SAN JOSE -- Robbie Lawler and Matt Brown have a combined 32 knockouts between them. So their UFC Fight Night headliner bout Saturday figured to be a rock 'em, sock 'em brawl.
And sure enough, as 25 punishing minutes of fighting wound down, they still were exchanging punches, kicks and elbows.
But when it was over, Lawler had claimed a hard-earned unanimous decision from the judges in a 170-pound welterweight mixed-martial arts bout before a crowd of 11,482 at SAP Center.
"I told him that there are two champions in this ring tonight," Lawler said. "We put on a show. He went toe-to-toe with me, and there's not too many people who can do that." And it cost him. Brown, whose face was badly bloodied, had to be transported to a local hospital immediately after the fight.
"I'm not a doctor," Lawler said when asked what happened to Brown. "He's cut up a little bit, but he'll be back. He's like Wolverine."
Not only did both fighters deliver powerful punches -- but each showed that he can take them, too. The fighters took turns staggering one another in the first two rounds.
The bout lost some steam in the next two rounds and Lawler (24-10) clearly was in control entering the last round. But a rejuvenated Brown (21-12) went after Lawler hard, launching a wild last five minutes. In the final seconds, both were exhausted and Brown was tossed to the mat. But he immediately got back up -- just in time to hug Lawler after the final bell.
The three judges scored the fight 49-46, 49-46 and 48-47 for Lawler.
The victory earns him another shot at UFC welterweight champion Johny Hendricks, who defeated Lawler last March in a unanimous decision at UFC 171 for the vacant title left open by Georges St. Pierre stepping away from the sport.
"You expect fireworks with those guys, and there were," said UFC president Dana White. "I told people yesterday that if this fight went five rounds, I would walk back to (Las) Vegas. I never thought it would go the distance." The co-main event did ½ not even go a single minute.
Anthony Johnson brutally pummeled Rogerio Nogueira with a series of vicious punches to score a technical knockout victory just 44 seconds into the fight. Johnson (18-4) never broke a sweat. Nogueira (21-6) never had a chance.
The No. 5 UFC light heavyweight contender, Johnson went right after Nogueira, first stunning him with a flurry of punches, and then finishing off the 38-year-old Brazilian with three right-handed upper cuts as the referee stepped in and brought a quick end to the fight.
"The whole time I was thinking, 'I've got to hurt this guy really bad and put him away because I know he can come back,'" Johnson said.
He made sure that didn't happen as Nogueira needed medical attention in the Octagon after the fight.
Local favorite Josh Thomson spent the final minutes of his lightweight bout against Bobby Green brushing blood out of right eye. But he clearly thought he did enough to win the fight, and so did the hometown crowd.
But the judges disagreed, giving Green (23-5) a split-decision victory over Thomson (20-7), who entered the night as UFC's No. 3 lightweight contender.
Green, the winner of eight consecutive bouts, dictated the pace through the three-round fight. But Thomson, who caught a knee to the face midway through the final round, seemed to connect with more punches as he counterattacked throughout the bout.
"There is no way I lost that fight," Thomson said. "I always seem to lose these decisions. It's like I'm cursed."
In the other main card event, Dennis Bermudez (15-3) won by a second-round submission against veteran Clay Guida (31-12) in a featherweight bout.
Guida endured a remarkable amount of punishment, including repeated knees to head from Bermudez in the first round that opened up a nasty cut beneath his right eye. But it wasn't until Bermudez applied a rear-naked choke that he persuaded Guida to tap out at 2:57 of the second round.
"Clay is an awesome fighter and really tough," said Bermudez, who recorded his seventh consecutive victory. "To beat him is really nice."
In a preliminary fight, San Jose's Kyle Kingsbury (11-6) lost a unanimous decision to up-and-comer Patrick Cummins (6-1) in a light heavyweight bout. Cummins dominated the action from the start against Kingsbury.
"That was definitely my last fight," Kingsbury said afterward. "I told everyone I didn't want to be a .500 fighter, and so enough was enough. It didn't make sense to get beat up anymore."
Contact Mark Emmons at 408-920-5745.