FAIRFAX, Va. - In the final preliminary fight of the evening, middleweights Chris "The Crippler" Leben and Jay Silva squared off. While Leben enjoyed the favor of the crowd, Silva enjoyed a significant height and reach advantage in this matchup of 185 pounders.
A veteran of the first season of "The Ultimate Fighter," Leben made his way into the octagon sporting a blotchy red-and-black dyed hairdo that reminded me of one of those fuzzy caterpillars that can kill you just by looking at you or something. Leben mounted one minute into the first round and the crowd erupted, but Silva stayed calm - weathering strikes and choke attempts for the next couple of minutes as Leben continued to attack from his back while employing a BJ Penn style body triangle lock with his legs.
The first round clearly went to Leben, but one had to wonder how much energy he used trying for almost four minutes to choke out Silva and burning his own legs with a body triangle the whole time. The crowd chanted "Leben, Leben" between rounds, but it was Silva who seemed more energized to open the second round as he backed Leben off and took the center of the Octagon for 90 seconds or so until Leben scored a trip takedown. As the pace of the fight slowed and I watched Leben's red-and-black head jockey with Silva's corn-rowed head for position I couldn't help but imagine that I was watching a ladybug battle a beetle for some choice flowering plant real estate. Leben eventually mounted with a minute left to pull me out of my daydream but again Silva did enough to survive and live to fight another round.
No doubt the scorecards were favoring Leben after two rounds but a restless crowd was starting to wonder why Leben couldn't finish and whether or not he had gassed himself trying. Silva looked surprisingly fresh and unscathed after being ridden for two rounds and he opened the third round with a flurry while Leben appeared to slow and was stuffed on his first takedown attempt. While the crowd loved the ensuing Leben foot stomps against the cage I noted mounting frustration on Leben's part about not being able to notch the takedown or score the finish. The middle of the third round was spent slow dancing against the cage (without room for the Holy Ghost I might add) until Silva really started to throw with some desperation. Leben ended up on top after a scramble and finished the fight in the top position to secure a one-sided, yet somehow not particularly impressive unanimous decision.