UFC 201, which was the organization's first pay-per-view offering since the historic UFC 200, went down at the Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia.
Highlighted by a welterweight title fight between Robbie Lawler and Tyron Woodley, the rest of the card was undeniably lacking in big-name fighters—especially when compared to UFC 200. Despite this deficit, however, the event delivered as one of the most exciting in recent memory, as onlookers witnessed a handful of dazzling, first-round stoppages, and some excellent, back-and-forth scraps.
Here's a recap of the madness for those who missed it!
The Main Card:
Woodley Crushes Lawler to Take Welterweight Crown
In the evening's main event, welterweight champion Robbie Lawler attempted to build on his incredible, late-career resurgence with a win over brick-fisted challenger Tyron Woodley. As former training partners at American Top Team, the two fighters were well acquainted with one another before they stepped onto the canvas in Atlanta.
In his recent title fights, Lawler has eaten dizzying shots from the likes of Johny Hendricks, Rory MacDonald, and Carlos Condit. When it came time to absorb Woodley's best, however, the champ's chin did not hold up. Just past the two-minute mark of round one, Woodley closed the distance on a back-peddling Lawler, and planted a meteor on his chin. A few seconds later, and challenger was finishing champion off against the cage. Woodley's title-synching knockout victory occurred at the 2:12 mark of the first.
With the win, the new champion makes a successful return after an 18-month layoff. He can now look forward to a defense against Stephen Thompson sometime in the near future, while the winner of Carlos Condit and Demian Maia's August bout will be waiting in the wings. With his title win, Woodley is now 16-3 overall, and 6-2 since joining the UFC in early 2013.
Lawler, meanwhile, experiences just his second knockout loss, with the first occurring all the way back in 2004 at the hands of Nick Diaz. With this title loss, he has a five-fight win-streak snapped, while his overall record falls to 27-11.
Kowalkiewicz Outduels Namajunas, Locks Up Bout with Jedrzejczyk
When UFC flyweight champion Demetrious "Mighty Mouse" Johnson was forced out of his scheduled UFC 201 title fight with Wilson Reis, the evening's co-main event honors instead went to TUF 20 runner-up "Thug" Rose Namajunas and streaking Polish fighter Karolina Kowalkiewicz. The two met in an unofficial strawweight number-one-contender fight.
Round one of this one seemed to go to Namajunas, who utilized movement to frustrate her Polish foe. Round two, however, saw Kowalkiewicz repeatedly trap Namajunas in the clinch, where she bludgeoned her midsection with knee after knee after knee. Round three, finally, saw Kowalkiewicz continue to land in the clinch, and then amass a solid 2:20 of control time from top position. So, while one judge seemed to think Namajunas had done enough to win, the end result was a fairly clear two rounds to one for the Polish fighter, who ultimately walked away with a split nod.
In victory, Kowalkiewicz stays perfect in her first three bouts with the UFC, and extends her overall record to a sparkling 10-0. All signs now point to her taking on strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk in an all-Polish showdown sometime in the near future.
Namajunas, on the other hand, has a three-fight streaked snapped by the loss, coming up short for the first time since a 2014 defeat to Carla Esparza. She is now 5-3 overall, and 3-2 in the UFC.
Ellenberger Smashes Brown for Career-Saving Win
Not long ago, Matt Brown and Jake Ellenberger were considered two of the best welterweights on earth. When they stepped onto the canvas in Atlanta, however, Brown and Ellenberger owned recent records of 1-3 and 1-5 respectively. Given this, both former contenders were eager for a big win.
Despite his recent skid—and his resulting underdog status—this one was all Ellenberger. Seconds into the first round, the veteran floored his foe with a rocket-fuelled right hand over the top. And though Brown was able to recover from this initial blow, Ellenberger kept his cool, and eventually put his opponent down for good with a kick to the body in the subsequent moments—something Erick Silva very nearly did back in 2014. A few ground strikes later, and the deed was done.
The first-round knockout marks Ellenberger's first win since an early 2015 defeat of a shopworn Josh Koscheck. He's now 31-11 overall, and though he remains a tough 2-5 in his last 7, he seems to have found some new life as a member of Kings MMA. Brown, meanwhile, experiences the first strike-induced loss of his 35-fight career. He's now 20-15 in sum, and an ugly 1-4 in his last 5. The hardnosed slugger will have to make his next fight count.
Perez Outworks Rivera in Bantamweight Firefight
The second bout of the main card occurred in the bantamweight division, as fan favorites Francisco Rivera and Erik Perez clashed in a scrap that many considered a frontrunner for Fight of the Night honors. These predictions proved accurate.
The first round saw the two fighters feel each other out, with Rivera landing the harder shots. Round two, meanwhile, saw Perez loosen up and crack Rivera with a range of unpredictable strikes. Round three, finally, is where things got really wild, as the two fighters bit down on their mouth pieces and threw caution to the wind for a furious exchange that left Rivera completely breathless. From there, Perez was able to steal the round with his grappling, and ultimately, lock up a well-deserved unanimous decision victory.
With the win, the Mexican fighter builds on the momentum of a November defeat of Taylor Lapilus. He's now 16-6 overall, and 6-2 since joining the UFC back in 2012. Rivera, meanwhile, now stands at 11-7 overall, and a tough 1-5 in his last 6. That said, the Californian is quickly building a rep as one of the most exciting fighters in the game. He'll be back.
Benoit Edges Serrano in Weird Fight
Originally, UFC 201's main card was expected to include an intriguing flyweight bout between Justin Scoggins and Ian McCall. When Scoggins failed to make weight, however, this bout was pulled from the event, which left an opening on the main card. Despite the many big names on the prelims, this main card void was filled by an unassuming flyweight bout between Fredy Serrano and Ryan Benoit.
It was a strange one. Over the course of the three-round encounter, Serrano was able to find success with his tremendous wrestling, but baffled onlookers with his strange arsenal of strikes, which included everything from axe kicks to weird hip-strikes on the ground. Benoit, meanwhile, had some success on the feet, but seemed to lose steam very early on in the fight—not surprising considering the brevity of the time he had to prepare. In the end, however, the judges had apparently seen enough from Benoit to give him a split decision win.
With the win, the 26-year-old rebounds from a submission loss to Ben Nguyen. He's now 9-4 overall, and 2-2 in the UFC. Serrano, meanwhile, tastes defeat for the first time as a pro fighter. The 36-year-old grappler is now 3-1 overall and 2-1 in the Octagon.
Krylov Snuffs Herman with Second-Round Head Kick
The final bout of the undercard came courtesy of the light heavyweight division; as former middleweight Ed Herman took on 24-year-old Ukrainian finisher Nikita Krylov.
It was not a good night to be Ed Herman. From the opening bell, Krylov began to pick his foe apart with a staggering array of strikes. And though an exhausted-looking Herman managed to escape the first round, he was not so lucky in the second. In the middle of a wild exchange, Krylov uncorked a beautiful head kick that sent his experienced foe crashing face-first into the canvas. The young Ukrainian's highlight-reel KO occurred at the 40-second mark of round two.
In victory, Krylov becomes the owner of the longest active finish streak in the UFC, with five in a row. Quickly emerging as one of the brightest prospects in the division, he is now 21-4 overall, and 6-2 in the Octagon. Herman, meanwhile, falls to 23-12 in sum, and 1-1 since returning to light heavyweight.
Masvidal Out-Strikes Pearson to Decision Victory
On July 9, England's Ross Pearson lost a close decision to former Bellator lightweight champion Will Brooks. Just 22 days later, on the undercard of UFC 201, Pearson was already back on the horse, taking on Jorge Masvidal in a strange, but undeniably appealing welterweight showdown.
While Pearson deserves all the respect in the world for making this short-notice trip to welterweight, he just couldn't navigate Masvidal's substantial reach advantage, eating strike after strike has he attempted to do so. By the time the third round ended, Masvidal had amassed a whopping, 113-45 strike advantage. This advantage, when paired with his near finish of Pearson in the second round, was the recipe for a well-deserved unanimous decision triumph.
In victory, Masvidal rebounds from a pair of split losses to Benson Henderson and Lorenz Larkin. He's now 30-11 overall and 7-4 since joining the UFC in 2013. Pearson, meanwhile, stumbles onto a 2-fight skid, but can hardly be faulted considering the short time he had to prepare for this bout. He's now 19-12 overall.
Hamilton Turns the Lights Off On Grabowski
The second bout of the televised prelims occurred in the heavyweight division, as 36-year-olds Damien Grabowski and Anthony Hamilton looked to rebound from losses to Derrick Lewis and Shamil Abdurakhimov respectively.
It was a classic, over-in-a-blink, heavyweight slobberknocker. The moment the fight began, the two heavyweights met in the center of the Octagon and began pelting each other with heavy artillery. 15 seconds later, Grabowski lay in an unconscious heap against the cage, while a tearful Hamilton threw his hands up in victory.
With this blitzkrieg win—which is the second-fastest knockout in UFC heavyweight history—Hamilton improves his overall record to 15-5, while his UFC record now stands at 3-3. Grabowski, meanwhile, remains winless across two UFC bouts. He's now 20-4 overall.
Reis Scores Fastest Sub in UFC Flyweight History
Originally, Wilson Reis was expected to battle UFC flyweight champion Demetrious "Mighty Mouse" Johnson in UFC 201's co-main event. When Mighty Mouse withdrew from the card with an injury, however, Reis was forced to shift his focus to Team Alpha Male's Hector Sandoval in a high-risk, low-reward effort to stay busy and collect a paycheck.
Reis made this last-minute bout look easy, scoring a trio of takedowns in rapid succession, before sealing the deal with a rear-naked choke less than two minutes into the first frame. It's the fastest submission win in UFC flyweight history.
Under normal circumstances, Reis would probably be rescheduled for a title shot sometime in the near future. As we know, however, Mighty Mouse's next challenger will be produced by an upcoming season of The Ultimate Fighter, which means Reis will probably have to take another fight in the meantime. He's now 21-6 overall and 5-2 in the UFC, while Sandoval loses his debut and falls to 12-3 overall.
Graves and Velickovic Battle to Questionable Draw
The second bout of the night went down in the welterweight division, as Serbia's Bojan Velickovic took on undefeated 25-year-old Michael Graves.
This one was a bit of a head-scratcher. After a close first round, Graves appeared to win rounds two and three with his grappling, which would generally be enough to earn him a decision victory. Instead, however, the fight was ruled a majority draw—the fourth in the UFC in 2016, which sets a new calendar-year record.
With this unexpected result, Graves' overall record moves to 6-0-1, while he now sits at 2-0-1 in the Octagon. Velickovic, meanwhile, is now 14-3-1 overall, and 1-0-1 in his first two bouts with the UFC.
Brown Levels Arzamendia in the First
The UFC's return to Atlanta began in the lightweight division as Australia's Damien Brown took on Paraguay's Cesar Arzamendia. Both men looked to bounce back from losses in their UFC debuts.
This one was over in a hurry. Less than a minute into the fight, Brown dropped his foe with a right hand. Then, after escaping a leg-lock attempt and returning to the feet, the Australian dropped his foe again—this time for good. The knockout occurred at the 2:27 mark of the first.
The win is Brown's first in the UFC, and it moves him to 16-9 overall. Arzamendia, meanwhile, experiences his second first-round knockout in a row—a worrisome start to his UFC career. He's now 7-3 overall.
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