NEWARK -- The final round ended with Freeport's Eddie Gordon on his back catching a few elbows from Chris Dempsey. Not the preferred imagery for a fighter, even if those strikes didn't cause significant damage.
But as Gordon and Dempsey returned to their corners after 15 minutes of fighting, each had their hands raised in the air. But whose hand the referee would raise in victory at Prudential Center in their middleweight bout at UFC on Fox 15 was very much in question until announcer Bruce Buffer read off the scores.
"29-28, Dempsey," he said first, the use of a fighter's last name on the first score a clear indication that a split decision was coming.
"I'm thinking 'What in the world is going on?' " Gordon said about that moment. "I'm expecting the first round, easy clear decision for me. I rocked him, stunned him. Second round, out-struck him the entire round."
"29-28, and your winner by split decision, Chris Dempsey."
Gordon looked dejected. He felt he did enough to win the fight.
"He got a takedown with 10 seconds, 20 seconds left," said Gordon (8-3, 1-2 UFC). "The round is five minutes long, you can't forget about 4 minutes and 40 seconds of a fight. There's no doubt in my mind I won the fight, unanimous decision."
Gordon, a former football player at Fordham who trains with Ray Longo and Matt Serra, found success in the first round with his straight right hand and takedown defense against Dempsey, a two-time Division II All-American wrestler. All three judges scored the first round for Gordon.
But only judge Mike DePasquale scored another round for Gordon -- the third.
Gordon still was upset about the decision nearly an hour after the fight. He said those trying to console him, though he appreciated it, didn't make much of a difference in those moments.
"It doesn't really matter what everyone says," Gordon said. "Because now it's in the record books and it's frustrating.
"That's how we get paid, that's how our families eat."
Gordon appeared to be more energetic in the third round than the second, and both fighters exchanged punches on several occasions. Dempsey (11-2, 1-1) got Gordon to the ground a couple of times in the final round, but Gordon was able to slip out of any precarious situations and get back to his feet.
"I felt like it was really even," Dempsey said. "How the judges scored it, I think they scored it exactly how the fight was. I'm glad that I was the one that came out on top with the split decision."
It wasn't until late in the second round that Dempsey completed his first successful takedown attempt. He landed a few shots in those final seconds, as well.
"I just got to make it drive me and get me that much hungrier and better," Gordon said. "Nothing's gonna change. I have ups and downs in my life, I'm gonna keep working hard. I've got the best fight team there is."