Alan Jouban edges Belal Muhammad in close, instant classic

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Alan Jouban got ahead on the scorecards and then survived a brutal third round to earn a unanimous decision win over debuting Belal Muhammad on Thursday night at UFC Fight Night. For his part, Muhammad hung on, seemingly impossibly for two rounds before surging in the third and hurting Jouban with punches and kicks.

In the first two rounds, Jouban dropped Muhammad three times, with punches and kicks. Each time, Muhammad seemed to be out-cold, but each time he immediately got back to moving, got up and fought on.

In the first two rounds, Muhammad managed to wrestle effectively but as the fight wore on, Jouban was able to defend the takedown attempts more and more effectively. Forced to stay on his feet in the third, Muhammad stalked Jouban.

The punches he'd been flinging out all fight finally began to find their mark and then Muhammad piled it on, patiently. Jouban was clearly hurt about a third of the way through the final round, but he covered up and kept moving laterally.

Post-fight, Jouban said he also believes that he was fighting with just one hand for half of the fight after breaking one in the second period. It was Jouban's turn to show his gameness as Muhammad battered him around the cage for the last couple minutes of the third round.

As Belal had in the first two rounds, Jouban survived in the third, never being knocked down and never stopping. At the end, both men were swinging and the crowd enjoyed an instant classic.

"Muhammad is a tough son of a bitch. He kept coming back," Jouban said, after scores were announced in his favor.

"I belong in the top-10, the top-15."

Indeed he does. And with his granite effort and displayed veteran calm in his promotional debut, young Muhammad also proved that certainly belongs in the UFC.

The win improves Jouban's record to 14-4. The loss is Muhammad's first as a professional, dipping his mark to 9-1.