James Vick is 6-foot-3, enormous for a lightweight, and Paul Felder is 5-11, but Felder chopped down the bigger man with a steady diet of leg kicks, leaving Vick vulnerable to some big shots and winning a clear unanimous decision in the co-main event of UFC Fight Night: Francis Ngannou vs. Cain Velasquez on Sunday night at Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix.
Both lightweights were coming off brutal knockout losses, Vick (13-3) at the heavy hands of Justin Gaethje in August and Felder (16-4) against the ferocious Mike Perry a month earlier. However, neither man held back, and it wasn't until late in Round 2 that Felder took over. Off an exchange, he stepped back and landed a spinning back fist that sent Vick into retreat mode. But the round ended before Felder could do more damage.
In the third round, it was Felder's kicks to the lower left that made the difference, leaving Vick with a noticeable limp. Vick stayed in the fight, trying to gain a takedown, but Felder was able to keep the fight standing, where he continued to do damage.
Two of the judges scored the fight 29-28 and the other 30-27.
Felder was emotional afterward, citing his long layoff from breaking his arm against Perry last summer and also the recent death of his father. In tears, he dedicated the win to his mother.
"Mom, I love you so much," he said in an interview in the Octagon. "You raised three crazy sons. You put up with our crazy father. And here I am. I won this one for you, Mom."
Felder then turned his attention to the lightweight division.
"I was told during the fighter meetings this week that I'm not intelligent enough, that I'm not well-rounded enough to win a decision," he said. "One-fifty-five [pounds], you better look out, because no matter how you want to get it, you're gonna get it."
Calvillo was unable to complete a takedown and still won, which is a first for her UFC career. She also had a difficult time reaching her taller opponent with head strikes. But Calvillo outlanded Casey by a significant margin with strikes to the legs and torso, and that enabled her to move to 8-1.
Two of the judges scored the bout 29-28 and the other had it 30-27.
Casey (8-7) used her length to keep the fight at distance, which helped her fend off all six takedown attempts. She had success with her leg kicks, hindering Calvillo's mobility as the fight wore on. But she could not take advantage, and now she has lost three of her last four.
Gracie did what Gracies do -- although no one from the first family of Brazilian jiu-jitsu had done so in the Octagon since 1994.
The nephew of Royce Gracie, who won three of the first four UFC tournaments, calmly waited for an opportunity to close distance on Caceres, and once he had the fight in a clinch, he immediately turned it into a takedown. From there, he swiftly gained back control and sunk in a rear-naked choke to elicit the tapout at 2:06.
Gracie (5-0) was making his UFC debut and was in his first fight in any promotion since 2016. Caceres fell to 14-12-1.
The fight seemed to be coming down to a decision, which seemed impossible with all of the punches, elbows and kicks the fighters had landed on each other for the better part of three rounds. Then, just six seconds before the final horn, Luque got the finish after dropping Barberena with a knee to the head.
It was the first time Barberena (14-6) has been knocked out, although Luque (15-6-1) landed enough hard shots to have knocked him out a dozen times. Luque, who has never been KO'd, also had to withstand a steady barrage of strikes that would have ended the night of a lesser chin. It was an electrifying display of nonstop fisticuffs, with the fighters combining for 332 strikes, a UFC record for a welterweight fight. Luque landed 163, Barberena 169.
Luque has won three in a row and seven of his last eight.
Calvillo wins by unanimous decision over Casey
Cynthia Calvillo picks up unanimous-decision win over Cortney Casey to improve to 8-1.
Fili took charge of a back-and-forth featherweight fight with a busy third round, peppering Jury with jabs and kicks to secure 29-28 scorecards from all three judges.
Fili (19-6) had the jab working early, bloodying Jury's nose before the first round was at its midpoint. Jury took a while to get his own offense going, but when he punctuated a second-round exchange with a spinning back fist, he hurt Fili and swarmed, looking for a finish. But Fili weathered the storm, and he was the one who greeted the final round with urgency, landing again and again while Jury just stalked him, throwing little.
Jury (17-4) has lost three of five since starting his career 15-0.
Gracie wins UFC debut with rear-naked choke
Kron Gracie lives up to the family name as he submits Alex Caceres in his UFC debut, the first win for a Gracie in the UFC since 1994.
The fight went the distance, and Sterling was entirely in control of the fight's distance. He either smothered Rivera in clinches against the cage or kept his opponent away from him with kicks and jabs for much of the 15 minutes, earning a trio of 30-27 scorecards.
This was a showdown that was long coming, as both fighters had toiled on the same regional fight circuit in the New York area. Bragging rights go to the Long Islander.
Sterling (17-3) has won three fights in a row, getting this one with a steady and varied offense -- including a spinning back fist in Round 2 that sent his opponent into retreat. Moving forward was a struggle all fight for Rivera (22-3), as he never was able to find the range for his strong boxing. For the New Jersey fighter, it was his second loss in three fights since seeing his 20-fight win streak end last year.
Fili wins via unanimous decision
Andre Fili wins via unanimous decision over Myles Jury in their featherweight bout at UFC Fight Night.
Both fighters entered undefeated, but Bermudez was the one who made the Octagon his own. He slickly worked the fight to the canvas midway through the round and transitioned from one submission attempt to the next before finishing the job via D'Arce choke at 3:09.
Bermudez (14-0) had missed weight Saturday, turning this scheduled bantamweight bout into a 140-pound catchweight contest. After the fight, he apologized to Lopez (9-1) in the cage. But before doing that, he made Lopez his 11th submission victim, 10th by choke.
Sterling goes the distance for decision win over Rivera
Aljamain Sterling goes the full three rounds with Jimmie Rivera to secure the win via unanimous decision.
Lee was relentless with her attack of punches and kicks, but it might have been her defense that won her this flyweight fight against Evans-Smith, a former collegiate wrestler who was fended off on all but one of her takedown attempts.
All three judges scored the bout 30-27 for Lee (10-2), who won her sixth in a row. Evans-Smith (6-4) was a step behind while the fight was standing, and she took a beating in losing for the third time in her past four fights.
Lee battles Evans-Smith to decision win
Andrea Lee pulls out the win by decision after going the distance against Ashlee Evans-Smith at UFC Fight Night: Ngannou vs. Velasquez.
Lentz had something to smile about in the end, but that smile was surrounded by a craggy red landscape of bruising. "The Carny" had to withstand a barrage of 1-2 punch combinations from Holtzman, but he toughed it out and seized a grappling edge in each round to earn the judges' nod. All three scored the bout 29-28.
Holtzman (12-4), who fights out of Phoenix, saw his three-fight win streak end, and Lentz (30-9-2, 1 NC) won a second straight fight for the first time since 2016.
Lentz defeats Holtzman via unanimous decision
Nik Lentz defeats Scott Holtzman via unanimous decision in their bout at the prelims of UFC Fight Night: Ngannou vs. Velasquez.
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Barao, the former UFC bantamweight champion, lost his fourth fight in a row, starting strong before getting clipped by Sanders and finished at 1:01 of Round 2.
Sanders (13-3), who had lost three of his past four following an 11-0 start to his career, weathered a steady attack of body kicks from the Brazilian in the first round. In the second, he closed the distance and floored Barao with a left hand, then pounced to deliver several finishing blows on the mat.
Barao (34-8) came in as an underdog because, while Sanders has struggled of late, the Brazilian has struggled more. He missed the 136-pound limit at Saturday's weigh-in -- his second straight fight missing weight. And this defeat is his sixth in the eight fights since he dropped the bantamweight belt to TJ Dillashaw in 2014. That loss ended a 33-fight unbeaten run for Barao, dating to 2005.
Emily Whitmire defeats Aleksandra Albu by first-round submission
Whitmire was quick, efficient and unforgiving in handing Albu her first career defeat, taking the Russian to the canvas after a brief exchange of punches, then clamping on the rear-naked choke as Albu attempted to get up. The strawweight opener lasted just 1:01.
It was the first pro finish for Whitmire (4-2). Albu, who had not competed since 2017, drops to 3-1.