UFC Fight Night: Ottman Azaitar makes statement; Ed Herman gets controversial win

Ottman Azaitar is 2-0 in the UFC with two first-round finishes. Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Ottman Azaitar has put the UFC's lightweight division on notice with a pair of first-round finishes in his first two fights.

Azaitar (13-0) stunned 33-year-old veteran Khama Worthy (16-7) with a TKO finish just 93 seconds into their 155-pound contest on Saturday. The bout co-headlined UFC Fight Night inside the UFC's Apex facility in Las Vegas.

The Moroccan slugger hurt Worthy badly with a right hand and left hook, and then he swarmed him with follow-up punches. Azaitar continued to throw punches as Worthy fell to his knees, prompting a quick stoppage from referee Herb Dean. Worthy initially protested the stoppage but appeared to make peace with it after watching the replay.

"The game plan was to go three rounds," said Azaitar, who is now 2-0 in the UFC with two knockouts. "When I get in these situations, I don't stop. I don't put on the brakes. Even though my coaches told me, 'If you punch him, don't go straight for the finish. Take it easy and look for the situation.' But for me, I don't know. If I get in that situation, I cannot stop myself once I smell blood."

Azaitar's self-assessment seems on point, as he has finished 12 of his 13 career wins. He did so against a Cinderella story of sorts in Worthy. Worthy was 2-0 in the UFC entering Saturday's contest, with back-to-back upset wins over Devonte Smith and Luis Pena. Worthy took his first UFC fight against Smith on very short notice but managed to knock him out in the first round.

"I would say I appreciated this fight more because the UFC gave us the opportunity to be the co-main event and they put such a big trust in us," Azaitar said. "The fans also, everyone wanted to watch this fight. This is the way all fighters say 'thank you' back to the UFC and the fans.

"I won't say I wanted from the beginning a knockout, but at least to give people what they want to see: fights, smashes, blood ... We have to be exciting for the people. I mean, you can make any fight much safer if you just score points, take care and don't take risks, but we have to take risks. If you don't take risks, you might win the fight, but you don't win people's hearts. That's what makes a difference."

Azaitar earned a $50,000 performance-of-the-night bonus.

-- Brett Okamoto

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Strawweight: Michelle Waterson (18-8, 6-4 UFC) defeats Angela Hill (12-9, 6-7 UFC) by split decision

Waterson, Hill battle it out in 5-round thriller

Michelle Waterson and Angela Hill trade blows in a tightly contested five-round main event at UFC Fight Night in Las Vegas.

Michelle Waterson's dream of becoming the first UFC champion who is also a mother is still alive.

Snapping a two-fight losing streak, Waterson gutted out a split-decision (48-47, 46-49, 48-47) win over Angela Hill in the main event of UFC Fight Night on Saturday in Las Vegas. Waterson was able to rally back from a strong start by Hill to clinch what was a very close fight late.

Though the bout was razor close, Waterson said she still felt confident with things going to the judges' scorecards.

-- Marc Raimondi

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Women's flyweight: Roxanne Modafferi (25-18, 4-6 UFC) defeats Andrea Lee (11-5, 3-3 UFC) by unanimous decision

It took her long enough. For the first three minutes of a third round that both fighters had to know would decide the outcome, Modafferi stood and traded with Lee, whose strength is karate and Muay Thai. It was a puzzling strategy.

But then Modafferi got a takedown with just over two minutes left. And when Lee got the fight back to standing, Modafferi put her back on the canvas, where the fight remained until the horn. Modafferi did not do much damage in that position, but she was in control, and that was enough for the judges. All three scored the fight 29-28 in her favor.

Though standup fighting is Lee's world and Modafferi is at her best when grappling, both women played into the other's strengths. Much of the fight was contested on the feet, and Modafferi's awkward striking showed improvement. Lee wobbled Modafferi late in Round 2 with a spinning elbow, but other than that, Modafferi did well while standing. And Lee fended off most attempts to take her down and avoided submission attempts when she did end up grounded.

In the end, it came down to those takedowns. Finally.

Modafferi, a 37-year-old fighting out of Las Vegas, has won two of her past three fights. She was a +255 underdog.

Modafferi made an unsuccessful try for the UFC flyweight championship in 2017. Prior to that, she had competed for the Invicta FC 125-pound belt and the Strikeforce bantamweight title.

Lee has lost three in a row after a seven-fight winning streak. She is 31 and fights out of Shreveport, Louisiana.

The fight was a rematch of a 2014 fight in Invicta FC, won by Modafferi via split decision. That fight card also was headlined by Michelle Waterson, who fights in the UFC main event.

"It feels so good -- it means so much to me to get this win, to prove I still belong in the top 10 and I can be a contender," Modafferi said. "Evolution is the key. Never just settling and just doing what you are good at, always trying to learn and improve, just evolve with the times. That's the key. My next evolution will be just continue to improve my striking, my jiu-jitsu, my wrestling, 'Roxy-fu,' and remind myself of techniques that I once knew and I forgot, that seems to be coming up a lot lately.

"I've been fighting for 17 years and I think this was my 47th fight. I just want to fight somebody in the top 10, whoever the UFC matchmakers want me to fight. Whenever they call me, I say yes."

-- Jeff Wagenheim

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Light heavyweight: Ed Herman (27-14 1 NC, 12-11 1 NC UFC) defeats Mike Rodriguez (11-5 1 NC, 3-3 1 NC, -240) by third-round submission

Herman wins via kimura after nearly losing in Round 2

After nearly losing via TKO in Round 2, Ed Herman comes back and wins via kimura toward the end of Round 3 vs. Mike Rodriguez.

Herman is the definition of a wily veteran. He proved why again Saturday.

With Rodriguez winning the whole way and leading 20-18 on all three scorecards heading into the third, Herman clasped on to a Kimura submission from the bottom. He used the technique to sweep into top position, then cranked Rodriguez's arm while he was there. Herman took home the submission victory at 4:01 of the third round.

"He was putting it on me, and my experience pulled through," Herman said.

There were controversial moments in the second round. Rodriguez landed a knee to Herman's body and Herman dropped to the canvas. Referee Chris Tognoni thought it was a low blow and paused the action. Herman, who was clearly hurt, took his time in recovering. Later in the second round, Rodriguez landed another knee to the body with a punching combination to drop Herman again.

"I don't know where I got hit," Herman said. "... I don't know if it was to the groin or the body. All I know is I went down."

In the third round, Herman was working on taking Rodriguez down with a single leg, but Rodriguez fired off several hard elbows to Herman's head. Rodriguez ended up on top, landing ground-and-pound. But then Herman pulled out the Hail Mary Kimura attempt and the fight was over soon after.

Herman, 39, has won three in a row. The Washington native is a veteran of "The Ultimate Fighter: Season 3" and has been in the UFC since 2006. Rodriguez, a 31-year-old Massachusetts native, has dropped two of his past three fights.

The UFC will pay Rodriguez the money he would have made for a win because of the mistake.

-- Marc Raimondi

Lightweight: Bobby Green (27-10-1, 8-5-1 UFC) defeats Alan Patrick (15-3, 5-3 UFC) by unanimous decision

Green picked up his third win in less than three months.

Green never came close to a finish but made it look relatively easy. His hand speed and defensive skills were apparent in the standup, and he easily out-wrestled Patrick in the grappling exchanges. All three judges scored it a clean shutout for Green 30-27.

Immediately after the bout, Green said he was disappointed with the performance, even though it was his third decisive victory in a row. He is now one win shy of matching his longest win streak in the UFC.

Green was simply a step ahead of Patrick, 37, all night. Patrick looked to take him down early, but Green had no trouble counter-grappling Patrick and moving into side control. He appeared to stun Patrick a little with punches late in the second round, but it was a pretty uneventful affair otherwise. Green's wrestling was far too much for Patrick, and he racked up offense from top position.

Prior to Saturday, Patrick hadn't fought since October 2018. He falls to 5-3 in the UFC.

-- Okamoto

Men's featherweight: Billy Quarantillo (15-2, 4-0 UFC) defeats Kyle Nelson (13-4, 1-3 UFC) by third-round KO

Quarantillo knocks out Nelson 7 seconds into Round 3

Billy Quarantillo wastes no time in Round 3, knocking Kyle Nelson out cold for the victory at UFC Fight Night.

Quarantillo ran out of time as he was on his way to finishing Nelson late in the second round. Then he wasted no time in completing the job in Round 3, crushing Nelson with a straight right hand that sent the Canadian face-first to the canvas seven seconds into the final session.

The victory kept Quarantillo, a 31-year-old fighting out of Tampa, Florida, unbeaten inside the Octagon. He is 4-0 in the UFC and has won eight in a row overall.

Both fighters came out looking to stake their place right from the start. Nelson, a 29-year-old Canadian, combined the urgency of someone who had lost two of his past three in the UFC with the confidence of one who had won his most recent bout. He was the aggressor and caught the attention of his opponent early with a hard overhand right, whereupon Quarantillo started looking for a takedown.

Much of the fight took place at close distance, either in clinches against the cage or in exchanges in the pocket. Both men got in some punishing shots in Round 1. In the second, Quarantillo appeared to be the fresher man as the round wore on, and in the final seconds he stalked a retreating Nelson, dropping him late and landing a big ground-and-pound punch right before the horn.

Then, seconds into the final round, Quarantillo stepped forward with a 1-2, with the range-finding jab followed by a right hand that collapsed Nelson.

For Quarantillo, it was his sixth career knockout and his 11th finish in 15 career wins.

-- Wagenheim

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Women's bantamweight: Sijara Eubanks (7-4, 5-2 UFC) defeats Julia Avila (8-2, 2-1 UFC) by unanimous decision

Eubanks is a former world champion in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, yet she has never won an MMA fight via submission. The rugged scrapper is usually content to trade hands on the feet.

On Saturday, she went back to her bread and butter. After losing the first round, Eubanks took Avila down in the second and third and used her superior grappling to earn a unanimous decision (29-27, 29-27, 29-27).

Avila started the fight with a flurry, wobbling Eubanks with punches. She later had success on the ground, ending the first round on Eubanks' back. Eubanks took control in the second round. Several times in the second, Eubanks had Avila in big trouble on the ground. Eubanks was working hard for an arm-triangle choke submission. Avila was able to survive, but Eubanks spent almost the whole round in top position working for a finish. All three judges scored the second round 10-8 for Eubanks.

Eubanks landed some big shots to start the third round, then went right back to her wrestling and grappling with more success. Eubanks landed hard ground-and-pound and spent most of the round in dominant position again.

"I'm confident in my jiu-jitsu that I can hang and I can dominate," Eubanks said.

Eubanks, 35, has won two straight, her first winning streak since moving up to bantamweight from flyweight. The Massachusetts native, who trains out of New Jersey, was a +240 betting underdog. Avila, a 32-year-old Oklahoma resident, had a four-fight winning streak snapped.

-- Raimondi

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Lightweight: Kevin Croom (22-12, 1-0 UFC) defeats Roosevelt Roberts (10-3, 4-3 UFC, -110) by first-round submission

Croom submits Roberts standing up in Round 1 of UFC debut

Kevin Croom wastes no time in his UFC debut by submitting top prospect Roosevelt Roberts standing up with a guillotine choke.

It took Kevin Croom more than 30 professional fights to break into the UFC -- and his debut could not have been any sweeter.

Croom (22-12) scored a massive upset over lightweight prospect Roosevelt Roberts (10-4), as he tapped Roberts with a standing guillotine just 31 seconds into the bout. Croom accepted the fight on short notice this week after Roberts' original opponent, Matt Frevola, withdrew. Roberts was the biggest favorite on the card at -440.

The finishing sequence began with a hard left hook by Croom, which dropped Roberts. Roberts looked for a takedown immediately after, which allowed Croom to snatch his neck. It's the fastest finish in UFC history for a lightweight making his debut. UFC president Dana White immediately tweeted that Croom would win a $50,000 performance bonus, regardless of whatever happened the rest of the night.

Roberts, 26, is considered a bright prospect at 155 pounds, but he has now lost two in a row to Croom and Jim Miller. He is 3-3 in the UFC.

Croom earned a $50,000 performance-of-the-night bonus.

-- Okamoto

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Heavyweight: Alexander Romanov (12-0, 1-0 UFC) defeats Roque Martinez (15-6-2, 0-1 UFC) by second-round submission

Romanov submits Martinez in UFC debut

Alexander Romanov impresses in his UFC debut, submitting Roque Martinez late in Round 2.

That's what you call a smashing debut.

Romanov pummeled Martinez for practically every second of this heavyweight clash before securing a head-and-arm choke that elicited a tap-out at 4:22 of Round 2.

The victory extended two streaks for Romanov: He remains unbeaten as a pro and has gotten a stoppage in all 12 wins. This was his eighth submission to go with four knockouts.

Romanov, a 29-year-old former sumo wrestler from Moldova, signed with the UFC last year but had had three fights canceled.

Martinez might have wished that this one was called off, too. The 34-year-old from Guam was resilient, taking everything Romanov dished out, but that was all he could bring to the table.

Romanov outstruck Martinez in significant strikes by 33-4 in Round 1, with Martinez throwing only seven while spending nearly the entire five minutes on his back, thanks to three Romanov takedowns, including a big slam. The second round was much the same, with Romanov getting a takedown less than 30 seconds in, then outlanding his opponent 22-3 in significant strikes before getting the submission.

Both fighters were making their UFC debuts, making this the only fight on Saturday's card featuring a fighter with no previous Octagon experience.

-- Wagenheim

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Catchweight (165 pounds): Jalin Turner (10-5, 3-2 UFC) defeats Brok Weaver (15-6, 1-2 UFC) via second-round rear-naked choke

Jalin Turner submits Brok Weaver in Round 2

Jalin Turner submits Brok Weaver with a rear-naked choke late in Round 2 at UFC Fight Night.

Turner basically got two finishes for the price of one.

Turner (10-5) rocked Weaver with a counter right hand in the second round of their 165-pound catchweight bout, but he did not initially follow him to the ground. Weaver was clearly hurt from the punch but never went unconscious, so referee Herb Dean did not stop the fight. Turner never went in for the kill, so Weaver was allowed back up, only to tap to a rear-naked choke at the 4:20 mark.

"I thought he was out," Turner said. "There was no need to punch him again. But it is what it is."

Turner, who was supposed to fight Thiago Moises last week until Moises was pulled because of a positive COVID-19 test, was clearly the better striker throughout. He picked Weaver apart at range and dropped him in the first and second rounds. Weaver occasionally looked to wrestle, but he couldn't get Turner to the ground.

For Turner, it's his first win by submission since 2017. He improves to 3-2 in the UFC, while Weaver falls to 1-2.

"I was supposed to fight Thiago Moises last week, that fell out. They gave me the catchweight and I was ready to go," Turner said. "I didn't care who it was -- I was ready to fight. I feel like I would have made a better statement if I had put him out in the first round, but getting that cage time is always good, growing my experience. I think I proved what I needed to prove and I still got more to prove.

"I'm going to go watch this fight like 500 times and nitpick all my little flaws. Something I already want to work on is throwing more volume, more punches, more numbers, and just slipping and countering a little bit better, keeping the pace."

-- Okamoto

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Welterweight: Bryan Barberena (15-7, 6-5 UFC) defeats Anthony Ivy (8-4, 0-2 UFC) by unanimous decision

It had been 15 months since Barberena was in the Octagon, a layoff due to back surgery. One thing sure hasn't changed: He's rarely in a boring fight.

Barberena bested Ivy by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28) in an entertaining back-and-forth welterweight bout. Ivy's strategy was to take the fight down to the ground. Barberena stuffed almost all of his takedown attempts and did what he does best, turning the fight into a brawl.

Barberena hurt Ivy with a body shot in the first round and then landed a flurry against the cage. Every time it seemed like Barberena had an opening, he attempted to pour it on. Ivy was game. He landed a hard combination in the second and finally got Barberena down late in the third. But otherwise, Barberena was the more aggressive, effective fighter on offense.

Ivy attempted 24 takedowns overall, the most in a single fight in UFC welterweight history, per ESPN Stats & Information research.

Barberena, 31, snapped a two-fight losing streak with the victory. The Tennessee resident had not fought since a loss to Randy Brown in June 2019. Ivy, a 30-year-old Texan, had a five-fight winning streak snapped.

"From the very first round, I saw he spent a lot of time trying to take me down and not being successful," Barberena said. "I saw him start to wear down. Definitely in his striking, he was labored, so I decided to take a step back and take my time more.

"I was trying to throw more power shots and kind of try to land big shots rather than just touch him up when he is covering high. So some adjustments were made by me and my corner; we made sure we wrestled hard going into that third round. We didn't want to end in the bottom, which we did, but I was in a submission attempt."

-- Raimondi

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Women's flyweight: Sabina Mazo (9-1, 3-1 UFC) defeats Justine Kish (7-3, 3-3 UFC) by third-round rear-naked choke

It took her nearly 14 minutes, but Mazo finally found her range in a fight she was losing, dropping Kish with a right head kick and then finishing her with a quick rear-naked choke at 3:57 of Round 3.

For Mazo, a 23-year-old native of Colombia who fights out of Southern California, it was her third straight victory after she dropped her UFC debut in 2019.

Kish, 32, was the more aggressive fighter right from the start, moving forward and scoring with leg kick combinations throughout the first two rounds. It was necessary for her to close the distance, as Mazo had a 6-inch reach advantage. When the fight was at distance, Mazo was kicking, too, with one opening a cut next to Kish's left eye early on.

In Round 2, Kish became creative with her strikes, landing back fists (both spinning and straight) and connecting with side kicks to the body. But what she did not throw was no less effective. Her frequent feints drew out Mazo kicks, which Kish was able to dodge and counter.

Early on in the final round, though, Mazo found her target with three straight head kicks. Kish, a 32-year-old Muay Thai world champion who fights out of North Carolina, barely avoided a couple of others. Then one put an end to the evening's opening fight.

-- Wagenheim

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