The UFC clearly wanted to shine a spotlight on Greg Hardy, putting the disgraced former NFL star in Saturday's co-main event in Sunrise, Florida, despite his being 0-1 in the promotion with only four professional fights. And in the end, the glare of that spotlight did not expose him as a neophyte heavyweight, as his agility and power -- especially that power -- enabled Hardy to make quick work of Dmitrii Smoliakov for his first UFC win.
Hardy used a crushing right uppercut to floor the Russian wrestler, a ploddingly hittable former training partner of his at American Top Team in South Florida, then swarmed for the TKO finish at 2:15 of Round 1.
"I wanted to make sure it wasn't the same as last time," said Hardy, who had lost his UFC debut in January by disqualification after landing an illegal knee to his grounded opponent. "Don't gas out. Make the shots count."
The 30-year-old Hardy, a one-time Pro Bowl defensive end, was shunned by NFL teams after a 2014 conviction for assaulting a woman and communicating threats. Even after the conviction was overturned on appeal, no team came calling. But the UFC did, last year inviting Hardy to compete on Dana White's Tuesday Night Contender Series. He won two fights on the show by first-round knockout to earn a roster spot.
His debut did not go as planned, but on Saturday he stalked Smoliakov (9-3), a 36-year-old who had lost his two previous UFC fights by stoppage, before landing the big blow that was the beginning of the end.
"Every day, I'm getting better," Hardy said. "Every month, I'm getting more violent, more nasty in the Octagon, more humble and peaceful outside of it. I'm just coming into my own. I love this sport."
Hardy drops Smoliakov with uppercut
Greg Hardy sends Dmitrii Smoliakov to the canvas with a right uppercut in the first round. For more UFC action, go to plus.espn.com/ufc.
Perry leads the dance in hit parade with Oliveira
Alex "Cowboy" Oliveira danced his way to the Octagon and "Platinum" Mike Perry danced while waiting for him inside. Then the two welterweights turned the cage into an eight-sided mosh pit, slam-dancing their way through three rounds of all hits, all the time, with Perry a step ahead most of the way to earn a unanimous decision.
It was a much-needed win for Perry (13-4), who had lost three of his previous four fights. He took charge midway through the second round when he got Oliveira to the mat against the cage and spent an extended stretch landing punches. When Oliveira finally got back to his feet, he dislocated a toe just as the round was ending.
The fight went on, however, and Perry led the dance in Round 3, as well. He fought smartly, exchanging with Oliveira (19-7-1, 2 NC) while varying his angles of attack. At one point, Oliveira stood with his back to the cage and waved Perry in, and "Platinum" obliged, landing several punches, including one that split the guard and snapped Oliveira's head back as the crowd chanted, "Perry! Perry! Perry!"
All three judges scored the fight 29-28.
Perry unleashes flurry in third round
Mike Perry tees off on Alex Oliveira with a series of punches against the cage. For more UFC action, go to plus.espn.com/ufc.
Teixeira toughs out a submission victory
Glover Teixeira withstood an early barrage from powerful Ion Cutelaba and eventually turned the light heavyweight fight his way, getting the better of stand-up exchanges before taking the bout to the mat in the second round. From there, the 39-year-old put his Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt to work in sinking in a rear-naked choke for the finish at 3:37 of the round.
Teixeira (29-7) won his second straight fight -- the first time he has done so since 2016 -- after being rocked in the first round by Cutelaba, who was quicker afoot and with his punches. But the 25-year-old Moldovan (14-4, 1 NC), who was coming off a pair of first-round KOs, couldn't finish the job, and his attacks became noticeably slower. That allowed Teixeira, a one-time title challenger, to recover his wits and start leading the dance like the veteran he is.
Teixeira and Cutelaba trade heavy blows
Glover Teixeira and Ion Cutelaba trade huge strikes in their bout at UFC Fight Night. To catch more UFC action, go to plus.espn.com/ufc.
Sandhagen earns split decision for biggest UFC win
Cory Sandhagen played matador to the bull rushes of John Lineker for about 14 minutes, 45 seconds of their bantamweight bout, then had to fend off a last-ditch submission attempt by the Brazilian to earn his third UFC win -- and biggest in the promotion -- by split decision.
Sandhagen (11-1) won his sixth fight in a row, and it wasn't easy against the powerful Lineker (31-9), ranked No. 7 in the ESPN rankings at 135 pounds. Lineker, who came in having won eight of his past nine, gave up 8 inches in height, and that translated to a severe reach disadvantage, which Sandhagen used to his advantage. But slick movement and attacks from all angles were also part of the winning formula for the rising prospect in a fight that by all rights deserved co-main event billing.
Sandhagen survives submission attempt in final seconds
Cory Sandhagen is able to withstand a submission attempt from John Lineker late in the third round en route to a split-decision win.
Roberts remains unbeaten with smart decision win
Roosevelt Roberts had moments of explosiveness, snapping Thomas Gifford's head back with punch combinations on several occasions during the lightweight fight, but his best weapon was patience in a unanimous-decision win that ran his record to 8-0.
The 25-year-old, who grew up in nearby Hollywood, Florida, had to contend with the granite chin and unorthodox grappling game of Gifford (17-8, 2 NC), who had his five-fight winning streak end in his UFC debut. Gifford came in with 13 submissions and was active from the bottom every time he was taken down. But Roberts, who had won all of his previous fights by stoppage, was smart in not opening himself to subs and remained in control the whole way, with all three judges scoring all three rounds in his favor.
Roberts lands big strikes vs. Gifford
Roosevelt Roberts lands huge strikes in his bout vs. Thomas Gifford at UFC Fight Night. To catch more UFC action, go to plus.espn.com/ufc.
Sato gets TKO in his UFC debut
Takashi Sato made his UFC debut a smash success, flooring Ben Saunders with a picture-perfect straight left hand and pursuing him to the canvas with a deluge of punches and elbows to get the TKO at 1:18 of the second round.
Sato (15-2), a 28-year-old who previously fought in the Pancrase promotion in his native Japan, won for the seventh time in his past eight outings. His past six wins have been by knockout. Sato's precision on the feet made it a disappointing night for Saunders (22-12-2), who lost his third straight while fighting on the outskirts of his Fort Lauderdale hometown.
Sakai handed split-decision victory over Arlovski
Augusto Sakai isn't used to having his fights decided by cageside judges, as he came into his heavyweight clash with Andrei Arlovski with 10 knockouts among his 12 victories. But the 27-year-old Brazilian (13-1-1) now has reason to like scorecards, after two of the three judges scored the fight his way despite his being beaten to the punch by the 40-year-old Arlovski all fight long. According to UFC Stats, Arlovski outlanded Sakai 75-42 in significant strikes.
For Sakai, it was his fourth straight victory, his second inside the Octagon. Arlovski (27-18, 2 NC), a former UFC champion, is winless in his past four bouts despite sticking and moving effectively for the better part of three rounds.
Sakai counters Arlovski's kick with near takedown
Augusto Sakai counters Andrei Arlovski's kick with a strike to the face in their heavyweight bout. To catch more UFC action, go to plus.espn.com/ufc.
Esparza hands UFC newcomer Jandiroba first career loss
Carla Esparza trusted her wrestling, even against a fighter who came in with 11 submissions in 14 wins, and it served her well in handing UFC debutant Virna Jandiroba her first career defeat via unanimous decision.
Esparza (14-6), who was the UFC's first strawweight champion, ended a two-fight losing streak by relentlessly taking the fight to the canvas, reversing position when she was taken down and using takedown threats to set up her striking. One judge gave her all three rounds, and the other two scored the fight 29-28.
Jandiroba (14-1) is a former Invicta strawweight titlist, as is Esparza.
Esparza and Jandiroba trade takedowns
Carla Esparza and Virna Jandiroba trade takedowns in their bout at UFC Fight Night. To catch more UFC action, go to plus.espn.com/ufc.
Burns puts patient ground game on display
Gilbert Burns welcomed Mike Davis to the UFC not so hospitably, taking him to the canvas in both the first and second rounds, controlling him there with punches and submission threats and patiently awaiting the opening for a finish, which he got at 4:15 of Round 2 via rear-naked choke.
Burns (15-3), a four-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion, had the confidence in his ground game to not rush things in the lightweight fight. Davis (7-2), making his UFC debut, toughed it out for as long as he could before Burns sewed up the third win in his past four fights.
Burns lands a pair of takedowns in win
Gilbert Burns lands two takedowns on his way to a rear-naked choke submission of Mike Davis.
Methodical Miller wins by submission
Jim Miller had the whole family -- his wife and four kids -- sitting in the first row at cageside, so you knew he was not going to disappoint. He just did what Daddy does. He went to work. The 35-year-old, who came in having lost five of six while also being ravaged by lyme disease, took Jason Gonzalez to the canvas at his first opportunity and quickly finished him with a rear-naked choke 2:12 into Round 1.
For Miller (30-13, 1 NC), it was a record 32nd UFC appearance and his 19th win in the promotion, fifth all time. The submission was his eighth as a UFC lightweight, more than any other 155-pounder. He drove through Gonzalez (11-5) for a takedown and completed the choke with fluid efficiency.
"I know what I'm good at," he said afterward.
Miller: 'Every day is fight day'
UFC lightweight Jim Miller gives a motivational interview dedicated to people dealing with Lyme disease after his win vs. Jason Gonzalez.
Hill ends two-fight losing streak decisively
That this was a meeting of two fighters on losing streaks was evident from the start, as Jodie Esquibel bulled forward with abandon and Angela Hill held nothing back in unleashing big counter punches. And although Hill got touched a little, her fluid movement and precise punching busted up Esquibel and earned her the unanimous-decision win, ending a two-fight skid.
Hill (9-6), who had fought just last month, caught a rhythm as the strawweight bout wore on, and by the third round, she simply could not miss. Esquibel (6-5) wore the evidence of those punches on her bruised and battered face but kept coming until the end. It was her third loss in a row.
Two judges scored the bout 30-27, and the other had it 29-28.
Hill battles Esquibel to decision win
Angela Hill emerges with the unanimous decision victory after going the distance with Jodie Esquibel.
Dhiego Lima kicks off night with counterpunch display
Court McGee dropped Dhiego Lima with a big right hand, and the fight was over. Unfortunately for McGee, the fight ended not with a knockout, but with the third-round horn, and his knockdown proved to be too little too late in the eyes of two judges, as Lima won a split decision.
Lima (14-7), a two-time finalist in "The Ultimate Fighter," got the better of the TUF 11 champion with strong counter punching the whole way. Those left hands didn't stop the advances of the ever-aggressive McGee (19-8), but they allowed the Brazilian welterweight to maintain distance and earn his second straight win.
One judge scored the bout 30-27 for Lima, and the other two had it 29-28, one favoring each fighter.
Lima picks up split-decision win vs. McGee
Dhiego Lima comes away with a split-decision win against Court McGee to pick up back-to-back wins.