Round 2 sets up like it's going to be payback time, pure and simple. It's easy to forget Gunner's hard fighting earlier when Lucas gets back on his feet and stands to his full height. It's easy to believe Payne when he calls Bayani's win "lucky," and he proceeds to plow down the more leanly built wrestler. But Gunner's early dominance carries over into the first half of Round 2, as well, and it looks like his natural ability and love of aggression may make this a short two-rounder. His blows leave visible prints on Payne's bronze chest, and he nearly snaps off Lucas's right arm in a savage armbar and abdominal stretch. But he loses ground when he turns his attention to punishing Lucas's legs--so much manly pulchritude to torment, so little time--but his arms and shoulders lack the iron to take on Payne's powerful thighs. Lucas kicks free and growls, "My turn." He hurls Bayani into the corner and drives his knuckles to the guy's ribs, slaps him down to the mat for some brutal stomping, and repays threefold all the hurt he had so recently suffered. When he racks Gunner across his broad shoulders and snaps a submission from him, it sets up Round 3 to be huge. And it is.
There's no predicting which way the final round is going to go. Lucas is looking hungry, and Gunner is still stiff and sore from the beating he just got. Eight minutes ago, I would have thought there would be no way that Gunner is going to walk away in one piece, but there's a steely glint in his eyes, and in Round 2 he delivered enough of a pounding to prove that Round 1 had been no fluke. He still wants a "piece of this beef," as Lucas himself phrases it, licking his chops, rather pleased at Gunner's surprising capacity for solid roughhouse. The two men lock up, and Lucas tosses Gunner to the mat, holding a firm side headlock, but seconds later Gunner is pinning Lucas's shoulders for a two-count. They recoup and lock up again. Lucas drives his knee to Gunner's midsection and again brings him down. "Let's see what you got?" Lucas pleads for Gunner's best. "Where's the fight?" On cue, Gunner wriggles free and gets a choke on Lucas, concentrating every muscle in his body to sapping the bigger man's strength, in hopes of evening the odds. But how well is Gunner equipped to handle the blunt physics of Lucas's superior muscle and stamina? These men show more heart than I expected of them, going into this fight. I expected a lot of pretty but not nearly this much tough. Both seem to savor the struggle even more than the win. I like that, and the two fighters come to respect one another, and I like that, too. This is going to be fun, for sure, but it definitely is not going to be easy.