The second card of the UFC's three-card, International Fight Week bonanza occurred Friday night inside the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. Headlined by a strawweight title rematch between champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk and challenger Claudia Gadelha, the card also served as the finale for the most recent season of The Ultimate Fighter, which was coached by the aforementioned women.
Highlighted by some wild knockouts, the long-awaited UFC debut of Will Brooks, the crowning of two new TUF winners, and a wild war for the strawweight throne, the card was an excellent one. Here's a recap of the action for those who missed it!
The Main Card:
Jedrzejczyk Survives Adversity to Retain Title
The main event of the evening pitted strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk with challenger Claudia Gadelha. The two women, who served as coaches on the latest season of TUF, had met once previously, back in December of 2014. On that night, Jedrzejczyk walked away with a split decision that was debated right up until the moment that she and Gadelha stepped onto the canvas for their main event rematch.
Just like their first fight, this one was incredibly close. In fact, in the first two rounds, it looked like we might be in for a Gadelha blowout. Not only did the challenger complete three takedowns with apparent ease, but she also managed to drop the champ with a punch in the fight's opening moments.
In round three, however, the tide began to turn in Jedrzejczyk's favor. Though she surrendered three takedowns in the third, the champ was quick to get up each time, and began to light her fading foe up with fluid combinations. In round four, the trend continued as Jedrzejczyk punished her challenger for what well could have been a 10-8 round. Round five, finally, saw both women lay their cards on the table, with Jedrzejczyk once again beating her foe to the punch. The end result was a nice start for Gadelha, but ultimately a fairly clear win for Jedrzejczyk. More importantly though, it was a wild scrap between two fighters that stand a head and shoulders above the rest of their division, and clearly bring out the very best in one another.
With the victory, Jedrzejczyk improves to a fantastic 12-0, and 6-0 in the UFC. With these 6 consecutive wins, she ties Ronda Rousey for the longest win-streak in the history of the UFC's women's divisions. Gadelha, meanwhile, falls to 13-2, having only fallen to Jedrzejczyk. She's now 2-2 in the Octagon.
Sanchez Drags Rountree Through Grappling Hell, Wins TUF 23
In the second of Las Vegas' two TUF tournament finals, 26-year-old light heavyweight slugger Khalil Rountree took on a far more experienced Andrew Sanchez.
This one, as many expected, came down to the wrestling skill of the more experienced fighter. Keen on taking his opponent's weapons away, Sanchez succeeded on 6 of 15 takedown attempts, which allowed him to amass 11:52 of control time. This was more than enough to earn him a unanimous decision win, even if he only landed 31 significant strikes in the process.
With the win, Sanchez elevates his record to 8-2 and becomes the TUF 23 light heavyweight winner. As he told commentator Jon Anik in his post-fight interview, however, he now plans to drop down to middleweight, and perhaps even as far south as welterweight. Rountree, meanwhile, experiences his first pro loss. He's now 4-1 in total.
Suarez Locks up D'Arce to Win TUF 23
The first of Vegas' two TUF tournament finals pitted the number one strawweight pick for Team Gadelha, Tatiana Suarez, with a sizable underdog in Amanda Bobby Cooper.
As it turns out, Suarez's status as the betting favorite was well-deserved. Though she was threatened by a Cooper armbar for a moment, she ultimately sealed the deal with a submission of her own, locking up a D'Arce choke at 3:43 of round one.
With the win, which marked the first D'Arce-induced victory in a UFC women's bout, the cancer survivor becomes the third female winner of The Ultimate Fighter. She's now 4-0 overall. Cooper, meanwhile, falls to a tough 1-2, not counting her successes on the show. That said, both women appear to have bright futures in the Octagon.
Brooks Decisions Pearson for Successful Debuts
With apologies to WSOF lightweight champion Justin Gaethje, former Bellator 155-pound king Will Brooks has long stood out as the best lightweight outside the UFC. In Las Vegas, the highly-hyped lightweight finally made his UFC debut, taking on British veteran Ross Pearson in an undeniably tough test.
Though Brooks would ultimately emerge the winner, Pearson certainly made him work for it. Round one was very close, though Brooks seemed to edge it. Round two, meanwhile, was all Brooks, who scored with a big takedown and amassed 2:04 of control time. Round three, finally, saw Pearson turn it on an batter his opponent with several damaging onslaughts. In the end, then, it all came down to that close first round, and all three cage-side judges gave it to the debutant.
With the win, Brooks moves to an incredible 18-1, and extends his win-streak to 9. And though he's certainly got a long road ahead of him, he seems hell-bent on following in the footsteps of Eddie Alvarez, another former Bellator champ and, as of last night, the new UFC lightweight champ. Pearson, meanwhile, returns to the loss column after a March defeat of Chad Laprise. The Brit is now 19-11 overall.
Doo Ho Choi Braves Early Takedowns to Snuff Tavares
In advance of his Las Vegas bout with the veteran Thiago Tavares, "The Korean Superboy" Doo Ho Choi was considered one of the hottest prospects in the UFC featherweight division. If he had any skeptics before the bout, he made sure to put their concerns to rest in Vegas.
Though the Korean was quickly taken down by his experienced foe, he remained calm, slowly worked his way off the canvas, and planted a bomb on the chin of his opponent like it was as simple as pushing a button. The highlight reel knockout occurred at 2:42 of round one.
With the KO win, Choi moves to a fantastic 14-1 overall, and 3-0 in the UFC—more than enough, we'd say, to warrant his post-fight call for a bout with the winner of Cub Swanson and Tatsuya Kawajiri's looming showdown. Tavares, meanwhile, returns to the loss column after an impressive defeat of Clay Guida. He's now 20-7 overall and 3-2 in his last 5.
Silva Hammers Holbrook for First-Round KO
The main card was kicked off by undefeated lightweight prospects Joaquim Silva and Andrew Holbrook, both of whom were on the hunt for their second win inside the Octagon.
Despite Silva's being nicknamed "Netto BJJ," the thing that won him this fight was his punching power. Using a caught kick to ground his American foe, Silva then caught Holbrook as he attempted to stand up, and polished him off with a meteor shower of ground strikes. The fight was stopped at the 34 second mark of round one.
With the knockout win, Silva improves to a flawless 9-0, and asserts himself as a definite fighter to watch in the ever-crowded lightweight division. Holbrook, on the other hand, will leave Las Vegas with his first loss. He's now 11-1 overall, and 1-1 in the UFC.
Maynard Returns to Wrestling Ways for Unanimous Decision Win
In the final bout of the prelims, former lightweight title challenger Gray Maynard looked to rebound from a four-fight skid with a featherweight reinvention. He made his divisional debut opposite Brazil's Fernando Bruno, who was also fighting in the weight class for the first time.
Though Bruno was able to threaten with punches in the first, and a brief guillotine attempt in the third, Maynard was ultimately able to make good on his featherweight debut. Relying on the bullying pressure that made him so successful in the early stages of his career, the American was able to steal rounds two and three from his exhausted foe for a unanimous decision win.
The victory is Maynard's first since a forgettable split decision over Clay Guida back in 2012. Having emerged from the four-fight skid that plagued him, the 36-year-old is now 12-5-1 overall, but still a grim 1-4 in his last 5. Bruno, meanwhile, falls onto a two fight skid. He's now 15-4 in sum, and an unfortunate 0-2 in the Octagon.
Nicolau Edges Moraga in Slow Fight
The only flyweight bout included on any of Fight Week's three cards paired former title challenger John Moraga with 23-year-old prospect Matheus Nicolau, who was making his debut in the division.
It was a very slow fight, as both men were extremely gun-shy, landing less than 70 strikes combined over the course of three rounds. Given this, the judges had a bit of a tricky job on their hands. In the end, however, those judges' sided with Nicolau, probably on the strength of his being able to stop both of Moraga's takedown attempts, and reverse one of them as the seconds disappeared in the third round.
With this rather tepid win, Nicolau has defeated the UFC's sixth-ranked flyweight. Given this, we can expect the young Brazilian to enter the divisional rankings in the coming days. He's now a strong 12-1 overall and 2-0 in the UFC. Moraga, on the other hand, loses his second straight, and will return to Arizona with a 16-5 overall record.
Stansbury Outwrestles Hendricks to Majority Decision
When TUF 23 light heavyweight cast members Cory Hendricks and Josh Stansbury met on this Las Vegas undercard, the stakes were high. The winner would probably be given an additional fight with the UFC, while the loser was likely to be sent packing.
Despite a decent first round from Hendricks, this one ultimately came down to the size, strength, and grappling advantages possessed by Stansbury. Amassing more than 6 minutes of control time in rounds two and three, Stansbury was able to shut his opponent's offense down, and simultaneously steal the judges' favor.
With the decision win, Stansbury moves to 8-2 overall. Having lost only his first two bouts, he's now on a solid, 8-fight streak. Hendricks, on the other hand, loses for the first time. He's now 3-1 in sum.
Takedowns Carry Mutante to Unanimous Decision Win
The televised prelims were kicked off by a middleweight scrap between inaugural TUF Brazil winner Cezar "Mutante" Ferreira and the towering Anthony Smith, who walked into the bout having scored finishes in 23 of his previous 25 wins.
Despite Smith's propensity for the finish, Mutante was able to completely neutralize him with his wrestling. Over the course of the three-round affair, the Brazilian completed all 6 of his attempted takedowns, which allowed him to rack up a whopping 8:38 of control time—more than enough to earn him a unanimous nod.
With the win, Mutante improves to 10-5 overall, and brings his UFC record above the .500 mark to 4-3. Smith, meanwhile, has an 8-fight streak snapped by the loss. He's now 25-12 overall, and 1-1 in his second stint with the UFC.
Lee Smashes Matthews in the First
The 2-bout Fight Pass prelims were wrapped up by a clash of talented lightweight prospects. On one side of the Octagon stood 21-year-old Australian Jake Matthews. On the other, stood 23-year-old American Kevin "The Motown Phenom" Lee.
This one came down to Lee's grappling. The American was quick to secure a takedown, after which he took his foe's back and began to pour on the ground-and-pound. From there, it was only a matter of time before the referee jumped to Matthews' rescue. The first-round TKO win is the first strike-induced victory on Lee's record.
With the win, The Motown Phenom moves to a strong 13-2 overall, and 5-2 in the UFC. And while his post-fight calls for a bout with Al Iaquinta are likely to be hindered by Iaquinta's looming bout with Thiago Alves, Lee is undoubtedly ready for a step up. Matthews, on the other hand, will return to Australia with a 10-2 overall record, and 4-2 mark on the sport's biggest stage.
Jingliang Snuffs Zafir in One
The action began with an intriguing scrap between international welterweights. In one corner, we had a full-time high school teacher in Australia's Anton Zafir. He looked to rebound from a KO loss to James Moontasri in his UFC debut. In the other corner, stood China's Li Jingliang, who sought to distance himself from a submission loss to Keita Nakamura.
In the end, Jingliang succeeded on his mission in the most emphatic way possible, snuffing Zafir with a series of ground strikes just 2:46 into the first round.
With the KO win, the Chinese fighter moves to 11-4 overall, and 3-2 in the UFC. Zafir, meanwhile, will return to Australia with a 7-3 cumulative record and a tough 0-2 mark inside the Octagon.
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