Manny “The Anvil” Gamburyan had his moments Saturday night.
But they were outdone by Nik “The Carny” Lentz’ relentless game over three rounds of their featherweight bout at UFC Fight Night from Cincinnati’s U.S. Bank Arena, as Gamburyan dropped a unanimous decision by 30-27 scores on all three cards.
“He caught me in the eye when we were in a clinch and that made it hard for me to see. But he fought well.”
Lentz (24-6-2, one no-contest), ranked ninth in the UFC featherweight rankings, rarely waned in his tenacity, implementing the grinding style that he’s known for with takedowns, clinches, improved boxing and a steady stream of knees.
“The key to my victory was being well-rounded and being able to take him out of his game,” Lentz, 29, told the UFC.
“He didn't think I had the power and the speed and the striking ability and I surprised him. He wasn't able to adjust.”
The 33-year-old Gamburyan (13-8, one no-contest) showed his toughness in spades and also had his highlights, landing a pair of counter right hooks in the second round that looked to have stunned Lentz, securing a few takedowns and flirting with a good kimura attempt in the third round.
But it wasn’t enough to offset Lentz’ sustained work and output.
“He hits hard, but he never landed any good shots on me,” Lentz said in the octagon after the bout. “He’s a super tough veteran, one of the toughest guys in here, so it’s a good test for me.”
Gamburyan, cornered by a pair of Glendale High products in Karen Darabedyan and Glendale Fighting Club’s Edmond Tarverdyan, along with George Bastrmajyan, is now winless in his last two bouts after putting together a two-fight winning streak.
Gamburyan’s last fight ended in a unanimous decision loss to Denis Siver in December that was overturned into a no-contest when Siver tested positive for a banned substance.
In the opening round, Lentz, who has won four of his last five, was quick to throw, landing well early with a right and finding his range.
The two came together after both missed with wild rights and Lentz got a clinch against the cage in a sign of things to come.
Lentz wrestled Gamburyan down to a knee and began landing left hands while riding.
Lentz began using knees to the body before briefly transitioning to a front headlock.
Gamburyan worked back up against the cage, but took some good knees to the body before Lentz landed a right hand to the cup and was able to get in two knees to the stomach before the referee stopped the bout.
Though looking to be in serious discomfort, Gamburyan didn’t take all that long to recover from the low blow.
After the restart, Lentz and Gamburyan traded some hooks, with Gamburyan landing his best punches of the round, before Lentz shot in again and clinched against the cage and eventually used a trip for a takedown.
Gamburyan worked back up, landing a knee and some punches before attempting a kimura that Lentz worked free of. Lentz continued to stick to Gamburyan to ride out the round.
Lentz got off early in the second round, but Gamburyan stunned him coming in with a counter right hand. The same punch staggered Lentz moments later as the two exchanged. Lentz kept pressing forward and Gamburyan dropped down for a leg and got a takedown of his own.
As Gamburyan tried to maintain his top position, Lentz landed some punches and worked up to his feet, pressed Gamburyan back against the cage and began landing knees to the body.
Gamburyan, whose right eye began to show swelling, was taken down again by Lentz. Lentz then began landing knees to Gamburyan’s chest and continued to control positioning, working relentlessly with punches and knees.
Lentz maintained a body lock against the cage for much of the rest of the round, as Gamburyan had tape hanging from his left glove, his right eye swelled and was perhaps still recovering from a low blow.
Gamburyan began the third round, which would play out as the closest of the bout, clearly bothered by his right eye. After some initial strikes by Gamburyan, Lentz waded in, sustaining some solid Gamburyan counters to secure another takedown against the fence.
Gamburyan began working immediately for a kimura and then positioned for an armbar attempt, but had little room to work against the cage and was forced to bail on the attempt. Gamburyan eventually reversed into Lentz’ guard, but Lentz tied him up well and the official stood them up.
The two went at it briefly standing, exchanging well before Gamburyan secured a takedown, but it was immediately reversed by Lentz and, moments later, the fight was back up against the cage.
Gamburyan landed some elbows and hammer fists to the side of Lentz’ head, but Lentz rode out the round and the fight in the clinch.