Billy Quarantillo wins a wild one; Augusto Sakai squeaks by

MMA

Billy Quarantillo and Spike Carlyle weren’t the biggest names on Saturday’s UFC Fight Night event in Las Vegas — but they sure ended up stealing the show.

Quarantillo (14-2) and Carlyle (9-2) engaged in a wild, three-round affair on Saturday, inside the UFC’s Apex facility in Las Vegas. It was the UFC’s first event back at its home base in Las Vegas since the state of Nevada suspended combat sports indefinitely in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In the end, it was Quarantillo who got the nod, as all three judges scored the 150-pound catchweight bout 29-28 in his favor. Carlyle appeared surprised by the scores but did not immediately contest them.

“I never want to leave it in the hands of the judges,” Quarantillo said. “That’s the first decision I’ve gotten in years. He’s a tough kid. I didn’t think his wrestling would be that good. That was a wild fight. I got busted up, he got busted up. You bet your ass, my next fight, I’m going for the kill.”

The fight got off to a mad start from the opening bell as Carlyle sprinted across the Octagon and launched a flying kick at Quarantillo’s face. Carlyle hurt him moments later with standing elbows from the clinch, and followed that with huge shots on the ground.

The first round ended as wildly as it began, as Carlyle inexplicably stood up with about 10 seconds left and started walking back to his corner. Quarantillo chased him down and landed a hard left hook before the round ended. Carlyle appeared to be hurt, but stuck his tongue out toward Quarantillo.

The second frame was the closest of the three. Carlyle won the majority of the wrestling exchanges, but he also began to fatigue and ate a hard knee to his midsection midway through. The third round was all Quarantillo, as Carlyle showed heart but was clearly gassed.

Carlyle falls to 1-1 in the UFC.

Quarantillo, of Tampa, improves to 2-0.

— Brett Okamoto

Watch this fight on ESPN+.


Welterweight: Gilbert Burns (19-3, 12-3 UFC) def. Tyron Woodley (19-5-1, 9-4-1 UFC) by unanimous decision

The UFC has a newly minted welterweight contender.

Gilbert Burns defeated former champion Tyron Woodley via unanimous decision (50-45, 50-44, 50-44) in a complete performance Saturday night in the main event of UFC Las Vegas. Burns nearly finished Woodley in the opening minutes and never let his foot off the gas pedal, winning every single round.

Read the entire story.


Heavyweight: Augusto Sakai (15-1-1, 5-0 UFC) def. Blagoy Ivanov (18-4, 2-3 UFC) by split decision

Two of the three judges at cageside scored the fight for Sakai. But the official who really determined the outcome was referee Jason Herzog.

There were two minutes to go in a rugged standup battle between two tired fighters. Sakai appeared to be the fresher of the two, and he was controlling Round 3 to that point. But then Ivanov, a 2008 world combat sambo champion (he defeated Fedor Emelianenko in that tournament), got ahold of the Brazilian along the cage, started to throw him to the canvas … and Sakai grabbed the cage to prevent the takedown.

The fight turned at that moment. Two minutes underneath a rugged grappler like Ivanov could have spelled trouble for an exhausted Sakai. But what might have been did not come to be. As the fighters separated, still on their feet, Herzog paused the action briefly to warn Sakai. He did not deduct a point.

Sakai ended up winning a bizarre split decision, with two judges scoring the bout 29-28 for him and the other seeing it 30-27 for Ivanov. Had the clear foul been penalized as such, the bout would have been a draw.

All fight long, you could hear Ivanov’s punches land to the head and body. You could hear the leg and body kicks from Sakai. But as much as anything, the quiet building put the two heavyweights’ heavy breathing at center stage. It was a grueling fight with a controversial outcome.

For Sakai, it was his sixth straight win. Ivanov lost his second in a row.

“This is what I’ve been waiting for, to be ranked top 10 and now I’m ready to move forward,” Sakai said. “It was extremely hard training during this pandemic but I made the adjustments. I’m very dedicated and my willpower is second to none, I knew I could get the job done.

“I absolutely do not think it was a split decision. I clearly won two rounds and I think it was a mistake by the judges.”

— Jeff Wagenheim


Lightweight: Roosevelt Roberts (10-1, 5-1 UFC) def. Brok Weaver (15-5, 2-1 UFC) by second-round rear-naked choke

One of the UFC’s best lightweight prospects is back on a winning streak. Roberts finished Weaver with a rear-naked choke submission at 3:26 of the second round after dominating the fight in every aspect.

Afterward, Roberts called out Matt Frevola.

Roberts landed several hard right hands in the first round that snapped Weaver’s head back. He also almost snatched a standing guillotine choke, but Weaver escaped.

There would be no escape in the second round. Roberts was able to get Weaver down, slide into mount and then get Weaver’s back. Roberts nearly had two rear-naked chokes prior to the one that led to the tap.

It was a comprehensive performance. Roberts, 26, has won two in a row and four of five in the UFC. The Miami native who trains out of California has eight finishes in 10 pro wins.

Weaver, a 28-year-old Alabama native, had a four-fight winning streak snapped. Weaver missed weight by 1½ pounds Friday.

“I’m the real deal, everybody, all you 155ers out there, I’m ready and I’m about it,” Roberts said. “Whoever wants it, sign that contract, send it over and you know my signature is going to be on there.

“It feels good, this whole COVID-19 thing, I really didn’t know when I was going to fight. [UFC president Dana White] made it happen, so it feels good to come back here and get a finish finally and keep the win streak going. I don’t post a lot of social media, I don’t talk a lot, but just know that when it’s time for me to fight, I’m going to show up and I’m going to fight and bring everything that I got.”

— Marc Raimondi

Watch this fight on ESPN+.


Strawweight: Mackenzie Dern (8-1, 3-1 UFC) defeats Hannah Cifers (10-4, 2-3 UFC) by first-round submission

Dern made it look easy — once the fight hit the canvas. But that didn’t happen until halfway through Round 1, and prior to that she had her hands full with her tough-as-nails opponent.

Cifers was aggressive from the start and appeared to be the stronger fighter in early clinches. During one tie-up against the cage, she controlled Dern’s head and landed a knee to the face.

But Dern was happy to keep the fight at close range, and eventually she turned a clinch at center cage into a hip throw takedown. Even then, though, Cifers managed to reverse position and get on top. But that was still not a good place to be.

Dern, a two-time jiu-jitsu world champion, immediately attacked the left leg, secured a tight kneebar and elicited the quick tapout at 2:36 of the round. The kneebar finish was the 17th in UFC history, the first by a female fighter. The previous two such finishes both came on Sept. 8, 2018, by Aljamain Sterling and Zabit Magomedsharipov — also on a card headlined by Tyron Woodley.

For Dern, the win was a bounce-back from her first career defeat. That loss came on Oct. 12, just four months after the birth of her first child. Dern, 27, fights out of Los Angeles.

Cifers, also 27, is from North Carolina. She lost her second in a row.

Wagenheim

Watch this fight on EPSN+.


Women’s flyweight: Katlyn Chookagian (14-3, 7-3 UFC) def. Antonina Shevchenko (8-2, 3-2 UFC) by unanimous decision

Chookagian might not have been able to take Valentina Shevchenko’s UFC championship, but she sure managed to demolish the champ’s older sister.

Chookagian, 31, thoroughly dominated Antonina Shevchenko over the course of their three-round flyweight bout on Saturday, collecting unanimous judges’ scores of 30-25. It was Chookagian’s first appearance since she came up short in a UFC title bid against Valentina in February.

The story of the fight was Chookagian’s wrestling, which was surprising, considering she had not converted a single takedown in her UFC career going into Saturday’s contest. That streak came to a decisive end, as Chookagian took Shevchenko down in all three rounds and had her way on the floor.

“I’ve never doubted my jiu-jitsu, I’ve trained under John Danaher, I’m a brown belt,” Chookagian said. “I just haven’t been able to show it because the wrestling hasn’t been there.”

Chookagian’s grappling edge was apparent from the opening minute, as she caught a body kick attempt by Shevchenko and turned it into a takedown. She threatened to end the fight with a rear-naked choke several times, but Shevchenko did just enough to survive. Chookagian becomes just the 10th fighter in UFC history to not earn a finish in each of her first 10 fights in the Octagon.

— Okamoto

Watch this fight on ESPN+


Welterweight: Daniel Rodriguez (12-1, 2-0 UFC) def. Gabe Green (9-3, 0-1 UFC) by unanimous decision

Rodriguez landed a left hand. Green continued to push forward. Rodriguez landed a one-two combination. Green kept up the pressure. Rinse, repeat.

Rodriguez gutted out a unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27) in a victory over Green that was much closer than the scorecards indicated. Rodriguez constantly found a home for his big left hand, which left Green’s face bloody. But not once did Green slow down. He was the aggressor throughout, especially late in the bout.

Rodriguez’s best sequence came in the second round when he landed three straight left hands, all clean. He often worked off his jab. Green ate a ton of shots, but still kept the pace high. In the third, he caught Rodriguez with a looping left and a big right. The third was Green’s best round, but Rodriguez still pulled off the win.

“That dude is tough,” Rodriguez said. “He kept coming.”

Rodriguez, 33, has now won eight straight, including his first two fights in the UFC. The Los Angeles-area native trains out of 10th Planet under Eddie Bravo and the BMF Ranch with Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone. Green, a 27-year-old California native, was making his UFC debut. He had his six-fight winning streak snapped.

“This whole time, throughout this whole COVID thing, I stood getting ready, stood working out,” Rodriguez said. “I went to the BMF Ranch because it has everything I need out there. I always stay ready all year around so no matter the opponent I’m always ready.

“For the rest of the year hopefully I can finish out my contract, I got two more fights on my contract, win those, re-sign and just keep fighting. That’s what I do, that’s what I live for. I’m 33 years-old, my main goal is to get as many fights in before the show is over, you know.”

— Raimondi

Watch this fight on ESPN+


Light heavyweight: Jamahal Hill (8-0, 2-0 UFC) defeats Klidson Abreu (15-5, 1-3 UFC) by first-round TKO

Hill entered the night as the only unbeaten fighter in this 11-bout event. He quickly extended his perfect record, needing just 1:51 to earn his second UFC victory and the eighth win of his career overall.

Hill, a 29-year-old out of Grand Rapids, Michigan, lived up to his “Sweet Dreams” nickname by ending Abreu with a slick combination. The southpaw landed a right hook to stun the Brazilian, then dropped him with a knee to the body for his fourth career KO/TKO and third first-round finish.

Abreu was never in the fight. Hill dropped him within the first minute with a straight left followed by a right hook. And from there it was all Hill, who landed crisp punches every time Abreu tried to advance, then ended it with the precise combo.

It was Abreu’s third loss in his past four fights.

“I think I made a statement, I know I’m not somebody to be taken lightly,” Hill said. “A lot of people like to play with my name, but keep on sleeping on me and I’ll let the doctor wake you up.

“I feel like I had an advantage everywhere, I trained everywhere. I’m just getting started, people don’t understand, I’m just getting started. When they really see everything I can do, they’ll get the picture. Just getting sharper, keep steadily improving. I work hard every day, my guys they push me and they work hard to give me everything they have and that just keep propelling me forward.”

— Wagenheim

Watch this fight on ESPN+.


Men’s flyweight: Brandon Royval (11-4, 1-0 UFC) defeats Tim Elliott (16-11-1, 5-9 UFC) by second-round arm triangle

Royval scored an upset submission win over former title challenger Elliott, securing the tap via arm-triangle choke at 3:18 of the second round.

Royval, who fights out of Denver, survived a wickedly high pace set by Elliott, and eventually beat him in the very place Elliott seemed determined to take the fight: the ground. Elliott repeatedly shot into Royval’s hips on the feet, searching for a takedown. He had success doing so throughout, but appeared to gas out from the effort.

The 27-year-old Royval saw his chance for a finish in the second frame, after calmly escaping a loose guillotine attempt by Elliott. He transitioned into full mount and then immediately to the choke on Elliott’s left side. Elliott tapped almost immediately, resulting in the 10th finish of Royval’s career.

“He gassed out, I didn’t look good at all,” said Royval, who admitted he was disappointed in the amount of takedowns he surrendered. “Bad performance.”

Despite the newcomer’s self-criticism, it was a very strong way to begin his UFC career.

Elliott has lost three straight fights, tied for the longest losing streak of his MMA career.

“I want to be able to quit my job first and foremost,” Royval said. “I think I’ve been saying it over and over again, but I want to make this my life. I want to be in the gym. I’m in the gym full-time, but I’m there full-time with like three hours of sleep and I’m working these jobs just so that I can make it and pay my mortgage and all this stuff.

“I want to make MMA my full-time life. I’ve put a lot of work in, I’ve been training since I was 16 years old. I just want to get out of this sport what I put in, I put in a lot of stuff, I put in a lot of love, and I just want to get that out of it. You want to see an exciting fight? Watch me stand up, watch me get comfortable in there. That was actually really cool being out there and feeling the canvas. I’ve never been in the Octagon before, so that was cool.”

— Okamoto

Watch this fight on ESPN+.


Men’s bantamweight: Casey Kenney (14-2-1, 4-2 UFC) defeats Louis Smolka (16-7, 7-7 UFC) by first-round guillotine

It didn’t look a high-percentage submission attempt. Kenney was on top, nowhere near a dominant mount. But he went for a guillotine choke anyway — and Smolka tapped.

Kenney picked up perhaps the biggest win of his career, a submission victory with a guillotine from half guard at 3:03 of the first round. The sequence started with Kenney wobbling Smolka with a right cross. Prior to the finish, it was a back-and-forth battle with both landing good punches.

Smolka was working the body, but Kenney got the job done with a big right hand and slick Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

The bout took place at featherweight, but both are regulars in the bantamweight division

“That’s how I fight,” Kenney told Daniel Cormier afterward. “I come and take your head off — neck, arm, something.”

Kenney, 29, has won three of four in the UFC and seven of his past eight overall. The Arizona resident is a former interim champion in LFA at both bantamweight and flyweight.

Smolka, a 28-year-old Hawaii native, has dropped two of his past three fights.

— Raimondi

Watch this fight on ESPN+.


Men’s featherweight: Chris Gutierrez (15-3-1, 3-1 UFC) defeats Vince Morales (9-5, 1-3 UFC) by second-round TKO

Gutierrez won his third straight fight with a bruising performance, finishing it at 4:27 of Round 2 by dropping Morales with a kick to his lead leg. His other lead leg.

Morales was in a southpaw stance by then, out of necessity. He started out orthodox, but Gutierrez wrecked his left leg with a succession of low kicks throughout the first round.

Morales, his mobility seriously limited, had to switch it up before the first five minutes were over, but that proved to not be a sustainable answer. One last kick to the right calf sent Morales to the canvas, and Jason Herzog mercifully jumped in, something the referee had appeared poised to do for the better part of the round.

That gave Gutierrez, a 29-year-old out of Colorado, the 11th finish by leg kicks in UFC history, according to the promotion. Unofficially, he landed 36 of 45 leg strikes, according to UFC Stats. Overall, Gutierrez’s striking advantage was 60-8.

“A couple fights back I became the first Guatemalan fighter to ever step foot in the Octagon, so just to be making history says a lot and I’m proud to be that person,” Gutierrez said. “I think the No. 1 thing is to be able to adapt and overcome.

“I want to win and be able to help my family.”

Morales has lost three of four in the UFC.

— Wagenheim

Watch this fight on ESPN+.

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