Chris Leben has fought a career's worth of wars. Slugfests were his stock and trade, and the question has always been raised about when effects of those fights would show up. Slowly but surely, they appear to be creeping up on him.
Facing Andrew Craig at Saturday's UFC 162, Leben was unable to do little with any effectiveness except for moving forward.
Apparently, that was enough to sway one judge in his direction, but two others -- the ones who saw clearly -- scored it for Craig.
The split-decision win was scored 30-27, 29-28, 28-29.
Craig nearly finished Leben in the third, stunning him first with a left hook and moments later, with a straight right. Leben went down and Craig swarmed him with a barrage of power strikes. Ref Yves Lavigne watched intently but gave Leben every last chance to survive, and the vet did.
"My hands hurt like crazy," Craig said afterward. "I couldn't believe I didn't finish him."
Craig said he flashed back to watching Leben fight Yoshihiro Akiyama, when Leben was in similar trouble but trapped Akiyama in a triangle choke to win from behind.
Craig landed most of the fight's significant shots, and had Leben visibly hurt on at least one other occasion. Leben was continually the aggressor, moving forward, but landing little of substance as Craig circled away from his power.
Leben's loss was his third straight, and he fell to 22-10.
Craig is now 9-1.