On an evening punctuated by multiple first-round finishes and a Knockout of the Year contender, bantamweight contender Cory Sandhagen (#4) returned to form with a R2 TKO win against #1 ranked Marlon Moraes – landing a spinning wheel kick to help earn his emphatic victory. There were also main card wins for Edson Barboza and Marcin Tybura, among others.
Sandhagen rewarded for his patiencE WITH BIG FINISH VS. Moraes
R2, 1:04 – Cory Sandhagen beats Marlon Moraes via TKO (spinning wheel kick and punches)
Having been humbled by Aljamain Sterling at UFC 250 in early June, Sandhagen’s first UFC main event came against #1 contender Marlon Moraes (23-6-1) and was a must-win encounter.
Despite what the rankings say, Sterling is next for Petr Yan’s first bantamweight title defence. That’s something the Sandman said immediately post-fight after producing a big display.
With a five-inch height advantage and three-inch reach too, Sandhagen knew he needed to utilise his physical attributes against Moraes – making his first appearance in almost a year.
They exchanged low leg kicks early as Moraes landed a few right hands that appeared to initially stifle Sandhagen.
The Brazilian had his moments and continued connecting with punches but Sandhagen mixed up strikes while making a conscious effort to attack Moraes’ body.
Moraes completed a takedown just before R1 ended, though it was clear Sandhagen was the busier in the opening round – connecting with 30 total strikes. Moraes’ corner urged him to cut off the Octagon and make it more difficult for Sandhagen, which was easier said than done.
Facing a man with the aforementioned physical advantages means the scope for making mistakes was significantly weakened.
That was clear a minute into R2. After clipping Moraes with a right hand, Sandhagen tried to toy with him a bit at range and audibly said he had a broken orbital bone.
Right on cue, he connected with a spinning wheel kick which caught Moraes on the top of his head near the fence and sent him sprawling to the mat. Cory rushed in for ground and pound strikes and within seconds, the fight was over.
In high-level competition where small margins can be the difference between victory and defeat, Sandhagen emphatically won the battle of wits and knew as much.
He improves to 13-2 and is targeting one of two men next, either Frankie Edgar (#5) or two-time bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw, whose two-year drug ban ends in January 2021.
“I kicked him in his head and saw his eye swell up a little bit, it happened to a training partner in camp so I know what it looks like – Austin Hubbard – saw it was broken, said something to mess with him and it got in his head a little.
I’m always working, hard work always pays off. I never let my head get stale, never went flat this whole time and was here for a reason so now it’s time to celebrate.
The only other guys with an argument are TJ when he gets back in January and Frankie [Edgar]. All the respect to both of those guys but I want that belt, those are the only two ahead of me, then I want the winner of Yan-Sterling.”
edson Barboza returns to win column with dominant display
30-26, 30-27, 29-28: Edson Barboza defeats Makwan Amirkhani via unanimous decision
In the night’s co-main event, Edson Barboza (21-9) returned to winning ways against his lowest-ranked opponent since beating Evan Dunham in July 2014.
Originally slated to face Jeremy Stephens, then Sodiq Yusuff, both fell through but this was billed as Iranian-born Finnish fighter Makwan Amirkhani’s biggest UFC fight to date.
Many believe Barboza is on the downward slide, having lost five of his last six fights – recording just one victory since a flying knee knockout against Beneil Dariush in March 2017.
There was feints and posturing aplenty by both in R1, Barboza targeting the body with regular punches and kicks, while Amirkhani landeed an acrobatic knee before trying to level change.
He was immediately greeted by excellent defence by the Brazilian, who picked his shots well and could see his various body shots were having a lasting impact.
Amirkhani finally secured a takedown just before the horn sounded, but it was futile.
He absorbed a body kick and caught it on the way through, which showed his early struggles when trying to take the fight to the ground.
A temporary lull in the action to start R2 was followed by Barboza landing a punch-perfect knockdown, sitting Amirkhani down on the mat with a straight right hand.
He tried to choke him out, but Amirkhani recovered quickly to establish wrist control despite still being in danger.
Barboza scored another knockdown with precisely the same right-hand punch and despite Makwan surviving another sub attempt before producing one of his own, this was clearly a 10-8 round.
Having found himself on the wrong end of fight-ending sequences on more than one occasion, Amirkhani certainly did well to stay in it – but despite attempts to try a submission in R3, referee Kevin Sataki warned him to be busier.
He didn’t pose enough of a threat on the ground, Sataki stood them up and Barboza wobbled him again just moments after. It typified an excellent display which reinforced the belief that Barboza – regardless of his defeats – isn’t finished at the top just yet.
35 in January, Barboza lost via split decision against Dan Ige during his featherweight debut on the Overeem-Harris card but is eyeing another title run after a lengthy spell at lightweight.
“I expected that: he tried to move a little bit, take me down, but I’m very happy to finally get a W back to my house. I want to be a champ – I’m here to be one, please give me top 5-6, whatever, I’m ready. Anybody, I’m ready to go.”
Rest of main card
29-27, 29-27, 29-27: Marcin Tybura defeats Ben Rothwell via unanimous decision
Tybura (21-6) was the betting underdog but showed great skills and fight management to overcome a purposeful first-round showing from Rothwell (38-14), emerging victorious.
Having made adjustments and fought intelligently, this latest win means the 34-year-old heavyweight has now notched his second three-fight win streak in the UFC.
Rothwell landed 47 strikes in R1. Across the next ten minutes, he only connected on 48 more – at a far less accurate clip (33%) than Tybura’s 57%, proving fight pacing can often prove pivotal.
Tybura was able to absorb damage and unload punches of his own, slowing Ben down with counters while making adjustments in-between rounds.
Rothwell’s heavy output helped him edge R1 on the judges’ scorecards, but his Polish opponent was far more calculated and successful in their stand-up exchanges as the fight wore on.
He grew in confidence as Rothwell was visibly slowing down, despite continued body strikes.
Tybura landed a handful of knees in the clinch and although Rothwell continued moving forward, was clearly being buzzed by a few pesky punches.
When he tried to stand and trade in the pocket, he was frustrated as Tybura’s head movement saw him evade being regularly caught.
Tybura showed good footwork, landing an uppercut and executing a timely takedown which reinforced a dominant R3 showing – pressing the 38-year-old up against the fence, commanding top position and also finishing strong with good ground and pound.
Post-fight, Marcin revealed an eagerness to fight again soon in the not-too-distant future and didn’t call out anyone specific but cited a desire for someone ranked in the top ten next.
R1, 3:22 – Dricus Du Plessis defeats Markus Perez via knockout (punches)
A lot was said in the build-up, about how Du Plessis (15-2) would respond during a late-notice UFC debut against Perez – who himself entered this bout 2-3 with the company and wanted to make a statement at the South African’s expense.
Despite closing the distance early and looking intent to send the debutant home winless, Perez quickly found himself frustrated by Du Plessis’ low leg kicks.
Naturally, he mirrored the 26-year-old, giving him a taste of his own medicine with a whipping body kick among the shots you could hear crash across the Octagon. Du Plessis’ ability to sense danger and capitalise helped him finish the fight, as his leg kicks continued to fluster Perez.
15 of his 26 successful strikes (58%) were from the leg and it was one of those which set up the knockout. Perez partially blocked it and ducked down to try dodging any oncoming shots as he backed towards the fence.
Instead, him ducking down proved his undoing as he was greeted with an unexpected short left hook which knocked him down.
Du Plessis charged forward, landed a few hammer fists and just like that, the fight was over. So much for those pre-fight jitters.
With a lot of emotions and adrenaline he understandably had plenty to say, post-fight.
“I said, even before, afterwards I’m going to let it all sink in: the signing [with the UFC], the short-notice fight, main card debut and the win of course.
I didn’t have time for any of that, right now this is the happiest moment in my whole life, I’ve never had any experience like this thus far.
I truly believe I belong in the top 20. Give me a top 20 opponent, I saw Trailblazer [Kevin Holland] and know he’s on a run.
I’m not calling anybody out but just proved that, I beat a top contender and need to start making my way to the title. That’s what I want in the next two years – to become the first real African champ, train, born and bred in Africa.”
R1, 1:35 – Tom Aspinall defeats Alan Baudot via TKO (elbows and punches)
Tom Aspinall‘s movement and ability to level change set him apart against Alan Baudot (8-2), though you wouldn’t have known he’d won via TKO – shaking his head immediately afterwards.
Baudot did his best to avoid a predictable stance by mixing up spinning back fists and elbows to throw Aspinall, eager to showcase his boxing skills, off his game.
That was futile against the 27-year-old – he responded well and secured an early takedown, which signalled the beginning of the end during an early night’s work for the Englishman.
2-0 in the UFC after emerging unscathed against a last-minute replacement, Aspinall remains keen on fighting against Sergey Spivac after their previously scheduled bout was cancelled.
“I did a few mistakes that my coach told me not to so wasn’t happy with that but a win’s a win. I think it was still good, I have to watch it back.
I was supposed to fight Spivac, unfortunately he got COVID-19, I wish him all the best and let’s get it back on. I’ve got a lot to learn, at least another ten years in this game so what’s the rush?”
29-28, 29-28, 29-28: Ilia Topuria defeats Youssef Zalal via unanimous decision
Zalal was looking to become the first UFC fighter with four wins in 2020 against a promotional newcomer in Topuria.
The Moroccan was intent on circling the Octagon and making it difficult for Topuria to stay with his bouncy movements, but the 23-year-old Spaniard closed the distance where possible and landed a few good counter-punches whenever Zalal lunged forward.
After a grappling exchange, Topuria completed a suplex takedown and continued switching between submission manoevures as Zalal battled to defend being choked out on the ground.
There are questions surrounding Zalal’s ground game and that’s perhaps why it was surprising to see the 24-year-old push the pace early in R2 by attempting a takedown of his own.
He tried to make Topuria uncomfortable with his back to the cage, though the debutant seemed unbothered and proved as much by winning most of their stand-up exchanges.
Zalal was visibly stunned and rightly so, as Ilia showcased more excellent grappling on the ground while applying pressure aplenty to try and secure the finish as time ticked by.
Zalal’s submission defence continued into the third round as Topuria’s persistence didn’t waver despite being increasingly fatigued. To Youssef’s credit, he reversed positions on a few occasions and even had a guillotine choke of his own momentarily.
Topuria gave the referee a thumbs up and after a lull in the action on the ground, suddenly found himself with an opportunity to reverse positions and take Zalal’s back. It didn’t last long at all though as the adrenaline dump had kicked in – rightly so – during his first full fight.
With nearly seven minutes of ground control time, it was clear he was winning this fight but still needed to be smart and avoid a strong finish by a dangerous Zalal as that fatigue intensified.
A gritty clash where both fighters emerged with credit, Topuria’s unbeaten record (now 9-0) stays intact and Zalal lost his first UFC fight but will be back.
The Spaniard is eager to fight again before 2020 is over, if his post-fight interview is anything to go by:
“When you get eight days’ notice [to fight], you have to be ready. I didn’t have the time [to effectively prepare], but it is what it is. He [Zalal] was very tough, I had very close submissions but he’s a tough guy.
I have to fly tomorrow with my team to the US, take some recovery days, then will wait for the call and maybe get back to work, fight again in November.”
Prelims, featuring joaquin buckley’s viral spinning kick knockout
Impa Kasanganay lost his 8-0 unbeaten streak against Joaquin Buckley, but it was the latter’s highlight reel spinning kick knockout which rightly stole the headlines midway through R2 of their three-round prelim clash.
Just as ringside commentator Dan Hardy said the total strikes were evenly-matched, Buckley threw a left high kick which was partially caught by Kasanganay.
Although his guard was still up, he didn’t know what was coming next – Buckley spinning before unleashing a beautiful right high kick square through the guard to knock the 26-year-old cold.
It was something you’d expect from a seasoned veteran on a video game, not in an actual fight. Buckley started brilliantly and did well to swarm Kasanganay in the early minutes, with furious punch combinations that appeared to stun him.
But having generated the power and speed of movement to create a viral knockout finish, Buckley (11-3) is sure to receive bonuses aplenty and plenty of new supporters after this.
Many have already begun crowning the knockout as one of the best in MMA history, with multiple fighters and esteemed media covering it worldwide across social media.
“Yessir, make that $100k because that was a Fight of the Night too, yessir I’m trying to steal all the bonuses.
We drill to kill, I’ve never landed it in a fight before but shoot, he was coming hard with heavy pressure so I said why not just throw it, I got it and landed it.
It was real special. He caught my leg, I saw he still had it, so just kicked it and when I saw him fall like that, it was over and I raised my hands.
He’s used to countering things from the side, I went straight up the middle and there we go, knocked out.”
Immediately following that knockout, there were two more first-round finishes – one at middleweight and another in the heavyweight division – as two further unbeaten records were ended in style to finish a busy night of prelims.
Birmingham-based MW Tom Breese (12-2) had a TKO finish against Canada’s KB Bhullar (8-1).
Bhullar landed a few low kicks but Breese swiftly eliminated that confidence after connecting with a straight left that rocked the 28-year-old and made him respect the Englishman’s power.
He caught him square with a snapping right-handed jab which floored Bhullar and after some hammer fists on the ground, the referee had no choice but to stop the fight.
Pre-fight betting favourite Rodrigo Nascimento also saw his perfect 8-0 record disappear in double quick time, against a determined heavyweight opponent – Chris Daukaus.
Despite holding a four-inch reach advantage and almost 40 pounds on the American, that was immediately rendered insignificant by Daukaus’ blistering hand speed in the pocket.
Nascimento simply couldn’t cope against the 31-year-old’s purposeful start, nor his footwork, as he went down almost in slow motion ater absorbing a perfectly-executed left hook.
Hammer fists rained down on him as referee Marc Goddard urged the Brazilian to fight back.
Although he got back to his feet, it was only momentarily as the onslaught continued before being sent tumbling back to the canvas. 45 seconds was all Daukaus needed, for a KO finish.
Other prelim results
In the night’s first fight, flyweight Tagir Ulanbekov was victorious via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28) against Bruno Gustavo da Silva.
Since his UFC debut last October, da Silva is now 0-2 with one no contest, and it’s far from a welcome sight for the 30-year-old Brazilian.
Immediately following that curtain-raiser, there were three successive UD wins in different weight classes. Tracy Cortez improved to 8-1 in the women’s bantamweight division with a commanding performance (30-27 x 3) against Stephanie Egger.
Meanwhile, Giga Chikadze (11-2) added another post-lockdown win to snap Omar Morales‘ 10-0 unbeaten run. The Georgian featherweight – who beat Irwin Rivera on the Overeem-Harris card in May – now has four UFC wins in 13 months and won comfortably on the judges’ scorecards.
Bantamweight Tony Kelley went a full 15 minutes against Ali AlQaisi and won via decision – 30-27, 29-28 x 2 – avenging his defeat on the Miocic-Cormier 3 card to improve his record to 7-2.
Pictures’ source: BloodyElbow, Cageside Press, MMAFighting