MILWAUKEE – Chris Lytle could not have written a much better storyline to leave the sport of mixed martial arts.
The welterweight, who made a somewhat surprising announcement less than 24 hours from his UFC on Versus 5 main event against Dan Hardy that the fight would be his last, went out with the type of fight he has become known for. And he went out with a victory, to boot.
Lytle submitted Hardy late in the third round Sunday at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee. And to go along with the win, he won a pair of now-record ninth and 10th fight night bonus checks – as well as a 2012 Harley-Davidson Blackline motorcycle.
“I couldn’t ask for anything better to happen,” Lytle said at the post-fight press conference. “But of course I’m pretty sad. I’ve been doing this since ’98. That’s all I know. It’s tough.”
Lytle’s career never was really a fairy tale story, but it sure seemed to end that way. When Hardy shot for a late takedown in the third round, the perfect ending to a remarkable MMA career started to take form.
Lytle latched on to a guillotine choke, after 14 minutes of standing and trading bombs with Hardy, and forced the former welterweight title challenger to tap with just 46 seconds left in the fight. Already tied for the UFC‘s all-time lead in fight night bonus awards going into the fight, Lytle was given the FIght of the Night award as well as the Submission of the Night award from UFC president Dana White. Each was worth $65,000.
Lytle, who has more than 50 pro fights in his career, as well as more than a dozen professional boxing matches, finished his UFC career at just 10-10. But it was his always-exciting style that made him a hit with fans, as evidenced by the 10 bonus awards – six for Fight of the Night, three for Submission of the Night and one for Knockout of the Night.
Lytle said he was retiring to focus on his family. The Indianapolis firefighter has four children and said it was time for him to make choices in his life that weren’t all about his fighting career. Two of Lytle’s children joined him in the cage immediately after his victory.
Hardy dropped his fourth straight fight after winning the first four fights of his UFC career. His current four-fight skid started with a loss to Georges St-Pierre at UFC 111 in a welterweight title fight. He said he will need to go back to the drawing board and figure out where he will take his career.
But UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta said via Twitter that Hardy will not be cut despite the four losses, saying they love fighters who go to war.
“A lot of people are three losses and out, and I’m four down now,” Hardy said. “So I appreciate (being able to stay around). If they are going to give me one more fight, I need to take some time and come back reinvented. I tried to do that with a different hair color this time, and maybe that wasn’t enough.”
In the co-main event, Jim Miller saw his lightweight winning streak end at seven with a unanimous decision loss to former WEC champ Ben Henderson. Miller (20-3, 9-2 UFC) was set to be positioned as the likely next lightweight title challenger, to meet the winner of the rematch between champion Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard, who will meet in the main event of UFC 136 on Oct. 8 in Houston. But Henderson (13-2, 2-0 UFC) threw a major wrench into that plan with a dominating victory, dismantling Miller with relative ease.
Also on the main card, another fighter making some noise in the lightweight division kept on rolling. Donald Cerrone saw his winning streak reach five with a Knockout of the Night win over Charles Oliveira. Cerrone (16-3, 1 NC, 3-0 UFC) came out blazing and stopped Oliveira (14-2, 1 NC, 2-2 UFC, 1 NC) with strikes after a big body shot.
The former WEC star has won all three of his fights in the UFC since the merger with his former home promotion at the start of the year. Oliveira has fallen on rough times his last three fights. After starting his career 14-0 and winning his first two UFC fights in Submission of the Night fashion, Oliveira has two losses and a no contest in his last three fights. The Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, just 21, has been brought along quickly with five fights in just over one year in the promotion.