132 in the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

The champion Cruz finally got his redemption for a June 2007 submission loss to Urijah Faber, winning a unanimous decision on scores of 50-45, 49-46 and 48-47, though the fight was much closer than the scores indicate.

Cruz utilized effective footwork and secured numerous takedowns, though it was Faber who did the most damage by landing more powerful strikes. Faber was also able to get back to his feet every time he was taken down while rocking Cruz with several looping punches throughout the fight.

After such a back-and-forth fray, which earned both men a $75,000 “Fight of the Night” bonus, an immediate rematch would certainly make sense. If the UFC decides against giving Faber the automatic shot, the next title challenger would have to be either Brian Bowles, who defeated Takeya Mizugaki on the preliminary card, or Demetrious Johnson, who is coming off a win over Miguel Torres.

Win or lose, both Cruz and Faber proved they’re the elite of the bantamweight division as they put it all on the line in a headliner that lived up to the hype.

“Me and Urijah set the bar,” Cruz said. “We had something to show the world.”

Leben stuns Silva

In a battle of middleweight brawlers, Chris “The Crippler” Leben needed just 27 seconds to knock out Pride legend Wanderlei Silva with a series of uppercuts in the clinch.

Following over a full year of inactivity, ring rust may have been a factor for “The Axe Murderer,” though it is clear Silva’s chin isn’t quite what it was during his glory days in Japan.

Coming off an upset loss of his own against Brian Stann this past January, Leben notched the biggest win of his career over a celebrated legend. It was an emotional fight for Leben, who becomes one of the middleweight division’s top contenders. A bout between “The Crippler” and Brazilian phenom Vitor Belfort would undoubtedly produce fireworks.

Meanwhile, Silva is clearly in the latter stages of an incomparable career.

“It’s probably the end of the road for Wanderlei,” said UFC president Dana White.

However, Silva could still have some gas left in his tank. A fight between Silva and Yoshihiro Akiyama would show us where the Brazilian icon still stands in the sport he helped catapult into the mainstream during his reign of invincibility.

Before either of these fights can become a reality, however, we’ll have to wait for the outcome of Belfort’s showdown with Akiyama at UFC 133 next month.

Siver edges Wiman

In 155-pound action, Russian-born German striker Dennis Siver utilized slick kickboxing and excellent takedown defense to earn a razor-thin unanimous decision over pressure fighter Matt Wiman.

Siver was taken down and bloodied with elbows in the second round, but Wiman couldn’t regain the dominant position in the final period.

The Kiboju product Siver is now on a four-fight winning streak in a lightweight division packed with quality talent. He continues to evolve since being submitted by Jess Liaudin in his April 2007 UFC debut.

Despite losing a decision, the aggressive wrestler Wiman fought well and is emerging as a force to be reckoned with at 155 pounds.

Possible opponents for either fighter include Rafael dos Anjos, Jeremy Stephens, Joe Lauzon, Mark Bocek, Mac Danzig and Evan Dunham.

However, Siver’s expressed interest in avenging an earlier career loss to Melvin Guillard. With both fighters emerging triumphant Saturday night, that fight could now materialize.

Ortiz shocks oddsmakers, submits Bader

Former UFC light heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz proved all doubters wrong with a sensational performance against “The Ultimate Fighter” winner Ryan Bader.

Ortiz dropped Bader with a right uppercut and immediately pounced on him, securing a tight arm-in guillotine choke to force him to tap out in the first round.

“I’m healthy now,” Ortiz said. “There’s no more excuses. My mind is in a good place right now.”

A heavy underdog leading into this do-or-die fight, Ortiz notched his first victory since he defeated Ken Shamrock in 2006. With his back against the ropes, Ortiz’s performance has to be considered a career highlight. As an added bonus, Ortiz took home $75,000 for “Submission of the Night.” Initially expected to face Antonio Rogerio Noguiera earlier this year, the fight could now come to fruition.

Conversely, Bader’s dropped back-to-back contests, though he remains one of the most effective wrestlers in the 205-pound class. A fight between Bader and Matt Hamill, who are both coming off losses, is a logical choice.

Condit makes case for title shot

In arguably the most emphatic win of his career, welterweight sensation Carlos Condit reversed an early takedown from South Korean judoka Dong Hyun Kim before returning to his feet and landing a flying knee followed by a barrage of strikes to finish him in the opening stanza, taking home the $75,000 “Knockout of the Night” bonus.

Condit’s now won 12 of his last 13 fights, while Kim suffered his first professional setback. Condit made no secret about his interest in challenging the winner of Georges St. Pierre-Nick Diaz for the UFC welterweight title. After a recent string of stoppages, he does indeed stand out as one of the division’s premier title contenders.

“He’s proved himself to be one of the best 170 pounders in the world,” White said.

Condit wants to fight again in 2011, so he may need one more victory over a fighter the caliber of Martin Kampmann or Thiago Alves to cement his title shot.

Kim, who was simply caught by the flashy knee, will rebound from the loss and his UFC career is far from over. A matchup pairing him with Canadian contender Rory MacDonald is a solid option as they both saw their unbeaten streaks snapped by “The Natural Born Killer.”

Guillard continues career resurgence

Emerging lightweight contender Melvin Guillard recorded his second explosive knockout in a row, stopping Team Takedown wrestling standout Shane Roller with an onslaught of punches at 2:12 of the first round.

The New Orleans native Guillard continues to evolve under the tutelage of Greg Jackson and could very well be the No. 1 contender for the 155-pound strap, which will be decided when Frankie Edgar rematches Gray Maynard later this year. Another possible opponent for Guillard is the winner of Ben Henderson-Jim Miller. Clay Guida would also make sense, but Guillard’s openly said the only way he’ll fight a teammate is if it’s for the championship.

The WEC veteran Roller is now 1-1 in the UFC. His striking may have been no match for Guillard, but he still has what it takes to be competitive on the UFC roster.

Dos Anjos upsets Sotiropoulos

In a battle of BJJ specialists, Brazilian Rafael dos Anjos connected on a vicious looping right hook to knock out Australian George Sotiropoulos just 59 seconds into the first round.

Dos Anjos earned the biggest victory of his career as he makes a case for himself as a viable contender in the UFC’s deep lightweight mix.

Sotiropoulos, who was recently a frontrunner to challenge for the UFC lightweight title before dropping a decision to Dennis Siver, is now on a two-fight losing streak. Sotiropoulos’ grappling prowess is undeniable, but he will need to refine his striking and improve his takedowns in order to implement his game against more well-rounded opponents.