Anthony Smith (35-16, 10-6 UFC) has 51 professional fights under his belt, but even he might be a little surprised by the nature of the victory he recorded Saturday night on the undercard of UFC 261 in Jacksonville, Florida.
Smith scored a TKO against Jimmy Crute (12-2, 4-2 UFC) at the end of the first round after a doctor ruled Crute could not continue because of an apparent nerve issue in his left foot. Crute said he lost all feeling in his left foot after Smith landed a hard outside leg kick just above the back of his knee.
Crute, 25, fell down from the kick, but managed to take Smith down and finish out the round. He attempted to come back out for the second round, but it was obvious the foot couldn't hold weight.
"He's going to want to go no matter what," said Smith, on Crute's attempt to continue. "But I knew as soon as he went down, even if we went into a second round, he wasn't going to be able to take many more kicks."
The unique stoppage did nothing to lessen Smith's performance. The Nebraska native surprised Crute with a mesmerizing jab throughout the first round. At times, Smith essentially relied exclusively on the jab, throwing nothing else. He peppered Crute with the quick left hand, which then set up a perfect opportunity to land the hard leg kick.
Crute, who fights out of Sydney, showed off his toughness and consistently landed a hard leg kick of his own, but his defense was clearly a problem. A former title challenger, Smith has now won two in a row after dropping two straight against Glover Teixeira and Aleksandar Rakic. Crute drops to 4-2 overall in the UFC.
"This is a performance I needed, but I still didn't do everything right," Smith said. "My goal was to get in and get out without taking a lot of leg kicks. I still took a lot of leg kicks on my way out. I did a better job of handling them on my way in, but it just means we still have things to work on. It felt good to keep landing that jab over and over.
"I wish I was half as good as him at his age. He's night and day better than I am at that point, or better than I was at that age, at that point in his career. I don't just don't want him to get his head down, don't hang your head, keep your head up high, he's a warrior."
-- Brett Okamoto
Kamaru Usman knocked out Jorge Masvidal in the second round to retain his UFC welterweight title in the main event of UFC 261 on Saturday in Jacksonville, Florida.
The knockout came at 1 minute, 2 seconds.
Usman (19-1) beat Masvidal (35-15) via unanimous decision at UFC 251 last July in Abu Dhabi. But Masvidal came into that fight on just six days' notice after Usman's original opponent, Gilbert Burns, tested positive for the coronavirus.
-- Marc Raimondi
Folks, Rose Namajunas has done it again.
Less than four years after winning the UFC's strawweight championship in a shocking knockout of Joanna Jedrzejczyk in New York, Namajunas (10-4) knocked out Zhang Weili with a left head kick just 1:18 into the opening round. The 115-pound title fight co-headlined UFC 261 at Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida.
Valentina Shevchenko has long been billed as one of the best strikers in all of MMA, male or female. On Saturday, she decided to give everyone a reminder that she's nowhere near a one-dimensional standup fighter.
Valentina Shevchenko (@BulletValentina) has earned the ninth KO/TKO victory in the crucifix position in UFC history. It's her 2nd. It's the 4th such finish in a UFC title fight, joining previous finishes by Matt Hughes and Daniel Cormier. #UFC261— UFC News (@UFCNews) April 25, 2021
Shevchenko dominated Jessica Andrade with her wrestling and then finished in violent fashion with elbows on the ground. The result was a TKO victory for Shevchenko at 3 minutes, 19 seconds of the second round at UFC 261 in Jacksonville, Florida.
-- Marc Raimondi
It was the first strike thrown by either man, a kick by Weidman that landed right below the knee of Hall just 13 seconds in. The kick ended the fight in grotesque fashion, as Weidman's right leg snapped upon impact, and he collapsed to the canvas in agony. Hall was left in shock, quietly kneeling alone near the fence, facing away from the medical personnel attending to Weidman.
Officially, it goes in the books as a 17-second TKO.
It was not the victory that Hall had been looking for. He had waited nearly 11 years for a second shot at Weidman, whom he had met in 2010 in the Ring of Combat regional promotion, when both men were New York-area prospects. Weidman was in his third professional fight, Hall in his fifth. Both came in undefeated.
Wishing all the best for Chris and his family 🙏🏾🙏🏾✊🏾✊🏾 #ufc261— GILBERT BURNS DURINHO (@GilbertDurinho) April 25, 2021
Weidman won that one by first-round knockout, and went on to greater glory in the UFC, capturing the middleweight championship in 2013 with a stunning knockout of Anderson Silva, ending "The Spider's" 17-fight winning streak.
In recent years, though, the 36-year-old Weidman has struggled, and those struggles took a horrifying turn on this night. The loss was Weidman's sixth in his last eight fights, a skid that began with his loss of the 185-pound belt in 2015.
For Hall, also a 36-year-old New Yorker, it was his fourth straight victory.
It was the second straight bout that was ended by a leg injury, as an Anthony Smith kick to the knee of Jimmy Crute had numbed the leg of the Australian light heavyweight, rendering him unable to continue after the first round.
The Weidman injury was reminiscent of the broken leg suffered by Silva in his second fight with Weidman in 2013. Silva was never the same after that.
-- Jeff Wagenheim
Randy Brown sends the UFC 261 crowd into a frenzy with a submission of Alex Oliveira via rear naked choke.
Complete domination might not have been a phrase worthy enough for Brown's performance.
Brown dropped Oliveira early with a huge right hand, then choked Oliveira -- with one arm -- for a submission (rear-naked choke) victory at 2:50 of the first round. Afterward, Brown flipped Oliveira a pair of middle fingers and said he would explain why on his Twitch channel later.
On a counter, Brown blasted Oliveira with a right hand that put him down. Brown scrambled with Oliveira on the ground and ended up taking Oliveira's back standing up. Brown was able to get his left arm around Oliveira's neck and grabbed his own shoulder for leverage. As the two were falling backward, the choke appeared to tighten and Oliveira tapped out before their bodies hit the ground. It was a spectacular finish.
Brown, 30, has won three of his last four fights with the only loss in that time to contender Vicente Luque last August. The Jamaica native fights out of Budokan Martial Arts in Valley Stream, New York. Oliveira, a 33-year-old Brazil native nicknamed "Cowboy," has dropped two in a row and five of seven.
The fight ended with Grant trapped in a tight Sekulic guillotine choke, a dominant position that Sekulic achieved in the closing seconds by doing something he'd rarely done during the previous 14-plus minutes. He threw a punch.
The left hand had staggered Grant, leaving him susceptible to the submission attempt. But Grant survived to the horn, and he was rewarded with the decision win. Two judges scored the fight 29-28 in his favor, while the other scorecard read 29-28 for Sekulic.
Grant did little to win the fight, honestly, but Sekulic did even less. The narrative coming in was that Sekulic, a 29-year-old Serbian, had not competed since he lost his promotional debut in September 2018. That rust showed.
Sekulic did score a takedown in each round, but the fight was contested mostly on the feet, and he threw almost nothing, opting instead to just keep his distance from Grant's power. As a result, Grant's punches were often missing not by inches but by a foot or two. He didn't land much, but he reached Sekulic a lot more than Sekulic touched him.
Grant threw 160 punches, landing 52, while Sekulic connected with 39 of just 59 attempts.
Grant, who is 36 and a New Yorker now fighting out of San Diego, has won three of his last four.
Allen took full advantage of a puzzling decision by Roberson, who tried to out-grapple the submission ace.
Allen, who made his first appearance under the banner of Sanford MMA in south Florida, tapped Roberson with an ankle lock at 4:55 of the opening round. The finish came after Roberson attacked Allen's leg from the bottom, but then looked for a leg lock himself, rather than use the threat to get back to his feet.
That proved to be a bad choice, as Allen collected his ninth career win by submission, as well as his ninth victory inside the first round. The 25-year-old has looked pretty sensational since signing with the UFC as a contestant on Dana White's Contender Series in 2019. He holds wins over Roberson, Kevin Holland, Tom Breese and Kyle Daukas. He has one loss to Sean Strickland.
Prior to the finish, Allen showed off some of renowned kickboxing coach Henri Hooft's tactics, as he targeted Roberson's lead leg with kicks. Roberson never seemed to get going in this one. All four of his pro losses have come via submission.
The story around this fight centered around Connelly and it being his first fight since a spirited, 2019 win against the much bigger Michel Pereira.
Sabatini spoiled the narrative.
Using the power in his hands and his Division-I level wrestling, Sabatini picked up a unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28) over Connelly in his UFC debut.
Man, I gotta get some grappling rolls in with Sabatini when I'm back on the east coast. I feel like it would be fun, competitive, and a lot freestyling going on in the training RDs #UFC261— Aljamain Sterling (@funkmasterMMA) April 25, 2021
Sabatini dropped Connelly in the first round and outgrappled him thereafter. In the second, Sabatini shot for a takedown early and got it, eventually getting to Connelly's back. Connelly rallied a bit in the third with a hard right hand and a takedown of his own. But Sabatini already had the bout all locked up.
Sabatini, 30, is a former two-time Cage Fury Fighting Championship featherweight champion. The Pennsylvania native, who wrestled at Rider University, has won three straight. His only loss since 2018 came when he broke his arm in February 2020 in a fight with James Gonzalez. Connelly, a 35-year-old Canada native, had won five straight coming in, including that underdog performance against Pereira in September 2019, two divisions up at welterweight.
Danaa Batgerel stuns Kevin Natividad with a quick finish in their bout at UFC 261.
The fight was not yet a minute old, and Natividad was determined to be the aggressor. He got clipped by a right hook, but he kept coming. And got clipped -- and finished -- with another hook, this one a Batgerel left hand.
Batgerel, a 31-year-old Mongolian who fights out of Jackson Wink MMA in Albuquerque, New Mexico, was backing up when he landed the telling shot, and Natividad fell to his knees, where he took another shot from Batgerel that put him on his back, defenseless. At that point referee Herb Dean jumped in, waving off the bout as a TKO at 50 seconds.
For Batgerel, it was his second win in a row after he'd dropped his UFC debut in 2019.
Natividad, who is 28 and a native of Hawaii, trains in Tempe, Arizona. He has lost two in a row since joining the UFC in October riding a five-fight winning streak.
A 10-year veteran of MMA, Vargas has been fighting professionally for nearly half of Rong's entire life -- and that experience showed in their three-round matchup.
Vargas, of Mexico City, defeated the 21-year-old prospect by unanimous decision, via official scores of 30-26, 29-28 and 29-28. Rong, who entered the bout as the youngest fighter on the UFC roster, definitely flashed some of the potential that has earned him a spot in the UFC, but he showed some inexperience as well.
Wait ...30-26🤔🤔— Belal Muhammad (@bullyb170) April 24, 2021
Originally from Tibet, Rong got off to a very inactive start. According to UFC Stats, Vargas attempted more than 100 strikes in the opening round, while Rong failed to attempt even half as many. As Rong looked to be more aggressive in the second round, he fell into a deep guillotine attempt that nearly ended the fight.
Vargas continued to show his mettle in the final round, although Rong's power visibly affected him. He was staggered in the center of the Octagon by a long right hand, and spent most of the round keeping Rong at bay with his jab and footwork. Late in the fight, Rong showed his frustration by pointing to the ground and throwing a questionably late elbow.
It's a big win for Vargas, who came into the bout with a 1-2 record in the UFC. Rong loses his UFC debut and suffers his first loss since 2018.
Qileng was absolutely relentless, pressing forward for the better of three rounds. But Molina showed that just because a fighter is moving ahead and pressuring does not mean he is winning the fight.
Molina was able to weather every Qileng storm en route to a unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-27) victory. Finally, in the third round, Qileng slowed down a bit and Molina capitalized with a barrage of hard punching combinations. Qileng got a second wind and rocked Molina at the end of the third, but the win was already wrapped up.
"He's tough as nails," Molina said in his postfight interview. "I felt like the jitters were real. But I got over them."
It was an extremely entertaining fight. Molina and Qileng had big exchanges in the first round. In the second, Molina dropped Qileng twice with punches, one right at the end of the round. Qileng dropped Molina once in the second and once at the end of the third.
The third is when Molina fully took over. Molina countered Qileng punches as he was coming and finally slowed Qileng down, putting on the pace himself with big boxing combinations. Qileng ate all those shots and still managed to mount offense at the end of the round. But Molina did enough.
Molina, 23, has now won eight straight. This was his UFC debut. The Glory MMA product was coming off a win over Jacob Silva on Dana White's Contender Series last August. Qileng, a 27-year-old Mongolia native, had a six-fight winning streak snapped. This was also his debut in the UFC.
Ariane Carnelossi takes advantage of Liang Na's fatigue and finishes her early in Round 2 of their bout.
What a way to start the night. The fans who arrived early for the first fight card with a capacity crowd in over a year were treated to one of the greatest rounds in UFC history. It was back-and-forth danger for five minutes, starting with Liang getting a knockdown with her first punch -- a right hand to the chin seconds into the fight -- and then being dropped herself moments later during an exchange at center cage, with the still-sparse crowd roaring its approval.
From there, the fighters traded punches and grappling advantages for five high-gear minutes. Liang appeared a step ahead early on, seizing control on the canvas and landing damaging blows, but Carnelossi reversed position and went for an armbar, only to have Liang reverse back into control and into an armbar of her own.
What a first fight #UFC261 👏🏼👏🏼— Amanda Nunes (@Amanda_Leoa) April 24, 2021
It was honestly tough to keep track of all the telling blows and positions. But the round ended with Carnelossi in side control, landing left hand after left hand, undefended. Referee James Folsom implored Liang to fight back. But then the horn sounded.
Liang just lay there until one of her cornermen came and got her, helping her to her stool. She looked finished. And she essentially was. Carnelossi took her to the canvas early in Round 2 and began landing blows again, which again were undefended. And Folsom stepped in at 1:28 to end it.
Carnelossi, who is 28 and from Brazil, got back on track after losing her UFC debut to Angela Hill in 2019, ending a 12-fight winning streak. Liang, a 24-year-old from China, saw a four-fight winning streak end in her UFC debut.