Here's how it all went down Saturday at Florida's BB&T Center.
Dhiego Lima put together the first two-fight winning streak of his UFC career in the welterweight opener, as he earned a three-round split decision over fellow Ultimate Fighter alum Court McGee.
The first five minutes were close and competitive, Lima landing hard counter lefts while McGee got the crowd roaring with a judo throw that sent Lima flying. And even though McGee upped his workrate on the feet in round two, and even scored a flash knockdown in the closing seconds of round three, his inability to ground Lima for any length of time allowed the Brazil native to stick and move his way to victory via scores of 30-27, 29-28 and 28-29.
With the win, Lima moves to 16-7. McGee falls to 20-8.
In a hard-fought clash between strawweight strikers, Angela Hill snapped a two-fight losing streak with a unanimous decision victory over Jodie Esquibel.
There was no lack of action in the opening round, with Esquibel (6-5) getting in Hill’s face with an aggressive attack that allowed Hill to show off her own counterstriking attack.
Esquibel bloodied Hill’s nose early in round two, a product of her punch combinations, but Hill kept countering effectively, making the judges’ job tough, and a late surge from the Maryland native got the crowd’s attention.
An elbow by Hill (9-6) cut Esquibel in the third, but that didn’t stop the Albuquerque native’s forward march, and a flash knockdown stunned Hill briefly before “Overkill” got back to work, tagging Esquibel as she charged in. Not surprisingly, the two ended the fight with a heated exchange before the judges rendered their verdict with scores of 30-27 twice and 29-28.
With his four kids in attendance for the first time, lightweight veteran Jim Miller earned his 30th pro win, submitting Jason Gonzalez in the first round.
Miller struck first with a hard left that caught Gonzalez’ attention, but Gonzalez threw back hard, prompting Miller to look for – and get – a takedown. Gonzalez got up, but Miller stayed on his foe’s back and sunk in the rear naked choke that forced the Californian to tap out at 2:12 of the opening frame.
With the win, New Jersey’s Miller moves to 30-13 with 1 NC. Gonzalez falls to 11-5.
Lightweight finisher Gilbert Burns kept rolling in prelim action, spoiling the UFC debut of Mike Davis by second-round submission.
After landing some hard kicks in the early going, Burns got the fight to the mat in the second minute but Davis eluded any serious danger. Once standing, Davis caught Burns upstairs, but “Durinho” got some get back immediately as the crowd roared. The exchanges continued, though Burns decided to add to his point total in the closing seconds with another takedown.
Burns took the fight back to the mat early in round two and he took Davis’ back. Davis was able to get some daylight with a little over three minutes remaining in the frame, but Burns wasn’t letting his foe up, and after peppering the newcomer for a spell, Burns went in for the finish and got it, forcing Davis to tap out to a rear naked choke at 4:15 of the second stanza.
With the win, Burns ups his record to 15-3. Davis, who replaced Eric Wisely, falls to 7-2.
Former UFC strawweight champion Carla Esparza picked up her sixth Octagon victory, handing newcomer and former Invicta FC champion Virna Jandiroba her first pro loss via unanimous decision.
Scores were 30-27 and 29-28 twice for the No. 9-ranked Esparza, now 15-6. Jandiroba falls to 14-1.
Esparza scored a takedown less than 30 seconds into the fight, but Jandiroba got back to her feet before Esparza could issue any significant damage. Esparza wasn’t deterred, though, and another takedown followed at the midway point of the round. Again, Jandiroba would get upright, but unfortunately she was stuck playing defense in the first five minutes.
Jandiroba got on the board in round two with a takedown in the second minute, yet Esparza exploded off the mat and got back to her feet. Jandiroba subsequently landed some solid strikes, and with less than two minutes to go, she nearly locked up a guillotine choke. And even though Esparza escaped, she was kept grounded before a reversal in the closing seconds.
Esparza reestablished her grappling game in the third, and while Jandiroba had her moments, it was clearly Esparza’s night, and the judges’ scores reflected that.
Brazilian heavyweight prospect Augusto Sakai picked up the most important victory of his career, as he won a three-round split decision over former world champion Andrei Arlovski.
Scores were 29-28 twice and 28-29 for Sakai, now 13-1-1. The No. 15-ranked Arlovski falls to 27-18-2.
The 40-year-old Arlovski was busy with his strikes in the first round, and Sakai dodged a lot of the incoming fire, but not all of it, as “The Pit Bull” scored with a few hard right hands on his opponent, who was simply outworked in the opening frame.
Sakai did score with a hard combination early in the second, getting him on the board with some significant strikes for the first time. Arlovski was pulling out all his veteran tricks on the prospect, though, staying just out of trouble as he peppered Sakai with his own shots. There was more of the same in the third, but two of the three judges sided with the Brazilian, who handed Arlovski his third loss in his last four fights
Octagon newcomer Takashi Sato made a statement in his UFC debut, stopping welterweight veteran Ben Saunders in the second round.
The always aggressive Saunders was busy in the opening round, stinging Sato with a few of his strikes. Sato recovered well and drilled Saunders with a hard shot of his own as “Killa B” sought a takedown, letting the Floridian know that he was in for a fight. Saunders’ knees in the clinch in the final minute were a good memory for him to leave in the heads of the judges, though.
A minute into round two, Sato dropped Saunders hard with a left down the middle, and “Ten” began unloading with elbows on the ground, cutting Saunders and prompting referee Dan Miragliotta to stop the fight at 1:18 of the second stanza.
With the win. Tokyo’s Sato moves to 15-2. Orlando’s Saunders falls to 22-12-2.
Florida native Roosevelt Roberts went the distance for the first time as a pro, but he kept his unbeaten record intact with a shutout three-round decision over Arkansas newcomer Thomas Gifford.
Roberts got a takedown two minutes into the fight and kept Gifford there, transitioning nicely from position to position. Gifford stayed busy on the mat, but not enough to put Roberts in trouble. “The Predator” kept the heat on in round two with his striking scoring dividends before more ground control extended his lead, and there was no let up from Roberts in the final five minutes, as he continued to put it on Gifford and take the decision via three scores of 30-27.
With the win, Roberts moves to 8-0. Gifford falls to 17-8 with 2 NC.
Rising bantamweight star Cory Sandhagen delivered another exciting performance in his clash with 135-pound contender John Lineker, ultimately emerging with a three-round split decision victory.
Scores were 29-28 twice and 28-29 for Sandhagen now 11-1. The No. 8-ranked Lineker falls to 31-9.
Lineker focused on the body as the fight began, with Sandhagen trying to be a little flashier with his kicks as he attempted to use his height and reach advantages. Lineker used wide hooks to get close as the round progressed, and while he missed more than landed, Sandhagen took what did land well, and his own busy attack was serving him well.
The standup exchanges continued into round two, with Sandhagen holding the edge, but the two also traded takedowns, with Lineker nearly pulling off a neck crank after putting the Coloradan on the deck.
The third was another memorable one, with Sandhagen landing more shots but Lineker continuing to throw hammers. And in the closing moments, he landed a couple bombs, forcing Sandhagen to look for a takedown. As he did, Lineker locked in a tight guillotine choke, but Sandhagen was able to make it to the final horn.
All the pre-fight gamesmanship from Ion Cutelaba didn’t have an effect on seasoned light heavyweight contender Glover Teixeira, who submitted “The Hulk” in the second round.
Cutelaba struck first with a kick the head that Teixeira took well as he tried to close the distance and get the fight to the mat. Cutelaba’s takedown defense was solid, though, as he rejected several attempts by the Brazilian veteran. And once the two separated, Cutelaba made his foe pay with hard shots upstairs. Midway through the round, Cutelaba caught a spinning backfist and went to the deck, and while Teixeira took some heavy ground strikes, he weathered the storm and got to his feet, nearly catching “The Hulk” in a guillotine choke.
Teixeira rocked Cutelaba early in round two, but the Moldovan kept firing back. The difference now was that it was Teixeira leading the dance as Cutelaba was looking to counter. With three minutes left, Teixeira pushed the tiring Cutelaba to the mat and then took the mount. Moments later, Teixeira took Cutelaba’s back and the end came moments later, as he sunk in a rear naked choke that produced the tap out. The official time of the finish was 3:37 of the second round.
With the win, the No. 11-ranked Teixeira improves to 29-7. Cutelaba falls to 14-4 with 1 NC.
Welterweights Mike Perry and Alex Oliveira lived up to expectations in their three-rounder, with Perry emerging victorious by way of a close, but unanimous, decision in an action-packed bout.
After energetic Octagon entrances, both Perry and Oliveira kept the energy high once the fight started, with Oliveira pulling out all the stops to finish the bout and Perry getting in more than his share of hard shots. But it was Oliveira who left the round ahead thanks to a series of right hands and combinations that rocked and bloodied Perry.
Oliveira kept landing big punches to the head as round two began, but a counter left from Perry put the Brazilian on the deck briefly and stopped the onslaught. A wild sequence followed with Perry lifting Oliveira up and dumping him awkwardly to the mat. With 90 seconds left, Perry clipped Oliveira and was able to get him to the canvas, where he fired ground strikes before the Brazilian rose with a few seconds left. To add to his woes, Oliveira appeared to dislocate a toe on his right foot just before the horn ending the frame.
Patiently waiting for Oliveira to commit, Perry countered his foe to great effect in the third round and then unleashed a barrage of punches when Oliveira backed to the fence and waved him in. Oliveira shook off the blows and got in some shots, but it was Perry who took the round and the fight, with the judges returning identical scores of 29-28.
With the win, Perry moves to 13-4. Oliveira falls to 19-7-1 with 2 NC.
Former NFL lineman Greg Hardy scored his first UFC win in the co-main event, stopping Dmitrii Smoliakov in the first round.
Hardy was patient in his attack from the start, tossing off the takedown attempts from the Russian as he marched into striking range. With a little over three minutes left, Hardy rocked Smoliakov with a right uppercut and put him on the canvas. A series of ground strikes followed, and with Smoliakov not answering, referee Keith Peterson stepped in and stopped the fight at 2:15 of round one.
With the win, Hardy moves to 4-1. Smoliakov falls to 9-3.
The world title hopes of veteran middleweight contender Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza hit a huge roadblock in the form of Norway’s Jack Hermansson, who made the most of his short-notice opportunity by scoring an upset five-round unanimous decision victory over the Brazilian on Saturday night.
“I am a title contender,” said Hermansson, who replaced Yoel Romero in the UFC Fight Night main event from the BB&T Center.
Scores were 49-46 and 48-47 twice.
Hermansson opened up the fight with a series of kicks, and though a subsequent right hand landed for “The Joker,” Souza had a right of his own to fire back, and then the exchanges began to heat up. Midway through the round, Hermansson rocked Souza at close range and he then sought a guillotine choke. The choke appeared to be tight, but Souza escaped and got back to his feet. Hermansson kept Souza locked up against the fence until “Jacare” got free with less than 30 seconds remaining.
Remaining the aggressor, Hermansson kept the strikes coming in the second round, and when Souza responded too eagerly, the Norway product put his opponent on the deck. Getting a chance to implement his ground-and-pound strategy, Hermansson was patient with his striking on the mat, making sure not to get caught from the jiu-jitsu ace, and he kept Souza grounded for the majority of the round.
Undeterred by the first two rounds, Souza let his hands go more freely in the third, showing little regard for the punches coming back at him. Add in solid takedown defense and the tide was rapidly turning in Souza’s favor as he put together his best round just when he needed it.
Hermansson roared back with a series of combinations a minute into the fourth round, forcing Souza to reset as the momentum went back into the Sweden native’s corner. And Hermansson kept pressing as Souza’s work rate slowed considerably heading into the final round.
Looking for a takedown to start the final frame, Hermansson got it, but Souza got up immediately. Hermansson didn’t stop, though, and his cardio was impressive as he stayed busy by peppering the Brazilian and not allowing him to get set to land a fight-changing bomb. With 90 seconds left, Souza was able to land some solid shots, and in the final minute he appeared to briefly stun Hermansson. But “The Joker” refused to let the fight get away from him, and a final takedown attempt sealed the deal for him on the scorecards.
With the win, the No. 10-ranked Hermansson ups his record to 20-4. The No. 4-ranked Souza falls to 26-7 with 1 NC.