The relentless, diverse striking of Carlos Condit was back in full force on Saturday, as the welterweight contender made a successful comeback from knee surgery to stop Thiago Alves in Goiania, Brazil.
Condit (30-8), 31, broke open a tense and tactical bout by flooring Alves with a left elbow to the nose early in Round 2 and never let him off the hook. Referee Mario Yamasaki waved off the bout on the advice of the cageside doctor before the start of Round 3.
"I have nothing but respect for Thiago Alves," Condit said. "He's a guy that I have looked up to in the sport for years. It was an honor to fight him."
The fight headlined a UFC Fight Night card from the Goiania Arena, marking Alves' first appearance in his native Brazil since 2003. But Alves' homecoming was quickly overshadowed by the comeback efforts of Condit.
A former interim UFC welterweight champion, Condit was making his first appearance since suffering a torn ACL in his March 2014 loss to Tyron Woodley at UFC 171. The stability of Condit's right knee was tested early by Alves, who is known for his hard leg strikes. But the native of Albuquerque, New Mexico, showed no signs of vulnerability in a slow opening round which Condit controlled thanks to his higher volume of strikes.
"After the feeling-out process, I just started thinking about the different things that we had worked on," Condit said. "We worked on a lot of different tactics. The first thing I threw that we worked on [in Round 2] -- it worked."
Entering the fight with a five-inch height advantage, Condit showed Alves (26-10) a variety of looks as he varied his striking attempts early in Round 2. But once he had Alves down and hurt at exactly one minute into the round, Condit quickly showcased why he's one of the sport's most dangerous finishers.
Condit swarmed a bloody Alves and overwhelmed him with short punches and knees to the body from the ground. Alves, 31, showed tremendous heart simply to survive the round as he was tagged repeatedly over the final four minutes.
"I felt that I could keep fighting at least for another round, but congratulations to Condit," Alves said. "He did a really good job. The doctors wanted to stop the fight and I have to respect that."
Condit successfully moved himself back into the title picture at welterweight, but was noncommittal regarding who he prefers to face next.
"I don't know, whoever. Whoever," Condit said. "I just want a good fight -- somebody exciting and someone the fans are excited to watch me fight. That's who I want to be in with. So, whoever."
Oliveira submits Lentz in rematch
The native of Sao Paulo, Brazil, did just that, moving into a third-place tie for most submission wins (seven) in UFC history in the process.
Oliveira (20-4), 25, took advantage of a fatigued Lentz -- who had dominated the previous round -- to force the tap out via guillotine choke at 1:10 of Round 3. The fight was a rematch of their June 2011 bout, originally won by Oliveira via submission, but later changed to a no-contest due to an illegal knee. The two were scheduled to meet again in September, but Oliveira weighed in four pounds over and the fight was called off.
"Nik's a very tough guy, but I felt like trash here tonight," Oliveira said. "I felt like I had no energy. But thanks to my coaches, you need to be a lot better to beat me.
"You're going to have to beat me and work very hard to beat me. You're not going to beat me when I come in here with strength and motivation."
The rematch featured plenty of action from the start as the rangy Oliveira used his six-inch reach advantage to land strikes from the outside.
Lentz, 30, entered the bout having averaged 10 takedown attempts per bout in his 14 UFC appearances, and he worked hard to close the distance and score with punches on the inside.
Oliveira finally put his stamp on Round 1 by dropping Lentz late with a knee to the body. He continued to rain down hammer fists from top position over the final minute, achieving full mount before the horn rescued Lentz.
The second round, however, was nearly all Lentz, who scored a series of takedowns and controlled the action with effective ground-and-pound. He avoided multiple submission attempts from the crafty Oliveira by sticking close to his chest.
But the toll that the native of Coconut Creek, Florida, paid in order to have that success was a costly one as Lentz (27-7-2) appeared gassed to open the final round.
The fresher Oliveira opened Round 3 by landing a series of clean knees to the body and punches upstairs. Oliveira quickly applied a standing guillotine, forcing Lentz to submit moments later from top position on the canvas.
The victory was the fourth straight for Oliveira, who entered the bout as more than a 3-1 favorite. Lentz fell to 4-2 since moving down to 145 pounds in 2012.
"Five years ago, they threw me inside this Octagon and I was just a child among these lions," Oliveira said. "Now I want to be one of those lions. I'm ready."