CHICAGO — The fight certainly wasn’t Clay Guida’s best, and for a moment, when his UFC featherweight debut went to a split decision Saturday night, the Johnsburg native wasn’t quite sure what to think.
But Guida did just enough, feeding off a partisan hometown crowd at the United Center in UFC on Fox 6 to defeat Hatsu Hioki. Guida held advantages on two judge’s scorecards, winning 30-27 and 29-28 with the dissenting vote giving Hioki a 29-28 decision.
Despite the nerves that came after Hioki’s edge was announced first, Guida – the former Chicago union carpenter – pulled out the win. He used a couple of impressive wrestling moves – including one in which he said he channeled former World Wrestling Federation champion Randy Savage and he hoisted Hioki into the air.
Moves like that, Guida said, may have helped sway judges in the end.
“I’m never satisfied, but [I’m relieved],” Guida said. “Now, the only place to go us up – get right back to the gym, right back to the wrestling room becoming a student of the game and continuing to learn and absorb. But I’m just very thankful.”
Coming off two straight lightweight losses, Guida (30-13, 10-7) started agressive and continued to use his aggressive style to gain an advantage over Hioki – a former Shooto and Sengoku champion. Despite taking an early edge, Guida was forced to absorb a couple of point-blank switch kicks to the face that “rung my bell a few times.” Hioki also depended on a series of body blows – including a few to the kidneys – that kept the Japanese featherweight alive throughout the three-round bout.
Guida countered with a steady ground and pound attack, scored a few takedowns and landed decent punches and leg kicks that resulted on Hioki spending at least five minutes throughout the fight on his back.
“I think he probably won it,” Hioki said. “Under the rules, with takedowns being so important, he won under those terms. He won a contest, fairly, but I won a fight. I am not unhappy with the decision, it was split because it was so close.”
In between, Guida said he depended on the United Center crowd to see him through. With every takedown, the crowd answered with chants of “Gui-da, Gui-da, Gui-da” – an energy that seemed to lift the former Johnsburg wrestler. He kept regular eye contact with family members and friends who made Saturday’s Illinois homecoming even more meaningful.
“Man, they were huge,” Guida said. “I really feel like they’re in there with me and a couple of times, I was just smiling or winking (at friends and relatives), but it means a lot.”
The Chicago venue didn’t play as a big of a factor in Crystal Lake native Mike Stumpf’s welterweight fight that preceded Guida’s bout. Stumpf dropped his second straight UFC decision in an unanimous loss to Pascal Krauss, who gained a 30-27 advantage on all three scorecards.
The fight may have been a deciding factor whether Stumpf will be able to maintain his UFC contract. Stumpf, who trains in Crystal Lake with Jeff Curran, fell to 0-2 in UFC after making an impressive showing, winning 11 of his 14 professional fights prior to Saturday night’s loss.
Curran and Stumpf – who was not available for comment after his fight – agreed that a loss Saturday night could be enough to keep the Crystal Lake South graduate from getting another UFC shot.
Guida, meanwhile, will keep his focus on moving closer to getting a shot at the featherweight championship. He admitted afterward that he wasn’t thrilled with his performance, but that in the end, returning to his winning ways and providing momentum for his future left Guida pleased with the outcome.
“We did enough,” Guida said. “It definitely wasn’t my most exciting fights and I’m ugly as always, but we got our hand raised at the end of the night.”