Midway through the opening round of the UFC 260 main-card bout in Las Vegas, O'Malley wobbled Almeida with a left knee to the chin, then sent him collapsing against the cage with a straight left hand. And then O'Malley walked away.
But the fight was not over. Referee Mark Smith did not jump in, and the durable Almeida climbed back to his feet.
It was a mistake by O'Malley (13-1), but all it did was give fans several more minutes of watching him perform masterfully before the 26-year-old from Phoenix scored a third-round knockout to bounce back from his only loss.
The real knockout came after another moment in which O'Malley just walked away. After dropping Almeida with a short left hand in the third round, O'Malley turned and started to celebrate. But again the ref did not step in. This time, though, Almeida (22-5) remained on his back, so O'Malley jumped on him with a big right hand that ended the fight by knockout at 3 minutes, 52 seconds of Round 3.
"I only have 15 minutes to perform, maybe a couple of times a year," O'Malley said. "When I get in there, I gotta do something sweet."
For Almeida, who is 29 and from Brazil, it was the fifth loss in his past six fights. Prior to that, he had been 21-0 with victories in his first four UFC appearances.
O'Malley lost on Aug. 15, 2020, to Marlon Vera, whose leg kicks were decisive. O'Malley said he heard the criticism.
"It's so satisfying," he said. "A lot of people were talking about that. For eight months, I've been dealing with it, getting messages and just saying stuff like that. To be able to get out there against a good kickboxer, who was trying to kick my legs ... It was a good performance. It feels good to shut people up ... I don't know if you can ever shut people up, but it feels good.
"When I get in there, I flow. It felt good being in there for three rounds. I thought I was going to finish him in the second. Leading up to the fight, I thought I was going to piece him up in the first and get him out of there in the second. Thomas is a tough, tough dude. Much respect to him, but it felt good to be able to do three rounds."
O'Malley earned a $50,000 performance-of-the-night bonus.
-- Jeff Wagenheim
Show me the money— BONY (@JonnyBones) March 28, 2021
From most feared to undisputed best, the Francis Ngannou era has begun.
Ngannou knocked out Stipe Miocic to win the UFC heavyweight title Saturday night at the UFC Apex. The finish came at 52 seconds of the second round.
-- Marc Raimondi
Woodley had not looked like his old self in losing three fights in a row prior to Saturday. He's now dropped four straight, but this time he showed flashes of the fighter who two years ago was wearing the UFC welterweight championship belt. He just could not finish the job.
Unlike in recent fights, in which he appeared hesitant to pull the trigger on his strikes, Woodley, 38, came out aggressively and clipped Luque with a big overhand right early on. But the 29-year-old Brazilian returned fire, and he was the one who landed the telling blow, a right hand that wobbled the former champ. Woodley tried to fight back, but he was off balance. Luque took the fight to the canvas and sunk in a D'Arce choke that ended it at 3:56 of the opening round.
Luque stays so composed in the fire— Belal Muhammad (@bullyb170) March 28, 2021
It was Luque's third straight win, and he took the occasion to make a big-time callout.
"I want to take this time to call out Nate Diaz," Luque said. "I called him out before and he didn't respond."
Both fighters earned a $50,000 bonus for fight of the night.
Miranda Maverick, Gillian Robertson take fight to the mat
Miranda Maverick and Gillian Robertson waste no time taking their fight to the ground at UFC 260.
The secret is out. Maverick is one of the very best women's prospects in MMA.
In a battle of promising up-and-coming flyweights, Maverick beat Robertson via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28). Maverick was clearly the better striker throughout and even had some success in Robertson's world: the ground game.
Maverick, a southpaw, came out right away with very crisp boxing. She was landing combination after combination -- not with a ton of power, but enough to redden Robertson's face. In the second, Robertson seemed to turn the tide. She got Maverick down and outscrambled her on several occasions, getting in top position and Maverick's back. But Maverick survived, got to her feet and continued to land hard punches.
Maverick stuffed a Robertson takedown attempt in the third round and actually got Robertson's back briefly before landing some hard elbows and hammerfists from the top. Robertson worked for an armbar -- she's a very opportunistic submission artist -- but Maverick worked her way out of it and continued to go on offense.
Maverick, just 23 years old, has won both of her UFC fights. The Virginia resident is a former Invicta one-night tournament winner and has won four straight overall. Robertson, a 25-year-old Canadian, has lost two in a row following a run of four wins in five fights.
-- Marc Raimondi
It's starting to feel like the only way Mullarkey knows how to win is by knockout.
He added another clip to his highlight reel, knocking out Worthy with a left hook just 46 seconds in. The shot made Worthy unsteady immediately, and then he fell face forward into the canvas. Mullarkey, 26, followed with a punch on the ground, but referee Chris Tognoni quickly stepped in and made the call.
This marks Mullarkey's 11th finish in 13 career wins. It's also the seventh time he has finished inside the opening round. Unfortunately, when Worthy has come up short, he's tended to not make it the distance. This is the seventh time he has been knocked out in eight pro losses.
Fighting out of New South Wales, Mullarkey snapped a two-fight skid in the Octagon. Worthy, of Pennsylvania, dropped to 2-2, after getting off to a hot 2-0 start in the UFC in 2019.
-- Brett Okamoto
Alonzo Menifield breaks out Von Flue choke to tap out Fabio Cherant
Early in Round 1, Alonzo Menifield stuns Fabio Cherant with a perfectly placed Von Flue choke to win their prelim bout at UFC 260.
Menifield is not one to waste time. He won for the 10th time in his career, all of them by finish, eight in the first round.
He surged across the cage at the start and pushed Cherant against the cage, and before the flight was half-a-minute old, Menifield had slammed his opponent to the canvas and gained side control. Cherant, who had won the first five fights of his career by submission, went for a guillotine choke. But he neglected to recognize that he, not Menifield, was the one in peril of being tapped.
Menifield, who is 33 and fights out of Dallas, drove his shoulder into Cherant, 26, and locked in a Von Flue choke, eliciting the submission at 1:11 to end a two-fight losing streak. Those losses were the only two of his career.
Cherant, from Wrentham, Massachusetts, saw a three-fight winning streak end in his UFC debut. The bout was contested at a 206.5-pound catchweight after Cherant weighed in a half pound over the limit for a light heavyweight nontitle fight.
It wasn't your typical "Nurmagomedov" performance. But it was still extremely effective.
Nurmagomedov, with his cousin and UFC legend Khabib in his corner, beat Gooden by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27). Unlike his famous relative, Nurmagomedov's game revolved more around striking, not wrestling. He got the better of Gooden on the feet in every round.
In the first and second rounds, Nurmagomedov landed solid boxing combinations, a hard body kick and nice left hook. Then, in the third round, he went back to the bread and butter of his region of Dagestan: wrestling. He took Gooden down midway through the round and Gooden never got up. There wasn't a ton of damage done on the mat, but it was more than enough to seal the victory.
Nurmagomedov, 31, picked up his first UFC victory with the win. He had not fought since a loss to David Zawada in November 2019. Nurmagomedov infamously was one of Khabib's team members who entered the Octagon at UFC 229 in October 2018 to engage Conor McGregor in a brawl, an incident that drew Nurmagomedov a one-year suspension by the Nevada State Athletic Commission.
Gooden, a 27-year-old fighting out of Atlanta, has dropped his first two UFC fights.
From the opening bell, Oleksiejczuk and Bukauskas set a pace on the feet that no one thought was sustainable. Apparently, it was.
Oleksiejczuk, of Poland, earned his first UFC win in more than a year, in a hard-fought split decision. Two judges scored the back-and-forth light heavyweight contest in Oleksiejczuk's favor, while a third saw it for Bukauskas.
The margins of the fight were razor thin, and it might have been Oleksiejczuk's constant forward movement that earned him the edge. He walked Bukauskas down with combinations to the head and body, but walked into plenty of significant counterstrikes in doing so. According to UFC Stats, Bukauskas actually outlanded Oleksiejczuk in total strikes, 58 to 47.
In addition to outlanding Oleksiejczuk, Bukauskas hurt him on several occasions in the first and second rounds. He backed off Oleksiejczuk with a hard right hand in the opening round, and closed out the second round with a momentum-stealing combination. Oleksiejczuk answered in the third, though, and hurt Bukauskas badly with a left hook to the body.
Morales, 35, is back on track, although it took a lot of fighting in close to get the job done.
The former lightweight from Venezuela lost for the first time in his career last October, to Giga Chikadze, in his first UFC fight at featherweight. To get beyond that, he had to push himself against Young, an opponent who was the aggressor and just kept coming.
All three judges saw the fight 30-27 for Morales.
There was a lot of circling and measuring to start the fight, followed by clinching against the cage, with each man briefly seizing an advantage. But for the most part, they neutralized each other.
That continued in the middle round, although Morales started to find a home for his left jab, and that led to some overhand rights finding their target as well. But Young, who is 27 and from New Zealand, returned fire and kept moving forward. He attempted multiple takedowns, but Morales fended them all off.
In the end, Morales secured the win with a key takedown of his own, utilizing a body lock to get the fight to the canvas, with him in side control. Young, who lost his second in a row, did get back to his feet quickly but was playing catchup the rest of the way.
Barriault pulled off one of the most dominant rounds you'll ever see in the UFC.
After a hot start by Azaitar, Barriault took over late -- in a big way. He spent most of the third round in mount or with the back of Azaitar, raining down blows. Finally, with four seconds left in the bout, referee Jerin Valel pulled the plug. The result was a TKO at 4:56 of the third round for Barriault in the middleweight opener of UFC 260. It was the second-latest finish in UFC middleweight history.
Azaitar was the clear winner of the first round. He landed big punches that hurt Barriault, some hard body shots and a nasty knee to the head in the clinch. But Azaitar quickly started to lose steam and Barriault took over in the second round with hard elbows in the clinch and a series of uppercuts. Azaitar landed a big left that wobbled Barriault in the second, but that was his last significant offense.
Goodness that was brutal! #UFC260— Tatiana Suarez (@tatianaufc) March 28, 2021
In the third, Barriault put forth an onslaught on a very tired Azaitar. At one point, Azaitar had his mouthpiece fall out and he reached down to grab it despite being in the middle of an exchange. Barriault capitalized and got into top position, which he kept for the rest of the round. Barriault landed hard punches and elbows from the top, slipped to mount, took Azaitar's back and landed shots from all those positions until Valel stepped in.
Barriault, 31, earned his first official UFC win and first overall victory since 2018. The Canada native had his victory over Oskar Piechota last June overturned due to a positive drug test for the banned substance ostarine. Barriault was suspended for six months by the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) and this was his first fight back.
Azaitar, a 35-year-old Germany native of Moroccan descent, was fighting for the first time since July 22, 2018.