Edson Barboza started his victory dance before the victory was his. Technically. There was still around 8 seconds to go in the final round of the co-main event of UFC Fight Night on Saturday in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, when he raised his arms over his head and floated around the center of the cage in exultation.
The 34-year-old Brazilian can be forgiven for prematurely celebrating his unanimous decision victory over Makwan Amirkhani. After all, he had showed up at Fight Island dragging along a three-fight losing streak. He had lost five of his previous six, in all, and had not had those arms raised since 2018.
"I'm very happy," said Barboza (21-9). "I'm very, very happy to take my 'W' back to my house."
This one was no masterpiece, as the fighters spent much of the early going circling the cage, each seemingly waiting for the other to initiate an exchange. Barboza got the better of those exchanges, especially in Round 2, when he floored Amirkhani twice with straight right hands.
Amirkhani (16-5), who entered the fight having won three of four, had his best shot in the final round, when he got a takedown with more than three minutes to go. But he could do little inside Barboza's full guard, and when the fight was stood back up, the Brazilian was home free.
One judge scored it 30-26, one had it 30-27 and the third scored it 29-28. Barboza, a longtime lightweight contender who dropped to featherweight in May, hopes this victory is just the beginning.
"I want to be a champ," he said. "I'm here to be a champ. Guys, I'm ready to be a champ. Please, give me a top-five, top-six [contender], whatever. I'm ready."
Tybura weathered the storm.
Rothwell pushed ahead and kept an incredibly high pace for the heavyweight division in the first round, peppering Tybura with punching combinations. But Tybura survived Rothwell's early aggression and took over in the second part of the fight to earn a unanimous decision victory (29-27, 29-27, 29-27).
In the first round, Rothwell came forward over and over again with combinations, landing unorthodox uppercuts and body shots. Tybura did well in countering, but Rothwell surely won the first round by landing the most impactful shots.
The tide turned in the second. Rothwell tired; he wasn't as quick coming in, and Tybura made him pay for it with excellent counters. Tybura cracked Rothwell in his left eye, which caused swelling. He also landed a knee to "Big Ben" in the clinch. Tybura was making Rothwell pay for blitzing in.
The third round was a repeat of the second, as Tybura landed beautiful counters to a slowing Rothwell, then took Rothwell down and bloodied him up with ground-and-pound from top position. All three judges gave Tybura a 10-8 in the third round.
Tybura, from Poland, has now won three straight following a two-fight losing streak. The 34-year-old has five heavyweight decision wins since 2016, when he made his UFC debut -- the most in the promotion during that time. Rothwell, a 38-year-old from Wisconsin, saw a two-fight winning streak snapped.
Dricus Du Plessis stuns Markus Perez with left hand
Dricus Du Plessis lands a flurry of punches on Markus Perez before dropping him with a big left hand that finishes the fight.
Du Plessis started his UFC debut slowly, but ended it quickly by crumbling Perez with a short left hook that gave the former KSW champion a finish at 3 minutes, 22 seconds of Round 1 -- his third consecutive victory and 11th in his past 12 fights.
The 26-year-old South African was put on the defensive at the start by the aggressive Perez, and Du Plessis seemed unable to get his offense going at first.
"He obviously knew that I'm a guy coming into my first fight. There's always those first-fight jitters," Du Plessis said. "I wasn't really nervous, but it was a case of, you know, I'm in the damn UFC."
He'll be there for a while if he continues to perform like he did in his debut. After the tentative start, Du Plessis gradually started coming forward. And after he landed a body kick that sent Perez back toward the cage, he threw a right hand that missed but followed with a left that dropped Perez to the canvas face-first for the KO.
"This is the happiest I've ever been in my whole life," Du Plessis said.
For Perez, 30, it was his second straight loss. He had alternated wins and losses in his first five UFC bouts after joining the promotion in 2017 as an unbeaten fighter.
Aspinall impresses with ninth career first-round finish
Tom Aspinall continues his impressive streak of first-round finishes, recording his ninth such finish in nine professional fights.
Fight Island has been very good to Aspinall.
After a quick win in his UFC debut in Abu Dhabi back in July, Aspinall has another impressive victory on his record. He stopped Baudot with ground-and-pound from full mount, earning a TKO at 1:35 of the first round in the heavyweight bout. Aspinall won a $50,000 Performance of the Night bonus in July for his 45-second starching of Jake Collier, and his name was definitely in the hat for another bonus on Saturday.
This fight was never close. Aspinall came forward and landed a front kick to Baudot's back leg, which buckled Baudot briefly. Then Aspinall landed a hard punching combination, followed by a takedown. From there, Aspinall moved to mount and rained down hard elbows and punches. Baudot had no answer and the bout was quickly done.
Aspinall, 27, has won five straight, all by finish. The Englishman is a teammate of UFC middleweight star Darren Till. Baudot, a 32-year-old Frenchman, saw a two-fight winning streak snapped.
Topuria relied on relentless grappling attacks, never appearing to become frustrated when Zalal survived multiple submission attempts, and ultimately remained undefeated in his UFC debut.
Born in Germany and fighting out of Spain, Topuria spent the better part of Round 1 setting up submission try after submission try. The 23-year-old transitioned fluidly from an anaconda choke to a triangle and back to the anaconda, but Zalal successfully defended each attempt, even when the positions looked dangerous, and made it to the horn without submitting.
Zalal appeared emboldened early in the second round, initiating the grappling himself. But that just enabled Topuria to go back to work on the canvas. Topuria was always a step ahead, locking in several chokes that looked tight. But Zalal, a 24-year-old from Morocco who fights out of Denver, managed to avoid being finished. And in the fight's final minute, he had a chance to change the narrative, as Topuria appeared tired. But Zalal could not take advantage, and Topuria earned the first decision win of his career.
For a short notice fight against Zalal, thats a really good performance for Topuria. He has some slick grappling #UFCFightIsland5— Aljamain Sterling (@funkmasterMMA) October 11, 2020
All three judges scored the bout 29-28.
"The chokes I did, I did it good, I don't know how the guy didn't tap out," Topuria said. "He's a tough guy, what can I say. It is what it is, next time I will try to make better chokes. It was my first time to go the distance."
For Zalal, the loss ended a four-fight winning streak, with the most recent three of those victories coming in the UFC.
All respect to Bhullar, but Tom's win was a real Breese.
Breese caught Bhullar with a perfectly placed jab that put Bhullar down. Breese pounced on the ground with a flurry of punches and got the finish via TKO at 1:42 of the first round. The real damage, though, came before the jab and finish. Breese landed two precision one-two combinations that sent Bhullar's head snapping back. The previously undefeated Bhullar was clearly in big trouble against the boxing of Breese.
Breese, 29, has alternated wins and losses in his previous four fights. He has long been one of the United Kingdom's most promising athletes in the middleweight division, but he has yet to put it all together. Perhaps this is the start. Breese has 11 finishes in 12 career wins and this was his eighth career first-round finish.
Bhullar, a 28-year-old Canadian, was making his UFC debut.
Nascimento is a jiu-jitsu master, and the fight did go to his domain -- the canvas -- within the opening seconds. But by then the big Brazilian already was damaged goods and on his way to his first career defeat thanks to a barrage of Daukaus left hooks.
Daukaus, a 31-year-old out of Philadelphia, earned his third consecutive victory and the eighth win in his past nine outings by wasting no time before going after Nascimento with heavy hands. He dropped the Brazilian just seconds into the fight with a left hook that punctuated a combination, and he followed Nascimento to the mat -- a sign that he knew he had his man hurt.
Daukaus delivered several shots from top position, and when Nascimento got the fight back to standing, Daukaus made sure it didn't remain there for long. He landed another left hook to floor his opponent, and referee Marc Goddard had seen enough, jumping in at 45 seconds.
For Daukaus, it was his third straight first-round knockout win, and the fastest of his career. Overall, he has nine knockouts in 10 victories.
Nascimento, 27, was the third fighter of the night to suffer a first career defeat.
Buckley might have sealed the MMA knockout of the year. At the very least, it was surely one of the most unique knockouts in the history of the sport.
"This might be the greatest KO I've seen ever," UFC color commentator Paul Felder said.
In the second round, Buckley threw a left high kick that Kasanganay caught with his left hand. Kasanganay pushed Buckley's left leg away, but Buckley used that created motion to spin -- and land a perfect back kick right to Kasanganay's jaw. Kasanganay was out on impact.
That move.— Israel Adesanya (@stylebender) October 10, 2020
That's 50 G's!
"We drill to kill," Buckley said in his postfight interview. "But I never landed it in a fight before."
Buckley looked good all fight, coming forward with hard combinations. Kasanganay had his moments, too, finishing the first round strong and landing a hard left hook in the second. But all anyone will be talking about from this fight is Buckley's incredible knockout. UFC president Dana White said afterward that Buckley would definitely win a $50,000 fight-night bonus.
"The boss just told me that he wants to give me all of the bonuses, so I'm welcome to it, I want all of it," Buckley said. "To be honest with you, it's surreal, a cloud came over my head when he was talking to me, so I couldn't hear nothing, but once that money came in, once he talked about that, then it cleared up a little bit. But it's awesome, it's surreal that Dana White came over and talked to me.
"It was just open. I seen that he still had my legs, I was still able to balance with him grabbing my foot, so I just spun and kicked. I aimed and I fire and it got the result we needed. I know I landed flush, I didn't know if I knocked him out though until he locked up and I said it was game over. I train it all the time, the only thing that was different was him holding my leg, but I practice it all the time."
Buckley, 26, picked up his first UFC victory with the highlight-reel knockout. The Missourian has won three of his past four. Kasanganay, a 26-year-old North Carolina resident, was coming off two August wins -- one on Dana White's Contender Series and one in the UFC.
These two went at it for the full 15 minutes and then an additional 10 seconds. Yes, even after the horn sounded to end Round 3 of a fight that featured some wild striking exchanges and in-and-out-of-danger grappling scrambles, they were still in each other's faces and shoving.
In the end, Kelley got the nod from all three judges -- 29-28 on two scorecards and 30-27 on the other -- and secured his first UFC victory.
"I'm going to keep developing, I want to get up in that mix, top 15, top 10, you guys better pay attention because I am coming," Kelley said after the fight.
Round 1 was one long grappling scramble. Kelley, a 33-year-old out of Shreveport, Louisiana, briefly locked up a triangle early, and when AlQaisi fought his way out of trouble, the Jordanian ended up securing a guillotine, a choke he has used to win three of his previous fights. But Kelley remained calm, escaped the position and ended the round threatening to end the fight with a triangle armbar.
The other two rounds had grappling scrambles as well, but there was more stand-up fighting, with Kelley landing the more damaging blows but AlQaisi, 30, showing that he is dangerous as well. At one point, he connected with two straight spinning backfists.
But it was not enough for AlQaisi, who lost for the second straight time -- both of his UFC bouts -- after coming to the promotion riding a five-fight winning streak.
Chikadze hurts Morales with big knockdown in third
Giga Chikadze lands a massive right hook to the head of Omar Morales as Morales drops to the mat in Round 3.
Chikadze clearly wanted the knockout, swinging for the fences throughout the fight. And he almost got it in the third round.
Chikadze dropped Morales with a missile-like overhand right, then pounced and attempted to land big ground-and-pound strikes. The previously undefeated Morales somehow survived, but Chikadze still picked up a unanimous decision victory (30-27, 30-27, 30-27) in a featherweight bout.
Morales was extremely game. He pushed forward for most of the fight, but Chikadze, a Glory Kickboxing veteran and karate black belt, showed his superior technical striking chops, landing straight lefts from southpaw stance and cracking body kicks. When Chikadze saw openings, he swung with everything he had, but never quite connected until the third.
"I want my spot in the top 15. I know I can beat everybody, I can beat the champion, I can beat the top five guys, I can beat top 10, and I feel that I am a top-15 guy," Chikadze said. "I just beat an undefeated fighter from lightweight, nobody was fighting him, I know how hard it was to find an opponent for him."
Chikadze has won six straight, including his first four in the UFC. The 32-year-old from the Republic of Georgia is still seeking his first UFC finish. Morales, a 34-year-old from Venezuela, was 2-0 in the UFC coming in.
What a banger #UFCFightIsland5— Niko Price (@Nikohybridprice) October 10, 2020
Cortez continued her roll in her second UFC bout. She won her eighth straight with a strong performance over Egger, beating her to the punch in the fight's rare striking exchanges and controlling her on the canvas for nearly the entire time.
The 26-year-old from Scottsdale, Arizona, had nearly 10 minutes of control time on the canvas during her 15 minutes in the cage with Eggers, who was making her UFC debut.
All three judges scored the bout 30-27 for Cortez.
"It's quite an experience to say the least, I'm just really grateful that I can say that I'm part of this history, so I'm very grateful for that and very happy that I got to experience it," Cortez said. "Would I want to come back? Probably not. I want to go fight in Vegas, in my backyard, have my family there to support me for once. A lot of my fights haven't been in the States, so hopefully the next one can be in town."
Egger, who is 32 and from Switzerland, had won three fights in a row.
Cortez doing great at winning the chess match on the ground. #ufcfightisland5— Tatiana Suarez (@tatianaufc) October 10, 2020
Silva, the significantly shorter man, had to make it a brawl. He succeeded in doing so, but it still wasn't enough.
Ulanbekov kept Silva at bay in a unanimous decision win (30-27, 29-28, 29-28) to open UFC Fight Night: Moraes vs. Sandhagen. Silva made things ugly. He closed the distance, created scrambles and roped Ulanbekov into wild exchanges.
But Ulanbekov still did more damage, opening up a cut to the side of Silva's right eye in the second round. Ulanbekov was also able to outwrestle Silva in spots, though Silva refused to go away. The fight finished with Silva pushing ahead and throwing haphazard hooks. He landed two hard left ones and Ulanbekov landed a hard right. It was a fun way to end an entertaining, back-and-forth battle.
Ulanbekov, 29, has now won four straight. This was the Russian's UFC debut. Silva, a 30-year-old from Brazil, has dropped all three of his UFC fights since debuting in 2019.
Flyweights setting the pace for the night! Lesgo!🔥#UFCfightisland5— Kai Kara France (@kaikarafrance) October 10, 2020