FAIRFAX , Va. - In the fifth preliminary fight Minnesotan Nik "The Carnie" Lentz faced Brazilian contender Thiago Tavares in a lightweight bout. Lentz was looking to build on his UFC debut victory, while the veteran Tavares sought to re-establish himself as a top contender after a 2009 campaign marred by injury.

The Carnie came out firing kicks early in the first round and then scored the fight's first, albeit brief, takedown as well as the second shortly thereafter. Tavares was seemingly unfazed by The Carnie's assault but I was impressed with the early confidence and aggression shown by the underdog fighter. Lentz really caught the attention of the crowd when he persevered through a tight standing guillotine choke attempt which was Tavares' best offensive action of the round. Even with the near submission by Tavares, I still gave the first round to Lentz.

Tavares continued to stand in front of Lentz and try to walk him down in the early going of the second round, but Lentz continued to give a nice accounting of himself on the feet, including kicking with bad intentions and even mixing in some dirty boxing against the cage. The fight was stopped briefly after a low blow by Tavares, and although no man wishes for such a fate, the timing for a visibly tiring Lentz probably wasn't all that bad.

By the end of the second round Tavares was bleeding from a couple of spots on his face. Even though Tavares ended the round on top, I felt that Lentz won that round as well. Nonetheless, Tavares was continuing to come forward and throw hard punches and look for submissions so there was no way Lentz was going to be able to coast to a decision, especially as his conditioning really seemed to be failing him.

Early In the third round, Tavares landed another flush kick South of the border just after Lentz notched his best body kick of the fight. Referee Mario Yamasaki took a point away from Tavares as writhed in agony on the mat in the background. It would prove costly for Tavares.

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Replays on the in-arena screens elicited a collective groan from the crowd reminiscent of the reaction to the Joe Theisman/Lawrence Taylor (we are in Redskins country after all) broken leg play. When the fight resumed, back and forth striking continued until the horn, with a very bloody and tired Lentz landing a very effective punch just before the fight ended.

I had the fight 29-27 (depending on the third round) for a major upset in favor of Lentz, but perhaps I was a little to "in the moment."

After a long pause to tabulate the scorecards, the judges rendered a majority draw decision. Two judges scored it 28-28, and the third judge Cardo Urso scored it 29-27 in favor of Lentz. Assuming Tavares did not deliver that second shot to the nether regions, he would have won by decision.