The final UFC card of the month took the organization back to its Las Vegas home with a rare Sunday-night showcase. Featuring some of the hottest prospects in the men's bantamweight division—including Thomas Almeida and Cody Garbrandt, who fought in the main event—the card also saw action unfold in the heavyweight, middleweight, welterweight, lightweight, featherweight, and women's bantamweight divisions.
When all was said and done, this Sunday-night card delivered as a fun one, highlighted by all the knockouts, submissions, and surprises we hoped for. Here's a recap of the action for those who missed it.
The Main Card:
Garbrandt Crushes Almeida in the First
The evening's main event honors went to undefeated, 24-year-old bantamweight prospects Cody Garbrandt and Thomas Almeida, both of whom sought the kind of career-altering win that might catapult them into title contention.
Though the fans were divided on which prospect might win this bout, there was a near consensus on one thing: whether it was in the first or the fifth, the fight world end with a knockout. And that it did.
From the moment the opening bell rang, Garbrandt pressed forward, navigating a 5-inch reach deficit, and landing. When he appeared to hurt his highly-hyped foe, Garbrandt turned it on to seal the deal. One right hand later, and Almeida was on the canvas, hanging onto his consciousness with both hands.
With the win, Garbrandt moves to 9-0, with all but one of his wins coming by way of knockout or TKO. Now 4-0 in the UFC, the Team Alpha Male staple is likely to have earned himself a spot in the bantamweight top-15—perhaps even the top-10. A title shot seems like a matter of time. Almeida, meanwhile, has a baffling 21-0 record shattered by the loss. How the Brazilian slugger rebounds from this first taste of adversity remains to be seen.
Stephens Edges Barão in Featherweight Firefight
For a time, Renan Barão looked like one of MMA's pound-for-pound kings. Then, the former bantamweight champion ran into TJ Dillashaw, who eventually sent him up to the featherweight division in search of a fresh start. Barão's chance for a featherweight fresh start came against powerful former lightweight Jeremy Stephens in Sunday's co-main event.
Though few expected this one to go the distance, the former bantamweight and former lightweight slugged it out until the final bell chimed. Throughout the encounter, both men had their moments. In the first, Barão was the busier and more accurate man. In the second, Stephens found his groove and tagged his accomplished foe with the kinds of strikes that would have stopped many a lesser fighter. In the third, finally, Barão and Stephens let it all hang out, blasting each other with heavy artillery in a ditch effort to score the knockout, and sway the judges if that knockout failed to materialize.
In the end, though, the judges were needed, and in Vegas they sided with Stephens. Though Barão was successful on two takedowns in the latter two rounds, the judges were evidently more impressed with the American's success in the striking exchanges.
In victory, Stephens rebounds from a tough loss to Max Holloway. He's now 25-12 overall, and 5-3 since dropping to featherweight. Barão, meanwhile, remains winless since he defeated Mitch Gagnon in 2014. Now 33-4 overall, the absurd 32-fight streak with which he began his career is quickly vanishing in the rear-view mirror.
Story Outworks Saffiedine for Unanimous Decision
Not long ago, it looked as though a cut on Tarec Saffiedine's knee would yank him from his scheduled welterweight bout with Rick Story. When doctors gave the Belgian fighter the green light, however, the scrap went ahead as planned.
Unfortunately for Saffiedine, however, this one was all Story, who was returning to action after more than 600 days on the shelf. The American was able to outland his foe by a 114-58 margin, and amass more than 7 minutes of control time, during which he scored big with shots to the body—more than enough to snag a unanimous decision win.
With the win, Story builds on the momentum of a 2014 defeat of Gunnar Nelson, and bursts back into the ranks of the welterweight elite. Saffiedine, meanwhile, returns to the loss column after a January defeat of Jake Ellenberger. The former Strikeforce champ is now 16-5 overall, and 2-2 in the UFC.
Camozzi Dominates Miranda to UD
The second of Vegas' two middleweight bouts saw Brazil's Vitor Miranda look to make it 4 knockouts in a row against Chris Camozzi, a sturdy veteran who had never been knocked out in 33 career fights. Camozzi's chin held up, which allowed him to dominate his Brazilian foe in every facet of the fight. Out-landing Miranda by a 108-69 margin, succeeding on two takedowns, and racking up 5:35 of ground control time, Camozzi made the judges' job easy by paving the way to a clear-cut, 30-27 sweep.
With the unanimous nod, Camozzi moves onto his first three-fight streak since 2013. The 29-year-old TUF veteran is now 24-10 overall and a strong 3-1 in this, his third stint with the UFC. Miranda, on the other hand, has a three-fight streak snapped by the loss. At 37-years-old, he's now 12-5 overall, and 3-2 since joining the UFC.
Larkin and Masvidal Scrap to Split Decision
Many considered Jorge Masvidal and Lorenz Larkin's main card welterweight showdown a dark horse for Fight of the Night honors. These suspicions proved sound.
For three frenzied rounds, Larkin and Masvidal pulverized each other with thunderous punches and snapping kicks across all levels, culminating with a combined output of more than 100 strikes. And while Masvidal's two submission attempts were likely what convinced one judge that he should be the bout's winner, Larkin's hellacious aggression evidently swayed the other two.
With a split decision win in the books, Larkin rebounds from a tough loss to Albert Tumenov in his last outing. "The Monsoon" is now 17-5 overall, and 3-1 since dropping to welterweight. Masvidal, meanwhile, has got to be fuming, having lost his third debatable split decision in four fights. That said, the American Top Team rep's many strengths were on full display in Vegas. He'll leave Sin City with a 29-11 overall record, and hopefully, his head held high.
Felder Edges Burkman in Action-Packed Fight
The main card was kicked off by a compelling lightweight showdown. In one corner we had resurgent veteran Joshua Burkman, who looked to build on the momentum of a victory of KJ Noons. In the other, we had purveyor of spinning shit, Paul Felder. Burkman and Felder's was a wild, three-round gunfight with plenty of momentum swings.
In the first, we saw the two fighters engage in a Rock 'Em, Sock 'Em Robots exchange, with Burkman appearing to get the better punches and closing things out with a takedown. In the second, we saw Felder win back some momentum with some crackling strikes and an unshakable forward march. The third, finally, saw Felder land the more meaningful strikes, and Burkman close out the fight with a late takedown. Needless to say, the judges had an unenviable job on their hands for this one.
In the end, those judges sided with Felder awarding The Irish Dragon a hard-fought unanimous decision. With the win, Felder enters a two-fight win-streak and now sits at a strong 12-2 overall. Burkman, in contrast, is now 28-13 overall, and 1-3 with one no contest since returning to the UFC in early 2015.
McMann Decisions Eye in Slow Fight
Vegas' featured preliminary bout came courtesy of the women's bantamweight division, as one-time title challenger Sara McMann took on long-time contender Jessica Eye in a clash of former teammates.
Though the fight wasn't especially memorable, it was a clear-cut victory for McMann, who used her two successful takedowns to amass 7:59 of control time, while Eye—a striker—landed just 9 significant strikes over the course of the fight.
With the win, McMann rebounds from a duo of losses to Miesha Tate and Amanda Nunes, and moves to 9-3 overall. And while her post-fight call for a title shot is decidedly premature, the win does keep the former Olympian near the top of the bantamweight ladder.
Eye, meanwhile, is suddenly on a three-fight skid, having fallen to Miesha Tate and Julianna Peña in her two previous bouts. The Strong Style fighter is now an ugly 1-4 with one no contest in the UFC. And while her 11-5 overall record is a little easier to swallow, there is no denying that Eye has hit a serious snag. If she's given another shot with the UFC, she'll have to make it count.
Trujillo Braves Tough Second Round for Unanimous Decision
When Carlos Diego Ferreira withdrew from this Las Vegas card on just two weeks notice, it looked as though his opponent, brick-fisted lightweight Abel Trujillo, might be left out in the cold. Thankfully, a ballsy Jordan Rinaldi stepped up for a short-notice UFC debut against the hard-hitting Blackzilians staple.
For a short stretch in the second round, when Rinaldi began to steal the bout's momentum, it looked as though we might be in for a fairly substantial upset. In the third round, however, an apparently desperate Trujillo turned it on to close out the fight with two rounds in his favour.
With the unanimous decision win, Trujillo builds on the momentum of a submission defeat of Tony Sims, and continues his climb back into title contention. He's now 15-6 overall and 6-2 since joining the UFC roster. Rinaldi, meanwhile, has a five-fight streak derailed by the loss. He's now 12-5 overall.
Collier Folds Uda With Spinning Back Kick
The first of Vegas' two middleweight bouts saw Jake Collier look to bounce back from a TKO loss to Dongi Yang. Despite having his nose rearranged in round one, he was able to do so against the debuting Alberto Uda. The Missouri native's second-round TKO win followed a spinning back kick to the body and a series of follow-up punches.
With the win, Collier moves to 2-2 in the UFC, and 10-4 overall. Uda, on the other hand, loses for the very first time. He's now 9-1 overall, and will have to wait for his first UFC win.
Koch Makes Successful Return with Second Round Sub
After more than two years of inactivity, former featherweight contender Erik Koch finally returned to the UFC's Octagon. He made his comeback against Canada's Shane Campbell and looked absolutely fantastic in doing so. Relying on his clear grappling advantage, the former featherweight worked his opponent over on the mat before eventually slapping on a rear-naked choke in the second round.
The submission win, which is Koch's first triumph since February 2012, separates him from a loss to Daron Cruickshank and moves him to 15-4 overall. Having shown no ring-rust whatsoever, it'll be interesting where the Duke Roufus fighter goes from here. Campbell, meanwhile, embarks on his first two-fight skid. He's now 1-3 in the UFC, and 12-5 overall.
Caraway Survives Early Scare to Edge Sterling
The second bout of the night was one many fans argued could have co-headlined or even headlined this latest UFC card. In one corner, we had ranked veteran Bryan Caraway, who looked to continue his march up the bantamweight ranks. In the other, we had undefeated prospect Aljamain Sterling, who seemed ready for superstardom after signing a shiny, new UFC contract.
In an outcome very few expected, Caraway was able to endure a rough first round to steal the momentum in rounds two and three, and eventually earn a split decision win. It was the biggest upset of the night.
With the win, Caraway might just have earned himself a spot in the bantamweight top-five. He's now 21-7 overall, and 6-2 in his 8 bouts with the UFC. Sterling, meanwhile, loses for the first time, and will return to the drawing board with a 12-1 overall record.
Milstead Bludgeons De La Rocha for Successful UFC Debut
The action began in the heavyweight division, as Stipe Miocic training partner Adam Milstead debuted against Chris De La Rocha, who sought his first UFC win after a TKO loss in his own debut.
Though De La Rocha's toughness was on full display, this one was ultimately all Milstead, who bloodied his opponent en route to a second-round standing TKO, and a successful debut with the sport's biggest organization. With this result, Milstead moves to 8-1 overall, while De La Rocha falls to 4-2 in sum, and a tough 0-2 in the Octagon.
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