Former UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman went into Saturday's event needing a win as bad as anyone in the sport. Ultimately, he got it -- although it didn't exactly feel like a return to glory.
Weidman (15-5) outpointed Omari Akhmedov (20-5-1) in a grueling middleweight contest in the co-main event of UFC Fight Night in Las Vegas. Judges scored the bout in Weidman's favor 29-27, 29-27 and 29-28. The decision came in large part due to a dominant third round, in which Weidman finally controlled Akhmedov on the ground and threatened to submit him via arm triangle.
Despite a strong third round, Weidman, 36, did not look like the dominant force he once was at 185 pounds. He struggled to take Akhmedov down -- converting just five of 16 takedown attempts -- and looked tired midway through the second round. The victory is his first since July 2017, and it was just his second win in his past seven appearances.
"I'm happy to get my hand raised," Weidman said. "I'm not too happy with that performance, but I needed a win and I got it done. I'm back, man. I'm back at 185. The top-tier guys, I'm coming for you. I know this wasn't the most outstanding win, but it's me on the right page and that's a problem for everybody."
A former All-American collegiate wrestler, Weidman wasted no time trying to get Akhmedov down. He repeatedly shot at Akhmedov's lead leg and worked on him against the fence anytime the Dagestani fought off his initial attempts. Akhmedov did well defending takedowns in the first and second rounds, and Weidman seemed to fatigue from the effort. Akhmedov couldn't capitalize, however, as he appeared tired himself.
Weidman, who had been knocked out in each of his past five losses, ate several left hooks from Akhmedov but never looked badly hurt. Anytime Akhmedov seized some kind of momentum with a short flurry, Weidman did well getting into his hips and at least slowing the bout down, even when he couldn't drag Akhmedov to the floor.
Man tons of heart by @chrisweidman !!! Feels great to see him get the W.— Funky (@Benaskren) August 9, 2020
Weidman's immediate future will be interesting. He still represents one of the more popular names of the middleweight division, but he went into Saturday's contest unranked. He even tried moving up to the light heavyweight division in his most recent fight, but he suffered a first-round knockout loss to Dominick Reyes.
"There's a lot that goes into it for me and my family -- it's just good to get it done with," Weidman said. "I'm super grateful that the UFC is allowing us to work and put on a show for everybody. I know so many people out there that really want to start working and they can't, so I'm just super grateful to be in the position that I am at to do something that I love to do and to provide for my family.
"It feels good. I feel like I'm restarting my career, and I'm really grateful to have that opportunity. I feel refreshed and renewed. I'm super excited about the future."
Akhmedov had a six-fight unbeaten streak snapped.
-- Brett Okamoto
Derrick Lewis is the UFC's new heavyweight knockout king.
Lewis stopped Oleinik via TKO at :21 of the second round Saturday in the main event of UFC Fight Night in Las Vegas. With the stoppage, Lewis earned his record 11th UFC heavyweight KO/TKO, breaking a tie with former champions Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos. That KO/TKO mark also puts Lewis tied for second with four others for the most knockouts in UFC history.
Stewart had taken up residence in the center of the Octagon, with Pitolo spending half of the first round circling and circling. These guys are strikers, and they both were looking for openings to exchange. They each landed some shots, nothing significant. Neither man seized a distinct advantage in the standup.
So Pitolo opted to take the fight to the canvas, and as soon as he went for the takedown out of a clinch against the cage, he had to know he'd made a mistake. Stewart had already locked in a guillotine choke while the fighters were still on their feet, and by the time they hit the canvas, the Englishman's grip was tight. Within moments, Pitolo was tapping out and Stewart would earn a $50,000 performance-of-the-night bonus.
The finish at 3:41 of Round 1 was the first submission for Stewart in 18 career bouts, 11 in the UFC. The 29-year-old out of London has won five of his past seven but had not had a first-round finish since 2016.
Pitolo, a Hawaiian fighter who also is 29, came in having won four of five. He'd been submitted only once before in his career, back in 2017.
"It's been crazy," Stewart said. "I can't wait to see the back of this year. A lot is going on. Friends have died, people have died from COVID[-19], fights not happening, change in opponents, I've lost here and there ... If I don't fight again until the end of this year, at least I can say I've had a good win, a finish. My first submission.
"It means a lot to me. People say I'm a striker, 'Take Darren down,' 'Darren can't grapple' ... I've been working on my grappling, but no one has seen it yet. I'm happy I finally got to show it to the world. Don't sleep on me -- I can tap you out."
-- Jeff Wagenheim
Kunitskaya's strategy was simple and perhaps not the most exciting to watch. But it was more than enough to get the job done.
With an effective game plan based around pushing Stoliarenko up against the fence and grinding her out, Kunitskaya was able to win a one-sided unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-27).
Kunitskaya started right from the first round, forcing Stoliarenko against the fence and landing elbows to the head and knees to the body. One of the elbows sliced Stolierenko open. The second round was more of the same. Kunitskaya landed another elbow that drew more blood and then a knee to the body that hurt Stoliarenko. In response, Stoliarenko pulled guard and actually worked for a close armbar. But Kunitskaya was able to escape before the end of the round.
The third was rinse and repeat for Kunitskaya. More rushing Stoliarenko to close distance and using her size and strength to get her up against the cage.
Kunitskaya, 30, has won three of her past four fights. The Russia native has lost to just Cris Cyborg and Aspen Ladd in the UFC. Coming in, Kunitskaya was ranked No. 10 in the world at women's bantamweight by ESPN. Stoliarenko, a 27-year-old Lithuanian fighter, had a five-fight winning streak snapped. She is the former Invicta bantamweight champion.
"It's been a hard time for everyone with this pandemic and a lot changed in my life," Kunitskaya said. "I was stuck in Brazil for six months, then I moved to Florida. It was hard, but I'm so happy with this opportunity and for being able to fight.
"I'm really happy and I want to thank Julija for taking this fight on short notice. For me, at this time, it wasn't so important the ranking. It would be good if my opponent was higher in the ranking, but I'm so happy that they were able to find a replacement. She is such a good fighter. She was a champion at Invicta, she was in a good winning streak, so I don't think I fought a no-name."
-- Marc Raimondi
Dariush stuns Holtzman with spinning backfist
Beneil Dariush lands a thunderous spinning backfist that ends the fight almost immediately in Round 1.
Dariush wants a top-10 opponent at lightweight, and he's making it very hard for the UFC to deny him.
Dariush pushed his current win streak to five with a highlight-reel knockout. The finish came at the 4:38 mark of the opening round, courtesy of a spinning backfist by Dariush. The shot didn't even land clean, as Dariush made contact with his forearm -- but it was still more than enough to finish Holtzman, as referee Herb Dean intervened immediately.
Dariush, who trains out of Kings MMA, had been vocal leading up to the fight about the challenge of booking a highly ranked opponent. The 31-year-old took out those frustrations early on Holtzman, and he became the first man to ever finish him in a professional fight. The finish came after Dariush had already hurt Holtzman badly earlier in the round with a knee in the clinch.
Known primarily for his submission pedigree, Dariush has been equally dangerous on the feet as of late. Prior to Saturday's win, he knocked out Drakkar Klose with an overhand right in March. During this streak, he's also posted a finish over Drew Dober, who has since won three in a row.
The only thing that didn't Dariush's way during the week was the scale as he missed weight by two pounds.
Holtzman suffered his first loss since February 2019. He had won five of his past six going into Saturday.
"My friend's son, Billy, sent me a message on Instagram and he was like: 'Hey, you should try to knock him out with a spinning backfist. I've been playing the video game, and in the game you do it really well,'" Dariush said. "And I was like, 'I'll think about it, buddy.' He goes, 'Try it two times. If it doesn't work, it's OK.' And here we are, so, Bill, I love you, buddy.
"I do it a lot in training. I used to do the spinning back kick a lot, but then again, I was wild. As you get older, you try to clean things up. If you watch the beginning of the fight, I'm trying to be sharp with my boxing, hands up, don't drop your hands, slip, counter ... Don't get wild. For maybe the first minute and a half, I did that and then, after that, it was just old Beneil."
Means took a fight that was tight on the scorecards and seized control by making it tight in the way it was fought.
After Staropoli had thrown approximately 10,000 spinning punches and kicks in the first two rounds, landing some and barely missing with many, Means took those flashy techniques out of the equation in Round 3, locking up his opponent in a clinch against the cage for nearly the entirety of those final five minutes. Means did not do a lot of damage, but he scored with knees and short punches, and more important, he neutralized Staropoli to seal the deal with the judges.
Two scorecards had it 29-28 and the other read 30-27, all for the 36-year-old out of Albuquerque, New Mexico, who was fighting for the 44th time in a 16-year pro career.
Staropoli, 27, is from La Plata, Argentina, but had been refining his game in Brazil. It was his second straight defeat after having won seven in a row.
Means had a big second round, dropping Staropoli with a head kick midway through the round. He stunned him but could not get the finish. But he beat Staropoli to the punch for the rest of the round, ending it with a 43-23 edge in strikes. That sent Means into the final round with momentum, and he smartly took away his opponent's best shot at turning the tide.
"I can look myself in the mirror and tell myself the truth right out of the gate -- I'm not a quitter," Means said. "I might do some stupid things along the way and own what I do wrong, earn my reputation, earn my way, but I don't quit. And that's what we were stating out today: We don't quit."
The bout was contested at a 174.5 catchweight because Staropoli missed the welterweight limit. Means initially missed the mark as well but hit 171 pounds on his second try, so by making weight he was awarded 20% of his opponent's purse.
Holland sends Buckley's mouthpiece flying with big right hand
Kevin Holland knocks out Joaquin Buckley's mouthpiece with a punch, forcing the referee to call the fight.
In Holland's perfect world, this result could have occurred one week ago. But he'll surely take this impressive victory.
Holland landed a perfect right cross to Buckley's jaw to finish by one-punch knockout at :32 of the third round. Buckley's mouthpiece flew out on impact and referee Mark Smith rushed in to stop it when Buckley hit the ground.
Last Saturday, Holland was supposed to face Trevin Giles at UFC Fight Night: Brunson vs. Shahbazyan. But just before Holland and Giles were set to walk out, Giles fainted and the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) canceled the bout. Giles was taken to a hospital and doctors ended up finding a heart irregularity.
Holland, who earned one of the $50,000 performance-of-the-night bonuses, said he would fight someone else -- such as Ed Herman, who also lost his opponent, Gerald Meerschaert, on fight day -- but the UFC could not pull it off. UFC president Dana White told Holland he could fight on Saturday's card and that's what ended up happening -- with spectacular results.
Holland is super fun to watch 👏🏽 #UFCVegas6— Tatiana Suarez (@tatianaufc) August 9, 2020
It was a fairly one-sided fight throughout. Buckley was aggressive, moving forward with hard combinations. But Holland was patient. He weathered Buckley's storm, blocking and evading most punches. And when the time was right, he landed perfectly placed elbows and punches. Holland dropped Buckley with a right hand in the first, sliced him with some elbows and then finished the job with a picturesque knockout in the fifth.
"That was like 'Suga' Sean O'Malley-type stuff right there," Holland said. "That was pretty cool. I didn't know it was that clean -- I thought it was kind of sloppy ... That was pretty decent. I didn't know it was that decent.
"Any victory is a great feeling, but overall I've been saying, 'Let's go, Bucko,' for a while. I didn't think Buckley was coming to fight like that and he came to fight. Mad props to him for stepping up; mad props to him for bringing the fight. Honestly -- I have to sit back and really think about it -- but I think that was one of the most fun fights I've ever been in, the back-and-forths, the smack talking ... It was almost like a street affair, with some cardio. That was dope."
Holland, 27, has won two straight -- both by KO/TKO -- and five of his past six. The lanky middleweight fighter has emerged as someone to watch in the division. Buckley, a 26-year-old from St. Louis, Missouri, had a two-fight winning streak snapped.
Haqparast wasn't able to put Munoz away, but he staggered him twice -- once in the first round and again in the third -- and had him bleeding profusely from the nose and a cut near his right eye by the end of the fight. All three judges scored it a 30-27 shutout for Haqparast, who improved to 4-2 in the UFC.
Munoz, who trains out of Team Alpha Male, tried to wrestle Haqparast to the floor throughout the fight but had little success. He converted just one of his eight takedown attempts, according to UFC Stats. In addition to stuffing the takedowns, Haqparast routinely made Munoz pay for the effort, rocking him with uppercuts and quick three-punch combinations immediately after defending the shots.
He's smooth. Very skilled fighter https://t.co/ov3MVOi7TO— The Diamond (@DustinPoirier) August 9, 2020
A product of Tristar MMA under Firas Zahabi, Haqparast has flashed a ton of potential early in his UFC career. Saturday was a nice rebound from a knockout loss to Drew Dober in January, the first knockout loss of his career.
1-2 combo from Sanchez KOs Turman
Andrew Sanchez knocks Wellington Turman out cold with a brutal one-two punch combination to Turman's face.
Sanchez, a former national champion collegiate wrestler, put his standup skills on display in getting his first UFC finish with a beautiful 1-2 that flattened Turman at 4:14 of Round 1.
Sanchez, a 32-year-old Illinois native fighting out of Montreal, did utilize his wrestling early on, initiating a clinch against the cage and controlling his opponent there. But he did not do any damage until the fighters separated and started trading punches. Both men landed lead right hands as well as counter lefts, but Sanchez's punches kept coming, and coming hard. After he had clipped Turman with a right hand, he swooped in and finished with a probing left jab, followed by a powerful right cross.
The mullet brings a different type of power 👀— Max Holloway (@BlessedMMA) August 8, 2020
For Sanchez, the winner of Season 23 of "The Ultimate Fighter" as a light heavyweight four years ago, it was his third victory in his past four outings. He also won a $50,000 performance-of-the-night bonus.
Turman, 24, from Curitiba, Brazil, had won five of six coming in and had never been finished.
Tucker loses shorts trying to escape submission attempt
Gavin Tucker reveals his camo underwear after he loses his shorts while attempting to escape being submitted by Justin Jaynes in Round 1.
After a weird sequence in the first round that saw Tucker nearly get finished and then have his shorts slide down, Tucker rallied to beat Jaynes by submission (rear-naked choke) at 1:43 of the third round.
Near the end of the first, Jaynes dropped Tucker with a left uppercut and followed up with hard combinations. Tucker, clearly in trouble, shot for a takedown and Jaynes looked to cinch in a guillotine choke. Tucker wiggled free of Jaynes' clasped guard, but he had his shorts slide down in the process, exposing his Reebok underwear. Somehow Tucker, with his shorts below his butt, got into a mount, then went for an arm-triangle choke as time expired in the round.
Tucker! Pull your shorts up!! #UFCVegas6— Michael Chiesa (@MikeMav22) August 8, 2020
Tucker had all the momentum from there. He peppered Jaynes with combinations in the second round, and in the third he landed a huge knee that opened up a cut on Jaynes' face. Tucker eventually took a compromised Jaynes down, got his back and finished with the choke to earn a $50,000 performance-of-the-night bonus.
Tucker, 34, now has won two straight following the lone loss of his career to Rick Glenn in 2017. The Canadian won for the second straight time via third-round rear-naked choke. Jaynes had a five-fight winning streak snapped. The 30-year-old Michigan native, who lives and trains in Las Vegas, was coming off a 41-second knockout of Frank Camacho in his UFC debut in June.
Zalal did exactly what he was supposed to do as the event's biggest betting favorite: He won in style.
Zalal, 23, failed to record a finish against a durable Barrett, but not for lack of effort. Zalal hurt Barrett badly with a spinning back kick to the face in the opening round, and he threatened to submit him via rear-naked choke in the second and third. Ultimately, Zalal settled for a dominant unanimous decision, via scores of 30-26, 30-26 and 30-27.
Omg he was out!! That was a nasty kick #UFCVegas6— Niko Price (@Nikohybridprice) August 8, 2020
Zalal, who was born in Morocco and now trains out of Denver, landed 69% of his attempted strikes, according to UFC Stats, compared to just 32% for Barrett. He became the first UFC fighter to record three wins in 2020. His entire UFC career has taken place in 2020, as he debuted with the promotion in February.
Barrett, of Massachusetts, falls to 0-1 in the UFC. He earned his way into the promotion with a win on the Dana White Contender Series in August 2019.
"Before 2020, we sat down with the coaches and decided it was really time to go and grow, really just push it, and see where life takes us," Zalal said. "We never knew we would have three fights in 2020. We just went with the flow and really focused on getting better as a mixed martial artist, as a person in general. So, for me, that was the main focus, and fights came to me. I didn't really have to rush for fights. Fights came in and I took them. I took the opportunities, and thank God, I'm grateful and blessed that I'm doing great."
Maybe it was his slight edge in aggressiveness. Maybe he was rewarded for some of his unorthodox attacks. Whatever it was that swayed two of the three judges his way, Rivera found his way into the UFC win column for the first time by the narrowest of margins.
The 31-year-old Mexican fighter, who trains out of Sanford MMA in South Florida, certainly didn't outclass Al-Qaisi, who was making his UFC debut. But Rivera, fighting inside the Octagon for the second time, used some key takedowns and flashy techniques -- lead uppercuts, superman jabs, flying knees -- to eke this one out. All three judges scored the bout 29-28.
Al-Qaisi, 29, from Jordan, came in on a five-fight winning streak and looked solid, though at times he was stiff and hesitant. But this one barely got away.