EARLY PRELIMINARY CARD (UFC Fight Pass, 4:30 p.m.)
Chris Dempsey vs. Eddie Gordon
Round 1: A back-and-forth slugfest in the first round to get the night started, with both men trading big shots. Gordon lands some solid overhand rights, but the tough Dempsey stays right in the pocket, testing Gordon’s hands. Dempsey’s movement is swift, his hands raised to block the majority of Gordon’s shots, though he’s just a little reckless right now, rushing in to attempt a looping hook, but getting clipped by a short uppercut from the always dangerous Gordon. Gordon looks to be in control with a minute left, doing some serious damage on a short right hook that briefly wobbles Dempsey. These two look visibly gassed at the end of the first, with both breathing heavily.
Round 2: A sweaty Gordon comes out swinging, quickly establishing the range and landing powerful shots. A slip by Dempsey causes some oohs and ahs from the fans, though Dempsey is able to stand back up quickly. A brief takedown attempt by Dempsey is thwarted, though he does land a slew of big punches prior to the attempt. Gordon uses the melee to ensure a takedown of his own, switching positions beautifully. Both men are breathing heavily out of their mouths toward the end of the round, Gordon especially. A brief clinch exchange ensues, perhaps giving these two a minute to catch their breaths. A late-round flurry and takedown by Dempsey perhaps wins him the round.
Round 3: “Your round Eddie, your round!” a family member or friend (presumably) yells to Gordon. However, Gordon comes out and gets whacked by a few clean shots from Dempsey, who continues to throw big punches. A bit more fresh than in the second round, Gordon throws a crisp 1-2 combo, landing flush. Dempsey returns the favor and lands a strong right hook to the temple of Gordon, stunning him temporarily and causing his legs to wobble. Gordon recovers nicely after getting hurt and returns the fire. Two minutes left and Dempsey attempts a takedown, but it’s stuffed. Gordon ends up on top, but Dempsey wraps him up for a choke, ultimately letting go and ending up with Gordon on top. Back up to their feet with a minute left, Gordon and Dempsey continue to fire bombs, though it’s Dempsey who secures a big takedown again toward the end of the round. Vicious elbows by Dempsey presumably secure him the round, and most likely the fight as well. A great start to this stacked night of fights.
Result: Chris Dempsey via split-decision.
Diego Brandao vs. Jimy Hettes
Round 1: These two try to find the distance early, with Brandao the aggressor. He switches up leg kicks, but Hettes is able to time it nicely, catching a kick and putting Brandao on his back. Brandao scurries up to his feet, and after a brief exchange throws him right down. Brandao exercises his stellar jiu-jitsu skills to go for a choke, repeatedly switching positions. A choke that once looked deep, Brandao can’t get the submission, but starts attacking from the guard, landing a big elbow at one point. Hettes is able to stand back up after grab a brief ankle lock. Hettes gets Brandao up against the fence, and should land a takedown, but blatantly holds on to the cage, for which he’s warned by referee Dan Miragliotta. Brandao then ends up securing a takedown, but a majestic reversal by Hettes lands him on top, though he loses position shortly thereafter and they both stand back up. Hettes ends the round by securing some solid right jabs, though his left ear is bleeding badly. The doctor comes in and stops the fight, throwing Hettes into a rage. He lands some solid combinations, albeit to one of the padded corners.
Result: Brandao via TKO (doctor stoppage, Round 1).
Tim Means vs. George Sullivan
[Technical difficulties prevented the play-by-play here. Our apologies.]
Result: Means via submission (Round 3).
PRELIMINARY CARD (FOX, 6 p.m.)
Aljamain Sterling vs. Takeya Mizugaki
Round 1: Mizugaki comes out kicking, with Sterling throwing in a few of his own. They clinch up and grab the fence, jockeying for position. Takeya throws Sterling a bit away from him, but Sterling comes flying in, with Mizugaki still on the fence. Sterling tries relentlessly for a takedown in the clinch, but Mizugaki is hanging tough. Sterling switches it up to throw some knees, though with little power. A minute passes and they’re still trading knees up against the cage, with Sterling in control. The referee eventually (and correctly) splits them up. Sterling throws in a quick body kick, followed by a leg kick, but Takeya starts to let the leather fly, connecting on a few nice shots. Sterling continues the soccer-esque kicking before attempting another takedown, this time converting. Mizugaki pops right back up, and gets taken down a few seconds later. Sterling’s corner — the famed Longo/Serra combo — yell for elbows to end the round, though Sterling closes it out with a bang, landing a pair of right hooks.
Round 2: They touch gloves, and Sterling already starts flying, throwing in a Superman punch and head kick in just the first 20 seconds. He shoots in for a takedown and lands it, but just like the first round, the slippery Mizugaki gets right back to his feet. Another clinch game ensues, and so do the temporary boos. They separate and Sterling gets back to kicking, with little success. A flailing one-two brawl by both men ensues, though neither connects. Sterling — looking perhaps a bit confused — stares at his corner before attempting a takedown, which is stuffed. A powerful slam by the much more aggressive Sterling, and he’s looking for a dominant position, but the skilled Mizugaki is defending it well. They battle on the ground, resulting in Sterling taking Mizugaki’s back, and he looks for the rear-naked choke, softening him up first with punches and hard, repeated kicks to the right inner thigh. With a body triangle secure, Sterling looks for another choke with 30 seconds left, but he’s being a bit hesitant for the first time this fight. Another round in the books for Sterling.
Round 3: Mizugaki comes out throwing, but Sterling does a nice job blocking. A nice body kick-high punch combo by Sterling, who then finds himself on the ground. He quickly looks for a takedown, and yet again secures it, though a much more tired Mizugaki is having trouble getting back up to his feet. They do a bit of rolling, with Sterling looking for another rear-naked. He instead has Mizugaki on top of him, but with a nasty choke in progress. Mizugaki tries desperately, but Sterling keeps squeezing, and ends up making the sixth-ranked Mizugaki tap.
Result: Sterling via arm-triangle submission (Round 3).
Corey Anderson vs. Gian Villante
Round 1: Villante begins with two big advantages: Johnny Cash for a walkout song, and middleweight champion Chris Weidman in his corner. However, Anderson wins via nickname (Beastin 25/8). They start out a bit tentative before Anderson throws a flurry of shots, mixing up his punches and kicks. He’s a bit reckless with his hands, perhaps leaving his face open for some damage. Villante absorbs a big right hook to his kidney before landing two loud right kicks to Anderson’s lead leg. Villante then starts working in the left jabs, getting caught by a big punch down the pipe from Anderson. Anderson throws a barrage of shots, tiring out toward the end, but Villante — against his corner’s advice — doesn’t rush in. A swelled nose already for Villante, who tries catching Anderson’s shots, but instead gets hit with a few punches. After a few kicks to the body, Villante surprises Anderson and lands upstairs, utilizing a brilliant faint. Weidman starts screaming for the kicks to come back, and he lands two more solid ones. Anderson’s left leg takes more damage to the end of the back-and-forth round.
Round 2: Villante takes the advice of his corner and continues to throw heavy kicks. Anderson looks to be in fine physical shape, despite landing huge kicks to the thigh. It’s getting much more difficult for him to walk, and it’s a bit surprising that he hasn’t switched stances six minutes through the fight. He eventually catches one, but doesn’t do much with it. Anderson comes back and throws back-to-back right hooks, connecting and getting more confidence under his belt. Villante now looks tired after taking in a few big bombs. The pace slows down toward the middle of the round, both men a bit hesitant to open up and sustain further damage. Anderson attempts a takedown for the first time, but it’s stuffed. Villante goes back to the right leg kicks, and lands another nasty one, but doesn’t throw any more for at least a minute. He ends the round the same way it started — with leg kicks — but before the hammer strikes, gets caught by a few punches and a flying knee.
Round 3: A bit of a peculiar start, with the tape in Villante’s right glove coming apart and needing the referee to stop it to make the appropriate cut. They get back to battle and Villante starts to open up with the fists, landing a big overhand right. Despite being unable to walk in the beginning of the second round, Anderson looks light on his feet, even throwing in a spinning back kick. He begins to mix up his strikes nicely — left head kicks, right jabs, etc. — and is looking like the fighter we saw in Round 1. A flying knee by Anderson draws a loud “ohhh,” but fails to land. Another takedown attempt by Anderson gets stuffed, with Villante taking a barrage of shots before countering with a nice left hook of his own. Villante unwinds a devastating right hook, wobbling Anderson, pushes him to the cage and unloads three more powerful right hooks to a defenseless Anderson, who’s hunched over and clinging to the cage. The referee comes in to stop it, and Weidman goes nuts, jumping on the cage to congratulate his training partner.
Result: Villante via TKO (Round 3).
#12 Patrick Cummins vs. #7 Ovince St. Preux
Round 1: OSP comes out and quickly gets Octagon control, landing a solid, stiff left jab that hurts Cummins just seconds into Round 1. OSP looks for a big left hook, but Cummins catches it and eventually slams him down. The two have another takedown scramble, and Cummins gains control up against the fence, though he doesn’t throw any shots. Jockeying for position, they get separated and go back to the center. OSP keeps throwing the kicks, despite Cummins catching an earlier one, which speaks to his confidence in them. He’s a bit hesitant to throw a flurry of shots, knowing Cummins’ dominant wrestling. He eventually tries a spin kick, and Cummins is waiting for it, eventually landing a monster slam, though OSP gets right back up. A back-and-forth punch combo ensues, with both throwing hooks, but failing to land. OSP goes for a takedown, but the more dominant wrestler catches it. OSP then catches Cummins with a nasty left uppercut when Cummins rushes in, and quickly drops the wrestler. He swarms in and the lights go out for Cummins, who is saved by the referee. It takes about 30 seconds for Cummins to get back up to his feet and regain consciousness, with his corner rushing to find him a stool. This is a statement win for Ovince St. Preux, who just keeps improving inside the Octagon.
Result: Ovince St. Preux via knockout (Round 1).
Beneil Dariush vs. #12 Jim Miller
Round 1: The lightweights come out throwing a number of mixed shots to start, with the hardest coming about 30 seconds in via a nasty leg kick by Miller. “Let’s go, Miller!” chants start to fly for the local boy, and he’s the aggressor to start. Dariush finally gets going a minute and 30 seconds in by landing a heavy kick of his own. Miller pushes Dariush up against the cage, but gets reversed, and finds himself trying to block the knees and takedown attempts from Dariush. Miller eventually reverses his position, and the ground master looks to work in an armbar, but falls just short by the tough Dariush, who then lands on top of Miller and into half-guard. Daruish keeps trying for mount, and not only is he unable to do so, but he gets hit by some good punches from the bottom, including a big elbow. He works his legs back up to around Dariush’s head and looks for some kind of choke, but can’t do so. The close round ends with Dariush punching and elbowing the side of Miller’s head.
Round 2: More chants for Miller come rushing in, but not as much as Dariush, who lands a big shot to start off the round. Against the fence, they jockey for top position, but Dariush is able to get Miller down, and is into half-guard a minute in. He wraps his left forearm under Miller’s head, but is a bit too high, and Miller reverses it, ultimately trying to secure a submission before again winding up on the bottom. Dariush wraps Miller around, secures a very tight body lock, and looks to land a rear-naked choke off his back. The gritty Miller works it back into half-guard, but Dariush then gets into mount. Dariush lands some big elbows, and Miller turns over. He starts to work in a rear-naked choke, puts his back again on the canvas, and works tirelessly for the choke, but is getting a bit frustrated with his inability to choke him out. Dariush ends the round with some visible blood now showing, which is a bit surprising given his position advantage for most of the round.
Round 3: Miller begins with some kicks, but gets backed up by Dariush, who starts to unload and look for another takedown. Up against the cage, Dariush uses a judo-like trip and gets Miller back on the ground. Controlling the fight once more, Dariush fails to land any big shots, instead turning this into a wrestling match rather than an MMA one. The boos come down and the referee gives a hard look. Despite the boos, Dariush has done a great job improving his position, and is putting all of his body weight on the fatigued Miller. Dariush gets into mount and back mount with 1:30 left, Miller stands up, tries to throw him down, but gets right back into the bad position. Almost working in a Twister, Dariush then goes for another crank via rear-naked choke, but Miller is tough, and is not giving up. Not the most exciting round, but a dominant one for the expected winner, Beneil Dariush.
Result: Dariush via unanimous decision.
MAIN CARD (FOX, 8 p.m.)
#8 Felice Herrig vs. #12 Paige VanZant
Round 1: Felice comes out swinging, mixing up her kicks and punches within the first 10 seconds. She lands some solid uppercuts, works against the cage, but gets tripped by Paige, who’s grimacing quite a bit. Felice is in back mount, but perhaps a bit too high. She’s looking for a rear-naked choke, goes to her back, works in the body triangle and looks to twist. Paige, however, spins out of it temporarily, and Felice goes for an armbar, loses it, and gets slammed by Paige. Up against the cage, Felice attempts a takedown, but gets stuffed. They go back to the center of the ring with both ladies throwing big shots, Paige being more aggressive with the knee strikes, and Felice throwing bombs. They wrap up against the cage, and Paige eventually works in a judo throw and gets on top, hammering down some big shots. Felice keeps working for the choke, but it isn’t there. Paige secures a good position on top, and Felice seems content with fighting on the ground (as a much more experienced fighter should). The Paige-heavy crowd cheers on its fighter, who’s staying on top, but eats a big upkick by Felice. She tries a leglock right before the hammer strikes, perhaps trying to secure the round. It might’ve worked.
Round 2: Felice begins with an excellent three-strike combo that lands flush, while Paige backs up and tries a switch kick. They get up against the cage and grapple for position, with Felice being given instructions by a few of her TUF castmates. Felice is able to wrestle Paige down, albeit briefly, as Paige quickly reverses position and lands some shots from the guard. Felice reverses, gets her up against the cage, and looks for a trip or toss, but the neophyte is onto her. Paige attempts a high kick, and Felice catches it, throwing her down, but again losing position, winding up on her back once more. Paige works into side control while throwing down some punches, and Felice is in danger of falling two rounds to none. Paige works the ground game and lands nasty shots, though Felice attempts multiple submission attempts, most notably a hanging armbar, which Paige — to the young fighter’s credit — shakes off. The round ends with Felice being battered by a number of strikes from Paige, who quickly rushes for her stool to sit. Two rounds to none for Paige, it appears.
Round 3: The women trade kicks to open the round, with Felice being backed up to the cage and tripping before getting back up. Paige again goes for a trip takedown, and lands in a dominant position on top. Felice is taking some more big shots, tries to push her off, but can’t, and Paige is looking like a bongo player out there, battering the veteran. Felice is able to work with her back against the cage with 2:30 left, but Paige again reverses position and ends up on top. Paige starts to unload a number of big shots from the top, and Felice is looking quite overwhelmed against PVZ. The referee gives a hard look, but doesn’t stop it for now, and the battle continues on. Felice just can’t get back up to her feet, and Paige is smothering her. Felice tries for one last submission, but can’t land it, and the tired fighter gets back up to her feet at the end of the round for the first time since the bell rang. Much has been made of Paige VanZant receiving endorsements and lofty press despite just one fight into her UFC career, but she proved tonight that she’s ready for the next best thing. A masterful performance by one of the sport’s youngest rising stars.
Result: VanZant via unanimous decision.
#9 Max Holloway vs. #5 Cub Swanson
Round 1: Both fighters hesitant to start, trying to find the range and circling around. Holloway is the more aggressive to begin, throwing high head kicks. A bit wild is Holloway, who gets caught when rushing in by a big left hook from Cub. Trading big kicks to the body, Cub isn’t letting his hands fly just yet; instead, he throws a cartwheel kick, which Max laughs at. Cub starts throwing some jabs, but Max is ready to stay wild, throwing a jumping kick at one point. Cub becomes the aggressor and winds up landing a nasty body kick, but his left eye is beginning to show damage, and it’s looking quite red just three minutes in. A spinning back kick lands from Max, who’s much more accurate in Round 1. Cub is going for quality over quantity, however, and landing with some heavy left hooks than are slowing Max down a bit. The 10-second hammer comes down and it’s a slugfest, with both men throwing big shots. Cub perhaps doesn’t hear the bell, and unloads a big hook slightly after the buzzer. They touch gloves.
Round 2: Cub’s left eye is puffy, but not causing him any vision problems just yet. He starts opening up a bit more, landing some switch kicks in. A loud, thumping kick from Max brushes off Cub, but doesn’t do much damage. Cub starts to stalk, following and trying to corner Max at every turn. Cub’s footwork looks most impressive, as he’s staying flat-footed, but readying for the next big shot, much unlike Max, who’s bounding around from side to side. They briefly clinch up and Max grabs Cub’s throat, but lets it go. After going to the body with a right hook, Max goes upstairs, catching Cub by surprise. Max starts to taunt Cub a bit, smiling, laughing, and landing a flurry of shots. Cub is looking for the kill, frequently throwing wound-up head kicks or jumping hooks. He catches Max with a number of shots, but Max counters well, and throws a jumping knee that catches Cub on the jaw. After ducking down, Max makes Cub eat a big left hook. Two very close rounds in the books.
Round 3: Cub’s left eye is beginning to shut. Both fighters come out swinging, however, and wind up briefly against the cage. Cub throws a big left hook, which catches Max, but doesn’t appear to hurt him. Max turns Cab around after a wild exchange and he ends up on his back, but gets back up. Max unloads a big body shot, then another, and the hunched over Cab goes down. Max starts to work on the ground, and goes for a very nice head and arm choke, but Cub defends it well, and just narrowly avoids the submission. Back on the feet, the two continue to slug and trade punches. Cub slips down, gets back up, but then Max goes to work on a choke after taking him back down with a pair of big shots. He’s in full mount working on a choke, and he’s able to get the job done, forcing Cub to tap with not much time remaining. A very impressive, statement win for the young Max Holloway.
Result: Holloway via submission (Round 3).
Chris Camozzi vs. #1 Ronaldo Souza
Round 1: They get to the center of the Octagon trying to find the distance, Camozzi using leg kicks to try to find the range. Jacare already rushes to connect on one flurry, which temporarily slows down Camozzi. A minute in and Jacare rushes for a takedown, and immediately secures it. Jacare is in the position he wants to be in. He starts out in guard before quickly transitioning to side control and half-guard, alternating between the two. Jacare flips over and ends up in a very good spot, with Chris in the corner and Jacare looking for an armbar. Chris tries to fight it off initially, but eventually succumbs to the nasty armbar, tapping relatively quickly. A very solid performance by the number-one contender. Should the main event not live up to its lofty expectations, Jacare will represent a very difficult challenge against the winner of Chris Weidman and Vitor Belfort.
Result: Souza via submission (Round 1).
#2 Lyoto Machida vs. #4 Luke Rockhold
Round 1: Machida is the first to fire, throwing a looping overhand left that misses. The pro-Machida crowd begins to cheer on their fighter, who lands a right uppercut after avoiding two shots from Luke. They both unload a minute in, landing big shots. Luke throws a big right hook that lands behind Machida’s ear and he goes down. Luke goes for a submission attempt, but Lyoto gets out of it. Luke is in half-guard, trying to pass into mount, but Machida instead is taking big elbows to the body, closing up into guard. Luke is able to take Lyoto’s back, and starts to unload more shots. With some trickery, Luke takes Lyoto right back down after he brought it back to the feet. He has Lyoto pinned up against the cage, and is landing big shots, with Machida desperately trying to block them. Machida gets back up, but Luke unloads a shot to the calf, and brings Lyoto right back down. He has Lyoto hurt, and works in a rear-naked choke, but Lyoto — despite turning purple — doesn’t tap, and barely survives the first round.
Round 2: Machida begins the round sporting a cut under the right eye, and a black and blue on the other. His footwork is off, he still looks wobbled, and he’s a bit off with his shots. Luke looks like it’s the beginning of the fight, and appears to even be saying something to Lyoto. Machida looks gassed, but he’s hanging in there and throwing good body kicks. Luke pushes an off-balance Machida to the ground, going right back to work from top position. He’s in full back mount, and is squeezing away for a rear-naked choke. Lyoto gets flattened out like a pancake, and Luke is able to lock up the submission, forcing the former light heavyweight champ to tap. This is the best Luke Rockhold we’ve seen yet, who dominated since the opening bell rang. He’ll get the winner of Weidman/Belfort with that statement win.