What happens when a New Yorker enters Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center?
Usually, there’s a fight.
That is exactly what happened at UFC 133 Saturday night as city-based fighters Rafael Natal and Nick Pace, and Long Islander Constantinos Philippou fought with varying degrees of success.
Natal (13-3-1) defeated Paul Bradley (18-3-0, one no contest) via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28 and 29-28) in the first preliminary fight. Pace (6-2-0) lost a 29-28 unanimous decision to Ivan Menjivar (23-8-0). Philippou (8-2-0, one no contest) won a mostly soporific 29-28 across-the-board split decision over Jorge Rivera (18-9-0).
“I am really, really happy about this fight,” Natal said. “I felt like I needed it. I worked very hard for it. It was a tough fight and I’m glad I came through winning. Thank you God and thank you UFC.”
The ruling was questionable on two fronts.
One judge determined that Natal won all three rounds by 10-9 margins. However, Natal’s first round attack had overwhelmed Bradley, who was bloodied, and could have easily been ruled 10-8.
Bradley took control in the second by pinning Natal against the cage and probably should have been awarded the round. The final round was even.
“I feel like it was my fault. I could have taken him down in the second round. I didn’t, so that’s my fault,” Bradley said. “It was a close fight and I am disappointed by the result. Like Dana [White, UFC President] always says, never leave it to the judges.”
Similar to the Natal-Bradley fight, it could be argued that Pace won a round. The Staten Island-based mixed martial artist opened the fight with strikes and had Menjivar in a rear naked choke for nearly a minute. He connected with a flying knee and punches late in the third round when it appeared Menjivar was attempting to run out the close. Plus, Menjivar was twice warned for illegal strikes after inadvertently kicking Pace below the waist in the first and third rounds but points were not deducted.
“I hate losing more than I like winning,” said Pace, who earned cheers from the notoriously fickle Philadelphia crowd. “I want to be the champion. It was very unlucky, but that’s MMA and that’s life. It’s not always fair.”
Philippou, a middleweight who trains with former UFC welterweight Matt Serra champion, spent much of the fight engaged in a wrestling match with Rivera. Neither those in attendance or Philippou were pleased with the bout.
“I am very happy with winning my first UFC fight, but it wasn’t they way I wanted to win it,” Philippou acknowledged. “I wanted to show off my boxing skills and instead I was using my jiu-jitsu skills. But I will learn from my mistakes and come back stronger and fitter.”
Follow Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.