Tag: draft central

PREVIEW | UFC 257: Poirier vs. McGregor – Full card and predictions

THE UFC’s first pay-per-view event of 2021 sees its biggest draw return to the octagon atop a stacked main card to be hosted at Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi.

Fighters littered up and down the card will be keen to latch onto the attention garnered though the highly-anticipated main event, with plenty of statements to be made on the famed Fight Island.

>> SCROLL for the full card and predictions

Just over a year removed from his spectacular showing at UFC 246, ‘The Notorious’ Conor McGregor steps into the octagon for a second time against Dustin Poirier, but much has changed since their first meeting in 2014.

Both have gone on to claim UFC gold in the lightweight division but will be out to impress current title holder, Khabib Nurmagomedov and potentially earn rematches against the undefeated Dagestani champion.

They won’t be the only 155-pounders eager to claim their contendership status, with the co-main event pitting vicious New Zealand striker Dan Hooker against UFC newcomer Michael Chandler.

Hooker’s last bout saw him edged by Poirier in a five-round war, while Chandler has held brass in Bellator’s lightweight division and now makes the long-awaited move to MMA’s leading promotion.

Another title eliminator of sorts takes place as women’s flyweight contenders Jessica Eye and Joanne Calderwood lock horns, with both eager to climb back into the top five and claim challenger status.

Another women’s bout slots into the main card as Brazilian prospects Marina Rodriguez and Amanda Ribas do battle, both on hot streaks and holding the potential to rise steeply with an impressive outing.

A potential banger between two men with some of the best monikers going around rounds out the main card action, as Matt ‘The Steamrolla’ Frevola meets Ottman ‘Bulldozer’ Azaitar. The undefeated Azaitar has shown plenty during his short time in the UFC, but comes up against a tough Long Island favourite in this bout.


FOTN: Hooker vs. Chandler
POTN: McGregor, Ribas, Azaitar
Prelim banger: Arman Tsarukyan vs. Nasrat Haqparast


Lightweight | Dustin Poirier [2] vs. Conor McGregor [4]
Prediction: McGregor by T/KO

Lightweight | Dan Hooker [6] vs. Michael Chandler
Prediction: Chandler by decision

W. Flyweight | Jessica Eye [6] vs. Joanne Calderwood [7]
Prediction: Eye by decision

Lightweight | Matt Frevola vs. Ottman Azaitar
Prediction: Azaitar by T/KO

W. Strawweight | Marina Rodriguez [8] vs. Amanda Ribas [10]
Prediction: Ribas by submission


Lightweight | Arman Tsarukyan vs. Nasrat Haqparast
Prediction: Tsarukyan by decision

Middleweight | Brad Tavares [14] vs. Antonio Carlos Junior
Prediction: Tavares by T/KO

W. Bantamweight | Julianna Peña [7] vs. Sara McMann [9]
Prediction: McMann by decision

Light Heavyweight | Khalil Rountree Jr. vs. Marcin Prachnio
Prediction: Rountree Jr. by T/KO


Middleweight | Andrew Sanchez vs. Makhmud Muradov
Prediction: Muradov by T/KO

Catchweight (150lbs) | Nik Lentz vs. Movsar Evloev
Prediction: Evloev by decision

Flyweight | Amir Albazi [15] vs. Zhalgas Zhumagulov
Prediction: Albazi by submission

Image Credit: UFC – (Retrieved via) Main Event

RESULTS | UFC Vegas 5 – Brunson derails Shahbazyan hype train

THE UFC returned to Las Vegas this weekend after a successful venture out to Fight Island, with plenty of news for fans to wrap their heads around after the latest Fight Night. Once again hosted out of the promotion’s APEX Centre, UFC Vegas 5 boasted just eight fights across a compromised card.

The late scratchings of Timur Valiev, Ray Borg, and Eric Spicely had already sent matchmaking into a spin, before Gerald Meerschaert was pulled due to a positive Covid-19 test, and Trevin Giles was deemed medically unfit to fight after fainting right before he was due to make the walk.

It meant fans would go from being treated to a record 15-fight card last time out, to the lowest amount of scheduled bouts since UFC 177 in 2014. Adding to the apparent curse surrounding the event, a bizarre trend of groin strikes piled up into double digits, and led to one very costly point deduction.

There was still plenty of fun to be had, and we bring you the best of the action in our top-to-bottom card recap.

>> SCROLL for full results

#UFCVegas5 #UFCFightNight #UFCFightPass


FOTN: Vannata vs. Green
POTN: Vicente Luque, Jennifer Maia

KO/TKOs: 3
Submissions: 1
Decisions: 4


Experience counted for plenty as Derek Brunson handed rising middleweight prospect Edmen Shahbazyan his first professional loss. Ranked number eight at 185lbs, the American shrugged his gatekeeper tag and proved he was on a surge of his own, putting the 22-year-old away in Round 3.

Herb Dean and the ringside doctor took a good look at Shahbazyan come the end of Round 2, right after Brunson had very nearly put him out with some vicious ground-and-pound. The Armenian’s body language was telling, as Dean brought a merciful stop to the contest right as Brunson readied to unleash once again.

While all the hype surrounding this matchup spawned from either man’s ability to finish fast, a more reserved and patient Brunson would wear on his younger opponent with terrific chain wrestling pressure, combined with heavy hands both up top and on the mat.

The result may see Brunson, 21-7 push for top five status once more, but more significantly brings an abrupt end to the undefeated run of one of the UFC’s brightest up-and-comers. Now 11-1, Shahbazyan has plenty of time yet to regroup and rise to the top.

Shahbazyan wasn’t the only fighter whose plans were foiled, as Jennifer Maia snatched a title shot off Joanne Calderwood in the co-main event. Taking a fight in between her slated meeting with flyweight champ, Valentina Shevchenko was always deemed risky for ‘JoJo’, and proved an unnecessary one as she was submitted in Round 1.

Former Invicta champion, Maia looked dangerous in all departments, first landing good shots on the feet before getting to work as the fight hit the floor. After initially searching for a triangle, Maia transitioned to an armbar attempt, snatching up Calderwood’s arm and making the right adjustments as her opponent looked to scramble out, eventually yielding a tap.

Vicente Luque was another big winner in his main card dig, accounting for the unranked Randy Brown within two rounds. In what was Brown’s toughest test yet, matching the 11th ranked Brazilian proved a step too far as he fell victim to some nasty calf kicks, before Luque put him away in a beautiful finishing sequence.

Brown looked to be reaching for the mat to claim downed status, but was held up just enough to ensure his grasp would evade the floor and allow Luque to land a big knee to the head. Having crumbled his opponent, the Brazilian finished the job with punches and called out Nate Diaz post-fight.

Bobby Green and Lando Vannata produced a fight of the night performance to open the show, but it was mainly one-way traffic in favour of Green. The two men fought to a split draw in 2017, but there was no doubting this result as Green looked one step ahead on the feet to claim a dominant decision victory, his second-straight.


Derek Brunson [8] def. Edmen Shahbazyan [9] | TKO (punches) 0:26 Rd 3
Jennifer Maia [6] def. Joanne Calderwood [3] | Submission (armbar) 4:29 Rd 1
Vicente Luque [11] def. Randy Brown | KO (knee and punches) 4:55 Rd 2
Bobby Green def. Lando Vannata | Decision (unanimous) 30-26, 30-27, 30-27


Prospects emerged on the preliminary card, headlined by a slick performance from Jonathan Martinez in the featured bout. Against a tough veteran in Frankie Saenz, Martinez got his patented kicking game going with an awesome mix of strikes to the legs, midsection, and head. A beautifully timed knee going backwards got the job done in Round 3, after Martinez dropped Saenz multiple times with his left high kick.

At the opposite end of the card, Martinez’s teammate Chris Gutierrez fought to a unanimous draw against UFC debutant Cody Durden. The 28-28 scorecards told the story of Gutierrez being dominated on the ground through Round 1, but edging out Rounds 2 and 3. Despite taking two rounds to Durden’s one, Gutierrez’s early complacency cost him dearly.

Nate Maness and Jamall Emmers both ground out solid unanimous decision victories, with Maness’ win marred by a point deduction to his opponent, Johnny Munoz for illegal low blows. Emmers took on a late notice replacement in Vince Cachero, who looks like being a game bantamweight prospect having survived some big shots at featherweight.


Jonathan Martinez def. Frankie Saenz | TKO (knee and punches) 0:56 Rd 3
Nate Maness def. Johnny Munoz | Decision (unanimous) 29-27, 29-27, 29-27
Jamall Emmers def. Vince Cachero | Decision (unanimous) 30-27, 30-27, 30-27
Chris Gutierrez drew w/ Cody Durden | Decision (unanimous) 28-28, 28-28, 28-28

Card recap: LFA 87 – Logan outpoints Rosales for lightweight title

LEGACY Fighting Alliance (LFA) capped off phase one of its return with a fourth title fight in as many weeks, seeing Bryce Logan take home the lightweight strap on the end of a six-fight card. Held once again out of the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the leading UFC feeder promotion gave fans a spectacle as four fights lasted all the allotted rounds.

The event proved somewhat of a curtain jerker for tomorrow’s UFC Fight Night at the Apex Centre, where 40 per cent of the fighters in action are LFA veterans. The promotion also announced phase two of its return schedule, with events to be held on August 21, August 28, and September 4.

>> SCROLL for full results


Bryce Logan def. Jacob Rosales | Decision (unanimous) 48-47, 48-47, 48-47

Local hero Bryce Logan is the new LFA lightweight champion after perfectly executing his gameplan to defeat Jacob Rosales via unanimous decision. The 30-year-old now moves to 12-4 as a professional and is riding a three-fight win streak.

Well aware of Rosales’ power and length, the man with two first names flowed with terrific footwork to steer clear of his opponent’s main threats, while keeping him guessing with constant feints and a popping jab.

The frustration began to show for Rosales as he was constantly made to miss, and it seemed he was up against it after being dropped by a stiff left hand in Round 2. That exact shot may have been the one to bloody the 25-year-old’s nose, leaving the LFA cage a crimson mess.

While Rosales was able to up the volume and snatch a couple of rounds on the scorecards, he was unable to land the winning blow as he opened up, and was smothered well in the closing stages as Logan capped off an intelligently executed five rounds.

The result sees Rosales, a Contender Series alum, slip to 12-6 and 1-2 in his last three outings, but he would have lost few admirers for the durability and heart he displayed.


Nick Browne def. Ben Egli | Decision (unanimous) 29-28, 29-28, 30-27

Nick Browne survived a series of Round 3 submission attempts from late notice replacement, Ben Egli to earn his own unanimous decision nod in the co-main event. It was a battle between two renowned grapplers, though it seemed the most straightforward path to victory for Browne would be paved on the feet.

Seemingly undeterred by Egli’s prowess on the mat, Browne was the one to initiate the grappling exchanges and earned points for his work in top position – staying heavy and landing nice ground-and-pound. Egli would do his best to scramble and reverse position, but Browne proved no pushover as he moved into mount.

Browne’s willingness to battle on the mat despite a clear striking advantage almost cost him late in the fight, as Egli looked to snatch up a couple of Hail Mary armbar submissions in Round 3. Having survived, Browne improves to 10-1 and may be next in line for a shot at the lightweight title.


Joaquin Buckley def. Jackie Gosh | TKO (punches) 1:47 Rd 2

In the second of two TKO stoppages for the night, Joaquin Buckley exacted revenge for his 2016 loss to Jackie Gosh by putting him away in Round 2. Since their previous meeting, Buckley has gone 4-1 (10-2 overall), while Gosh has slid to 1-3 (8-3) after a 7-0 start to his professional career.

Buckley looked ominous from the outset, stalking his Israeli adversary with bad intentions and teeing off with vicious combinations. It didn’t take long into Round 2 for the damage to take toll, with a power left hand dropping Gosh momentarily, before two big hooks had him covering up and the referee rushing in.

With such power on the feet at middleweight, the 26-year-old Buckley looks a prospect on the rise.


Kai Kamaka III def. Michael Stack | Decision (unanimous) 29-28, 29-28, 29-28

Gerald Scott def. Keith Phathaem | TKO (punches) Rd 2

Zac Pauga def. Zac Cavender | Decision (unanimous) 30-27, 30-27, 29-28

RESULTS | UFC Fight Island 3 – Whittaker edges Till in tense five-rounder

FIGHT ISLAND hosted its third and final UFC Fight Night on the weekend, with former middleweight champion Robert Whittaker taking out his headline dig against Darren Till via unanimous decision. The Australian returned to the winners list and halted Till’s run to the title all in one fell swoop, maintaining his number one contendership status in a tense main event which went the distance.

The 15-fight card equalled the promotion’s record for most bouts in a single event, matching the numbers put up all the way back in 1994 at UFC 2. Fearsome welterweight prospect Khamzat Chimaev ensured the records would keep on tumbling, as he completed the quickest turnaround victory in UFC history, defeating Rhys McKee just 10 days after his last outing in Abu Dhabi.

Catch up on all the results and more in our breakdown of the main card.


POTN Bonuses: Fabrício Werdum, Paul Craig, Khamzat Chimaev, Jesse Ronson, Tom Aspinall, Tanner Boser

Decisions: 8
KO/TKOs: 4
Submissions: 3


Robert Whittaker [1] def. Darren Till [6] | Decision (unanimous) 48-47, 48-47, 48-47

Whittaker and Till ensured their war would live up to the hype, as the two delivered a high-level, strategic striking battle across what was a gripping 25 minutes. Nine months after he relinquished his middleweight title to Israel Adesanya, the Australian staked his claim for a rematch having earned the nod over his English counterpart.

The number one ranked contender came out looking relaxed, landing his jab well as Till entered within range. But it wouldn’t take long for the fan favourite Englishman to find his own range, dropping Whittaker with a nasty elbow in one of many powerful exchanges amid the early goings.

Whittaker would see out the first period, before scoring a knockdown of his own in the second stanza via a big overhand right. He would follow Till to the mat and land some punishing elbows from top position, with the damage not only worn on Till’s face, but also on the lead leg that Whittaker was chopping up.

With respect earned on either side, both men took a touch more caution in their respective approaches. Till had recovered and Whittaker began to look a little wild as his adversary slipped out of range with aplomb, but his work on Till’s compromised limb and ability to change levels had him ahead in terms of points.

That kind of work in terms of volume played a significant factor in Whittaker gaining the upper hand, as he managed to land a greater amount of blows in response to Till’s heavy, but sparing combinations and left-hand missiles.

Needing to up his output, the enigmatic scouser began to push the pace, fighting Round 5 on his terms. While he managed to open up a big cut on Whittaker’s ear, his efforts were met by a couple of late and definitive takedowns to see out proceedings, as the Australian simply found a way to win.

Shogun Rua def. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira | Decision (split) 29-28, 28-29, 29-28

Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua inflicted a shutout in his trilogy fight against fellow Brazilian legend, Antonio Rogeria Nogueira, sending the 44-year-old into retirement on an unfortunately sad note. The two men know each other incredibly well, and the respect between them was evident amid a patient start.

But as the pair found their rhythm, Little Nog’s powerful left hand emerged and Shogun’s brutal kicking game also came to the fore. The bout became more of a brawl as the action wore on, with both fighters looking dangerous on the feet.

Rua seemed to finish the better of the two as they mixed some grappling into the show, with the 38-year-old landing some heavy shots up top and collecting a 27th career victory.

Fabricio Werdum [14] def. Alexander Gustafsson | Submission (armbar) 2:30 Rd 1

The theme of Brazilian stalwarts turning back the clock neither started nor ended in the co-main event, with Fabricio Werdum defying odds and age to take out Alexander Gustafsson in Round 1.

Much was made of a small rivalry between the two which extended back to a sparring session around a decade ago, but former champion, Werdum ensured Gustafsson’s entrance to the heavyweight realm would be a quick and fruitless one.

The Swede looked light on his feet and pumped his jab early, but it took one desperate chain of takedown attempts for Werdum to spell the beginning of the end. Having dragged Gustafsson down to the mat via his back, the 14th ranked Brazilian stepped over and looked to snatch up an armbar in transition, working on the grip with his belly down.

It took some adjustment, but Werdum was able to roll, extend his leg across Gustafsson’s face, pry his arm free and yield the tap in an impressive 2:30 performance. He’s simply world class on the ground.

Carla Esparza [7] def. Marina Rodriguez [9] | Decision (split) 28-29, 29-28, 30-27

Another former champion, Carla Esparza got the nod over Marina Rodriguez in their ranked strawweight bout, enforcing her strong wrestling game on the Brazilian to push further towards the top five.

Rodriguez looked the more potent of the pair on the feet, prompting Esparza to quickly shoot in on a beautiful takedown entry and eventually land in top position. While she could not quite find the distance to land damaging ground-and-pound, the American remained busy as her opponent looked to throw her legs up from guard.

Esparza made the near-costly mistake of looking for a submission late in the first two rounds having controlled them both, with Rodriguez using the scramble to get on top and cut her up with some nasty elbows.

The seventh-ranked contender survived, managing to frustrate and tire Rodriguez with her smothering grappling to see out another tight decision victory.

Paul Craig def. Gadzhimurad Antigulov | Submission (triangle choke) 2:06 Rd 1

Journeyman Scot Paul Craig made a claim for ranked status at light heavyweight, submitting Gadzhimurad Antigulov in just over two minutes. Craig managed to suck the Russian into his realm, accepting an early takedown and immediately getting to work from the bottom.

The 32-year-old threw up a triangle and despite eating some big shots for his trouble, managed to inch the choke in tighter and eventually yield the tap. It was a case of Antigulov opting to punch his way out, rather than fighting the position.

Alex Oliveira def. Peter Sobotta | Decision (unanimous) 30-27, 30-27, 30-27

‘Cowboy’ Alex Oliveira looked as good as ever in his unanimous decision victory over Peter Sobotta, putting on a ruthless kicking display to dominate the three rounds. The Brazilian veteran landed repeated blows to his opponent’s body, turning his midsection red as the colour of his glove tape.

With Oliveira working so well at kicking distance, Sobotta could not quite muster up the right form of attack to get within range, with the 32-year-old controlling the action on the feet. He would drop Sobotta right before the Round 2 bell, and looked sharp across the full 15 minutes.

Khamzat Chimaev def. Rhys McKee | TKO (punches) 3:09 Rd 1

The UFC’s quickest turnaround victory was earned in brutal fashion, as Chimaev made it two wins in 10 days to improve to 2-0 in the UFC. Having made his debut at middleweight, the Swedish representative cut back down to the welterweight limit and put a swift beating on promotional newcomer, McKee.

McKee came in as Europe’s top prospect outside the UFC and was game to the task, but simply has no answer to Chimaev’s blanketing grappling and strength on the mat. The Northern Irishman struggled between full mount and back mount as his opponent reigned down unanswered hammer fists, eventually having the referee intervene at just over three minutes in to the bout.

Now at 8-0, Chimaev again took no damage en route to landing 68 total strikes to nil, taking his overall differential to 192-2 in his first two UFC digs. Welterweights beware.


Francisco Trinaldo def. Jai Herbert | TKO (punches) 1:30 Rd 3
Jesse Ronson def. Nicolas Dalby | Submission (rear-naked choke) 2:48 Rd 1
Tom Aspinall def. Jake Collier | TKO (punches) 0:45 Rd 1
Movsar Evloev def. Mike Grundy | Decision (unanimous) 30-27, 30-27, 29-28
Tanner Boser def. Raphael Pessoa | TKO (punches) 2:36 Rd 2
Pannie Kianzad def. Bethe Correia | Decision (unanimous) 30-27, 30-27, 29-28
Ramazan Emeev def. Niklas Stolze | Decision (unanimous) 30-27, 30-27, 29-28
Nathaniel Wood def. John Castaneda | Decision (unanimous) 30-27, 30-27, 20-27

Card recap: LFA 84 – J-Train steams to featherweight title

THE NEW Legacy Fighting Alliance (LFA) featherweight champion was crowed in today’s four-fight LFA 84 event, with Justin Gonzales claiming the vacant title in dramatic fashion. Fans were treated to three finishes in what was the promotion’s first card in 18 weeks, streamed via UFC Fight Pass out of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Each bout brought along enthralling twists and turns, confirming that the elite level feeder promotion is in good shape upon its return to full-time activity. The action will not stop here either, with LFA’s inaugural women’s strawweight title fight set to headline next week’s LFA 85 card, back in South Dakota.

But for now, check out our full run-down of each fight from today’s impressive showcase, highlighted by an entertaining main event.

Justin Gonzales def. Jake Childers | TKO (body kick and punches) 0:45 Rd 4

A rollercoaster main event saw the vacant LFA featherweight title go to Justin Gonzales, as the now 11-0 Contender Series alum again pushed his case for a UFC contract. The American claimed victory early in the fourth round, taking out formerly undefeated compatriot Jake Childers with a barrage of strikes as the latter faded.

Both men, who came in boasting perfect records also held similarities in their styles; adept wrestlers with terrific durability, who like to push the pace and turn fights into brawls. Gonzales would have greater success in the early goings, landing a takedown from against the fence followed by ground-and-pound with bad intentions. Everything seemed to be happening on his terms, with his superior size and smothering pressure taking toll on Childers.

After continuing to land hefty body kicks and blows up top, a takedown from Gonzales allowed Childers to turn the contest completely on its head. Childers put everything into securing a submission, first threatening a kimura and using it to sneak around to the back, where he locked in the body triangle and searched for a rear-naked choke. As the composed Gonzales turned out, he landed straight in the way of an arm-triangle, which looked to be incredibly tight.

But the new champ weathered Childers’ craftily constructed storm, and it soon became clear how much the submission attempts had taken out of the aggressor, who very nearly ended the fight. It was no surprise that Gonzales looked to keep the fight standing in the third period, and he did so with aplomb. He would repeatedly tag the fading Childers, with his right hand a main weapon of choice to go with great combinations to punish both the head and body of his opponent.

Gonzales was now close to the finish himself having initiated a measured striking clinic, and it took just 45 more seconds in Round 4 to secure victory. Despite Childers’ incredible heart, he could do little more than cover up and Gonzales began to wing heavy shots, with a pair of front kicks to the body spelling the beginning of the end. Gonzales finished the job on a retreating Childers, handing ‘The Working Man’ his  first professional loss.

With ‘J-Train’ remaining undefeated himself, and 20-0 including his amateur career, the future looks bright for this 29-year-old prospect whether he decides to stay and defend the belt, or move on to grander pastures should the opportunity present.

Maycon Mendonca def. Kassius Kayne | Submission (triangle choke) 2:16 Rd 2

A battle of two big welterweights ended in style as Maycon Mendonca submitted Kassius Kayne via a slick triangle choke in Round 2. It was the Brazilian’s first career submission victory, moving him to 9-4 with a third-straight win after having dropped three-consecutive bouts.

Kayne came out in typical fashion, throwing big shots on the feet, but came undone in Round 1 as Mendonca landed a massive slam takedown from the clinch. Ground-and-pound followed, before the American snuck in a leg lock attempt late in the piece.

He continued to look for a way inside, but Mendonca’s kicks kept him at bay. A beautiful spinning back kick to the body hurt Kayne, backing him up towards the cage. A flying knee would follow, but it only saw Mendonca give up the takedown.

In another twist within the short, fight ending period, Mendonca rode his legs up high to lock in a triangle position, before yielding a tap with the choke midway through Round 2. The 27-year-old is on a tear, and looked unfazed by the late change in opponent.

Boston Salmon def. Shawn West | DQ (illegal knee) 0:53 Rd 2

An ugly, but completely instinctual illegal knee handed Boston Salmon a DQ win over former training partner, Shawn West, bringing an unfortunate end to what was a highly entertaining fight in Round 2.

The now 7-3 Hawaiian looked to be kicking the pace and power up a gear early in the second period, landing some beautifully timed counters up top and cracking West with heavy body shots to follow.

It came after West had arguably taken out Round 1, credit to the damage he had inflicted to Salmon’s lead leg, and a slight knockdown by way of one of his many powerful punches.

The fight ending sequence was brutal, as both men landed big shots to stagger the other. West recovered quicker as Salmon hit the mat, and rushed over to finish the job on his grounded opponent.

That was the exact problem – he was grounded. West’s savage flying knee landed flush to put Salmon out cold and bring an immediate end to proceedings, but it soon became clear that he would not be earning a 17th career victory.

No bad blood was evident after the fact though, with the two showing great mutual respect for one another. We’d love to see this one run back, although Salmon has taken some heavy punishment over his last three fights, including two first round TKOs in his UFC outings.

Bruno Souza def. Kamuela Kirk | Decision (split) 28-29, 29-28 29-28

Machida Academy prospect Bruno Souza leant on his karate skills to get the nod in a split decision against Kamuela Kirk, notching his seventh-straight victory to improve to 7-1 as a professional.

The bout was fought exclusively on the feet across the 15 minutes, with Souza’s sharp lateral movement, quick hands up top, and heavy kicks to the body helping to slow the closing Kirk.

The Brazilian simply found a greater rhythm and was more active throughout the fight, landing a greater volume of blows in response to Kirk’s thudding boxing combinations. While the first round belonged to Souza, Rounds 2 and 3 were much tighter, and Kirk produced some nice moments with his left hook in range.

But those efforts proved futile for the former Contender Series fighter, who now moves to 9-4 with his 100 per cent finishing rate intact. With a win in his fight in almost a year, the Souza remains perfect after his debut loss in 2016.

Card recap: Titan FC 61 – Italian Gangster snaps up vacant bantamweight strap

TITAN has a new bantamweight champion after Danny Sabatello defeated Raymond Ramos in their headliner grudge match at Titan FC 61. Held once again in Miami, Florida, fans were treated to three first round submission finishes across six entertaining bouts, with plenty of bad blood remaining following the quick main event.

>> SCROLL down for all the results in our full card recap.

Danny Sabatello def. Raymond Ramos | Submission (rear-naked choke) 1:56 Rd 1

Danny Sabatello is the new Titan FC bantamweight champion after claiming the vacant title by way of first round submission over Raymond Ramos. It seems the ‘Italian Gangster’ can do no wrong of late, quickly making amends for his first professional loss with two impressive victories to move to 8-1.

Sabatello’s chain wrestling worked to get the fight to the mat and keep it there, with his initial double-leg entry requiring adjustments and some persistent to get the job done. The champ’s swarming pressure and aggressive transitions saw him take Ramos’ back, sinking a hook in and locking the choke under his opponents’ chin to yield the tap.

Bad blood lingered after the bout, too, as Sabatello celebrated in his usual animated fashion while Ramos refused to shake his hand in a usual showing of mutual respect. The two flapped gums as the finish was made official, and Ramos clearly was not impressed with Sabatello’s outspoken nature, especially after being called out for this fight.

Landon Quinones def. Geralbert Castillo | Decision (unanimous) 29-28, 30-27, 29-28

This fight was an absolute belter. Landon Quinones got the unanimous nod over Geralbert Castillo in their three-round war, with either man going extremely close to ending the fight in Round 2.

The opening exchanges were very close, with Castillo respecting the power of his opponent and looking to clinch up after being touched within boxing range. He would successfully smother Quinones and cancel out his key asset in the first round, arguably taking the points through those five minutes.

Castillo very nearly ended it early in Round 2, winging a wild overhand onto Quinones’ chin just as the latter was looking comfortable. He may have gassed himself out looking for the finish though, swarming on the grounded Quinones but unable to prevent his recovery. Quinones would then mount his own attack, turning the tables completely with mean knees in the clinch and a big one up the middle which knocked Castillo’s mouthpiece out.

It was clear that Castillo had little left in the tank having relinquished Round 2, but Quinones would remain calm in looking to methodically dispatch of his opponent. A big moment in the final round saw Quinones again knock Castillo’s mouthpiece out with a punishing left hand, but the referee saw fit to break the action to the winner’s dismay.

It mattered little though, as Quinones maintained control of the round and remained wary his opponent’s power from range to grind out the victory, ending it on top in the final exchanges.

We had it: 29-28 Quinones – Round 1 could have gone either way, but Quinones easily took out Round 3 and edged the second despite being dropped early.

Victor Dias def. Cleveland McLean | Decision (split) 29-28, 28-29, 29-28

The win came via split decision, but there was no doubting the impressive nature of Victor Dias’ triumph over Cleveland McLean in their flyweight scrap, with the Brazilian jiu jitsu ace getting the job done despite some crisp boxing from his American opponent.

McLean, a power puncher, ripped some terrific combinations to the head and body of Dias and showcased his well-rounded game by remaining cool in a series of crises on the mat. He had his moments and constantly whipped his right hand over Dias’ guard, arguably taking out Round 1 and having the better of Round 3’s early stages.

But Dias’ smothering grappling pressure and ability to work from McLean’s back ultimately earned him the nod, with the bout very nearly finished via rear-naked choke in Round 2. Dias repeatedly looked to slip his left arm under McLean’s neck, but had his hands fought against well, while struggling to retain the body triangle to arch and exaggerate the choke.

Dias threatened the same choke late in Round 3 after McLean found himself in leg lock territory, and simply did what he needed to in order to claim points in at least two rounds. His cardio seemed sound too, not burning the arms out despite big squeezes and having his guard peppered.

We had it: 29-28 Dias – the right call, McLean clearly took Round 1, Dias dominated the second, and took out the third despite McLean’s early success on the feet.

Christian Ynastrilla def. Phillip Keller | Submission (triangle choke) 2:04 Rd 1

A near 10-pound discrepancy and cancellation rollercoasters did little to prevent Christian Ynastrilla from moving to 6-1 as a professional, after submitting 38-year-old Phillip Keller in the first round.

The bout, originally mooted as a 130-pound catchweight event had a spanner thrown in the works when Keller missed weight by 7.8 pounds, and a touch of bad blood lingered from the fact immediately after the stoppage.

The bigger, more physical Keller looked to exploit his advantage by pressuring Ynastrilla early, landing a big takedown and moving forward well. But Ynastrilla worked beautifully from his back with his legs up high in guard, and threatening to transition to a submission.

He did exactly that despite Keller’s calm defence, locking in a tight armbar which was narrowly escaped, before making the adjustment to a triangle choke to yield the tap.

Joey Y’Shua def. Ryan Schwartzberg | Submission (rear-naked choke) 4:49 Rd 1

Joey Y’Shua came out with a point to prove in his maiden professional MMA bout, and did exactly that with a submission win over fellow debutant, Ryan Schwartzberg within the first round. The 25-year-old looked comfortable in all areas of the fight and while he is a more renowned kickboxer, finished it on the ground with a slick rear-naked choke.

Y’Shua’s stand-up skills were shown early as he caught Schwartzberg with a beautiful three-piece, forcing the latter to take the fight to the ground. A beautiful sweep allowed him to get back up and throw some more diverse strikes, showing great rhythm with his kicking game in the face of Schwartzberg’s wild boxing.

An uppercut and takedown spelled the beginning of the end, as Y’Shua transitioned from side control, to mount, and onto the back. From there he would throw in a hook and slide one arm under the chin, remaining calm as Schwartzberg fought the hands to eventually put him out with an adjustment on the choke and great hip extension.

Collin Lubberts def. Irvin Jones | Decision (unanimous) 29-28, 30-27, 30-27

Collin Lubberts improved to 5-1 after getting the better of Irvin Jones in their back-and-forth welterweight battle, which was fought almost exclusively on the feet. A mature, patient approach from the longer Lubberts helped to allay the threat of Jones’ boxing prowess, as the 24-year-old found his range to land the more definitive blows throughout the three rounds.

A sweet counter left hook stumbled Jones at the end of Round 1, and the same shot had Lubberts searching for a finish in the third. Both moments would end up proving the two defining factors of a closely contested fight. While Jones did his best to come out aggressively after a tight Round 2, he was beaten in the boxing exchanges by Lubberts’ cleaner shots on the inside.

We had it: 29-28 Lubberts – Round 1 and 3 clearly to Lubberts, toss a coin for the second.