Grasso was the sharper fighter in both the striking exchanges and the grappling, whether on the canvas or in standing clinches against the cage, and she earned a unanimous-decision victory in the co-main event of UFC 258 on Saturday night in Las Vegas.
It was the second straight defeat for Barber, a 22-year-old Californian who had proclaimed early in her career that her goal was to become the youngest UFC champion ever, a distinction currently owned by Jon Jones. Barber's effort to get there was put on hold by a year spent rehabilitating a knee surgery suffered in her January 2020 loss to Roxanne Modafferi. And now she has a second loss.
For Grasso, the victory elevates her ambition to become the first fighter from Mexico to be a UFC champion. And her chances are on an upsurge after a performance in which the renowned striker showed off strong grappling skills.
"I know that you know me as a striker, but as you can see, I am working very, very hard on my jiu-jitsu and my wrestling, everything," Grasso said. "I want to be full in all areas to be climbing in the rankings."
The 27-year-old from Guadalajara is now 2-0 as a flyweight after entering the UFC as a strawweight and going 2-3 in that division. Her strength held up against Barber, who is a strong 125-pounder.
Grasso threw the straighter punches, fending off Barber's early aggression. After being hit flush a few times, Barber started keeping her distance -- until the third round. She came out for the final five minutes with a fury, and and had Grasso in trouble at times in Round 3, but it was too little.
All three judges scored the bout for Grasso by 29-28 scores.
-- Jeff Wagenheim
Usman, Burns trade devastating blows in main event
Kamaru Usman and Gilbert Burns trade powerful strikes early in their bout at UFC 258.
Kamaru Usman defeated Gilbert Burns by TKO in the third round to retain his UFC welterweight championship Saturday night in the main event of UFC 258 at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas.
The stoppage came at 34 seconds of the round.
Usman, who was briefly stunned by a Burns right hand in the opening round, took control of the fight in Round 2 when he landed a big right hand of his own that sent Burns staggering toward the cage.
Usman earned one of the $50,000 performance bonuses.
-- Marc Raimondi
It wasn't always pretty. He had to work hard for it. But Gastelum picked up a much-needed win.
The former UFC top middleweight contender beat Heinisch via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28) in a fairly comprehensive performance. Gastelum had lost three straight coming in, albeit against elite 185-pound fighters in the UFC.
"I'm trying to hold back tears," Gastelum said in his postfight interview. "I'm very happy. It's been three years since my last win. Coming off back-to-back-to-back losses, it's not easy to get up here again after failing a few times."
Good Job Buddy 🥊💨🍃 @KelvinGastelum Way To Fight ⚔️🕶 -CSO- 🇺🇸🏆🇲🇽— Tony Ferguson (@TonyFergusonXT) February 14, 2021
Gastelum's key was his wrestling. In the first round, Gastelum took Heinisch down several times. Heinisch threatened with a Kimura twice, but Gastelum was able to move into mount. Heinisch stayed out of trouble for the most part, but Gastelum was having little trouble getting him to the mat.
Heinisch landed his best strike of the evening in the second round, a jumping knee. But Gastelum ate it and took Heinisch right down. Gastelum landed some nice 1-2 combinations standing in the second, as well. In the third, Heinisch took Gastelum down. But Gastelum was able to sweep and get into top position twice, then land some takedowns of his own. Gastelum scored a career-high six takedowns, per UFC Stats.
"I've been working a lot on getting back to my roots in wrestling," Gastelum said, shouting out teammate Beneil Dariush and his help.
Gastelum, 29, was coming off a first-round submission loss to Jack Hermansson last July. The California native had not won since a May 2018 split-decision victory over Jacare Souza. Heinisch, a 32-year-old Colorado native, has dropped three of four.
There was no feeling-out process for Simon. He put Kelleher on his back just seconds into the fight and almost immediately dropped an elbow that opened a gash above his opponent's right eye. That made Kelleher a bloody mess, and it was just the beginning of a beatdown by Simon, who won his third fight in a row.
Simon, who is 28 and fights out of Vancouver, Washington, was relentless for the entire 15 minutes. He landed six takedowns, threatened submissions on a couple of them, and kept Kelleher on his back foot throughout.
All three judges scored the bout 30-27. There was no doubt in this one.
Kelleher, a 34-year-old out of Selden, New York, came in having won three of four, but his momentum seemed to lose power with the early takedown and the bad cut that followed. He did land four front kicks to the face, slowing Simon each time, but he was never able to build on it. Kelleher attempted guillotine submissions several times after being taken down, but Simon defended well each time.
In his first appearance since July 2018, Marquez submitted Pitolo with an anaconda choke at the 4:17 mark of the final round after likely losing the first two rounds. Marquez was out-struck badly in the first and second rounds, and he struggled to match Pitolo's offensive grappling. But he marched him down and hurt him with strikes in the third before getting the finish.
Marquez, 30, missed the past two years because of injury, namely a torn shoulder tendon. He was on cloud nine all week just to be back in action, and those positive vibes continued afterward, as he earned his first victory since December 2017.
Pitolo, who fights out of Las Vegas, appeared to have a perfect game plan early on, as he took Marquez down and landed some good left hands from top position. It was more of the same in the second round, as Marquez lost his grip on a guillotine attempt midway through the round and ended up paying for it in bottom position, absorbing Pitolo's strikes from the top.
Despite the poor start, Marquez looked confident and aggressive in the third, and Pitolo started to wilt under the pressure. Marquez caught him with a powerful right hand on the feet, followed by a knee to the body along the fence. Those strikes appeared to take it all out of Pitolo, and Marquez initiated a grappling exchange and tapped the battered, exhausted Pitolo.
Marquez, who earned one of the $50,000 performance bonuses, has had only three appearances in the UFC despite earning a contract on the Dana White Contender Series in 2017.
-- Brett Okamoto
Anthony Hernandez stuns Rodolfo Vieira via guillotine choke in Round 2
Anthony Hernandez pulls off one of the biggest betting upsets of the year (+370) as he stuns Rodolfo Vieira in Round 2.
Vieira came in as a heavy favorite, the odds-on pick to dominate with his oppressive ground game. Vieira is a five-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion, a former prestigious Abu Dhabi Combat Club gold medalist and a big-time MMA prospect.
Then, Hernandez did the impossible.
After Vieira started to tire in the first round, Hernandez took over. He beat up Vieira on the feet, cut him with elbows and then -- incredibly -- submitted Vieira with a guillotine choke. The finish came at 1:52 of the second round. Hernandez winning by submission was +1600, per Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill, and just emerging victorious was +370.
"I knew I was gonna do it ... I've never felt more ready for a fight," Hernandez said in his postfight interview.
Vieira came out in the first round and picked Hernandez up for a big slam. He quickly got into mount and worked for an arm triangle. Hernandez survived and made his way back to his feet. When he did, Vieira was gassed and Hernandez started landing hard punches.
"I was like, 'Oh, he's not that strong,'" Hernandez said. "My coaches just told me to be calm. ... I just stayed calm, listened to the game plan and made it happen."
Vieira took Hernandez down in the second round, but Hernandez escaped before Vieira could get to his back. On the feet, Hernandez cut Vieira with two elbows and then grabbed his neck in a scramble. Vieira had no choice but to tap in a shocking result.
Hernandez, 27, has won two of his past three fights and earned one of the $50,000 performance bonuses. The California native has six submissions in eight pro victories but said afterward he is just a purple belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Vieira, a 31-year-old Brazil native, got hit with his first pro loss. He had finished every previous MMA bout.
Muhammad came out of his corner at the start of the fight and immediately began stalking his prey, and he didn't take one step backward during the three rounds that followed. His steady stream of punches never wobbled Lima but did wear him down, enabling Muhammad to earn his fourth straight victory.
Muhammad's domination made it easy for the judges, who all scored the bout 30-27.
The 32-year-old from Chicago did not escape unscathed, however, as Lima landed an abundance of calf kicks throughout the three rounds, forcing Muhammad to switch stances and robbing him of some of the power in his punches.
But that was about all Lima was able to muster offensively. The leg kicks aside, the 31-year-old from Atlanta simply did not throw enough strikes. He occasionally countered a Muhammad attack but mostly was outworked in the fisticuffs. It was his first fight in nearly a year and a half, and he looked rusty in seeing his three-fight win streak come to an end.
"I wanted the finish -- it's what the people want and that's what I'm working towards," Muhammad said. "I just wanted to start off faster and just be like a runaway train, run through this guy. I worked on a lot of good things, a lot of good things worked for this fight, but I'm my worst critic. I could always get better and that's what I'm going to plan out for the next one.
"It's nothing personal with Li Jingliang -- I'm just working up that ladder. I'm finally on that ladder and I finally want to climb it one by one. He had a huge win against Santiago Ponzinibbio and they put him at No. 12. I just want to keep climbing."
Polyana Viana makes easy work of Mallory Martin with armbar submission
Polyana Viana gets Mallory Martin to the mat, and Martin can't escape as Viana submits her via armbar in Round 1.
If Viana keeps fighting like this, that 0-3 skid early in her UFC career will be a distant memory.
Viana picked up her second consecutive submission victory by tapping Martin with an armbar at 3:18 of the first round. It was another impressive showing for the Brazilian strawweight, who also tapped Emily Whitmire in the first round with an armbar in her previous performance in August.
Wow! Beautiful control and transitions by Viana! #UFCVegas18— Alan Jouban (@AlanJouban) February 14, 2021
Martin, of Denver, was comfortable taking the fight to the ground and working out of Viana's guard, which proved to be a costly mistake. Viana caught her in a triangle from the bottom and then alternated back and forth between the triangle and armbar until the finish. She also landed a series of hard elbows to the top of Matin's head, while working on the submission.
Viana, who began her UFC career 1-3, is now 3-3 in the Octagon. She earned one of the $50,000 performance bonuses. Martin falls to 1-2.
Andre Ewell saved by Round 1 horn
Chris Gutierrez manages to drop Andre Ewell, but Ewell escapes and is saved by the horn at the end of Round 1.
Gutierrez got a kick out of a short-notice fight. Actually, several of them.
Using a superlative kicking game, Gutierrez outpointed Ewell via unanimous decision (30-26, 29-28, 29-27) in a 140-pound catchweight bout. The fight was put together earlier this week after Ewell's positive COVID-19 test forced him out of last weekend's UFC Fight Night card.
Chris Gutierrez has crazy timing with those calf kicks. That jump kick off the octagon was wicked! #UFC258— Aljamain Sterling (@funkmasterMMA) February 14, 2021
Gutierrez damaged both of Ewell's legs with kicks. But those weren't the only targets of Gutierrez's dangerous legs. He dropped Ewell with a left head kick at the end of the first round. Ewell rebounded with a solid second round, taking Gutierrez down after catching a kick and working a heel hook.
In the third round, Gutierrez really opened up. With Ewell feeling the effects of leg kicks, Gutierrez landed a beautiful left kick counter with Ewell against the cage. Later, Gutierrez propelled his left leg off the cage and landed a kick with that same leg to Ewell's face. Gutierrez finished the bout looking for a mounted triangle on a grounded Ewell.
Gutierrez, 29, is unbeaten in five straight fights and looks like someone to watch in the bantamweight division. The Boston native has not lost since his UFC debut in 2018. Ewell, a 33-year-old California native, had a two-fight winning streak snapped.
Green landed some big punches along the way, but it was his lower leg kicks that got the knockdowns, did the damage and secured his first UFC victory.
When the fight was being contested at distance, the taller Rowe used his reach to pick apart Green. And when the fight went to the canvas, Rowe also showed off a jiu-jitsu edge that put him in dominant positions on the canvas, close to setting up a submission. But Green dropped him twice in the second round and one more time at the start of Round 3, all with calf kicks. That was what swayed the judges in a close fight.
For Green, a 27-year-old from Downey, California, the victory got him back on track. He lost his UFC debut last May, ending a six-fight win streak.
On this night it was Rowe whose streak ended. The 30-year-old from Palm Coast, Florida, who was making his UFC debut, came in riding a seven-fight winning streak that dated back to his third pro fight.
Two judges scored the fight 29-28 for Green, and the third had it 30-27.