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126 Prelims: WEC Pride – Cerrone, Mendes, Johnson Win

Read below for the UFC 126 prelim report...

LAS VEGAS, February 5 – Three new imports from the World Extreme Cagefighting organization came up big in their UFC debuts Saturday night at the Mandalay Bay Events Center as Donald Cerrone, Chad Mendes, and Demetrious Johnson all scored victories in UFC 126 prelim action.

Cerrone vs. Kelly

In lightweight action, former WEC title challenger “Cowboy” Cerrone weathered a gutsy effort from England’s Paul Kelly and scored a second round submission win. See post-fight interview

Kelly took the fight to Cerrone immediately, landing with punches from long range as well as knees in close. Cerrone took all the shots well and centered his attack on Kelly’s legs. After that initial burst of action, the pace settled down slightly, but neither fighter stepped down from their level of intensity, as each punch or kick was delivered with bad intentions. With 1:15 left, Cerrone scored a takedown on Kelly, and finished the round with a series of strikes, one which opened a cut on the Brit.

The pace was measured in the early part of round two, with Cerrone and Kelly unable to pull away. Cerrone changed that near the midway point of the round as he took Kelly to the mat and began firing off strikes from the mount position. Kelly fought off the attack, but in the process he gave up his back and that’s all Cerrone needed to lock in a rear naked choke and end matters via tap out at the 3:28 mark.

With the win, Cerrone improves to 14-3 with 1 NC; Kelly falls to 12-4.

Mendes vs. Omigawa
Unbeaten featherweight contender Chad Mendes put an impressive notch in his belt, scoring a workmanlike three round unanimous decision win over returning Japanese standout Michihiro Omigawa. See post-fight interview

Scores were 30-27 across the board for the debuting Mendes, a former WEC star.

The first round proceeded at a fast clip, with Mendes’ wide punches finding their mark and Omigawa doing good work from the bottom position on the mat as he fired off strikes and tried to lock up Mendes’ arm.

Mendes (10-0) struck fast in round two, dropping Omigawa (12-9-1) with a shot to the face and following up with strikes on the mat. Omigawa – bleeding from the nose - tied his foe up in an effort to clear his head, and after doing so, he again attempted submissions from the bottom before scrambling to his feet. And while Omigawa kept his guard fairly high, Mendes was still finding a home for his looping shots while throwing in leg kicks for good measure. The Japanese veteran kept moving forward though, looking for the opening he needed to change the momentum to his side.

Mendes did his best work in the final round on the mat, as he controlled positioning while tossing in punishing strikes to keep Omigawa from getting any offense going, sealing a well-deserved victory.

Yamamoto vs. Johnson
Washington bantamweight Demetrious Johnson showed no sign of nerves in his UFC debut, defeating highly-touted Japanese star Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto via unanimous decision. See post-fight interview

Scores for WEC vet Johnson were 30-27 twice and 29-28.

Johnson made Yamamoto pay for every mistake in the first round, using takedowns off missed haymakers as his weapon of choice. Johnson even jarred Yamamoto briefly off a scramble putting an exclamation point on an impressive first round. There was more of the same in round two, and while Yamamoto appeared to be settling into a rhythm, Johnson’s takedowns and ring generalship were keeping him in control of the bout.

The busier Johnson wrapped things up with another solid round in the final frame, befuddling Yamamoto, whose gameplan appeared to be centered on scoring with one punch at a time. Johnson wouldn’t let him get that shot off though, enabling him to nab the biggest win of his career.

With the win, Johnson improves to 13-1; Yamamoto, who was also making his Octagon debut, falls to 18-4 with 1 NC.

Taylor vs. Ruediger
British banger Paul Taylor scored one of his most impressive Octagon wins in lightweight action, knocking out Gabe Ruediger with a single head kick in the second round. See post-fight interview

Taylor’s crisper striking and solid takedown defense allowed him to break into the lead in the first round, and there was no change to the pattern early in round two, as Taylor stood Ruediger up with each flurry before tossing off the ensuing takedown attempt. Nearly midway through the round, Taylor switched things up, following his punches with a left kick to the head that put Ruediger face down on the canvas. Referee Kim Winslow jumped in immediately, stopping the bout at the 1:42 mark.

With the win, Taylor improved to 11-6-1 with 1 NC. Ruediger falls to 17-7.

Kingsbury vs. Romero
The Ultimate Fighter season eight alumnus Kyle Kingsbury delivered one of the most impressive displays of knee strikes seen in some time, using them to set up a 21 second stoppage of Ricardo Romero in light heavyweight action. See post-fight interview

Wasting no time, Kingsbury (10-2, 1 NC) went on the attack at the opening bell, hurting Romero (11-2) with a series of knees to the body and legs. Next came a series of punches upstairs, with a left to the jaw dropping Romero and forcing a stoppage from referee Steve Mazzagatti seconds later.

Pierce vs. Robertson
Welterweight up and comer Mike Pierce turned in double duty in the opener, spoiling Kenny Robertson’s UFC debut and his perfect MMA record via second round stoppage. See post-fight interview

Pierce controlled the first round on the mat and against the fence, opting to keep it simple strategy wise. But in round two, he stepped up the pace, and after a right-left dropped Robertson hard to the mat, he finished matters off with a barrage of strikes that brought in referee Herb Dean to halt the bout at the 29 second mark of the frame.

With the win, his third in a row, Pierce improves to 12-3; Robertson falls to 10-1.