Just three fights into his UFC career, West Islip resident Dennis Bermudez slowed down his training camp for his fourth fight. One less training session here, a day off there.
“I feel more powerful, more ready to go,” Bermudez said earlier this week.
Saturday night at UFC 157 in Anaheim, Calif., Bermudez needed every bit of that strength and energy. He and featherweight Matt Grice put on an exciting fight, mixed with flurries of punches, knockdowns, uppercuts and enough screaming from fans inside the Honda Center that neither fighter should need to worry about being on the next list of cuts by the UFC.
Bermudez won a split decision, with two judges scoring it 29-28 in his favor. One judge scored the bout for Grice, 29-28.
Bermudez solidified the win with a dominant third round. He landed a significant number of uppercuts. Grice (15-5, 2-5 UFC) was dropped once, but got back up. He spent the better part of the that third round being staggered by Bermudez's punching and was aided by the being up against the cage.
"I was getting hit anyway, so I might as well throw back," Bermudez said after the fight.
Grice, a four-time Oklahoma state high school wrestling champion, had continued success with his striking. Coming out of breaks, he tagged Bermudez a number of times. He landed one clean left hook that knocked Bermudez off his feet and sent him to the ground in the first round. Referee Herb Dean rushed in, but Bermudez recovered quickly enough to prevent the stoppage.
"That was insane," Bermudez said. "Somewhere around the second round I woke up and thought 'Oh, I’m in a fight, I think I am in California somewhere.'"
Grice won the first round on all three judges' cards. Bermudez won the third round on all three judges and took the second round on two cards.
"I thank God he blessed me with a hard head, but looks like he blessed Dennis with a hard head, too," Grice siad. "I felt I won the first round and he took the last and it was up to the judges who took the second round. I don’t feel too bad."
Bermudez (11-3, 3-1), winner of three straight fights after losing to Diego Brandao in the final of "The Ultimate Fighter" Season 14, won the first round on the strength of his early ground and pound. Grice had shot in for a takedown but missed and wound up on his back with Bermudez mounting him. The fighter Long Island MMA and Bellmore Kickboxing Academy landed close to 40 significant strikes to Grice's head before he eventually made it back to his feet.
"I was getting beat in the first round and in the last round I hit him with everything," Bermudez said. "I had him badly hurt but he just kept throwing big hooks as if I hadn’t spent the last 30 seconds beating on him. He’s crazy. He’s a great fighter, so tough. The crowd was going nuts but all I could think was 'Please, please go down and stay down!' That was an honor to fight that guy.”