Jack Hermansson wasted no time in reasserting his status among the upper echelon of UFC middleweight contenders.
The native of Sweden, who fights out of Norway, had won four in a row prior to having his momentum abruptly halted by last September's TKO loss to Jared Cannonier. On Saturday, in the co-main event of UFC Fight Night in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Hermansson was looking for redemption against Kelvin Gastelum, who just over a year ago was competing for an interim championship.
Hermansson, 32, got that redemption and he got it quickly, submitting Gastelum with a heel hook just 1:18 into the fight.
Hermansson went for a takedown before the fight was 40 seconds old, and he got it. However, Gastelum reversed him as they went to the mat and went right into half guard. But Hermansson was unfazed, grabbing hold of his opponent's left ankle and securing it tightly as Gastelum tried to scramble away. It took just moments for Gastelum to tap out.
It was the sixth career submission for Hermansson (21-5, 8-3 in the UFC), who has built his name mostly with his hands (11 KOs). He is No. 7 in the ESPN middleweight rankings.
"First-round finish, what more can you wish for?" Hermansson said. "I'm very dangerous on the ground. I think that he is comfortable with his top game, but people don't know how much I have from the ground because I'm not so much on my back in my fights, almost never, so people don't know how dangerous of a game I have from there. Now they have a clue.
Big kudos to Hermansson, that was SIKKK but I'm still surprised Kelvin got caught with that. I feel like he could have gotten out. Keep your head up KG. #UFCFightIsland2— Michael Chiesa (@MikeMav22) July 19, 2020
"I want a title shot."
The sixth-ranked Gastelum (16-6, 1 NC; 10-6, 1 NC UFC) has lost three in a row, a skid that began with an interim title fight in April 2019 against Israel Adesanya, who now reigns as champion.
This time, Deiveson Figueiredo left no doubt.
In a rematch of their controversial bout earlier this year, Figueiredo knocked down Joseph Benavidez three times and then choked him out at 4:48 of the first round in the main event of Sunday's UFC Fight Night in Abu Dhabi. With the win, Figueiredo claimed the vacant UFC flyweight championship.
Diakiese is a very good, explosive MMA striker with knockout power. Fiziev is a longtime Muay Thai fighter and kickboxer -- and the Muay Thai coach at Thailand's Tiger Muay Thai gym. Together, they produced the fight of the night.
There are definitely levels to the standup game in mixed martial arts. That was apparent in Fiziev's unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28) lightweight win over Diakiese. Fiziev clearly put Diakiese out of his depth on the feet, ripping hard low kicks and body kicks and landing big punching combinations. On defense, Fiziev was much harder to hit, too -- including a Matrix-like leaning evasion of a Diakiese left head kick in the second round.
Fiziev actually did some of his best work on the ground in the first round, landing a big elbow from top position after a scramble that bloodied Diakiese. Back on the feet, he landed a huge body kick on Diakiese. The second round was all striking and dominant for Fiziev, who landed some vicious leg kicks and at one point a spinning back fist.
Throughout, Fiziev's striking was loose and powerful. When Diakiese would land, Fiziev seemed nonplussed, waving him in. In the third, that almost cost Fiziev. Diakiese landed a pair of hard right hands that snapped Fiziev's head back. Diakiese hung in until the end and put forth significant offense, but the decision was obvious for Fiziev.
Fiziev, 27, has won two straight after losing his UFC debut to Magomed Mustafaev in April 2019. The Kyrgyzstan native had a long kickboxing and Muay Thai career prior to transitioning to MMA in 2015. Diakiese, a 27-year-old Congo-born England resident, had a two-fight winning streak snapped.
Ariane Lipski taps out Luana Carolina with a knee bar
Ariane Lipski floors Luana Carolina with a powerful right hand to the gut, then forces Carolina to tap out with a savage knee bar.
Lipski, known as "The Queen of Violence" for her aggressive standup attack, took her violence to the canvas by securing a kneebar that had Carolina shrieking in pain before the referee could jump in at just 1:28 of Round 1.
Lipski is the first woman in the UFC to get a kneebar submission and earned a performance-of-the-night bonus. It was the second-fastest submission in flyweight history.
Lipski closed the distance on her fellow Brazilian flyweight immediately, giving Carolina no room to utilize her kickboxing. Then, barely a minute in, Lipski floored Carolina with a hard right hand to the body and went to work on the ground.
Damn...Great submission!! #UFCFightIsland2— Alex Volkanovski (@alexvolkanovski) July 19, 2020
Carolina appeared to be on the verge of reversing position when she grabbed Lipski's foot and went for a heel hook. But Lipski sat back to get out of trouble, then immediately looked for the kneebar. She clamped it on tight, and Carolina let out a scream right away, before she could tap.
It was the second straight victory for Lipski, after the 26-year-old out of Curitiba had lost in her first two UFC appearances. Before joining the promotion, she was a champion in KSW.
Carolina, competing for the first time since winning her UFC debut in March 2019, is a 27-year-old who is based in Sao Paulo.
The next flyweight title challenger might have been decided.
Askarov outpointed Pantoja via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28) in a critical bout in the UFC's flyweight division. The third round, which Askarov won with the harder punches throughout, was the one that decided it.
Coming in, Pantoja was ESPN's No. 6-ranked MMA flyweight and Askarov was No. 7.
Close fight 3rd round takes it!! Nasty scrambles #UFCFightIsland2— Charles Rosa (@CharlesRosaMMA) July 19, 2020
It was a back-and-forth bout filled with wild scrambles and even exchanges on the feet. Askarov's game plan was what it typically is: wrestling. He pushed Pantoja up against the cage and took him down in the first round. Pantoja attempted an armbar, but Askarov defended and ended up in top position. Pantoja ended up getting Askarov's back in a crazy ground scramble, but was not able to secure a choke before the end of the round.
Pantoja got Askarov's back again in the second round, but Askarov was able to escape. It was another round filled with fast-paced grappling -- and very hard to score for the judges because of the speed with which both men were moving. In the third round, Askarov abandoned his wrestling a bit and had a lot of success on the feet with hard right and left hands. Askarov switched his stance from orthodox to southpaw and back several times in the round, which kept Pantoja on his toes.
Askarov, 27, has now won two straight following a draw with Brandon Moreno in his UFC debut in September 2019. The Russia native had won his first 10 pro bouts via finish. Pantoja, a 30-year-old Brazilian, had won four of five coming in with the only loss in that span coming to Deiveson Figueiredo.
Roman Dolidze's kick knocks Khadis Ibragimov out cold
Roman Dolidze lands a punishing kick to the head of Khadis Ibragimov, knocking him out in Round 1.
It was an impressive -- and concussive -- UFC debut by Dolidze, who remained undefeated and still has not gone the distance in his career.
The 32-year-old Georgian, who fights out of Ukraine, landed an array of calf kicks early in the light heavyweight fight. But the deciding blow was a left high kick that landed not with the foot or shin but with the knee, dropping Ibragimov limply. Dolidze followed it up with punches on the canvas for the TKO finish at 4:15 of the first round.
Dolidze was coming off over a year and a half of inactivity. He won his first three career fights by submission, and his most recent four have come by knockout. Five of those finishes have come in Round 1.
Ibragimov, a 25-year-old Dagestani, has lost in all three of his UFC outings after entering the promotion last year unbeaten.
"He was a good opponent, tough opponent, but I don't like when someone looks at me like he done yesterday [at the weigh-ins], this was his big mistake, that's why it was like that today," Dolidze said. "Just fighting, that's all, nothing more. I'm ready, no problems with me, I'm ready to fight yesterday, tomorrow ..."
The future seems to be very bright for Dawson.
The prospect out of Glory MMA in Missouri picked up a dominant, unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 29-27) win over Narimani, showing off his striking in addition to his wrestling and grappling.
"I knew this was a fight where it was safe to show that," Dawson said of his standup. "I needed to get better in this fight."
Dawson's high level of grappling has already been established and he utilized both skills in the first two rounds. In the first, Dawson slipped after Narimani checked one of his calf kicks. Narimani attempted to pounce, but Dawson landed a jumping knee that connected. Soon after, Dawson was in top position and then took Narimani's back, looking for a choke.
Yassss!!!! Super proud of Grant tonight. Showcased how much he's worked on his striking and how well rounded he is.— Megan Anderson (@MeganA_mma) July 18, 2020
Beautiful performance 👏🏻👏🏻 #UFCFightIsland2
Dawson got Narimani to the mat in a more traditional way in the second, with a single leg takedown. Once again, Dawson got to the back and did damage there, bloodying Narimani with punches. The choke was not there again, though, and Narimani made it into the third round.
In the third, Dawson stayed on the feet and landed several hard calf kicks that clearly caused Narimani issues. Narimani had moments before the fight closed, though. He landed some hard right hands on Dawson and pushed the pace, clearly looking for a finish because he was behind on the scorecards. Dawson eluded the knockout blow and went on to win the decision.
Dawson, 26, has won four straight. This was the Nebraska native's first decision win in his past three bouts. His previous two wins came via rear-naked choke submission. Narimani, a 33-year-old England native, has dropped two in a row following a five-fight winning streak.
Afterward, Dawson said he'd fight at 155 pounds or a 150-pound catchweight during the pandemic, so he can be available for short-notice fights. Dawson said he'd consider a move back to featherweight (145 pounds) when things returned to normalcy.
Joel Alvarez stops Joe Duffy via submission
Joel Alvarez upsets Joe Duffy after forcing him to tap out via guillotine choke in Round 1.
You had to know someone was going to be tapping out in this one. Each of these men came in with 16 pro wins on his résumé, with Alvarez having scored all but two of them by submission and Duffy having produced 10 subs.
But the lightweights made it a kicking contest for the first two minutes. Each man reddened the other's left calf with a succession of low kicks, and neither took a backward step. They both appeared content to continue the striking battle.
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Thank you all so much for all your messages of support all week. I have been blessed on this journey in MMA and am truly grateful for every experience. I felt great all through camp and even warming up, I believed I was back to my former self then when I went in there it just falls to pieces. I think it's time to realize that I haven't got what it takes any more. Congrats to Joel Alvarez and thank you to the UFC for all the opportunities. I'm sorry I didn't achieve what I set out to achieve for my fans, family, friends and myself but it just wasn't meant to be. I am officially retiring from MMA competition 👊🏻
Then Duffy shot for a double-leg takedown and put Alvarez on his back with 2:45 to go in the round. But the Spaniard wasted no time in switching to grappling mode. He locked in a guillotine choke, and before it could register to onlookers that it was a tight submission attempt, Duffy was tapping at 2:25.
For Duffy, a 32-year-old Irishman who had not competed in 16 months, it was his third straight loss.
Alvarez, 2-1 in the UFC, had not fought in just over a year. He's 27.
Johns knew he had an advantage in the grappling and never let up in that aspect of the fight.
Despite getting dropped in the first round, Johns stuck to his grappling-heavy game plan and pulled off a unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28) win over Jackson. Afterward, Johns told analyst Paul Felder that he had to overcome Jackson's incredible grip strength, which he described as something he had "never felt in my life before."
Think johns took it with that guillotine— Belal Muhammad (@bullyb170) July 18, 2020
"That was a dire performance," Johns said. "That wasn't the best. I could do a lot better than that."
Johns worked for a takedown against the cage in the first round, but didn't get it. Jackson was able to get some distance and land a big left hand that put Johns down. Jackson got in top position and landed hard elbows. Johns tried for an armbar as the round was coming to an end, but Jackson defended and clearly won the first.
The wrestling and grappling of Johns won out in the next two rounds. Johns was able to get Jackson down in the second and work for a triangle choke. In the third, Johns took Jackson down twice and at one point cinched in a tight guillotine. Jackson escaped, but the third round -- like the second -- was clear for Johns.
Johns, 28, has now won two straight after dropping two in a row. The 28-year-old Welshman has won four of his six UFC bouts and looks to be headed back toward an increase in competition level. Jackson, a 28-year-old Wisconsin native, had a three-fight winning streak snapped.
Amir Albazi forces Malcolm Gordon to tap out in Round 1
Amir Albazi stops Malcolm Gordon after submitting him with a triangle choke in Round 1.
Albazi showed the tighter, more accurate striking early on, but he really separated himself once this fight between two 125-pounders making their UFC debuts hit the canvas.
Albazi, a 26-year-old fighting out of London, threatened Gordon from top position after getting the takedown midway through Round 1, working his way to full mount with just over a minute to go. When Gordon reversed him and got on top, Albazi immediately locked in a triangle choke and elicited the tapout at 4:42. It was the first triangle submission of 2020.
Nice triangle! Slick sub #ufcfightisland2— GILBERT BURNS DURINHO (@GilbertDurinho) July 18, 2020
Gordon came into his debut riding a four-fight winning streak -- all finishes, including three submissions. He's 30 and fights out of Toronto.
This was the first of three men's flyweight bouts on the card, including the championship main event.
"The victory felt amazing, exactly what I've been working on," Albazi said. "It went exactly to plan, plan was to stand up a bit, feel him out, take him down and finally put him to sleep with a choke hold or a submission. I've been training jiu-jitsu since the age of 14, both back home in Sweden and in London Shoot Fighters in London, so I feel very comfortable on the ground."
This felt like a coming-out party for Tsarukyan. While the Armenian wrestler looked impressive in his previous two UFC fights, Tsarukyan really put it all together in a unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28) win over the very skilled and strong Ramos.
Tsarukyan's boxing was sharp, his wrestling was excellent as usual and he stayed out of trouble the entire time on the ground against Ramos, a dangerous Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace.
I knew Arman was a beast when he went to a decision with Islam. Straight beast 🙌🏽 #UFCFightIsland2— Tatiana Suarez (@tatianaufc) July 18, 2020
Tsarukyan was able to take Ramos down in the first round, which some might have thought was a risky decision given Ramos' prowess on the ground. It went fine for Tsarukyan, who landed ground-and-pound. Tsarukyan's diverse striking took over in the second round. With Ramos looking for one big right hand, Tsarukyan threw great punching combinations -- one of which briefly wobbled Ramos -- and kicks. By the third, Ramos was bleeding from several cuts on his face. Ramos was pushing the pace, looking for a finish. But Tsarukyan was too skilled and technical with his countering and combos.
Tsarukyan, 23, has won two straight since dropping his UFC debut against Islam Makhachev in April 2019. The Russia resident has cemented himself as one of the best prospects in the stacked UFC lightweight division. Ramos, a 33-year-old Brazilian, has dropped two straight following a four-fight winning streak.
"This was a great fight for me because Davi Ramos is a very strong opponent," Tsarukyan said. "He is one of the stronger grapplers in the world. Next fight, I want to fight with top-15, top-10 guys, maybe Al Iaquinta because he is a very strong guy and he fought with Khabib Nurmagomedov. I want to fight with him because it's a good fight for me. I'm a very young fighter. Every day I will get better and better. I can destroy my whole division."
Serghei Spivac has choice words for Carlos Felipe after decision
Serghei Spivac unleashes a barrage of punches on Carlos Felipe and exchanges a war of words after the official decision.
Spivac's dominant Round 3 secured the victory in the battle of 25-year-old heavyweights.
All three judges scored the final round 10-8 after Spivac took down Felipe in the opening seconds and kept him on the canvas for practically the entirety of the five minutes. And he didn't just hold the position; the Moldovan punished his opponent with hard punches and elbows. Felipe was exhausted, rendering him all but defenseless.
Two judges scored the bout 29-27, while the third had it 28-28, indicating that he had awarded the first two rounds to Felipe.
That in itself is puzzling, because while neither man distinguished himself in the first 10 minutes, Spivac was far more accurate with his punches and showed more poise overall.
Felipe, making his UFC debut as an undefeated fighter, showed off a black belt in head shaking and not much more. Every time Spivac landed, Felipe shook his head. Which is to say: Felipe shook his head a lot in Round 1, as he absorbed several straight punches while he was winging looping right hands toward Spivac, who dodged or blocked most of them.
Felipe did have some success in the second round, but other than bravado, the big Brazilian did not show much.
"I think that I wasn't great in this fight because I never had a proper camp because of the COVID situation," Spivac said. "I was mad at my opponent because of his tricks on the weigh-ins and during the fight.
"My daughter was born right before the fight so I didn't sleep well because of that, and I want to dedicate the victory to my wife and daughter."