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SAN ANTONIO – It started out like a fight that couldn’t possibly go one full round, and then somehow it lasted all three. When it was all over, Joe Ellenberger (15-1 MMA, 1-0 UFC) nabbed a split-decision victory (28-29, 29-28, 29-28) in a fight that saw him nearly knocked out by James Moontasri (7-2 MMA, 0-1 UFC) in the early going.

The lightweight bout opened up the main card of today’s UFC Fight Night 44 event at AT&T Center in San Antonio. It aired on FOX Sports 1 following prelim on FOX Sports 1 and UFC Fight Pass.

Moontasri had Ellenberger hurt early on in the first round, so much so that it seemed as though Ellenberger would never see the second. After a hard right uppercut put Ellenberger down midway through the round, it was all he could do to hang on and survive as Moontasri swarmed all over him on the mat.

But thanks to an extra break provided by the doctor who came in to check Ellenberger’s badly swollen right eye between rounds, Ellenberger got an extra few seconds to recover before the second, and it might have been just what he needed. A takedown in the first minute of the round led to Ellenberger taking Moontasri’s back and nearly locking up a choke.

As the time ticked down, however, fatigue and mounting damage seemed like it might get the best of both men. With Moontasri bleeding from his nose and Ellenberger barely able to see out of one eye, they battled all the way to the finish, with Ellenberger relying on takedowns and Moontasri looking for opportunties to open up with his striking game.

In the end, two of the three judges were more impressed with Ellenberger’s comeback effort, and his long awaited UFC debut resulted in a memorable victory.

Up-to-the-minute UFC Fight Night 44 results include:

For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 44, stay tuned to the UFC Events section of the site.

(Steven Marrocco contributed to this report on-site in San Antonio.)

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