The UFC returned to Singapore with an early morning event featuring an exciting mix of veterans and prospects, capped by a clash between two of the best grapplers in the sport as Ben Askren squared off with Demian Maia.
Here’s a look at what transpired at Singapore Indoor Arena.
ESPN+ Prelims, 5:30am/2:30am ETPT
Rafael Pessoa def. Jeff Hughes by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Business kicked off in the heavyweight division as Pessoa and Hughes shared the cage, both men searching for their first victory inside the Octagon.
Pessoa started quickly, mixing in various strikes, including spinning kicks and jumping attacks that seemed to catch Hughes a little flat-footed. Midway through the first, the Brazilian finished a combination with a left hand that found a home, immediately causing Hughes’ right eye to begin swelling, prompting the broadcast team to ponder whether he’d suffered a broken orbital bone.
It was more of the same in the second, except this time, rather than landing a blow that brought about some swelling, Pessoa connected with a powerful right that momentarily put Hughes on the canvas. Late in the frame, however, the Strong Style Fight Team member finally went on the offensive, getting Pessoa to the canvas and finishing the round by getting off his best offense of the fight.
A touch of gloves started the third and while it was clear that Pessoa was slowing, he continued getting the better of things early, including backing Hughes up with a straight right hand that landed flush. While Hughes began pressing forward more in the aftermath, the American simply wasn’t offering enough volume, as Pessoa continued to land the more telling blows, sniping home heavy punches and the occasional spinning back kick.
When the final horn sounded and the nines and tens were totaled, it was Pessoa who secured the victory.
Loma Lookboonmee def Alexandra Albu by split decision (30, 27, 28-29, 30-27)
Strawweights were next into the cage in Singapore, as Albu welcomed Lookboonmee to the Octagon for the first time.
Albu came out aggressively, pressing forward and throwing hands, but Lookboonmee was a willing dance partner, securing the Thai clinch in working knees to the body and elbows over the top. Early in the frame, referee Daniel Movahedi paused the action to warn Albu about grabbing and holding Lookboonmee’s top, but the break did nothing to dull the action between these two, as they got right back to trading blows, with the UFC newcomer clearly getting the better of the exchanges.
Given Albu’s penchant from grabbing a hold of her top, Lookboonmee ditched her tank top between rounds.
Despite adjusting her attire, she didn’t adjust her approach, continuing to get the better of the exchanges and quickly escaping Albu’s attempt to bring the fight to the ground. With two minutes left in the middle stanza, Albu connected with a clean right hand that prompted Lookboonmee to look for a takedown, which was easily stuffed. While Albu continued to press forward, Lookboonmee quickly shook out the cobwebs and resumed countering the Russian’s offense, hitting a slick trip and a clean right hand late in the round.
Lookboonmee looked significantly fresher to start the third, dipping under Albu’s advances, securing the clinch and landing her offense because exiting, resetting and repeating the sequence numerous times over. Although Albu never stopped coming forward, her output was limited and the return fire was crisp and constant.
Late in the frame, Albu attacked with a flying scissor sweep, putting Lookboonmee on the canvas and searching for a finish, but it was too little, too late, as the first fighter from Thailand to grace the Octagon emerged with a split decision victory.
Official Result: Loma Lookboonmee def. Alexandra Albu by split decision (30-27, 28-29, 30-27)
Sergei Pavlovich def Maurice Greene by TKO at 2:11 of Round 1
For the second time in three fights, the heavyweights took control of the Octagon as the former Ultimate Fighter contestant Greene looked for his fourth consecutive victory as he squared off with the imposing Russian upstart Pavlovich.
Greene looked to find a rhythm early, attacking with a series of low kicks and moving well. But while Greene was getting off the greater volume, Pavlovich’s power was clearly having an impact, as the select punches he threw landed with noticeable impact. Two minutes into the round, a stiff jab staggered Greene and jarred his mouthpiece free, giving Pavlovich the opening he needed to press forward, pour on the punishment and secure his second consecutive first-round stoppage win.
Official Result: Sergei Pavlovich def. Maurice Greene by TKO (strikes) at 2:11 of Round 1
Movsar Evloev def Enrique Barzola by unanimous decision (29-28 x 2, 30-27)
Featherweights with their eyes on the Top 15 clashed here with Evloev finally making his sophomore appearance in the Octgon in a compelling battle against the former TUF Latin America winner Barzola.
It didn’t take long for Evloev to find his range and establish his jab, stinging Barzola with a pair of sharp strikes that clearly had an impact and opened the door for him to duck underneath for a successful takedown attempt. While Barzola got back to his feet, he got cracked with a right hand for his troubles as Evloev continued to stand in the pocket and connect freely before finishing the round with another takedown and back-take.
Out of the chute to start the second, Barzola appeared to catch Evloev coming in a little reckless, but before he could capitalize, the Russian turned the scramble into another back-take before the two returned to the feet and got back to slinging hands in tight quarters. This time, however, it was Barzola leading the dance, walking Evloev down and finding greater success with his own strikes than he had in the first, only for Evloev to slow the pace by looking to wrestle.
With 30 seconds left in the frame, it was Barzola who looked to wrestle, scooping Evloev into the air and slamming him to the canvas before finishing the round on top, landing a flurry of short elbows.
Both men looked to start the third quickly, but it was Evloev who found greater success early, landing a series of clean punches, securing a takedown and stuffing Barzola’s attempt to bring the fight to the canvas coming out of a scramble. Midway through the round, both men fired off kicks with Barzola landing low, producing a delayed reaction from Evloev that could have been costly as he paused before the referee had called time.
Restarted with under two minutes to go, both men got after it, doing their best to land clean and slip out of takedown attempts, the back-and-forth continuing until the final horn sounded. A close, competitive fight, the finally totals landed in favor of Evloev, who moves to 12-0 with the victory.
Official Result: Movsar Evloev def. Enrique Barzola by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
Rafael Fiziev def Alex White by unanimous decision (30-27 x 2, 29-28)
Lightweights looking to handle business quickly met in the penultimate preliminary card fight as Fiziev made his second UFC appearance against the battle-tested White.
From the outset, Fiziev was the aggressor, pressing forward and backing White up with a series of low kicks and clean strikes before landing with a good right hand that had “The Spartan” covering up. The attack seemed to wake White up, as he started to return fire and land a few shots of his own, however Fiziev remained the more active and effective of the two, turning a stuffed takedown into an opportunity to open White up with a series of heavy knees to the head.
While White tried to follow his corner’s advice and counter Fiziev’s approach, the Tiger Muay Thai representative was too quick and too powerful early in the second, stinging the more seasoned UFC fighter with another good right hand and a series of heavy body shots. White did well to weather the storm and the pace began to slow, but Fiziev remained in the driver’s seat, landing the cleaner shots and dictating the location and tempo of the action.
Although White’s corner was the one calling for the takedown between rounds, it was Fiziev who brought the fight to the floor a minute into the third, as he swiftly put White’s back on the canvas after opening a cut over the American’s left eye. Back on the feet, Fiziev continued to keep White off balance and out of rhythm, slamming home kicks and beating him to the punch more often than naught.
Though White continued to push through the final horn, this one was all Fiziev, as “Ataman” controlled the action from the outset and collected his first UFC win.
Official Result: Rafael Fiziev def. Alex White by unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
Randa Markos def Ashley Yoder by split decision (29-28 x 2, 28-29)
The ladies closed out the preliminary portion of Saturday’s card as Yoder looked to make it three straight as she took on the durable Canadian veteran Markos.
Less than a minute into the opening round, the women clinched up along the fence, with Markos looking to secure a sacrifice throw, only to have Yoder stuff the attempt and complete and head-and-arm toss of her own, eventually working to top position. As they battled for position, Markos looked for a reverse triangle from the bottom, but couldn’t complete it. From there, Yoder returned to top position, hunting an arm, but Markos was able to scramble free and dive on an anaconda choke to no avail before the women finished the round on their feet, slinging leather in close.
The duo entered a phone booth as soon as the second began, trading punches in close with Markos clearly getting the better of things as she planted her feet and connected with power. But as she pressed forward behind her hands, Yoder dropped down and drove through a takedown, putting Markos on the canvas and climbing to half guard, where she attacked with elbows as the Canadian tried to shrimp and scramble free.
After successfully creating space, Markos got to her feet and drove home a series of clean punches as Yoder remained on the canvas, joining her on the ground and looking to pass before finishing the round firing off solid ground-and-pound.
It was a much slower pace to start the third, with neither women offering much over the opening 90 seconds before Markos started coming forward more, connecting with combinations. Once again, however, Yoder used her aggression against her, timing a takedown and quickly taking her back. But as she had earlier in the fight, Markos was able to create space and get to her feet before the strawweights finished the fight trading punches and kicks in the center of the cage.
This was a competitive fight where each women seemed to control one segment of the bout, with Markos clearly holding the edge on the feet, while Yoder connected on a handful of well-timed takedowns and controlled the grappling exchanges. When the judges submitted their scores, it was Markos who came away with the split decision victory.
Official Result: Randa Markos def. Ashley Yoder by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
ESPN+ Main Card, 8am/5am ETPT
Muslim Salikhov def Laureano Staropoli by unanimous decision (30-26 x 2, 29-28)
The main card began in the welterweight division with Staropoli searching for this eighth straight victory against the “King of Kung Fu” Salikhov, who picked up a first-round stoppage win last time out in Abu Dhabi.
Much of the opening two minute was spent with each man trying to find their range and get a read on their opponent; neither offering much nor landing anything significant. But the action started to pick up at the midway point of the round, with Salikhov landing a spinning back kick to the midsection and Staropoli countering with a high kick offering of his own before the cautious approach from both sides returned.
Staropoli started a little more aggressively in the second, pressing forward and offering kicks, but Salikhov quickly countered with a swift spinning kick that only partially landed. Not to be outdone, Staropoli then opted to go high with another kick, getting a smile from Salikhov, who then used a caught kick attempt to put the Argentine on the canvas momentarily.
Just beyond the midway point of the fight, Salikhov again caught a Staropoli kick attempt, firing off a right hand behind it. From there, the Russia began to take control, battering Staropoli with a series of kicks and heavy blows along the fence, seemingly closing in on a finish. To his credit, Staropoli remained standing and continued looking to engage, but Salikhov remained in control through to the horn.
Staropoli came out of the corner swinging, looking to get back into the entertaining fight, but Salikhov slowed his forward progress with a takedown attempt. Back in space, he connected with a clean right hand and just missed with a spinning kick, though Staropoli remained undeterred. Halfway through the round, Salikhov hit a nice “go behind” in the center of the cage, but Staropoli defended it well, breaking free and digging home a few body shots before catching a back kick in the midsection.
They continued going back-and-forth in the center, with Salikhov connecting on the flashier, more pronounced attacks, while Staropoli countered with his own offense in close as the two battled to the final buzzer, leaving it to the judges to decide.
When the verdict was rendered, it was Salikhov who earned the nod, securing his third straight victory inside the Octagon and snapping Staropoli’s lengthy run of success.
Official Result: Muslim Salikhov def. Laureano Staropoli by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 29-28)
Ciryl Gane def Don'Tale Mayes by submission (heel hook) at 4:46 of Round 3
Heavyweight prospects with limited experience, but limitless upside met in this one as former TKO champ Cyril Gane locked up with three-time Contender Series competitor Don’Tale Mayes.
The big boys kept a high pace from the outset, moving fluidly around the cage as both looked to establish their range and find a home for something heavy. Through the first several minute, neither man had much success, but then Gane started finding a home for thudding body kicks and crisp right hands that got Mayes’ attention. Late in the frame, the unbeaten Frenchman caught Mayes with a right hand that prompted him to momentarily cover up, leading Gane to go on the offensive, with the horn being the only thing that kept Mayes from getting finished.
It was more of the same in the second, with Gane continuing to press forward, moving well and landing heavy, though Mayes wore everything well, save for the low blow that brought the round to a halt momentarily. Late in the round, Gane showed another wrinkle to his game, timing a level change and taking Mayes to the ground, though “Lord Kong” was able to return to his feet without taking much damage before the round ended.
Both men came out landing kicks to begin the third, with Gane hurting Mayes with a teep to the body a minute in before smothering a takedown attempt from the Louisville slugger. The technical and conditioning edges of Gane remained the clear difference-maker between the two, as the MMA Factory product piled up the offense, maintaining the same output, offering the same variety late in the third as he did in the first.
With 90 seconds left, Gane connected with a knee to the body that buckled Mayes and created an opening for “Bon Gamin,” who continued working the body before dragging Mayes to the canvas, diving on a heel hook and getting the tap in the final seconds of the fight.
Just an incredible performance from the undefeated French heavyweight prospect, who pushes his record to 5-0 with his second straight submission finish.
Official Result: Cyril Gane def. Don’Tale Mayes by submission (heel hook) at 4:46 of Round 3
Beneil Dariush def Frank Camacho by submission (rear naked choke) at of Round 1
The action shifted to the lightweight division in the middle bout of the main card, with all-action fan favorite Frank Camacho stepping in against Brazilian jiu jitsu black belt Beneil Dariush.
It was all Dariush in this one, as he started the bout by picking at Camacho in space, softening up his body with heavy kicks before timing a takedown, climbing to his back and attacking with a rear naked choke. While Camacho tried diligently to defend, Dariush continued to tighten his squeeze, securing the tap and his third straight victory.
Official Result: Beneil Dariush def. Frank Camacho by submission (rear-naked choke) at 2:02 of Round 1
Stevie Ray def Michael Johnson by majority decision (29-28 x 2, 28-28)
It was back to the lightweight ranks for the co-main event of the evening, as Scottish veteran Stevie Ray welcomed Michael Johnson back to the 155-pound weight class after a four-fight drop to featherweight.
The dueling southpaws traded smooth, technical blows throughout much of the opening round, with Johnson leading the dance and Ray countering well, with neither man gaining a significant advantage during the frame.
The second picked up right where the first left off, with both men reclaiming their places in the center of the cage and getting back into a tit-for-tat exchange, with Johnson showing a little more variety and volume as Ray continued to chop away at the legs and land sharp counters. As the round wore on, the energy ramped up, as both men starting to land heavier blows, with Ray wearing the damage on his cut-up face and reddened body.
It was more of the same to start the third, with Johnson continuing to land with greater force and at a higher clip, though Ray refused to backed down. Two minutes in, Ray finally got the fight to the floor, settling Johnson on the canvas and taking his back with two minutes to work. With a body triangle locked in, Ray went looking for a choke, softening up Johnson with punches before turning him belly-down and unloaded a string of unanswered punches through the final horn.
After 15 minutes of action, it was turned over the judges, who tallied up their scores and awarded the victory to Ray, much to the surprise and frustration of Johnson.
Official Result: Stevie Ray def. Michael Johnson by majority decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-28)
Demian Maia def Ben Askren by submission (rear naked choke) at 3:54 of Round 3
It was a showdown between Top 15 welterweight grapplers in Saturday’s main event as Askren returned from his first professional loss to take on Maia, the two-time title challenger with the second most wins in UFC history.
Everyone expected a grappling battle, but Maia got things started with some heavy left hands in space, avoiding Askren’s initial entries and keeping the fight standing. Each time Askren ducked in, looking to close the distance, Maia shrugged him off and got the better of the exchanges as they locked u in close.
With two minutes remaining in the round, Maia appeared to wobble Askren momentarily, connecting with a left hand to the temple, following it up with a kick to the body. It wasn’t until the final minute of the round that the fighter hit the canvas, with Askren taking Maia down, but immediately being forced to defend and scramble as the Brazilian went hunting for submissions and space to get back to his feet.
Bolstered by his success late in the first, Askren pressed forward to start the second, searching for the clinch and a means of getting Maia to the ground. Instead, they continued throwing hands, with Askren peppering Maia and opening up a cut on his left cheek. Askren continued to win the striking exchanges, piling up the output as he tried to close the distance, with Maia landing occasional counters.
Once again, Askren worked his way inside and secured a takedown late in the frame, but this time, Maia quickly hit a lovely omoplata sweep to work into top position and climb into mount. From there, Askren powered out, creating a scramble where Maia hunted for a kimura and the Olympic wrestler searched for dominant position as the horn sounded.
Maia allowed Askren to close the distance out of the gate to start the third, but worked his way back to the center, only to get taken down with force, though Askren couldn’t keep him there. As the pace slowed and both men clearly started to tire, Maia began pulling away in the striking department, throwing greater volume and landing the more significant shots, only to have Askren once again drag him to the floor.
But just as he did in the second, Maia quickly reversed the position, climbing to mount and taking Askren’s back as the Wisconsin native went belly-down. After locking up a body triangle, Maia fished his arm under the neck and put Askren to sleep, getting a single tap from the standout wrestler before he went out.
What an incredible way to end the year for Maia, who entered 2019 on a two-fight skid, but will head into 2020 on a three-fight winning streak.
Official Result: Demian Maia def. Ben Askren by submission (rear-naked choke) at 3:54 of Round 3