Despite scoring a come-from-behind victory on national television, picking up a $30,000 "Fight of the Night" bonus, and improving his career mark to 7-0 (3-0 in the UFC), Aaron Simpson did little celebrating after UFC Fight Night 20 last week.
Simpson edged Tom Lawlor via split decision at the Patriot Center in Fairfax, Va., but the Arizona Combat Sports fighter wasn't about to rest on his laurels.
In fact, as he recently told MMAjunkie.com Radio (www.mmajunkie.com/radio
), he was back in the gym just a few days after the Jan. 11 win.
"I can't take too much time off, especially after that kind of fight," said Simpson, who took the decision, 29-28, on two of the judges' cards. "It's not how I want to fight. That's not the type of fighter I want to be."
Lawlor, a cast member on "The Ultimate Fighter 8" who's quickly become a fan favorite thanks to goofy ring entrances and a laid-back personality, was the clear aggressor early in the fight. He battered Simpson with early power shots, and Simpson was dazed on a few occasions.
"Tom came out and had a great first round," said Simpson, a two-time Division I All-American wrestler at Arizona State. "He hit me good. He wobbled me good, and I've been wobbled in the gym before.
"Thankfully, I recovered surprisingly fast, in my opinion."
Simpson said it took a round for him to find his range and to get comfortable in the cage. And by then, Lawlor had taken a definitive lead.
"It's something I had to figure out quickly how I was going to come back from it," he said. "The problem was with him being a southpaw, and he kept catching me with uppercuts. I was dropping my lead hand, and I don't know what it was, I just felt real sluggish when I was out there. I couldn't get going."
"It just wasn't my day, especially in the first round."
While Simpson came back to make the second round close (and took the third on all three judges' cards), a lot of fans are focusing on that first round. All three judges gave it to Lawlor, 10-9, but some have wondered why it wasn't a 10-8 round.
Simpson, too, considered the possibility. But even while tabulating scores between rounds and determining what he needed to do to pull out the win, he didn't really consider the possibility of Lawlor taking a two-point lead after the first frame.
"I never thought that; I never thought that it was a 10-8," he said. "I still really don't think it was a 10-8. From what I believe, a 10-8 (requires that) you have to really drop somebody. You have to have them on the ropes, and I don't believe I was on the ropes like that where I was just out of it or saved by the bell. I just knew I needed to come back, but I knew that I lost the round."
Simpson also pointed to a quirk of the UFC's octagon that may have made the first round seem even more lopsided than it was. While feeling the sting of one of Lawlor's early punches, Simpson said he backed up against the cage. His foot was soon stuck between the canvas and fencing.
"There's almost like a little canal that goes around the cage where the fence goes into the floor," he said. "It's like a 3-inch dropoff in there. I caught my foot in there, and you'll see me like falling into the fence. That even made [the round] look worse than it was.
"That wasn't so much me being woozy as getting tripped up."
Simpson, though, is the first to admit that Lawlor packed a punch more powerful than he expected. Lawlor fought two fellow Arizona Combat Sports fighters - teammate Ryan Bader on "TUF 8" and C.B. Dollaway at UFC 100 – and neither of the Simpson teammates made particular mention of Lawlor's power.
"He stuck me; absolutely wobbled me," Simpson said. "Someone can tell you what someone does or how they feel, but until you get out there and and are actually in the middle of it, none of that really helps. ... Lawlor has power. He packs a punch."
In the mean time, Simpson is planning for a spring return - possibly as soon as March or April - thanks to major injuries incurred at UFC Fight Night 20.
"I'd like to get back in there as soon as possible," Lawlor said. "Whoever they give me, I'll take it, and we'll go from there."