Fight Of The Night honors is the type of recognition that fighters look to associate with their name.
Earning FOTN indicates that the bout produces adrenaline, excitement and fireworks in way that stood out from the rest of the card. That stand-out fight could come in the form of a back and forth brawl, a fast-paced slugfest or an incredible display of high-level martial arts.
After each event UFC.com will list out and update the power rankings of each 2020 FOTN ending the calendar year with a complete picture of the year’s best fights.
The criteria applied to each ranking includes: Entertainment value, watchability, competitiveness (back and forth), the type of fight (technical vs brawl vs well-rounded), intensity (crazy moments) and the quality of the finish (if there is one).
Each fight is viewed as if they are in a vacuum, meaning the context surrounding a fight does not factor into the rankings. For example: A title fight could definitely have more implications that the opening fight on the prelims, but the best fight based off the given criteria will receive the highest ranking.
Let's get to the rankings.
Note: These rankings only represent FOTN awards confirmed by the UFC.
Zhang Weili and Joanna Jedrzejczyk delivered the greatest fight in women’s MMA history Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, and when it was over, the result of the UFC 248 co-main event was almost secondary due to the epic nature of the bout, but it was Zhang retaining her UFC strawweight title for the first time via five-round split decision in a fight that raised the stock of both ladies and the sport.
Scores were 48-47 twice and 47-48 for Zhang, now 21-1. Jedrzejczyk falls to 16-4.
Both fighters were busy to start, but a minute in, Jedrzejczyk landed a hard right hand upstairs and her combinations at close range had the former champ smiling and in the lead. Zhang began to find her rhythm midway through the frame, though, and she was throwing with power every time, clearly getting Jedrzejczyk’s attention.
Resuming their high-volume striking battle in round two, Jedrzejczyk was mixing things up nicely, and in the second minute, the two locked up against the fence, taking turns in control, with Zhang landing elbows and Jedrzejczyk responding with knees. With a little over two minutes left, Zhang rattled Jedrzejczyk with a right hand, forcing the Poland native to reset. By the end of the round, the crowd was roaring at the fast-paced action, but Zhang’s eye was rapidly swelling.
Zhang came out fast for round three and got in some hard shots before Jedrzejczyk settled back in and continued unleashing combinations. And once Jedrzejczyk switched to southpaw, she had more success. With two minutes left, Zhang locked up with Jedrzejczyk briefly, and once they broke, it was Zhang roaring back, raising a welt on the challenger’s head in the process. But Jedrzejczyk finished the round strong, making it another nightmare for the judges to score.
The high-level action continued in round four, with neither fighter backing down and each taking turns rocking the other. And while Zhang was in the championship rounds for the first time, she was still swinging for the fences, but it was Jedrzejczyk who was clearly the fresher of the two. With two minutes left, Zhang landed a hard shot to the forehead, but Jedrzejczyk kept moving forward, landing an elbow before the two locked up against the fence. Jedrzejczyk glanced at the clock in the final 30 seconds, but that didn’t stop her from bringing the heat.
Both fighters showed the wears of battle on their face, but there would be no let-up once the final round began, and the exchanges were as ferocious in the fifth as they were in the first. A left hook by Zhang briefly rocked Jedrzejczyk in the second minute, and the champion surged forward. But then it was Jedrzejczyk’s turn, and she scored with several hard blows. With a little over two minutes left, Jedrzejczyk clinched to grab a well-deserved second’s rest, but then it was back to work and both fighters were determined to leave nothing left in the tank. And they didn’t, Jedrzejczyk landing a spinning backfist and Zhang responding with a punch of her own just before the horn ending the leading candidate for 2020 Fight of the Year.
A point deduction cost UFC flyweight champion Deiveson Figueiredo a victory in his UFC 256 main event against Brandon Moreno, but in an epic five-round Fight of the Year candidate, he retained his title for the second time by way of a majority draw.
Scores were 47-46 Figueiredo and 47-47 twice.
Both champion and challenger were fighting three weeks after scoring wins on the UFC 255 card in Las Vegas, and despite the short notice, there was no let-up from either fighter for all 25 minutes.
Figueiredo (20-1-1) opened with a spinning back kick to the body and followed up with a hard punch upstairs which led to a takedown attempt. Moreno (18-5-2) eluded the attempt and brought the fight briefly to the mat, but soon it was back to the standup game, where Moreno scored some stiff jabs. Unbothered by the incoming fire, Figueiredo stalked his foe, digging to the body when he could. Moreno wasn’t backing down, though, and he stayed busy throughout the fast-paced first round.
The right hand of Figueiredo was on target in round two, and even though Moreno took them well, they were scoring points. The Mexican did even the score with a takedown, but the momentum was lost when Moreno was poked in the eye, bringing a momentary stop to the bout. When it resumed, Moreno was in the champion’s guard, but Figueiredo scrambled back to his feet and the two got into a heated exchange. Moreno continued to have success on his feet, and though Figueiredo jarred “The Assassin Baby” with a barrage of punches, Moreno responded with a takedown just before the end of the frame.
Figueiredo was throwing for the finish with every punch and kick as round three commenced, and Moreno clinched his foe in a quest to slow him down momentarily. Figueiredo shook it off and continued to march forward, intent on ending the night early. Yet after each flush shot landed, Moreno fired back. In the second half of the round, a flush low kick put Moreno on the deck in pain, halting the fight momentarily. Referee Jason Herzog deducted a point from Figueiredo, and when the bout resumed, the battle continued, with Figueiredo scoring a takedown. The combatants didn’t stay there long, and in the closing seconds, Moreno landed a hard shot that sent a stern message heading into the championship rounds.
The back-and-forth action didn’t let up in round four, but Moreno seemed to be getting the better of the exchanges, and in the second minute, he took Figueiredo to the mat. With three minutes left, the Brazilian was back on his feet and he continued to tag Moreno with no reaction from the challenger. Midway through the round, Moreno appeared to rock Figueiredo, but the champion quickly recovered and resumed unleashing bombs. With 1:15 remaining, Moreno shook off a couple flush right hands and scored a takedown. Figueiredo landed elbows from his back, but after the two rose, it was Moreno rocking his opponent once more as the round concluded.
Figueiredo landed three consecutive kicks early in the final round, and for the first time in the fight, Moreno’s work rate dropped as his left shoulder appeared to be injured. The heart from both fighters was unquestionable, though, as the exchanges were as intense as ever as the seconds ticked away. A late takedown from Figueiredo was a big one, yet when it was over, the respect between the two rivals was clear. It was the type of respect only earned by a 25-minute fight. And this was a special one.
“We need that rematch,” said the gracious Moreno, who was aiming to become the first Mexican champion in UFC history.
Official Result: Deiveson Figueiredo (47-46) and Brandon Moreno fight to a majority draw (47-47, 47-47)
Everyone expected the UFC Vegas 4 main event between Dustin Poirier and Dan Hooker to be an instant classic. Then the two lightweight contenders went and delivered one, fighting tooth and nail for 25 minutes, with Poirier emerging victorious via unanimous decision in a clear Fight of the Year candidate.
Scores were 48-47 twice and 48-46 for the No. 3-ranked Poirier, now 26-6 with 1 NC. The No. 5-ranked Hooker falls to 20-9.
Hooker took an early lead as he worked his kicks to Poirier’s legs and body. Midway through the round, Poirier was able to negate his opponent’s reach advantage by locking up and taking Hooker to the fence. Hooker didn’t stay there long, but once the two separated, a fight broke out, with both landing hard shots in the pocket.
The two wasted no time getting back after it in round two, Hooker scoring with kicks and Poirier responding with punches until a brief stay against the fence. At close range, the two traded bombs, Poirier getting the better of it as he bloodied Hooker’s nose. Midway through the frame, the exchanges continued, Poirier now cutting Hooker over the right eye. Hooker returned the favor, neither backing down from the other. With under a minute left, Hooker rocked Poirier briefly, and as the round wore down, he poured it on, landing several shots until the horn intervened.
It was going to be hard to top the pace of the previous frame, but Hooker and Poirier did their best, each landing shots until a Hooker takedown attempt nearly led to a Poirier guillotine choke finish. Hooker fought his way free, though, and the two proceeded to then trade strikes on the mat. Poirier also looked for a submission from his back and when that came up empty, he made his way to his feet and landed two flush right hands that Hooker remarkably shook off.
Poirier’s southpaw jab was sharp in the early stages of round four, leading to a Hooker takedown. Poirier rose immediately, but Hooker stayed committed and put the Louisiana native twice more. After rising again, it was Poirier with the takedown, and he was able to keep the New Zealander grounded as he fired off a steady stream of strikes. With under two minutes left, Poirier locked up an armbar, but Hooker defended well and eventually pulled free with a little under a minute remaining. As the two rose, Poirier looked for a guillotine, but again, Hooker got loose just before the end of the frame.
With the fight possibly up for grabs, there was a lot on the line in the fifth round, with both trying to wisely pick their shots. Poirier appeared to be the fresher of the two, and after landing several flush punches, Hooker wisely sought out a takedown. Poirier didn’t stay grounded long, yet as they stood, Hooker kept looking to take the fight to the mat. Poirier was determined to stay upright, though, and when the two hit the deck late, it was Poirier with a bunch of punches to the face as the bout ended. If there was a crowd at the UFC Apex, there would have been a standing ovation. And a well-deserved one.
The co-main event between featherweight contenders Josh Emmett and Shane Burgos was expected to deliver fireworks, and it was like the Fourth of July at the Apex, with Emmett using two third-round knockdowns to break open a close fight and win a three-round unanimous decision.
Scores were 29-28 twice and 29-27 for the No. 8-ranked Emmett, now 16-2. The No. 10-ranked Burgos falls to 13-2.
Emmett was swinging his right hand with abandon in the early going, and he threw in the occasional short left hook for good measure. The bigger Burgos took the punches well as he moved forward, but he was taking too many of them, which only made Emmett more confident. Burgos stuck to the game plan, though, landing some hard calf kicks that were getting Emmett’s attention, and by the end of the round, both were trading bombs.
After hurting his left knee in the first frame, Emmett showed a sense of urgency in the second and he landed more flush shots that Burgos took with no issue. And as the New Yorker shook off the blows, he came back with more volume as he kept up a disciplined effort in the midst of an intense scrap.
In the opening minute of the final round, Emmett sat Burgos down with a short left hand, and while he recovered immediately, in a close fight a knockdown is pivotal. After the two rose, an inadvertent low kick by Burgos brought a momentarily halt to the fight, and when the action resumed, there was no let-up to the attacks of Emmett and Burgos. Midway through, another left hand dropped Burgos for the second time, and Emmett got in some ground strikes before Burgos got back to his feet. Looking to turn things around, Burgos went after Emmett, only to get rocked again just before the final horn.
Lightweight contenders Dan Hooker and Paul Felder were expected to deliver the goods in the UFC Auckland main event at Spark Arena, and that’s exactly what they did in a memorable five-round war that saw Hooker emerge with a split decision victory that propels him further up the list of elite 155-pounders.
As for Hooker’s rival for five rounds, he may have made his last walk to the Octagon.
“This might be it for me,” said an emotional Felder, who cited being away from his four-year-old daughter for his leaning towards retirement. That’s a final decision for another day, though. For today, fans will celebrate a fight to remember between two of the best in a stacked division.
Scores were 48-47 twice and 47-48 for the No. 7-ranked Hooker, now 21-8. The No. 6-ranked Felder falls to 17-5.
After refusing Felder’s offer to touch gloves, Auckland’s own Hooker got right down to business with a series of kicks to the calf as he used movement and range to keep his foe at bay. With two minutes left, Felder landed a hard left hook, putting him on the board, but Hooker took it well and kept using lateral movement to his advantage. As the round wound down, Hooker locked Felder up against the fence briefly, and then it was back to sticking and moving as Felder marched forward.
Felder was showing damage to his right eye after the opening frame, prompting him to show even more urgency to get inside on Hooker, who calmly stuck to his game plan in response. In the second minute, Felder did well in exchanges, only to have Hooker lock him up for a spell until the two separated. Felder proceeded to work his kicking game in the closing stages of the round, but Hooker upped his work rate, leading to some more heated exchanges.
The already compelling action heated up in the third round, with Felder beginning to land more and more shots to the head and legs while Hooker was now marked up on his face but still throwing and landing as the fight began to approach the championship rounds.
Felder was throwing bombs to start the fourth frame, and he landed several on Hooker, rocking him briefly in the second minute. Hooker responded with a takedown attempt, but when that came up short, he settled for a brief clinch against the fence. The two broke briefly, then locked up again, Hooker in control until they separated. Felder went on to land a pair of hard right hands, but Hooker wasn’t budging. Hooker went back to his clinch game in the final minute, but Felder wouldn’t give him the takedown, sending the fight to a fifth round.
Starting off strong, Felder continued to tag Hooker in the fifth, prompting another grappling sequence from Hooker, but after they broke, “The Hangman” went back to his striking attack, with every blow pivotal for each man. A takedown by Hooker with a minute left caused the crowd to erupt for their fighter, and as the two scrambled for position, there were more roars from the packed house, and they lasted through the final horn, when the two rivals shared a hug that could only be earned by 25 minutes of battle.
Former strawweight champions Rose Namajunas and Jessica Andrade met for a second time, with Namajunas evening the score with the woman who took her title in May 2019 by winning a three-round split decision.
Scores were 29-28 twice and 28-29 for the No. 2-ranked Namajunas, now 10-4. The No. 1-ranked Andrade falls to 20-8.
Andrade made a concerted effort to use more head movement in the rematch, and it paid dividends in the first round, as she was able to dodge a lot of incoming fire while landing some hard shots. Regardless, the busy and varied striking of Namajunas still saw her taking the round from the Brazilian.
The action-packed second stanza also appeared to go Namajunas’ way, as her smooth striking kept Andrade at bay for the most part, but when “Bate Estaca” was able to get in range, she made Namajunas pay, making it clear that she was still one rally away from taking over.
Andrade bloodied Namajunas’ nose early in the final round, prompting “Thug Rose” to sit down on her punches in an attempt to even the score. That played into Andrade’s game, and after a hard right hand, she took Namajunas down. Namajunas looked for a submission from her back but when that came up empty, she kicked her way back to her feet and then rattled Andrade with a body shot followed by a punch upstairs. That just prompted the two to let their hands go to the horn, capping off a thrilling back-and-forth scrap.
The legend of Frankie Edgar grew in Las Vegas on Saturday, as the former lightweight champion and featherweight title challenger picked up an important victory in his bantamweight debut, taking a close split decision over 135-pound contender Pedro Munhoz.
Scores were 48-47 twice and 46-49 for the 38-year-old Edgar, now 23-8-1. The No. 5-ranked Munhoz falls to 18-5 with 1 NC.
In the early going, Munhoz went after Edgar’s legs with his kicks, but every kick was met with rapid-fire combinations from “The Answer” who subsequently took a few hard right hands without issue while answering with sharp counters. But Munhoz kept pressing, landing crisp jabs down the stretch in a fast-paced round.
Edgar stayed busy in the second stanza, cutting Munoz over the left eye in the process while threatening takedowns. Munhoz’ forward motion was consistent, but he was eating shots on the way in. With three minutes left, Edgar scored his first takedown, and though Munhoz rose quickly, Edgar was still doing the most efficient work.
Dealing with a cut around his own eye in round three, it was clear that Munhoz was making mark with his heavy hands, but Edgar’s stick and move attack was unaltered, and when he threw, he was doing it with both hands, so if he missed the first two, the third would land. Munhoz’ leg kicks were making an impression, though, and Edgar was feeling them.
Edgar scored a quick takedown to start the fourth round, Munhoz scrambling right back to his feet. The combinations kept coming from the former lightweight champion, but Munhoz’s varied striking attack was giving Edgar plenty to think about.
Showing a sense of urgency in the final round, Edgar did some of his best work of the fight as he tagged his foe at range and in the midst of heated exchanges. Munhoz was an immovable force, though, as he gave as good as got, wrapping up a main event that was worth waiting for.
Italy’s Marvin Vettori used a big first round and an educated left hand the rest of the way to outlast fellow middleweight contender Jack Hermansson over five punishing rounds in a memorable UFC Fight Night main event.
Scores were 49-46, 49-46 and 49-45 for the No. 12-ranked Vettori, now 16-4-1, who replaced Kevin Holland in the Las Vegas bout. The No. 4-ranked Hermansson falls to 21-6.
Vettori’s left hand was on target throughout the first two minutes of the bout, and even though Hermansson fired back and landed, Vettori’s shots had more steam on them, and just before the midway point of the round, he dropped Hermansson with that same left hand. Vettori looked for a choke, but when that wasn’t there, he opened up with his strikes and stayed in control until the horn.
Hermansson came out fast for round two, and while he got a takedown, Vettori adjusted well and ended up in the top position. With 90 seconds left, the two stood, Hermansson landing the better shots until a late surge by the Italian.
Vettori slowed down significantly in the third, allowing Hermansson to pull ahead with his busier striking game. And while both fighters stood in the pocket and dared each other to land the finisher, Vettori reversed roles from the previous round, as he clearly scored the most effective blows heading into the final round.
Despite the grueling pace of the previous four rounds, both Hermansson and Vettori came out ready to wage war for another five minutes and they did just that, each throwing, landing and refusing to back down. The two went to the mat in the final seconds, but this one will be remembered for the phone booth battling that had fans on social media buzzing throughout.
Official Result: Marvin Vettori def. Jack Hermansson by unanimous decision (49-46, 49-46, 49-45)
Justin Gaethje said he likely only had 18 or 19 minutes of “pure hell” to give Tony Ferguson in their UFC 249 main event. He lied, as he gave “El Cucuy” 23:39 of it, stopping Ferguson in the fifth round to win the interim UFC lightweight title.
Gaethje, 31, replaced lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov in a bout originally scheduled for April 18, and now after snapping Ferguson’s 12-fight winning streak, “The Highlight” will get his crack at “The Eagle.”
But first, Gaethje had to upset Ferguson, and he did just that.
Ferguson’s movement and kicks kept Gaethje from getting a read on him in the early going, but two minutes in Gaethje landed a couple hard lefts at close range. Ferguson took the punches well and kept throwing a variety of strikes from a variety of angles, while Gaethje stuck to a more conventional attack that was still working as he tagged his foe with accurate shots to the head. In the final 30 seconds, Gaethje landed a pair of lefts, getting Ferguson’s attention.
Both landed as round two opened, and Gaethje followed up with what was rapidly becoming his weapon of choice, a sweeping left hook. Gaethje made sure to toss in some leg kicks too to keep Ferguson guessing, and his confidence was growing by the second. To his credit, Ferguson’s chin was rock solid, but he was taking more and more shots from the Arizonan. It was Ferguson who got the last word for the round, though, as he dropped Gaethje with a right uppercut.
Gaethje kept the heat on in round three, and soon Ferguson was cut over the left eye and under the right eye. Add in a swelling under the right eye and Ferguson had to hope his skin wasn’t going to betray him. With a little under three minutes left, Ferguson got rocked by a right hand, and seconds later he ate another one, as Gaethje was clearly unaffected by the previous round’s knockdown. Ferguson stayed in the pocket with Gaethje, tripping him to the mat briefly in an attempt to turn the tide, but it didn’t happen in the third.
Gaethje remained in control in the fourth, and midway through, Ferguson staggered after getting caught with another hard right. A low kick by Ferguson brought a brief halt to the action with a minute left, but Gaethje jumped right back into the fray, and his kicks and punches kept coming.
With five minutes left, Gaethje could have sat on his lead, but that’s just not his style, and he kept the compact power shots coming, and few missed. To his credit, Ferguson’s heart and chin were still intact, but he just couldn’t get his offense going against an opponent fighting a perfect fight. And after Ferguson staggered from another flush power shot, referee Herb Dean had seen enough, stopping the bout at 3:39 of the final round.
The first Hong Kong native to compete in the UFC was victorious in his Octagon debut, as Sasha Palatnikov halted previously unbeaten Louis Cosce in the third round of their welterweight opener.
A recent winner on Dana White’s Contender Series, Cosce came out fast, with Palatnikov responding with a slick takedown. The two rose quickly, but Cosce blitzed his foe with strikes on the ground, the feet and against the fence. Palatnikov courageously weathered the storm and was soon landing his own shots, getting himself back in the fight in a big way, nearly halting his foe with a spinning backfist as the round closed.
After the furious pace of the first round, Palatnikov was clearly the fresher of the two fighters, and he was picking his shots effectively. There was a brief stop to the action after a low blow from Cosce, and after the bout resumed, the bloodied Californian rallied before another solid finish from Palatnikov.
Referee Chris Tognoni called two breaks in the first half of round three, one to warn Palatnikov for repeated fence grabs, the second for another Cosce low blow, but after getting his wind back, Palatnikov closed the show, rocking his foe with a right hand and forcing a takedown attempt. That attempt came up empty and Palatnikov fired punches with both hands, prompting a stoppage by Tognoni at the 2:27 mark of the third round.
With the win, Palatnikov moves to 6-2. Cosce falls to 7-1.
Official Result: Sasha Palatnikov def. Louis Cosce by TKO at 2:27 of Round 3
Strawweight contenders Michelle Waterson and Angela Hill both showed up at the Apex in Las Vegas to put on a show in their main event Saturday night, and they did just that for 25 minutes, with Waterson eking out a hard-fought five-round split decision.
Scores were 49-46, 48-47 and 47-48 for the No. 8-ranked Waterson, now 18-8. The No. 13-ranked Hill falls to 12-9.
Hill threw with bad intentions from the start, aiming to not just take an early lead but secure an early night. Waterson took the shots well, and after a couple grappling sequences came up empty, she tried to implement her striking game while dealing with a mouse under her right eye. With less than two minutes left, Hill showed off her grappling defense, keeping Waterson at bay before going back to working her strikes.
The action heated up in the second, Waterson having more success with her strikes while Hill continued to stay busy. Midway through the round, a right hand from Hill rattled Waterson, but the Albuquerque product bounced back quickly, getting in some more shorts before the round ended.
After taking some more shots and getting her nose bloodied, Waterson finally got her takedown a minute and a half into round three, and she immediately went to work, taking the back with under two minutes left. Hill scrambled out of trouble, but she remained on the bottom with Waterson firing strikes from the top position.
Waterson was clearly looking for another takedown early in the fourth, but Hill was able to stay standing as she fired off strikes. Waterson adjusted well, switching back to her standup game, and that tightened the bout even more. And while the takedowns – or the lack of them – were a key scoring point early on, Waterson’s ability to adapt was slowly taking them out of the equation.
With the bout possibly on the line, both fighters showed a sense of urgency as the fifth round opened, each getting shots in, and as the clock ticked down, Waterson began pulling ahead with fast punches and kicks, only to be answered by Hill, who roared back, setting up a series of heated exchanges until the final horn.
Welterweight strikers Mounir Lazzez and Abdul Razak Alhassan didn’t hold back in unleashing their full array of attacks, but the durable 170-pounders went all three rounds, with the debuting Lazzez earning a unanimous decision over Alhassan, who was making his first start since 2018.
Scores were 30-27 twice and 29-28 for Lazzez, now 10-1. Alhassan, who missed weight at 174 pounds, falls to 10-2.
Alhassan unloaded bomb after bomb on Lazzez in the early going, but Lazzez took everything with no issue, and as Alhassan’s attack slowed, it was the newcomer firing back with knees, leg kicks and elbows. Soon it was Lazzez leading the offense, and he finished the round with a takedown to add to his point total.
Lazzez appeared to rock Alhassan in the first minute of round two, but after the Tunisian fired off a barrage of strikes, Alhassan roared back with a barrage of his own. Moments later, Lazzez put his opponent on his back and worked from side control, but the two were stood up by referee Dan Movahedi. Another series of strikes followed by Lazzez before a takedown, but again there was a quick standup by Movahedi just before the end of the round.
A knee a minute into the final round landed flush on Alhassan’s chin, but the Ghana native took it well and locked up with his foe, subsequently scoring with a takedown that Lazzez rose quickly from. Lazzez returned the favor and was able to keep the fight grounded until the closing seconds of the round, when Alhassan got in one last flurry.
Welterweight James Krause made headlines around the MMA world on Friday when he stepped up on a day’s notice to face Trevin Giles at middleweight, and rightfully so, but it was Houston’s Giles who took the victory by way of an exciting three-round split decision.
Scores were 29-28 twice and 28-29 for Giles, now 12-2. Krause, who replaced Antonio Arroyo, falls to 27-9.
Krause got a takedown in the opening minute, but Giles was up to his feet immediately. Krause stayed locked on and took Giles’ back as they went back to the mat, and while the veteran threatened with a choke, in the final minute it was Giles getting free, rising and scoring with some hard shots before the end of the frame.
Giles kept it standing for the first three minutes of round two and that allowed him to land several hard blows on Krause. As the bout went to the mat with under two to go, Giles took the top position and landed a barrage of hard shots on the tiring Krause, drawing a hard look from referee Jacob Montalvo before nearly sinking in a choke with seconds to go in the round.
Krause got off to a good start in the third, as he was landing good shots from all angles. Midway through the round, Giles rattled the bloodied Krause but wasn’t able to put him away, but his surge was enough to take the nod on the scorecards and snap a two-fight losing streak.
Bantamweight up and comers Song Yadong and Marlon Vera put on an exciting three-rounder at featherweight that was ultimately won by Song via unanimous decision.
Scores were 29-28 across the board for Song, now 16-4-1, 1 NC. Vera falls to 15-6-1.
The dead-even matchup lived up to expectations in the first round, with both fighters having their moments of success in an opening five minutes that was tough to call. The pace got even higher in the second, with Vera staying busy while the harder shots were clearly coming from the fists of Song. With a minute left, the two delivered an extended – and even – exchange, but the biggest punch of the round was a body shot by Song delivered late in the frame.
Vera scored the first takedown of the fight early in round three, a big scoring move in a close fight. In the second minute, Song got back to his feet and resumed throwing and landing hard punches upstairs. Vera got another takedown with a minute left, but Song rose almost immediately, only to hit the deck again as Vera kept the pressure on until the end of the bout.
A solid contender for 2020 Rookie of the Year, Brandon Royval made it two for two over flyweight contenders, as he submitted New Zealand’s Kai Kara-France in the second round.
A right hand by Kara-France dropped Royval in the early going, but a spinning elbow by Royval evened the score before the two took the battle to the mat, where Royval worked his ground game. Soon the two were standing and trading once more, Royval sending Kara-France to the mat with a knee with under two minutes left. Royval briefly had a guillotine choke before the fight went back to the feet, and there were more heated exchanges, each man emptying the tank before the horn ended the round.
Early in the second, Kara-France lifted Royval for a takedown, but the Coloradan locked in a tight guillotine choke, and it was game over, as Kara-France tapped out at the :48 mark.
With the win, the No. 9-ranked Royval, who defeated Tim Elliott in his debut, moves to 12-4. The No. 7-ranked Kara-France falls to 21-9, 1 NC.
Brazilian bantamweight Raoni Barcelos looked good in his first four UFC fights, but he may not have looked better than he did in moving to 5-0 in the Octagon with an exciting three-round unanimous decision over Khalid Taha.
All three judges saw it 30-27 for Barcelos, now 16-1 as he extends his winning streak to nine. Taha falls to 13-3 with 1 NC.
Barcelos took little time to get warmed up, as he came out throwing bombs at Taha from the start. Taha returned with a couple counters, but then Barcelos took the bout to the mat, rapidly taking his foe’s back. Taha reversed position with 90 seconds remaining, but Barcelos swept his way out of trouble and back to his feet. While against the fence, the two traded positions of control before separating for more striking in the final 30 seconds.
The high-level striking continued into round two, both fighters staying in range and trading throughout. Barcelos was busier, though, and after landing a knee in the closing seconds, a follow-up flurry of punches extended his lead heading into the final stanza.
Barcelos kept pouring on the offense in the third, using his striking to set up a takedown that was followed by a choke attempt. Taha gamely battled out of trouble, and while Barcelos was intent on putting him back in it, the Germany native fought hard to the end, refusing to back down.
Official Result: Raoni Barcelos def. Khalid Taha by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Bobby Green put together his first two-fight winning streak since 2014 as he scored a three-round unanimous decision over Lando Vannata in an exciting rematch of a 2017 Fight of the Night draw.
Scores were 30-26 and 30-27 twice for Green, now 26-10-1. Vannata falls to 11-5-2.
The first round was a memorable one, Vannata hurting Green with a right hand in the second minute, “King” returning the favor with two to go, and plenty of heated exchanges throughout, all punctuated by a healthy dose of talk between the old foes.
Green’s striking remained sharp in the second, but just when he looked like he was surging ahead, Vannata would come back with a head kick or a guillotine choke attempt that let the Californian know that he was still in a fight. Vannata got the fight back to the mat briefly in the final minute that served well as a point scorer, but Green rose quickly and landed several crisp strikes before the horn.
A great clinch exchange early in the final round was punctuated by an elbow that floored Vannata, and Green went all-in for the finish, first with his strikes, then a choke attempt before Vannata scrambled to his feet. Green landed a crushing right hand to the face of the bloodied Vannata, then scored another takedown to kick off the second half of the stanza. Another Green choke attempt followed, but Vannata wasn’t having it as the two rose and kept throwing until the bout ended.
Lightweights Rafael Fiziev and Marc Diakiese delivered heavyweight striking throughout their bout, with Fiziev ultimately coming out on top via unanimous decision in an exciting three-rounder.
Scores were 30-27 and 29-28 twice for Fiziev, now 8-1. Diakiese falls to 14-4.
Fiziev bloodied Diakiese and landed the harder shots in the first round, prompting the Brit to try and take his chances on the mat, but the lasting memory was the array of body kicks Fiziev landed. Fiziev got even more aggressive in the second, and each strike landed sounded like it hurt, as he threw with fight-ending intentions as he dodged incoming fire from Diakiese, who began to find his range late in the frame. Fiziev stuck to the plan in the third round as he battered his opponent’s body, but Diakiese didn’t back down, landing some hard right hands down the stretch of a punishing fight.
Top bantamweight prospects Casey Kenney and Nathaniel Wood battled it out at a 140-pound catchweight for three action-packed rounds, with Kenney earning his second win of the month via unanimous decision.
Scores were 29-28 twice and 30-27 for Kenney, now 16-2-1. Wood falls to 17-5.
The bout was fought at a frenetic pace in the first round, both fighters throwing everything in their arsenals at each other. Kenney had the edge in the opening frame as he landed the harder and more telling punches and kicks, but Wood evened the score in the second as the Arizonan began to tire and the Brit stayed busy offensively while tightening up his defense.
Kenney brought some of his grappling into the mix in the final frame, which added to his point total, and while the action level stayed high, it was the American who edged it out.
Official Result: Casey Kenney def. Nathaniel Wood by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
Featherweight newcomers Kai Kamaka III and Tony Kelley proved that they belonged in the big show, as they delivered an action-packed three-rounder won by Kamaka via unanimous decision.
Scores were 29-28 across the board for Hawaii’s Kamaka, now 8-2. Kelley falls to 6-2.
Both fighters came out fast to begin the fight, but while Kelley landed some good shots early, once Kamaka found his rhythm, his left hooks to the head and body began taking their toll on the Louisianan, who was taken down a couple times in the closing stages of the round as well.
The pace didn’t dip in round two, and while Kamaka may have edged Kelley in terms of significant strikes landed, Kelley threw in enough aggressive flurries to make it close and perhaps steal the frame.
Told that he needed to get after it in the final frame, Kelley did just that, only to get stuck on his back on the canvas after pulling guard in an attempt to sink in a guillotine choke. With three minutes left, Kelley was able to get back to his feet and the exchanges commenced, neither fighter willing to back down. A low knee by Kelley brought a momentary stop to the bout with 90 seconds left, and when it resumed, there was a brief respite before the 145-pounders got back to trading blows and capping off a great start to the UFC 252 card.
A week ago, lightweight contender Paul Felder was preparing for a March triathlon. Tonight, he was in the UFC Fight Night main event against former champion Rafael Dos Anjos, and despite having his moments and delivering his usual gritty effort, it was RDA making a successful return to the 155-pound weight class with a five-round split decision victory.
Scores were 50-45 twice and 47-48 for Dos Anjos, now 30-13. The No. 7-ranked Felder, who replaced Islam Makhachev on five days’ notice, falls to 17-6.
Both fighters were throwing heat from the start, wasting no time getting down to business. Dos Anjos landed some hard kicks, and while a punch from Felder subsequently cut the Brazilian over the eye, he soon found himself on his back after a takedown from RDA. Midway through the round, Felder got back to his feet and the striking battle resumed. Felder was sharp and fast with his strikes, but Dos Anjos was still holding the edge in the grappling exchanges, and a hard left just before the horn got the attention of “The Irish Dragon.”
Felder’s varied striking attack got the second round off to a good start for him, leading Dos Anjos to look for another takedown that came up empty. RDA wasn’t having any issues on the feet, though, as he threw and landed several hard punches and kicks, leading to some high-level exchanges. With under two minutes left, Dos Anjos got his takedown, and while Felder rose before taking any damage, the Brazilian stayed locked on to him until the final seconds of the round.
Dos Anjos continued to focus on his grappling game in the third round, scoring two takedowns, and while Felder gamely looked for daylight, those moments were becoming few and far between as the bout approached the championship rounds.
Felder had a strong comeback in the fourth, both on his feet and with a late takedown, but the blood was flowing from his forehead thanks to a Dos Anjos left hand, prompting a visit from the Octagonside physician, who gave him the green light to continue.
With five minutes left, Felder continued to press the action on the feet, but in the clinch against the fence, it was still all Dos Anjos, and in the second minute, he put Felder on the mat again. With a little over a minute remaining, Felder got to his feet, Dos Anjos attached to him, and that’s the way the fight remained, RDA getting one more takedown before the fight ended.
Official Result: Rafael Dos Anjos (50-45, 50-45) def Paul Felder (48-47) by Split Decision.
Two lightweights introduced themselves to the UFC in style, with Guram Kutateladze and Mateusz Gamrot battling out for three rounds, with Kutateladze emerging victorious via split decision.
Scores were 29-28 twice and 28-29 for Kutateladze, now 12-2. Gamrot falls to 17-1, 1 NC.
Gamrot put the fight on the mat in the opening minute, with Kutateladze looking for a submission from the back until Gamrot tried the same strategy, the two then getting back to their feet. The pace stayed high for the rest of the round, Kutateladze making an impression with several hard kicks.
The fast-paced action continued in the second round, Kutateladze working his standup game effectively for much of the round while Gamrot kept it close in the grappling sequences. And in the third, the Poland native surged, but when the scorecards were read, Kutateladze had the win and Gamrot had his first pro loss.
Official Result: Guram Kutateladze def. Mateusz Gamrot by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)
UFC rookie Bill Algeo made quite an impression in his Octagon debut, pushing longtime featherweight contender Ricardo Lamas to the limit before “The Bully” came out in the third round and won an exciting unanimous decision.
Scores were 29-27 across the board for Lamas, now 20-8. Algeo, who replaced Ryan Hall on short notice, falls to 13-5.
There was no shortage of action in a frantic first round, with Algeo showing no signs of the first-time UFC jitters while Lamas mixed up his striking attack effectively throughout the opening five minutes, with his kicking game working particularly well.
Algeo got off to a fast start to begin round two, but Lamas slowed him down with a takedown. Algeo scrambled back to his feet and resumed his busy striking attack, forcing the bloodied Lamas to look for another takedown. This time, Algeo was able to hold him off as they grappled against the fence, landing with several elbows at close range. Midway through the round, the two separated and Algeo rocked Lamas with a knee before getting his own takedown. Lamas reversed position and got back to his feet, locking his foe up in another clinch. Once separated, Lamas landed several good shots to finish the round strong.
Lamas got the takedown he was looking for in the second minute of round three, and each fighter landed hard strikes on the mat. Lamas kept the heat on, though, as Algeo tried to get back to his feet, and the punches kept coming. Algeo made it to his feet briefly with under two minutes left, but Lamas dragged him back to the mat and took his foe’s back, landing ferocious strikes until the final horn.
After appearances on Dana White’s Contender Series and The Ultimate Fighter, Kyler Phillips finally got his chance to shine in the Octagon and he did just that, winning a three-round unanimous decision over fellow bantamweight prospect Gabriel Silva.
Scores were 30-27 across the board for Phillips, now 7-1. Silva falls to 8-2.
Silva kept the pressure on Phillips for much of the first round, but Phillips was the much busier fighter, and he bloodied Silva’s nose with a steady stream of varied strikes. Silva did trip Phillips to the canvas late, but it wasn’t enough for the Brazilian to steal the round.
Able to keep the fight in his world in the second, Silva utilized his grappling throughout, but Phillips wasn’t far behind, getting the full mount briefly while also using scrambles and hammerfists to show that he was just as effective on the mat.
On the feet and the mat, Phillips broke the fight wide open, and while Silva gave a gritty effort, there was no question who the winner was at the end of 15 minutes.
In a meeting of bantamweights moving up to 145 pounds for the night, Brian Kelleher removed Hunter Azure from the ranks of the unbeaten, stopping the Contender Series graduate in the second round.
There was no shortage of action in the opening round, with both fighters eagerly getting into exchanges on the feet throughout. Azure was the faster and busier of the two, though, allowing him to take the lead in the first five minutes.
Kelleher opened round two with an overhand right that got Azure’s attention, and while the Arizonan kept throwing back, he started to take more and more shots, and with Kelleher in a rhythm, he scored with a flush left hook that put Azure down. Two hammerfists on the grounded Azure followed, with referee Jason Herzog stopping the contest at the 3:40 mark.
Kelleher moves to 21-10 with the win. Azure falls to 8-1.
Octagon newcomer Brandon Royval promised action in his UFC debut against flyweight contender Tim Elliott, and the two delivered up until Royval scored the upset via second-round submission.
Elliott got the fight to the mat to kick the bout off, and as he scrambled for position, he landed several hard strikes. Royval responded well and fought his way back to his feet, but Elliott remained locked on. Royval eventually got free, but Elliott wasn’t interested in a standup battle, as he continued to work his grappling attack. Royval had his moments on the feet, but whenever he got too aggressive, Elliott moved in for the takedown.
The frantic pace continued in round two, with Royval getting more scoring opportunities as Elliott’s attacks slowed in their intensity. And when the Coloradan was able to get top position on Elliott and sink in an arm triangle, it was game over, as Elliott tapped out at 3:18 of the second round.
With the win, Royval moves to 11-4. The No. 11-ranked Elliott falls to 16-11-1.
Maryna Moroz earned her first performance bonus since her UFC debut nearly five years ago. Moroz stormed into the UFC with an armbar finish against Joanna Calderwood (now the 3rd-ranked flyweight). She hasn’t finished an opponent since, but her back-and-forth affair with Bueno was more than enough to earn a bonus.
Moroz nearly earned a stoppage in round two and then survived an onslaught from Bueno in the final round. Bloody forehead and all, Moroz never stopped throwing. And her performance in rounds one and two were enough to get the victory.
Fighting for the first time since August 2018, bantamweight up and comer Brett Johns snapped a two-fight losing streak with a third-round submission of Tony Gravely.
Johns dominated the first round behind a slick grappling attack that nearly produced a finish in the closing seconds of the frame. Gravely came out fast for the second, though, landing a couple hard shots on the feet before slamming Johns to the mat twice. Johns soon broke out of his slow start to the round, but neither fighter could pull ahead decisively before round’s end.
Gravely got a takedown to start the third frame, but Johns responded well and took his foe’s back. A barrage of ground strikes followed and, this time, when the Welshman sunk in the rear naked choke, Gravely was forced to tap out at 2:53 of round three.
With the win, Johns moved to 16-2. Gravely fell to 19-6.
Scott Holtzman won the most important fight of his career, taking a unanimous decision over veteran lightweight star Jim Miller in a grueling three-round battle.
The fight stayed on the feet for the first five minutes, each fighter having his moments before the horn sounded. For Miller, the left hand was the weapon of choice, but in the second half of the round, Holtzman found his timing with his right upstairs, making sure he got the veteran’s attention.
In the second minute of round two, Miller used a missed spin by Holtzman to wrap up his foe, but “Hot Sauce” got free quickly. The two then let loose with their strikes at close range, both emerging bloody before a clinch at the two-minute mark. Holtzman used the position to get a takedown, and he finished the round with a series of ground strikes.
The third was a war of attrition in the pocket, with Holtzman and Miller both digging deep in the high altitude to get the win, but it was Knoxville’s Holtzman who took the nod via scores of 30-27 and 29-28 twice,
With the win, Holtzman moves to 14-3. Sparta, New Jersey’s Miller falls to 31-14 with 1 NC.