The buildup had gone on forever, with the two rival fighters -- one of whom trains in New Jersey and the other a Jersey native who fights out of New York City -- squabbling incessantly and making it clear they could not wait to get into the Octagon with each other.
Once they were there, they didn't spend much time in the cage.
Marlon Moraes, the former World Series of Fighting bantamweight champion, floored Jimmie Rivera with a head kick and swarmed him with punches on the canvas to get a TKO just 33 seconds into their main event of a UFC Fight Night on Friday at Adirondack Bank Center in Utica, New York.
For Rivera, the defeat ended a 20-fight win streak that had extended back a decade.
"I'm ready," Moraes said. "I want the title. I want to fight for the UFC bantamweight title."
Moraes was signed by the UFC in 2017 after a WSOF title reign of nearly three years. He was riding a 13-fight win streak. But his UFC debut, against a tough Raphael Assuncao, ended up as a split-decision loss.
Since then, however, Moraes has reeled off three straight wins, the last two by first-round knockout.
"I'm a mixed martial artist," he said. "If you think I'm going to kick you, I'm going to take you down. If you think I'm going to take you down, I'm going to knock you out."
Rivera (21-2), ranked No. 7, didn't know what hit him. The left switch kick connected to the side of his head and he dropped to the mat. When Moraes followed him to the floor with punches, he could do nothing but cover up until the referee ended it.
Gillespie stays on solid ground, remains unbeaten
Gregor Gillespie was a four-time All-American wrestler and the 2007 Division I national champion. Anyone who didn't already know that probably would not be surprised to hear it after watching the 31-year-old lightweight's performance in the co-main event.
The 12-0 native of upstate New York, who had loud support from the Utica crowd, remained unbeaten with a dominant performance against a tough Vinc Pichel, taking him to the canvas at will -- 7-of-8 on takedown attempts -- before getting the finish via arm triangle choke at 4:06 of the second round.
Pichel (11-2), who had won four fights in a row, was no pushover. He came in on a four-fight win streak. And despite having to repeatedly fight with Gillespie draped over him, he managed to stay out of severe trouble until he allowed Gillespie to clamp on a choke late in the second round. There was too much time before the horn for him to survive.
"He was a very tough opponent," Gillespie said. "He was harder for me to take down than I thought. And he was very very tough off the mount. He was one of the very few guys -- I'm not actually sure, maybe one another guy has gotten off bottom with me."
But every time Pichel made it back to his feet, Gillespie took him right back down to the mat. "That's what persistence is about," he said. "Like water through a rock. Water will go through that rock eventually, baby."
Speaking of water, that's what Gillespie has on his mind for his next act. "I'm not calling anyone out," he said. "I'm going to go fishing tomorrow."
Harris gets the KO, just a little later than usual
Walt Harris walked into the Octagon having won 10 times in his career, all by knockout, all but one coming into the first round. But the heavyweight knew that his opponent, Daniel Spitz, was not someone to approach in haste. Spitz had won his previous UFC fight in just 24 seconds.
So Harris (11-7) stalked his prey for nearly two full rounds before stunning Spitz (6-2) with a left hook, then sending him to the canvas against the cage and finishing him with just one second left in Round 2. It ended a two-fight losing streak.
"I knew Daniel was a tough opponent, really durable," said Harris, 34. "He's got a lot of fights on him. He's got really good movement to be big."
Spitz, a 27-year-old former college football player who stands 6-foot-7, was not easy to hit with all of his fluid movement, so Harris took his time. "I didn't want to go too crazy," he said, "because he cracked Anthony [Hamilton] with that step-back right hand."
Eventually, Harris found his range. "I saw holes in his game," he said, "and I exploited it."
Saunders turns things around with body-shot KO
Ben Saunders had lost two fights in a row, three of his previous five. The 35-year-old welterweight needed to get his career back on track.
He did so with a clutch performance in the clinch, dropping Jake Ellenberger with a knee to the body and pouncing on him with punches for the TKO at 1:56 of the first round.
"I think I've got one of the most devastating clinches in the game," said Saunders (22-9-2).
He'll get no argument on that point from Ellenberger (31-14), who also was seeking to produce an about-face for his struggling career. But the 33-year-old, who now has lost three in a row and five of his past six, got caught up in a clinch against the cage with the taller Saunders, whose knee to the kidney area floored Ellenberger like a sack of potatoes.
Saunders hopes this victory leads to better days ahead. "I always take every defeat with all due respect for the opponent that did it," he said. "If my mind is not correct, that is the biggest crutch in the game. But when my mind is on point, there ain't a man alive in this division that can beat me."
Arce stays on the move upward
Julio Arce was in command of distance from start to finish, steering clear of Daniel Teymur's power while peppering him with shots from all angles, then countering a kick with a takedown that led to a third-round submission by rear-naked choke.
The victory, which came at 2:55 of the round, was the seventh in a row for the New York featherweight.
"He was a little hard to figure out because when you come in he's really explosive," said Arce (14-2). "I had to take my time, feel him out."
That he did. Teymur (6-2), whose younger brother, David, had won a lightweight fight earlier in the night, threw everything he had into everything he threw. Uppercuts. Kicks. Spinning back fists. Had any of his power shots landed, it might have been night-night for Arce.
Instead, Arce remained on the move, landing from all angles while evading anything damaging. Midway through Round 3, he caught a Teymur leg kick and used it to take the fight to the canvas, where he quickly seized back control and worked methodically to secure the choke.
Teymur now has lost twice in the UFC after starting his career 6-0.
Alvey paces himself to split-decision victory
Sam Alvey is slow. Sam Alvey is fast.
That's not a contradiction as much as it is an explanation of how the 32-year-old is able to fight the way he does. He circled and circled in no hurry for the better part of three rounds, but whenever Gian Villante tried to pick up the pace by stepping forward to engage, he took a 1-2 combination to the face from the fast hands of Alvey.
It was enough to earn Alvey (33-10, 1 NC) a split-decision victory, with two judges scoring the fight 29-28 for him and the other seeing it for Villante (16-10) by the same score, perhaps because the Long Island fighter was busier.
Alvey, a longtime middleweight, was fighting at light heavyweight for just the second time in his 44-bout career. That might explain the hand speed, but Alvey also showed power. In the final seconds of Round 1, he floored Villante with an overhand left. He hit him flush a few times in the other two rounds as well.
"He is the toughest SOB I think I've ever fought," Alvey said. "I hit him with everything and the kitchen sink and he wouldn't stay down. God dang!"
Following his last fight, Alvey had taken to the microphone in the Octagon and called out Villante. And the challenge was accepted on social media even before Alvey reached his dressing room. This time Alvey called out Corey Anderson and referenced Villante's instant acceptance, saying to Anderson, "Let's see if you can top that, my friend."