Welterweight Max Griffin is making a habit of producing highlight-reel finishes inside the UFC's Apex.
Griffin (17-8) scored a vicious first-round knockout over Song Kenan (16-6) at UFC Fight Night on Saturday, as he jumped on Song with a left hook-right hand combination at 2:20 of the opening round. The welterweight fight served as the co-main event, replacing the original co-main matchup between Gregor Gillespie and Brad Riddell.
Fighting out of MMA Gold Fight Team in California, Griffin has now recorded back-to-back finishes in Las Vegas. Prior to Saturday's win, Griffin knocked out Ramiz Brahimaj in November with a nasty elbow strike to the ear. It marked the ninth knockout win of Griffin's career, and he followed it up with a heck of a callout.
"I heard we're going to Houston [at UFC 262 in May]," Griffin said. "He's my boy, but Geoff Neal -- he's from Texas. That would be lit. No one wants to fight him. I'll fight him. Holla at your boy."
Neal (13-3) is one of the top prospects at welterweight, despite a loss to Stephen Thompson in December.
Griffin, 35, said he cried when he found out the UFC was moving him to the co-main event on Saturday, but he looked very comfortable in the spotlight. He attacked Song's body with combinations on the feet and staggered him with a straight right hand just minutes into the fight. That right hand marked the beginning of the end, as Griffin followed Song to the fence and unloaded the left hook-straight right combination that put him away.
Man max griffin has taken a turn for the best and is on another level right now. Always exciting #UFCFightnight— Brian BOOM Kelleher (@brianboom135) March 21, 2021
As he followed Song to the canvas, Griffin appeared to strike him on the back of the head with a follow-up shot, but referee Keith Peterson was already in the process of stepping in, and the potentially illegal strike was clearly not intentional. Song, who has now been knocked out three times in his six career losses, did not protest the result of the bout.
After enduring a 1-4 skid between July 2018 and March 2020, Griffin appears to be on track with back-to-back wins, and he earned a $50,000 performance-of-the-night bonus. Song, of China, falls to 4-2 in the UFC.
-- Brett Okamoto
Brunson dominates ground game in win vs. Holland
Derek Brunson has no trouble taking the fight to the mat in his unanimous decision victory vs. Kevin Holland.
Kevin Holland talked to opponent Derek Brunson while the two were on the ground. He chatted with referee Herb Dean several times during the fight. And Holland even had a full-blown conversation between rounds with UFC legend Khabib Nurmagomedov, who was watching from cageside.
But while Holland was yucking it up over 25 minutes, Brunson was the one actually winning the fight. Brunson took home a unanimous decision (49-45, 49-46, 49-46) victory in the main event of UFC Fight Night on Saturday in Las Vegas.
-- Marc Raimondi
Conejo had one move and one move only. It was enough for her to get her arm raised in her UFC debut. There's not much more to say about her.
The 28-year-old native of Mexico, who fights out of El Paso, Texas, was adept at taking the fight to the canvas with a headlock and controlling Buys in that position while peppering her with a pitter-patter of punches. There was never a threat of a finish, and Buys reversed position on her in each round, attained full mount at one point and outclassed Conejo when the fighters were on their feet. But Conejo spent so much time in control on the mat that the scorecards all went her way (29-28, 29-28, 29-27) for her second straight win.
Is this a record for how long someone has been in an head and arm throw position? #UFCVegas22— Tatiana Suarez (@tatianaufc) March 21, 2021
Buys simply spent too much time inside that headlock, falling prey to it early in each round. When she was able to keep the fight standing, she landed some clean shots from the outside. But she couldn't keep Conejo from closing distance and going to that headlock.
Buys, a 25-year-old from Dallas, was making her UFC debut. She saw a four-fight winning streak come to an end.
It was a bad night all around for Buys. Her husband, JP Buys, had competed in the evening's first bout and been knocked out. They are just the second couple to both compete on the same UFC card. The only previous couple to do so were Mark and Montana De La Rosa, who went 1-1 at an event in February 2020.
-- Jeff Wagenheim
Yanez has quickly developed a reputation in the UFC as someone you might not want to stand with. He did nothing to dispel that notion on Saturday.
Yanez stopped Lopez via knockout at 27 seconds of the third round in a bantamweight bout. Yanez timed a Lopez combination and landed a right hand just as Lopez was going for a right of his own. Yanez's landed first -- and Lopez went down hard. Referee Chris Tognoni stepped in and that was it.
Yanez the truth. @ufc— Derrick Lewis (@Thebeast_ufc) March 21, 2021
The finish wasn't really a surprise. Yanez had been beating Lopez to the punch and landing slick combinations from the early minutes of the first round. He dropped Lopez with a beautiful one-two combination in the second round. Lopez, a talented wrestler with solid striking, just was not able to deal with Yanez's excellent boxing.
Afterward, Yanez talked about always seeing the Toyota Center building en route to training at Houston's Metro Fight Club under coach Saul Soliz. Yanez told his late father that he wanted to fight there one day. Earlier this week, the UFC announced that UFC 262 on May 15 would take place at Toyota Center.
"Dana White, put me on that card," Yanez said. "I'm ready to perform for my hometown. ... Help me live my dream."
Yanez, 27, has now won both of his UFC fights via KO/TKO, and she earned a $50,000 performance-of-the-night bonus. Overall, he has won six straight, five by finish. Lopez, a 31-year-old fighting out of Las Vegas, has dropped two of three in the UFC.
Tai Tuivasa drops Harry Hunsucker early in Round 1 for win
Tai Tuivasa stuns Harry Hunsucker with a big right hook that stumbles Hunsucker and finishes the fight.
It's safe to say Tuivasa is back on track following a three-fight skid in 2019.
Tuivasa, of Sydney, made quick work of Hunsucker in scoring a knockout just 49 seconds into their heavyweight contest. The finish came courtesy of a heavy right hand, followed by strikes on the ground.
A once-promising heavyweight prospect, Tuivasa lost his way in late 2018. He suffered a TKO defeat to former champion Junior dos Santos in a potential breakout spot during a main event in Australia. Tuivasa suffered two more losses to Blagoy Ivanov and Serghei Spivac in 2019, before bouncing back with a first-round finish against Stefan Struve in October.
Hunsucker, of Kentucky, accepted this fight on short notice, after Tuivasa's original opponent, Don'Tale Mayes, withdrew earlier this week. Hunsucker landed one hard right hand in the opening seconds, but that was about the only positive for the 32-year-old. Tuivasa, 28, hurt him with leg kicks very early on, then put him away with the right hand.
It was Tuivasa's 11th professional knockout, all of which have come in the first round. He dedicated the win to his late cousin, who he said died earlier this month.
Chiasson had not fought in over a year, and she took her time getting going. But once she bloodied and staggered Reneau in the opening seconds of Round 2, the 29-year-old from New Orleans who trains at Fortis MMA in Dallas turned on the gas and scored her second straight victory since suffering her first and only defeat in 2019.
Chiasson spent the early part of the fight keeping her distance in an effort to utilize her reach advantage. But she was too distant to land much of anything, connecting with just 15 of the 56 strikes she threw in the first round.
Congratulations Macy! Louisiana strong!— The Diamond (@DustinPoirier) March 21, 2021
But she came out aggressively in the second and immediately landed a right hand that busted up the nose of Reneau, who staggered away, with Chiasson in pursuit. But Reneau, who has not won a fight since 2018, showed that at age 43 she still has fight left in her. She engaged in a fiery back-and-forth with Chiasson for the rest of the fight; and while Chiasson got the better of most exchanges, Reneau slowed her opponent with counterpunches, clinch work and a couple of timely takedowns.
It was not enough to keep Reneau from suffering her fourth straight loss. The fighter out of Visalia, California, was a handful right until the final horn. But Chiasson was up to the task.
"I really wanted to go in there and show a little more composure," Chiasson said..
This bout had been postponed twice because of positive COVID-19 tests for Reneau.
Grant Dawson picks up the TKO win with one second to spare
With one second remaining, Grant Dawson gets the TKO victory via punches vs. Leonardo Santos.
Santos went for a leg lock late. It seemed like a nothing sequence. Dawson was on top, and Santos tried to knock him off balance with a lazy heel hook.
It ended up being a tactical mistake that cost Santos the fight just before time expired.
With Santos on his back grabbing at the leg, Dawson ripped off five hard hammerfists to Santos' face. The blows were so hard that Santos was rendered unconscious -- and Dawson was ruled the winner via knockout at 4:59 of the final round. Dawson's victory is now tied for the second latest finish in UFC history. The record belongs to Ricky Simon, who has a finish over Merab Dvalishvili at 5:00 of the third round.
That was BRUTAL! Wow Grant Dawson with the GnP KO!! #UFCVegas22— Aljamain Sterling (@funkmasterMMA) March 21, 2021
Two judges already had Dawson ahead, so he would have won even if he didn't get the finish. But that doesn't take away how dramatic the stoppage was.
"It was crazy," Dawson said in his postfight interview. "We didn't know who was winning. ... It could have been [one round apiece]. We had no idea."
Afterward, Dawson called out veteran Clay Guida for a future bout. This was Dawson's first lightweight fight in the UFC, moving up from featherweight. Dawson said he weighed just under 180 pounds in the Octagon, rehydrating nearly 25 pounds after Friday morning's weigh-ins.
The story of the bout going into the third round was that Dawson was having trouble imposing his will on Santos on the ground. Dawson is a very capable grappler and an excellent finisher on the mat. But Santos is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt and the grappling coach for the likes of Jose Aldo. The ground game was a stalemate, at times; and at other times, Santos was actually getting the better of Dawson, who at 27 is 14 years his junior.
Santos seemed to have control late in the second, when he nearly got Dawson's back and then landed a hard right hand. Dawson responded by hitting Santos with a spinning back kick before the second-round bell, perhaps foreshadowing his buzzer-beating finish.
In the third round, Dawson actually got Santos on his back and had top control for an extended period of time. The finish came with Dawson posturing up out of half guard and then raining down those hard blows on Santos.
Dawson has won eight straight, including his first five in the UFC. He earned a $50,000 performance-of-the-night bonus. The Nebraska native, who trains out of Glory MMA in Missouri, has six finishes in his past eight fights. Santos, a 41-year-old Nova Uniao product, had a 13-fight unbeaten streak broken. He had not lost since 2009 -- and never before in the UFC until Saturday.
Following a closely contested bout, it was Giles who managed to keep a three-fight win streak alive, as he defeated Dolidze via unanimous 29-28 scores.
The difference in the middleweight bout might have been a lead right hand by Giles in the third round, which knocked Dolidze off balance and forced him to try a desperate takedown. According to UFC Stats, Dolidze outlanded Giles in total strikes 75 to 43. But the majority of Giles' offense was heavier punches to the head, as compared to Dolidze's offensive leg kicks. Giles also scored offense off his back, whenever Dolidze managed to take him down.
Oh wow didn't see that but I'm not mad 👌🏾— U R I A H H A L L (@UriahHallMMA) March 21, 2021
Dolidze, who was born in the country of Georgia, looked surprised as scores were read, and the fight was certainly very close. Dolidze had success in the grappling exchanges and with the leg kicks, but Giles always responded, whether it was the right hand in the final round or with powerful left hooks in the first and second.
It's the first loss of Dolidze's professional career, and he came in with a 2-0 record in the UFC. Giles, out of Houston, improves to 5-2 inside the Octagon, and he has completely rebounded from a two-fight skid in 2019.
Jackson goes by the nickname "Quick," and he showed why in making fast work of a fighter competing in his UFC debut.
But while Jackson, the biggest favorite on the card at -700, got the TKO just 1:58 into the bout, he did not fight like he was in a rush. He was poised in walking down Strader and absorbing several calf kicks, before stepping forward into a clinch, then dropping Strader with a right hook as the fighters disengaged. Strader got up from that one, but when they came together again, Jackson landed a knee, then dropped Strader again with a right hook, prompting referee Keith Peterson to jump in.
That right hand off the clinch tho! 🔥 #UFCVegas22— Aljamain Sterling (@funkmasterMMA) March 21, 2021
"I saw his hands drop down after I kneed him the first time," Jackson said, "so my next instinct was to allow him to throw a knee and come over the top."
Jackson once again showed off his accuracy. He came into the bout with the highest striking accuracy in men's bantamweight history (59.6%) as well as the lowest rate of strikes absorbed (1.28 per minute).
The quick finish got the 28-year-old from Milwaukee back on track after seeing his three-fight winning streak ended last July.
For Strader, who is 29 and from Antelope Valley, California, the loss in his first UFC appearance halted a two-fight winning streak. Strader missed weight on Friday, coming a pound and a half above the bantamweight limit.
Silva dropped Buys with a right hand, and Buys rolled to safety. Then Silva put Buys down with a right uppercut, and Buys somehow survived a flurry and made his way back to his feet.
But Silva would not let the resilient Buys off the hook. When Buys got up again, Silva landed a big straight right to send Buys crashing back to the mat, and referee Mark Smith stepped in to call the bout off.
The heavy-handed Silva earned himself a TKO win at 2:56 of the second round in a flyweight bout. It was Silva's first UFC win.
"I deserve my next contract," Silva said, adding that he wants to fight against next week. "I belong to this place."
Silva, with former UFC double champion Henry Cejudo in his corner, had success in the wrestling and grappling departments in the first round. At the end of the first, Silva crushed Buys with a spinning back fist right at the bell. Perhaps Buys never completely recovered, because Silva was in total control in the second round.
"I know he's a wrestler, but I train with the best wrestler," Silva said. "Henry Cejudo was an Olympic champ. ... This guy is my brother. He helps me with everything. I live with him in Arizona. So, it's been a blessing being with him."
The 31-year-old Silva, a Brazil native, trains with Cejudo out of Fight Ready in Arizona. He earned a $50,000 performance-of-the-night bonus.
Buys, a 24-year-old South Africa native who trains in Dallas, was making his UFC debut