LAS VEGAS – On a night where odd things happened, the "do or die" affair between 21-fight UFC veteran Chris Leben and the underachieving Uriah Hall at UFC 168 ended abruptly when Leben refused to answer the second round bell.
"I’m done, man," Leben told his corner as he staggered back to his stool after the first round. His corner tried to talk him out of throwing in the towel, but Leben -- who’s chin has been celebrated for much of his nine years in the UFC -- had enough after Hall nearly finished him late in the first with a volley of strikes.
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Officially it went down as a TKO for Hall, who scored his first victory in the UFC since his memorable run on The Ultimate Fighting 17. It also restored some faith that Hall might have the "killer instinct" he seemed to lack in bouts against Kelvin Gastelum and John Howard before.
If it ends up being the end of the line for Leben in the UFC, the "Crippler" will walk away with a record of 12-10 on the Octagon, which included a five-fight win streak coming off the original Ultimate Fighter. When he fought Anderson Silva in 2006, he was 5-0. Though he had a brief resurgence in 2010-11 winning four out of five fights, he has lost his last four in the UFC.
"Chris is a tough guy, and I know how bad he wanted to come back and how bad he wanted to fight," Dana White said in the post-fight press conference on Saturday night. "It was a perfect fight for him against Uriah. You know how tough Chris is, and for Chris to quit on the stool, he was hurt."
As one of the key members of the original TUF show, alongside Stephan Bonnar and Forrest Griffin who had the seminal fight at season’s end and now belong to the UFC Hall of Fame, Leben has had an unlikely sustained run in the UFC.
When asked if the UFC had given consideration to commemorate Leben’s career in the event of a loss, White said you can't premeditate on such cases.
"Well, the guy’s not making a decision right there on the spot, and I don’t think that there’s ever a situation where…you look at it before the fight happens, and you say, ‘yeah, these guys both need to win this fight,’ but you never know what’s going to happen in a fight. The fight could be a knock down, drag them out war, that at the end of the day you have so much respect for the guys you wouldn’t want to cut either guy.
"So I don’t really look at it that way. I wait and see what happens. It’s like Bobby Voelker, who fought earlier tonight. You know, he’s 0-3 and not going anywhere. He took the Robbie Lawler fight on short notice, and tonight [against William Macario] he was busted up but he keeps moving forward and trying to win. We don’t cut guys like that."