The timeless Andrei Arlovski did it again on Saturday, as he defeated Chase Sherman by unanimous decision in his 35th UFC appearance.
Arlovski (31-20) outpointed Sherman (15-7) via unanimous judges' scores of 29-28, in the co-main event of UFC Fight Night inside the Apex facility in Las Vegas. In doing so, Arlovski joined former light heavyweight champion Jon Jones as the only two fighters in UFC history to record 20 wins in a single weight class.
The 42-year-old former champion, who made his UFC debut in 2000, is third all time in UFC appearances, behind only Jim Miller (37) and Donald Cerrone (36). Immediately following the victory, Arlovski said he intends to fight "a couple more years."
Saturday's bout was very competitive, but it was Arlovski who landed the more consistent offense, especially late. He targeted Sherman's lead leg with low kicks, and mixed in two- and three-punch combinations to the body and head. There was plenty of back-and-forth action, although neither heavyweight seemed to land with any devastating power.
Arlovski's best moments came when he was moving forward. Sherman, 31, crowded him along the fence at times, which was not a good position for Arlovski. Sherman appeared to hurt him briefly in the opening round, but couldn't close the deal, as Arlovski forced his way forward into a clinch.
The loss snaps a four-fight winning streak for Sherman. He showed his frustration late in the bout, yelling at Arlovski to meet him in the middle, as the veteran circled away. Arlovski has now won three of his last four.
Middleweight: Jacob Malkoun (5-1, 1-1 UFC) def. Abdul Razak Alhassan (10-4, 4-4 UFC) by unanimous decision (Watch this fight on ESPN+)
At age 25 with just five previous pro bouts on his resume, Malkoun showed that he's a quick learner. Once he saw the takedown was there for the taking, he went for it. Again and again and again. And he used all those takedowns to drain the danger out of his opponent.
After spending the early going evading the power and aggressiveness of Alhassan, Malkoun closed distance midway through Round 1 and pressed his opponent against the cage before taking him to the canvas. Alhassan managed to get the fight back to standing, but Malkoun took him right back down. Before Round 1 was over, the Aussie had four takedowns.
And that, essentially, was the fight.
Alhassan has 10 career wins. Every one of them came via first-round knockout. Now we know why. After the first five minutes did not produce the result for which he had been swinging his beefy arms, Alhassan offered little resistance. Actually, he offered little but resistance. He managed to fend off nine of Malkoun's 15 takedown attempts, but Alhassan never was able to convert defense to offense, which allowed Malkoun to just keep going after takedowns and clinches, safe from any winging punches his opponent was desperately throwing his way.
It was an easy call for the judges, all three of whom scored the bout 30-27 for Malkoun.
It was his first UFC win after he'd dropped his Octagon debut in an 18-second knockout loss to Phil Hawes in October.
Alhassan, a 35-year-old native of Ghana who trains in Fort Worth, Texas, has lost three in a row. Both previous losses came in fights scheduled for welterweight, with Alhassan missing weight. This time he fought at middleweight, and looked like a big middleweight.
Women's flyweight: Tracy Cortez (9-1, 3-0 UFC) def. Justine Kish (7-4, 3-4 UFC) by split decision (Watch this fight on ESPN+)
Cortez spent a lot of time during this training camp with former UFC double champion and Olympic wrestling gold medalist Henry Cejudo. Those hours paid dividends.
Cortez used her wrestling to capture a split decision (29-28, 28-29, 30-27) over Kish. Cortez got Kish down in the first and third rounds and did solid damage with ground and pound.
In the first round, Cortez landed a trip takedown out of a bodylock and got into top position. From there, Cortez landed hard punches, elbows and hammerfists from Kish's guard. Kish was able to scramble away, but Cortez got her back in a scramble. Kish had moments in the second and third rounds. She landed hard right hands and an elbow in the second and actually dropped Cortez momentarily in the third. Cortez, though, was able to take Kish down again with a trip in the third round and land hard shots with Kish turtled.
Cortez, 27, has won nine straight and all three of her fights in the UFC. The Phoenix native appears to be a prospect to keep an eye on in the women's flyweight division. Kish, a 33-year-old Russia native, has lost two in a row and four out of her last five.
@TracyCortezmma is a problem! #ufcvegas24— Julian marquez (@JMarquezMMA) April 18, 2021
"Hopefully, by the end of the year, if everything is done right, I'd like to be ranked in the top 5," Cortez said. "I do think I'm about a few fights away from being at least top 15. I don't see why I wouldn't be. Give me three or four more fights, I'll be top 5, baby!"
Lightweight: Luis Pena (9-3, 5-3 UFC) def. Alexander Muñoz (6-2, 0-2 UFC) by split decision (Watch this fight on ESPN+)
A late offensive surge from Pena proved to be just enough on the scorecards, as he picked up a split decision over Munoz.
Pena, who fights out of American Top Team, got off to a slow start in the lightweight bout, but looked to be in a perfect rhythm by the end. He picked Munoz apart on the feet from the outside, and peppered him with counter jabs any time he tried to close distance. Two judges had it 29-28 for Pena, while a third saw it 29-28 for Munoz.
According to UFC Stats, Munoz slightly out-landed Pena in total strikes, but Pena appeared to do more damage as the fight progressed. In addition to his jab and boxing combinations, Pena landed several hard knees to Munoz's body and quickly worked back to his feet any time Munoz managed to take him down to change up the pace of the fight.
Pena, 27, picks up his first win since February 2020. He has alternated wins and losses in his last five appearances. Munoz, who fights out of Team Alpha Male, falls to 0-2 in the UFC.
Heavyweight: Alexander Romanov (14-0, 3-0 UFC) def. Juan Espino (11-2, 2-1 UFC) by technical split decision (Watch this fight on ESPN+)
The biggest upset of the night: The judges played a role in deciding the outcome of this heavyweight bout.
Romanov came in at 13-0 with finishes in every fight. Espino had won eight in a row, with six of those wins coming by first-round finish. If the judges had left their posts at cageside during introductions and gone for coffee, they could have been forgiven. Both of the fighters had shown a career-long aversion to leaving their fate to the scorecards.
But the scorecards ended up coming into play on Saturday -- bizarrely.
After two rounds in which each fighter had moments of seizing advantage, mostly on the ground and in clinches, they came out for Round 3 with the bout hanging in the balance. Both were tired, but Romanov, a 30-year-old from Moldova, appeared especially drained.
A minute in, Espino, who is 40 and from the Canary Islands, Spain, had Romanov clinched against the cage and threw a knee. It landed to the groin, and Romanov dropped to the canvas. Referee Mark Smith paused the fight, brought in a doctor and a translator, and after several minutes of discussion, Romanov said he could not move his leg and could not continue.
The bout was waved off, and the judges were asked to score the incomplete Round 3 as well as the first two rounds. All three scored it 29-28, with two seeing it for Romanov, who remains unbeaten.
Strawweight: Jessica Penne (13-6, 2-3 UFC) def. Lupita Godinez (5-1, 0-1 UFC) by split decision (Watch this fight on ESPN+)
After almost exactly four years away from the Octagon, Penne is back -- with a victory.
Using her crafty grappling, Penne picked up a split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28) victory against the UFC newcomer Godinez. Penne had been out since April 22, 2017 due to issues involving USADA, the UFC's anti-doping partner. She got hit with a second anti-doping violation in 2019, but USADA reduced her sanction last year from four years to 20 months.
Penne was very emotional in her postfight interview, saying she wasn't 100% sure what the decision would be.
"I thought I got it, but you never know," Penne said. "It's really nerve-wracking leading up to the judges. ... I put my heart and soul out there. I'm really happy."
Godinez had moments on the feet, doing damage with punches. She also had a pair of hard slams. But Penne was able to close the distance regularly, get Godinez down and work for submissions. Several times, Penne attempted to pull guard, including going for a flying triangle twice in the third round.
Penne, 38, had lost three straight before the layoff. Her last victory before Saturday came Dec. 12, 2014, her UFC debut. Godinez, a 27-year-old Mexico native fighting out of Canada, is the former LFA women's strawweight champion.
Middleweight: Gerald Meerschaert (32-14, 7-6 UFC) def. Bartosz Fabinski (15-5, 4-3 UFC) by first-round submission (Watch this fight on ESPN+)
Gerald Meerschaert avenges his loss with a big submission of Bartosz Fabinski at UFC Fight Night.
Meerschaert picked up a much-needed victory over Fabinski, in the form of an opening-round submission.
The Milwaukee native jumped on an early guillotine attempt as Fabinski looked to take him to the ground. The choke looked tight from the moment Meerschaert sunk it in. He briefly moved to full mount, then to a side position and put Fabinski to sleep. The finish came at the 2-minute mark.
Meerschaert, 33, needed a win badly, as he lost his previous two fights in the opening round. He suffered a 17-second knockout against Khamzat Chimaev in his most recent appearance in September.
Despite the high-pressure spot, Meerschaert looked comfortable exchanging early punches with Fabinski and took advantage of the exposed neck for his 24th career submission. Meerschaert now owns the record for most submissions in middleweight division history.
"Any day now, I'm going to be a brand new dad so I have to get back and do that," Meerschaert said. "Perfect-case scenario, I get back home, spend some time with the family and hopefully come back one more time before the end of the year."
Fabinski, of Poland, drops to 4-3 overall in the UFC. He is the sixth fighter to fall victim to Meerschaert's guillotine.
Guillotine respect guillotine. Solid work @The_Real_GM3— Brian BOOM Kelleher (@brianboom135) April 18, 2021
Lightweight: Austin Hubbard (13-5, 3-3 UFC) vs. Dakota Bush (8-3, 0-1 UFC) by unanimous decision (Watch this fight on ESPN+)
Some fighters' best weapon is their punching. For some, it's their kicking. And for others, it's their grappling. Hubbard's winning formula was a combination of patience and timing.
His striking and grappling came into play, as well, for sure, but what won Hubbard the decision (29-28 on all three scorecards) was his calm in the early going -- when Bush came out aggressively in his UFC debut -- and well-timed takedowns and grappling reversals once Bush's energy level had dipped.
Bush clearly had been waiting for this first trip inside the Octagon, and he wasted not a second before getting into it. He came out firing calf kicks, lead left hooks and a whole lot more, relentlessly. Hubbard did not allow himself to be drawn into a brawl, though. He maintained range and countered when the opportunity presented itself, and in the closing seconds of Round 1, he shot for a takedown and got it.
That was a preview of what was to come. In the second and third rounds, Hubbard was step ahead in all of the grappling exchanges, reversing wherever Bush attempted and gaining full mount a few times. It wasn't a blowout of a fight, by any means, but Hubbard showed the new guy who was in control.
"I'm happy. It's always good to come away with a win," Hubbard said. "He was very tough. He pushed me, his gas tank held up a little better than I thought it was going to -- I'm going to give him credit for that. I just wanted to leave it all in there, I felt like I did that."
Hubbard, 29, who fights out of Denver, continued his trend of alternating between wins and losses in the UFC. Bush, a 26-year-old from Cuba, Missouri, saw his two-fight winning streak end.
Men's bantamweight: Tony Gravely (21-6, 2-1 UFC) def. Anthony Birchak (16-8, 0-2 UFC) by second-round TKO (Watch this fight on ESPN+)
Gravely hurt Birchak badly with blows on the ground in the first round. Referee Mark Smith didn't think it was enough, though, and allowed Birchak to fight on. In the second round, Gravely left no doubt.
Gravely stopped Birchak via TKO at 1:31 of the second round to open UFC Fight Night on Saturday. Gravely landed a wicked left hook that put Birchak down and then finished with hammerfists on the ground as Smith came in to pull him off.
The first round was wild. Gravely knocked Birchak around on the feet, but when things ended up on the ground, Birchak was able to sweep and then attempt a guillotine. Gravely survived, got back on top and landed huge ground-and-pound. It appeared like Birchak was not intelligently defending himself as Gravely landed hard punch after hand punch with Birchak turtled up, but Birchak still managed to survive the first.
In the second round, Gravely landed a takedown, but Birchak worked his way back up. On the feet, Birchak went for a kick, and Gravely countered with a whipping left hook that put Birchak down for good.
Gravely, 29, has won two straight and nine of his past 10 fights. The Virginia native, who fights out of American Top Team in Florida, is a product of Dana White's Contender Series. Birchak, a 34-year-old Arizona native, has lost both of his fights since returning to the UFC last year.
Crazy back and forth round to start the night!!#UFCVegas24— Jamahal "Sweet Dreams" Hill (@JamahalH) April 17, 2021