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LFC 22: Buentello vs. McSweeney Recap

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This past Friday we saw Legacy 22 go down in Lubbock, Texas on a night that would feature six of the fights on AXS TV. As always, Legacy delivered some competitive tough fights filled with action. Some highlights of the card included two brothers, Gino and Eric Davila, who both earned hard fought decision wins. Gino controlled the action and in all three rounds to take the 30-27 UD on all three scorecards over Jon Voth. In the co-main event his brother Eric had a much tougher time with Artenas Young. Young dropped Eric in the first round with combination that culminated with a nasty left hook. He recovered, and battled the rest of the fight, even after a few more lefts almost closed his right eye in the second round, to take the SD victory. These fights were exciting but the main event was truley something special. It was not just a fight but the transformation of a fighter during the later stages of his career. Like an aging actress in Hollywood without plastic surgery that is something you almost never see.

The main event featured two combat sports veterans in James McSweeney (11-10) and Paul Buentello (30-15) faced off in light heavyweight clash. Both fighters have fought for the UFC in the past, and McSweeney has over one hundred and thirty Muay Thai fights on his resume. While his opponent, Buentello has fought for just about every major MMA promotion. At the age of thirty-nine he is not like Randy Couture who did not start in MMA until he was thirty-four. No, Buentello has been fighting since 1997 for over sixteen years. Usually at this stage in a fighter’s career they are usually moving up in weight essentially fighting fights in their style.

When you see a fighter who’s decided that after forty-five professional fights at heavyweight they’ll go ahead and make their debut at light heavyweight it is impressive. Mix in some new techniques and footwork and you have complete transformation. The next thing you know some guy called “The Headhunter” will knock someone out with body shots. This is exactly what Buentello accomplished on Friday night. If he gets a few more wins like this he could find himself back in the UFC.

This was a strange fight right from the opening moments. First, McSweeney with his numerous Muay Thai fights shot in for the takedown in the first twenty seconds of the fight. It is understandable to take Buentello to the ground as he is much more dangerous on his feet, but McSweeney is a great striker. Even though he does also have four submission wins he is a much better standup fighter. The problem is he thought he was fighting the old Paul Buentello not the new, streamlined, lighter 2.0 version with all of the latest upgrades. When they went to the ground McSweeney spent over two and half minutes trying to sink in a choke. Buentello calmly fought them off and was never in real danger. With just under two minutes left McSweeney went for an armbar. Pat Miletich instantly speculated that it might not be a good idea to go for the armbar because it would leave him in a bad position. Moments later Buentello calmly stacked McSweeney, defended the armbar and found himself on top. He dropped a couple of hammer fists to the face and some crunching body shots. They grappled and Buentello stopped him from getting to his feet by keeping him pinned against the cage. McSweeney was in an almost sitting position trying to work his way back up when Buentello dropped a nasty knee to the body. They spent another thirty seconds on the ground with Buentello doing damage with the ground and pound. He consistently worked the body while landing another knee as they got back to their feet for good measure. They both got their shots in on their feet to end an entertaining and close round.

The second round was the striking battle that people were expecting from these two fighters. Immediately McSweeney started working the lead leg of Buentello landing repeatedly to the inside and out. He used nice feints, was switching stances and had good movement as well. You would not say he was dominating in the standup but he was winning by landing the better cleaner shots. This was the McSweeney that people expected to see in this fight. Still though, Buentello continued to surprised with how light he looked on his feet, having some of the best movement of his career. The drop down to light heavyweight suited him well for this fight.

With McSweeney winning the round in the standup it was puzzling when he went for the sloppy takedown almost half way into the third round. Buentello tossed him to the ground easily and instead of trying to standup McSweeney waited on the ground. At first, Buentello looked like he might back off, but instead he grabbed McSweeney’s right ankle, moved inside his left leg, and dropped a nasty right hand to the body that slightly crumbled McSweeney. Buentello moved in and threw several shots at the body and head with nothing landing cleanly. He steps back and McSweeney might have been able to get up but he did not try, instead he stayed down with his hands behind his head. This led to Buentello essentially duplicating the previous devastating blow and from the camera angle you can see it was a liver shot. All McSweeney could do was curl up into a ball as the fight was over in quick and devastating fashion.

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It is rare to see a thirty-nine year old fighter, sixteen years and forty-five fights into their career transform themselves physically and stylistically especially with such success. Buentello still has power but he is developing a much stronger all around game. The weight cut really was a success as Buentello had maybe the best footwork and movement of his career. He showed that he still has devastating knockout power. Do not be surprised to see him make another return to the octagon if he can continue to transform himself and keeping winning like this. It was the perfect way to cap off another exciting night of action from Legacy 22 on AXS TV. When we tune into Inside MMA next week you know Bas Rutten will be talking about those picture perfect liver shots.

via Dwayne Wolff

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