The two youngest women on the UFC roster put on quite the show.
In a back-and-forth, exciting fight, Cory McKenna beat Kay Hansen via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28) in a women's strawweight contest on the UFC Fight Night: Felder vs. dos Anjos main card Saturday in Las Vegas.
Both landed hard shots throughout on the feet, and Hansen had several close submission attempts. By the end, Hansen was bloodied.
Though McKenna won, neither woman lost much stock. In fact, both 21-year-old fighters will probably be considered even bigger prospects following strong performances.
McKenna, who was making her UFC debut, opened the fight with hard shots on the feet, showing off skilled boxing and a very nice left hook. Hansen had moments, too. She got McKenna in a front head lock and landed a knee to the top of her head. Hansen took McKenna's back near the end of the round, but McKenna peppered her with shots to the head despite being in a disadvantageous position, which would be foreshadowing for later.
In the second, Hansen opened up on the feet more and was able to work her wrestling, putting McKenna on her back. Hansen nearly had a rear-naked choke and an armbar near the end of the round, but McKenna swept and ended up on top. Hansen took McKenna down in the third, too, but McKenna landed hard elbows and punches from the bottom, bloodying Hansen. Hansen got into mount and went for an arm-triangle choke, but McKenna managed to sweep into top position again.
"I was expecting a tough fight," McKenna said. "Kay is one of the top prospects in the division, we are both improving very rapidly. I've said from the beginning it was going to be a tough fight all rounds. She delivered on that. It was not my best performance, but for my debut, I'm obviously over the moon to get that win."
Hmmm not sure I agree with that decision!!!#UFCVegas14— Jamahal "Sweet Dreams" Hill (@JamahalH) November 15, 2020
McKenna (6-1) has won four straight fights. The Wales native, who is training in Sacramento, California, with Team Alpha Male, earned her way into the UFC with a win over Vanessa Demopoulos on Dana White's Contender Series in August.
Hansen (7-4) was on a three-fight winning streak coming in, including a victory over former Invicta FC atomweight champion Jinh Yu Frey in Hansen's UFC debut in June. Hansen, a California native, earned a $50,000 Performance of the Night bonus for that win over Frey.
-- Marc Raimondi
Rafael dos Anjos is back in championship form.
The former UFC lightweight titleholder returned to his longtime division Saturday and was brilliant in beating Felder via split decision (47-48, 50-45, 50-45) in the main event of UFC Fight Night in Las Vegas. Dos Anjos showed a well-rounded game, doing damage on the feet -- Felder was a bloody mess by the end -- and grinding things out against the fence, as well as on the ground.
Respect to both men for making this fight and event happen tonight.— Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) November 15, 2020
I'm in for sure.
Felder was supposed to be a color commentator on the ESPN+ broadcast for this card. But dos Anjos' original opponent, Islam Makhachev, withdrew due to an undisclosed injury last Sunday. Felder agreed to step in on just five days' notice Monday. Coming in, ESPN had Felder ranked No. 6 in the world at lightweight.
No one expected this fight to be a three-round, tactical duel. All 10 of Alhassan's professional wins had come by first-round knockout. Williams was coming off a UFC debut in February that had been brief and brutal, a 27-second KO.
Astute viewers watching at home knew this was not a time to step away from the TV to go grab a refreshment.
Williams landed three hard leg kicks right off the bat, then launched a straight right hand that split the guard of Alhassan and sent him falling to the canvas, stiffened. The referee jumped in immediately, and it was over, just like that, in 30 seconds. Williams, a 26-year-old from Detroit, had his eighth straight victory -- his second in the UFC with less than a minute of total Octagon time.
Williams spent more time being congratulated by a fist bump by UFC president Dana White outside the cage than he did engaging with his opponent inside it. Williams earned a $50,000 Performance of the Night bonus.
"It's not personal, it's just punishment," Williams said. "I've been waiting to be able to get on TV and do this. I was a diamond in the rough just waiting to be buffed off and shown to the world.
"This was my second fight in the UFC. Y'all see what I'm doing? This wasn't no fluke. This is the co-main event, man. I'm starting to make it. I'm here. People gonna keep sleeping on me, and the doctor gonna wake them up."
As Williams finished his postfight interview backstage, Alhassan was still inside the Octagon, sitting on his stool and being attended to by medical personnel.
Alhassan, a 35-year-old native of Ghana who fights out of Fortis MMA in Dallas, has lost two in a row after winning three in a row.
-- Jeff Wagenheim
For the first two rounds, Yoder had advantageous positions on the ground but struggled to do anything more offensive with them. That changed in a dominant third.
Yoder beat Granger by unanimous decision (30-26, 29-27, 27-26) in a women's strawweight bout, backed by her superior grappling that really manifested itself in the final round. Yoder finished the fight in a full rear-naked choke of Granger, who was saved by the bell.
Spider monkeys such a beast on the mat #ufcvegas— Katlyn Chookagian (@blondefighter) November 15, 2020
The first two rounds had some wild scrambles, typically started by Yoder. At the end of the first, Yoder nearly had a triangle-choke-armbar combination from the bottom, but Granger defended well. Yoder was able to get on top in the second round again but couldn't really pass or do anything effective. In the third, Yoder dominated. She took Granger down with a bodylock and completely schooled Granger on the ground, getting into mount, looking for an armbar and then ending up on Granger's back. If the bout had gone a few seconds later, Yoder would have won by submission via rear-naked choke.
"I do believe if we had at least five more seconds, I was pushing my hips in and she was pretty tired," Yoder said. "But she's a tough girl."
Yoder, 33, snapped a two-fight losing streak with the victory. The Indiana native, who lives and trains in California, has won three of her past five. Granger, a 28-year-old Washington resident, has dropped two straight after beating Hannah Goldy in her UFC debut in August 2019.
Brendan Allen gets rocked as Sean Strickland lands a nice combination then follows up with a relentless attack against the cage to seal a knockout win.
Strickland let his fists do the talking this time.
Fighting just two weeks after a win over Jack Marshman that was dominant but most notable for his incessant talking, Strickland kept quiet while picking apart against one of the sport's rising young fighters. Strickland finished Allen with a right-left that dropped him before finishing with a flurry at 1:32 of Round 2.
It was his third straight victory for Strickland, a 29-year-old from Corona, California -- a streak that extends back two years. Prior to his win over Marshman on Oct. 31, Strickland had been on the shelf since October 2018 while recovering from injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident.
He was sharp in this fight, landing with straight punches rather than going for a flashy, knockout blow. Allen was wearing the effects of those punches, but he kept coming forward until Strickland dropped and finished him. Strickland earned a $50,000 Performance of the Night bonus.
Allen, 24, fights out of Delray Beach, Florida. He came in having won seven in a row. He was scheduled to fight last weekend but his opponent, Ian Heinisch, was pulled from the card after testing positive for COVID-19. Then, this catchweight matchup was hastily arranged.
Less than a minute into her UFC debut, Murata showed the strawweight division what it faces in this former Invicta FC champion.
Murata, a 27-year-old who three times earned medals -- including a gold -- in representing Japan in the Asian Wrestling Championships, quickly put Markos on her back despite the Canadian's best effort to fend off the wrestling. And while Murata didn't do much with that takedown, she took the fight back to the canvas later in the round and proceeded to drop elbow after elbow before the horn.
It was just the beginning of a dominant performance. Murata scored four takedowns in all and amassed over eight minutes of control time on the mat. All three judges scored all three rounds for Marata, who won her eighth fight in a row.
Markos is not the steel of the 115-pound division, but she's a veteran who had seen it all before. It was her 16th appearance as a UFC strawweight, tying her with Angela Hill for most ever.
The 35-year-old native of Iraq, who has long lived and trained in Windsor, Ontario, has lost three in a row and four of her past five.
Geraldo de Freitas Jr. and Tony Gravely let the punches fly in the final minute of their fight as they both swing ferociously looking for a knockout.
It was all about wrestling for Gravely.
Taking down de Freitas early and often, Gravely secured a split-decision (30-27, 28-29, 29-28) victory in a bantamweight bout. It was the first UFC win for Gravely, a former Appalachian State University wrestling standout.
"I was just told to put that NCAA pressure on him," Gravely said.
Indeed he did. Gravely took de Freitas down three times in the first round, not worried at all about de Freitas' substantial Brazilian jiu-jitsu game. In the second, de Freitas had some success with combinations on the feet, but whenever Gravely seemed to be in any kind of trouble, he was able to take de Freitas down.
Gravely had some rough moments at the end of the third. With both men tired, de Freitas was able to stuff some Gravely takedowns and land hard punching combinations on the feet. Gravely landed some hard right hands, too, before all was said and done. But it was the most trepidation he experienced in the 15 minutes.
Gravely, 29, has won eight of nine fights overall. The Virginia native, who now trains in Florida at American Top Team, lost his UFC debut to Brett Johns back in January. De Freitas, a 29-year-old Brazilian fighter, has dropped two in a row after winning his UFC debut over Felipe Colares in February 2019.
Morono was in dominant position on the canvas delivering elbows when the final horn sounded, but it was his relentlessly damaging stand-up attack over the fight's first 13 minutes that helped him get back in the win column.
The 30-year-old from Houston, who trains at Fortis MMA in Dallas, threw no fewer than 110 punches and kicks in each of the first two rounds and landed at a better than 50% clip, in putting it on McKee from the get-go. By midway through the first round, McKee's face was reddened after absorbing big right hands from Morono again and again.
The fight between Alex Morono and Rhys McKee is halted as Morono knocks McKee's mouth guard out and it bounces into the crevice between the canvas and the cage.
And while McKee, 25 and from Northern Ireland, delivered offense of his own, he was outgunned for the most part as Morono got back on track after seeing a three-fight winning streak end in his last fight.
The fight was paused for several minutes midway through Round 3 after McKee's mouthpiece was knocked from his mouth, flew under the cage and couldn't immediately be found. That gave the fighters an extended break, and their fast pace resumed once the referee waved them back together.
All three judges scored it Morono's way 30-27. McKee has lost two in a row after seeing a three-fight winning streak end in his UFC debut in July at the hands of Khamzat Chimaev.
"My goal was to make it to ten fights in the UFC, I accomplished that," Morono said. "My new goal is to make it to twenty fights. ... My plan is to just go into the Octagon and be known for a slugfest, for exciting fights and ideally get finishes that no one has gotten before, that are exciting. So I'm still looking to work on that a bit, but I just want to be known to have reliably fun fights, and I feel like I was able to do that tonight."
Mayes had to weather a heavy Martinez storm in the third round, but he did enough to escape with a victory.
Using his length and a diverse game, the 6-foot-6 Mayes beat Martinez by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28) in a heavyweight bout to open the UFC Fight Night card. Martinez landed hard shots in the third round, but Mayes turned the tide late with a jumping knee to the chin.
Martinez had success in the first round on the feet, but Mayes got a takedown in the latter half of the frame and did damage from top position. In the second, Mayes let loose with some nice combinations, mixing punches, kicks and knees, though Martinez blocked a lot of the harder shots.
Martinez nearly stole the bout in the third. He had a guillotine choke attempt and blasted Mayes with a big 1-2 combination. But Mayes held on with the help of a jumping knee, followed by a knee in the clinch.
Mayes, 28, earned his first UFC victory Saturday. Now training out of Albuquerque, New Mexico, he snapped a two-fight losing streak. Martinez, a 34-year-old Guam native, has dropped his first two UFC bouts.