Tag: jessica eye

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.

FULL CARD AND PREDICTIONS:

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

MAIN CARD

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

PRELIMINARY CARD

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

EARLY PRELIMINARY CARD

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 | SUG 15 – Jones remains undefeated, set to face Fowler for inaugural belt

ANDY FOWLER will get a shot at redemption and an inaugural Submission Underground (SUG) title after coming out on top in the promotion’s eight-man tournament to find undefeated Australian, Craig Jones a fresh opponent. While the two have previously met, doing so at the next SUG event (SUG 16, July 12) under the promotional guidance of Chael Sonnen will bring plenty of eyes to what could spawn a new grappling rivalry.

If the eight-man tournament was not intriguing enough, Sonnen took the unconventional risk of having Jones participate in the card’s co-main event, coming up against mean mixed martial artist, Gabriel Checco. While he was made to exhaust plans a, b, and c, Jones managed to move to 10-0 in the promotion and keep interest in his next bout well and truly alive.

Checco had already made decent inroads into his own SUG career at 2-0, and had clearly done some homework after Vagner Rocha laid the blueprint on how to survive Jones’ advances in regulation time. That work went out the window in overtime though, as Jones took the back first and yielded a tap within 15 seconds. It looked as though he only had the choke wrapped around Checco’s face, but ended up under the neck as the two rolled. Checco was unable to match the feat in his sole turn on offence.

The second featured submission grappling bout took place in the female category; as Jessica Eye stepped into the cage one week removed from her five-round UFC main event loss to Cynthia Calvillo, facing off against black belt Amanda Loewen. A shrewd defensive grappler, Eye was made to work in her opponent’s closed guard for most of the allotted regulation time after being pulled to the mat.

A seemingly frustrated Loewen got the tap in overtime on armbar offence despite Eye’s best efforts on defence, stretching out the grip as the UFC contender looked to step over and pull out. Sonnen announced post-event that Gillian Robertson, also of UFC fame and fresh off a fight, agreed to take on the winner of this bout at SUG 16 next month.

Speaking of, that is exactly when Jones and Fowler will go head-to-head to make history as the maiden SUG open weight submission grappling champion, after the latter went 3-0 to take out tonight’s eight-man tournament. Fowler’s patience and positional prowess were exceptional throughout all three of his bouts; finishing his quarter final match against the physically imposing Warren Brooks via armbar, while both his semi final and final wins came by rear-naked choke.

In a cool quirk, Fowler managed to get the job done in under 20 seconds during the bottom inning of the first overtime period across each match, able to take advantage of his offensive position on every occasion after escaping in quick time. His choke in the final was completed standing after locking in a body triangle to keep the position strongly.

Fowler’s final opponent, Roberto Jimenez also enjoyed an impressive run to the pointy end of the tournament, picking up the only two regulation time submissions for the night, en route to completing the match-up most experts predicted would occur. Both of his wins came via triangle choke, requiring over three minutes to get rid of Nathan Orchard and just 51 seconds to tap Hunter Colvin. His unrelenting offence – even from defensive positions – smooth transitions, and great flexibility made for entertaining viewing despite coming up short in the end.

Earlier, Colvin and Kody Steele also picked up wins at the quarter final stage, with the former taking 16 seconds at the bottom of Overtime 1 to submit the dangerous Adam Bradley, while the latter took 1:17 to yield a tap from Andy Varela via the same technique and in the same inning.

FEATURED SUBMISSION GRAPPLING BOUTS


Craig Jones
def. Gabriel Checco | Rear-naked choke, 0:15 Overtime 1 (Top)

Amanda Loewen def. Jessica Eye | Armbar, 0:22 Overtime 1 (Bottom)

EIGHT-MAN TOURNAMENT


FINAL |
Mason Fowler def. Roberto Jimenez | Rear-naked choke, 0:14 Overtime 1 (Bottom)

//

SEMI-FINAL | Mason Fowler def. Kody Steele | Rear-naked choke, 0:19 Overtime 1 (Bottom)

SEMI FINAL | Roberto Jimenez def. Hunter Colvin | Triangle choke, 0:51 Regulation

//

QUARTER FINAL | Kody Steele def. Andy Varela | Rear-naked choke, 1:17 Overtime 1 (Bottom)

QUARTER FINAL | Mason Fowler def. Warren Brooks | Armbar, 0:19 Overtime 1 (Bottom)

QUARTER FINAL | Roberto Jimenez def. Nathan Orchard | Triangle choke, 3:36 Regulation

QUARTER FINAL | Hunter Colvin def. Adam Bradley | Rear-naked choke, 0:16 Overtime 1 (Bottom)

RESULTS | UFC Fight Night: Eye vs. Calvillo – Calvillo earns decision win in flyweight debut

A NEW flyweight contender has emerged in former ranked strawweight Cynthia Calvillo, after the California native came away with a unanimous decision victory over 2019 title challenger, Jessica Eye in her divisional debut.

The pair’s main event bout headlined the UFC’s second Fight Night held at its Apex Centre in Las Vegas, with half of the 10 matchups ending in stoppages. The night began at a break-neck speed, with the opening three fights finished in under a minute each via KO/TKO within the smaller, 25-foot wide octagon.

The event may have been written off by fans at face value due to the underwhelming headline bout, but the overall card delivered in terms of highlights. Check out all the results, from top to bottom in our card recap.

POTN Bonuses: Christian Aguilera, Tyson Nam, Mariya Agapova, Marvin Vettori

MAIN CARD


Cynthia Calvillo [10 SW] def. Jessica Eye [1] | Decision (unanimous) 49-46, 49-46, 48-47

This main event may have been far from an instant classic, but it will be remembered for delivering a much-needed shake-up to the UFC women’s flyweight division. Eye was not only the number one contender at 125 pounds who had won four of her last five fights, but she was also one who missed weight – albeit narrowly – in anticipation of meeting Calvillo, who moved up a weight class.

The early going suggested pre-fight qualms from fans would come true, with either fighter feeling out the other in a stand-up battle and Eye looking the more comfortable striking practitioner with her counters at length. Needing to find a way on the inside, it took a persistent, chained takedown attempt for Calvillo to drag Eye to the mat, where she got her jiu jitsu game going by locking in a body triangle on the back.

Eye looked solid on defence, but her corner knew of Calvillo’s threats on the ground and warned their fighter not to use any knees, but rather to believe in her own boxing combinations. In another lacklustre five-minute period, a late Calvillo takedown would prove the difference and edge the points in her favour heading into the championship rounds.

With the fight now ticking over to become the longest in Calvillo’s career, she began to take over. After landing an early takedown, the dangerous grappler got to work with over four minutes to do so, slipping in the hooks and eventually, a body triangle once again. Eye would turn out well and stuff a later takedown attempt, but with six minutes of ground control in Calvillo’s favour, it was clear the number one contender required a finish.

That was not to be as the fifth round proved another back-and-forth contest fought mostly on the feet, with few exchanges in the centre of the shrunken octagon the only highlights. Having gone the full 25 minutes, it was clear that Calvillo had pulled off the unlikely win and staked her claim as a new contender. The judges agreed.

We had it: 49-46 Calvillo – straightforward decision. 4-0 to the winner after dropping Round 1.

Fallout: Number two ranked flyweight Katlyn Chookagian declared her interest in a fight with Calvillo soon after the fact, with a top five spot looming for the divisional debutant. It makes sense.


Marvin Vettori def. Karl Roberson | Submission (rear-naked choke) 4:17 Rd 1

‘The Italian Dream’ finally got his hands on Roberson at the second time of asking, and took full advantage of the opportunity with a first-round submission of his American foe. The weight-related controversy from their last proposed meeting carried on into this one as Roberson came in four pounds over the middleweight limit, but it mattered little in the end as Vettori added a quick win to his resume – his third-straight.

Some high-level grappling and acrobatic scrambles were showcased by both men across the four minutes, with Roberson initially taking Vettori’s back before having the position reversed. Vettori scrambled to get on top and threaten the guillotine, and a powerful effort from Roberson to break free only put him in a worse position.

Vettori looked to end the fight with some vicious, unanswered ground-and-pound but was at risk of punching himself out, so threw the left hook in, locked in the choke and rolled upon squeezing to yield the tap.

Fallout: An impressive performance from the man who took Israel Adesanya the distance, and a top 15 opponent surely looms if not for his own ranking.


Charles Rosa def. Kevin Aguilar | Decision (split) 28-29, 29-28, 29-28

Rosa, Rosa, Rosa. The featherweight looked impressive in his tight decision victory over a tough, seasoned opponent in Aguilar, with not much to split the pair come the final bell. Both men came in off losses, with Rosa quickly rectifying his to Bryce Mitchell last month, while Aguilar now has three-straight on his record.

In a back-and-forth stand-up battle, it was Rosa who looked to be better dictating the pace of the fight, diversifying his strikes better in the face of Aguilar’s boxing as the latter struggled to let his hands go enough. Both men were looking for ways in, switching stances and flinging big shots by the end of the bout, but the judges sided with Rosa in a very even contest.


Andre Fili def. Charles Jourdain | Decision (split) 28-29, 29-28, 29-28

‘Touchy’ Fili took out the first split decision of the night, accounting for rising Canadian prospect ‘Air’ Jourdain in their main card slot. A dangerous striker, Jourdain looked slick on the feet and had good success early with his combinations, while also appearing to compromise Fili’s right arm with hard left high kicks.

After being dropped by a big overhand left in the opening round and surviving on the ground, Fili continually returned serve on each of Jourdain’s strikes, countering well and piecing the 24-year-old up by the end of the bout. Fili was more effective with his sniping shots and remained constant with his forward pressure, while also proving successful in taking the fight to the ground when desired. Another to return to the winners list after a good recovery in the early stages.


Jordan Espinosa [13] def. Mark De La Rosa | Decision (unanimous) 30-27, 30-27, 30-26

Espinosa looked super impressive in his unanimous decision victory over formerly-ranked bantamweight De La Rosa, justifying the number 13 next to his name. Espinosa was simply too sharp on the feet in his striking patterns and movement, able to switch stances effortlessly and stay balanced in the face of De La Rosa’s grappling advances.

While De La Rosa constantly moved forward, he was pieced up in the striking exchanges and thwarted in the clinch as Espinosa successfully stayed busy throughout the bout, even from defensive positions with punishing elbows. The ranked prospect simply seemed comfortable wherever the fight went, and looks destined for a top 10 matchup in the near future.


Mariya Agapova def. Hannah Cifers | Submission (rear-naked choke) 2:42 Rd 1

Cifers’ quick return to action after a loss proved fruitless as she came face-to-face with another rising prospect in Kazakhstan’s Agapova. Typically known for her boxing prowess, the promotional newcomer finished the bout via submission with a slick rear-naked choke after stunning Cifers on the feet.

Agapova set up a sweetly timed head kick with punches to sit Cifers down, opting to clinch before slipping to the back and sinking in the choke while standing to eventually yield a tap on the mat. The American Top Team trained fighter added a seventh finish to her nine wins overall, with a loss to Tracy Cortez in the Contender Series the only blemish on Agapova’s record to this point.

PRELIMINARY CARD

A hot start to the night saw the first three bouts last a combined 1:53, all finished within the first minute via KO/TKO. Christian Aguilera added an 11th win via that exact method to his record in his promotional debut, teeing off on Anthony Ivy to end the bout at 59 seconds.

Veteran Hawaiian Tyson Nam kept the ball rolling, but only needed 32 seconds to land his perfectly-timed right hand counter to a Zarrukh Adashev inside leg kick, kick-starting his UFC career. Incredibly, Julia Avila needed even less time to put Gina Mazany away, swarming on her opponent with punches in bunches after a sweet knee up the middle from the clinch.

Serra-Longo product Merab Dvalishvili rounded out the preliminary card with a grinding, but dominant victory over Gustavo Lopez at a 140-pound catchweight. The Georgian looked comfortable in all realms, but impressed most by once again breaching double figures for takedowns in the one-sided decision.

RESULTS:

Merab Dvalishvili def. Gustavo Lopez | Decision (unanimous) 30-26, 30-26, 30-25

Julia Avila def. Gina Mazany | TKO (punches) 0:22 Rd 1

Tyson Nam def. Zarrukh Adashev | KO (punch) 0:32 Rd 1

Christian Aguilera def. Anthony Ivy | TKO (punches) 0:59 Rd 1

UFC Rankings update: May-June 2020

THE UFC has resumed full-time operations and with it comes the ever-changing rankings landscape. Four events have gone down since the promotion’s emphatic return at UFC 249 on May 9, with the only belt to change hands that of the interim lightweight strap belonging to Justin Gaethje. Among the big winners have been Gilbert Burns, Glover Teixeira, and Alistair Overeem, while their opponents all suffered drops down the rankings. The full, updated UFC rankings can be found here, and pound-for-pound list, here with changes soon to come after the weekend’s event.

HEAVYWEIGHT (206-265lbs)

Augusto Sakai ⬆️ [10]
Blagoy Ivanov ⬇️ [15]

Sakai’s co-main event decision victory over Ivanov saw him jump three places into 10th spot, while the Bulgarian slid the same amount to number 15 as the last of the ranked heavyweights. A random shuffle saw former champion Junior dos Santos move down to fifth, leaving Derrick Lewis clear in the number four spot. Those ranked 11-14 also moved around the two active men, with the MMA community now eagerly awaiting a trilogy fight between Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier at the top.


WELTERWEIGHT (170lbs)

Gilbert Burns ⬆️ [1]
Tyron Woodley ⬇️ [4]

The big story to come out of the welterweight division was Burns’ rise to number one contendership, leapfrogging his opponent in former champion, Woodley, and the likes of Jorge Masvidal, Colby Covington, and Leon Edwards. The Brazilian earned a title shot against Kamaru Usman with his dominant decision victory, and it remains to be seen whether Conor McGregor, who swapped places with Anthony Pettis down to number 15, will be removed upon his shock retirement.


LIGHTWEIGHT (155lbs)

Justin Gaethje ⬆️ [IC]
Beneil Dariush ⬆️ [14]
Drew Dober ⬆️ [15]

The big risers at 155 pounds were Darisuh and Dober, who each earned berths in the rankings of late. Most recently, Dober’s eye-catching TKO of former ranked lightweight Alex Hernandez earned him a spot, while stretching his win streak out to three. Random shuffles saw the aforementioned pair land at 14 and 15 respectively, while Donald Cerrone swapped places with Islam Makhachev to move to 12th, and the McGregor situation makes for some confusion at the top. Of course, Gaethje earned a title unification bout with Khabib Nurmagomedov after defeating perennial contender, Tony Ferguson at UFC 249.


FEATHERWEIGHT (145lbs)

Calvin Kattar ⬆️ [6]
Dan Ige ⬆️ [11]
Arnold Allen ⬇️ [12]

A couple of rising prospects made the most significant leaps at featherweight, with Kattar moving to number six after defeating Jeremy Stephens at a 150-pound catchweight, while Ige continued his impressive run by defeating former lightweight contender, Edson Barboza via split decision. Allen, whose last fight was in January, was level with Ige in 11th spot, but moved one down to 12th in a random restructuring. A rematch between champion Alexander Volkanovski and Max Holloway has also been marked for UFC 251.


BANTAMWEIGHT (135lbs)

There will soon be some division-defining movement at 135-pounds, with three massive bantamweight fights going down on the UFC 250 main card. Number two ranked Aljamain Sterling made yet another claim for his long-awaited title shot by submitting Cory Sandhagen in quick time, but it seems Jose Aldo [6] and Petr Yan [3] will scrap for the vacant belt. Former champ Cody Garbrandt [9] got back to winning ways with a massive knockout of veteran contender Raphael Assuncao [5], while Sean O’Malley pushed his case for a ranking with his own statement KO on the same night.


FLYWEIGHT (125lbs)

Brandon Royval ⬆️ [11]
Tim Elliott ⬇️ [12]
Mark De La Rosa ⬇️ [NR]

Royval is the new prospect on the block, debuting at number 11 in the flyweight rankings after defeating former title challenger, Elliott in a fight of the night scrap on the Woodley vs. Burns undercard. Numbers 12-15, including Elliott were shuffled down, with De La Rosa pushed out of his number 15 spot and thus, the rankings altogether. Alex Perez [9] will also be a big mover having defeated Jussier Formiga [4] on the latest card, with Joseph Benevidez and Deiveson Figueiredo set to rematch for the vacant title.

MENS POUND-FOR-POUND

Francis Ngannou ⬆️ [14]
Dominick Reyes ⬆️ [15]
Tyron Woodley ⬇️ [NR]
Henry Cejudo ⬇️ [NR]

WOMEN’S POUND-FOR-POUND

Nina Ansaroff ⬇️ [15]


WOMEN’S DIVISIONS

There has been no movement in any of the women’s divisions, but that may be soon about to change as flyweights Jessica Eye [1] and Cynthia Calvillo [10 SW] headline the promotion’s upcoming Fight Night. Amanda Nunes of course successfully defender her featherweight belt against Felicia Spencer in the latest PPV event, while number two flyweight Katlyn Chookagian dismantled Antonina Shevchenko [12] in their bout, and Angela Hill was denied a berth in the rankings after losing a tight decision to Claudia Gadelha. Carla Esparza and Sijara Eubanks were other ranked winners, and Mackenzie Dern may find herself among the strawweight numbers after submitting Hannah Cifers in quick time.

Card recap: UFC 245 – Volkanovski halts Blessed Express to become second Aussie champ

ARGUABLY the most stacked UFC fight card of all time gave us three enthralling title fights and a bunch of intriguing matchups between high-level ranked fighters. We take you round-by-round through each Championship bout, as well as covering each decision and fight-ending sequence from top to bottom.

Note: Round-by-round scores are our opinion only, and not indicative of the official scorecards.

FOTN: Kamaru Usman vs. Colby Covington
POTN: Petr Yan, Irene Aldana

MAIN CARD:

WELTERWEIGHT | Kamaru Usman def. Colby Covington | TKO (Punches) 4:10 Rd 5

Round-by-round:

Round 1 – 10-9 Covington
Usman tested Covington’s high guard with a kick but slipped as it landed, signalling intentions nonetheless. A stiff jab did the same job, but Covington threw everything into a couple of shots to back Usman’s pressure up momentarily. ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ looked a touch more patient on the feet as Colby tried to suck him into a wild pace, using his body kick well. Some good clinch work, constant pressure and greater success as the round went on means Colby draws first blood – but very close.

Round 2 – 10-9 Covington (20-18)
Usman gets the jab going from southpaw, stabbing in with the front kick too. A quick flurry of lefts from Covington got the champ’s attention though, and both men would go on to exchange straight rights as the action heated up. A glancing low blow from Covington stopped the action momentarily, but the action resumed with both fighters having their moments. Another close five minutes.

Round 3 – 10-9 Usman (29-28)
The champ continued to have success going to the body, landing that front kick and a nice knee from the clinch before going upstairs with a huge right hand which may have broken Colby’s jaw. Covington’s pressure and volume is less evident afterwards, with Usman continuing his more refined and patient striking while also hitting the body again. Both fighters land a big left hand each before Colby puts in a nasty eye poke to break up the action, but a perfectly executed round from Usman overall.

Round 4 – 10-9 Covington (39-37)
Covington’s corner asked for more wrestling, but both men come out SWINGING. The jab and body digs of Usman continued to work well as he looked to slow Covington’s output, but the American still managed to land a stiff right hand and uppercut. The swinging went on as both fighters had their moments, with this another very close one to call – could have been 2-2 heading into the fifth and no judge had the same score.

Round 5 – Finish (4:10)
The crowd is hyped as another close round of action ensues, but Usman knows he has to do something dramatic to lock in a win with the judges’ scorecards always unpredictable. A big left from Colby was one of the key moments in a tense few minutes, but the champ dug deep to land the big blows when it mattered and seal the win via stoppage.

Fight-ending sequence: After sitting Covington down with a big right, it took another shot to have Usman follow him down and finish with ground-and-pound from a dominant position – much to the dismay of Covington.

FEATHERWEIGHT | Alexander Volkanovski def. Max Holloway | Decision (Unanimous) 48-47, 48-47, 50-45

Round-by-round:

Round 1 – 10-9 Volkanovski
Holloway looked to dictate the early pace as Volkanovski got a feel for his opponent’s style before upping the pressure on him. The Aussie’s low kicks and quick combinations disrupted Holloway’s forward movement, while also getting out of the way before the Hawaiian could reply. A very close round, with Volkanovski’s heavier strikes and ability to make Holloway miss the difference.

Round 2 – 10-9 Volkanovski (20-18)
Volkanovski continued to chop at the legs without answer, forcing his opponent into a shift to southpaw. Holloway looked to up the pace late on with much of the round going against him, but was outdone as the Aussie got going.

Round 3 – 10-9 Volkanovski (30-27)
Volkanovski had the answers early, scooting within range and landing some good strikes – including a mean right hook after two minutes. The Aussie even went as far as taunting Holloway with his cardio after some more right hand success, not letting up with his in-and-out game and truly gaining the respect of Holloway. The Hawaiian misses with a couple of spinning attacks, hinting at frustration or the need to try something new.

Round 4 – 10-9 Holloway (39-37)
The Aussie’s corner hinted at some level changes between rounds, but Volkanovski started with another two big right hands. The first takedown attempt was thwarted by Holloway, and he began to have more success in his striking combinations. Holloway looked much more comfortable in the orthodox stance, even landing a big uppercut as he withstood the calf kick onslaught.

Round 5 – 10-9 Holloway (48-47)
Big respect from both fighters to start the round. The leg kicks continue, and Max continues to deal with them as he looks to pressure Volkanovski against the fence. A beautiful Holloway kick to the body gets the crowd’s attention and he continued to press forward. Volkanovski prompts some posturing from the Hawaiian with a heavy elbow and right hand as both guys took it down to the wire.

We had it: 48-47 Volkanovski – Could have even been 4-1 to Volkanovski, but his gameplan execution over the first three rounds got the job done. A war of attrition, but Max upped the pace late-on.

W. BANTAMWEIGHT | Amanda Nunes def. Germaine de Randamie | Decision (Unanimous) 49-44, 49-46, 49-45

Round-by-round:

Round 1 – 10-9 Nunes
Nunes started with a nice overhand right to push de Randamie back, taking up the centre of the octagon before a beautiful takedown entry to take the fight to the ground. de Randamie was tested with a guillotine attempted but popped out easily, pressing Nunes against the fence before being taken down again. Some guard-splitting ground-and-pound was next up, with Nunes ending the round with an arm triangle attempt.

Round 2 – 10-9 de Randamie (19-19)
de Randamie got her jab going early as Nunes threw with intention, reversing control of the centre of the octagon. Momentum of the round shifted as Nunes landed a double-leg, sitting in the guard but being stood up for inactivity. de Randamie took full advantage, landing a nasty question mark kick and flying knee before some nice clinch work. Very even, but the Dutch kickboxer had arguably the better moments.

Round 3 – 10-9 Nunes (29-28)
Just as de Randamie looked to be getting on top in the stand up, Nunes shot in once again for a successful double-leg takedown. Nunes went to work in top position, picking her moments to strike with ground-and-pound and taking back control of the fight but still leaving herself open to an upkick.

Round 4 – 10-9 Nunes (39-37)
Nunes’ grappling strength proved telling with another early takedown, with de Randamie looking unlikely to break free from the smothering pressure. But she did just that and turned the tide, going close to finishing the fight with an arm triangle to armbar, but the champ toughed it out and got back on top to finish.

Round 5 – 10-9 Nunes (49-46)
Deja vu as the champ shuts down de Randamie with another takedown as she throws a kick, wearing the Dutchwoman down from top position but again standing above her guard in range of the upkick. An overall anticlimactic finish but Nunes executed the gameplan perfectly.

We had it: 49-46 Nunes – an easy decision to nominate the winner, with de Randamie only clearly winning the second round. Could have thrown a 10-8 in there in the final round, not that it mattered.

BANTAMWEIGHT | Marlon Moraes def. Jose Aldo | Decision (Split) 29-28, 28-29, 29-28

In arguably the closest and most controversial fight of the night, Marlon Moraes notched up a huge decision win over former featherweight champion, Jose Aldo. The fabled ‘Magic’ high kick landed early but hardly fazed Aldo, who looked to regain octagon control and cracked back with a right hand. With questions over Moraes’ gas tank, Aldo began to walk his fellow Brazilian down with constant pressure and some nice shots. But Aldo’s cage control and forward pressure were not enough to get the nod, with Moraes’ more impactful shots winning two of the three judges over. The loss might not matter for Aldo, with bantamweight champion Henry Cejudo calling him out post-fight.

We had it: 29-28 Aldo – First round to Marlon, second to Jose. Third round is the opinion splitter, but Aldo’s forcing of the issue and cage control gets him over the line in our eyes.

BANTAMWEIGHT | Petr Yan def. Urijah Faber | KO (Head kick) 0:43 Rd 3

Petr Yan jumped into number one contender status with an attritional win over UFC hall of famer Urijah Faber. In typical style, Yan took up the centre of the octagon and pushed the pace, looking for reads from the ‘Cali Kid’. The Russian began to put combinations together, looking dangerous when breaking from the clinch and backing Faber up while looking unfazed by what came in return. A hard right hand sat Faber down at the end of Round 2, but the American survived and returned fire – only to be put down again with an elbow. As tough as they come, Faber could only last for another 43 seconds in the third as Yan’s power and technique did the job.

Fight-ending sequence: A left high kick on the break only caught Faber with the end of the foot, but it was enough to sit him down again, with Keith Peterson stepping in mercifully before any follow-up strikes.

PRELIMINARY CARD:

WELTERWEIGHT | Geoff Neal def. Mike Perry | TKO (Head kick and punches) 1:30 Rd 1

Geoff Neal showed he truly is the real deal with a highlight reel knockout of fan favourite Mike Perry in the first round. Another rising Contender Series alum, Neal took just 1:30 to stop the usually durable Perry after stunning him with a beautiful head kick. Neal’s finishing instincts were on full show as he measured his approach and used those ‘Handz of Steel’ to put Perry away. Adds to the stacked welterweight top end, a scary prospect.

W. BANTAMWEIGHT | Irene Aldana def. Ketlen Vieira | KO (Punches) 4:51 Rd 1

Irene Aldana came up trumps in her bantamweight bout with the higher ranked Ketlen Vieira, earning a performance of the night bonus in the process. It was a battle between Vieira’s power and aggression, and Aldana’s slick boxing technique on the feet, with the Mexican earning her opponent’s respect early on as both fighters threw everything into their shots. Aldana’s hooks spelt the end in the face of Vieira’s recklessness, with a huge left sitting the Brazilian down before an accurate follow-up enforced the stoppage. The next bantamweight contender?

MIDDLEWEIGHT | Omari Akhmedov def. Ian Heinisch | Decision (Unanimous) 29-28, 29-28, 29-28

Climbing the middleweight ranks is Omari Akhmedov, who grounded out a win over top 10 opponent Ian Heinisch. Combat sambo specialist Akhmedov came out looking better on the feet, stinging Heinisch early and managing the distance well as his American opponent often came up short. He took the fight to the ground late in the first too with a nice slam, and Akhmedov looked to lock up again in the second with Heinisch having more success with his kicks. Both fights were clipped in the last as Heinisch pushed the pace, with the final two rounds incredibly tight.

WELTERWEIGHT | Matt Brown def. Ben Saunders | KO (Elbow and punches) 4:55 Rd 2

Matt Brown lived up to his ‘Immortal’ moniker in his return to the octagon, brutally KO’ing fellow veteran Ben Saunders at the end of the second round. Having weathered the storm of Saunders’ guard in Round 1, Brown looked fresh in the second and got the better of each stand-up exchange – putting Saunders on the back foot with a big head kick. After some inaction on the ground, Brown ended the bout with some heavy ground and pound as Saunders invited him back into his guard. Classic Brown.

EARLY PRELIMINARY CARD:

FEATHERWEIGHT | Chase Hooper def. Daniel Teymur | TKO (Elbows) 4:34 Rd 1

In five words: O’Malley plus Askren equals Hooper.

FLYWEIGHT | Brandon Moreno def. Kai Kara-France | Decision (Unanimous) 29-28, 30-27, 29-28

In five words: How good are these flyweights?!

W. FLYWEIGHT | Jessica Eye def. Viviane Araujo | Decision (Unanimous) 29-28, 30-27, 29-28

In five words: There’re levels to this game.

MIDDLEWEIGHT | Punahele Soriano def. Oskar Piechota | KO (Punch) 3:17 Rd 1

In five words: Contender Series strikes again, hard.

Card preview – UFC 245: Usman vs. Covington

ONE of the most anticipated UFC cards of the year comes in the final pay-per-view event, with Kamaru Usman vs. Colby Covington headlining in front of two other title fights and a card stacked with a raft of ranked fighters. There is plenty to dissect, and so many ways each fight can go.

MAIN CARD:

WELTERWEIGHT | Kamaru Usman [C] vs. Colby Covington [2]

It is finally here, the grudge match between Kamaru Usman and Colby Covington for the welterweight title. Destined to fight each other given their parallel come-ups, Usman and Covington now get to put all the talk aside and settle it in the cage. Covington is as loud as they come out of the octagon, but has backed it up thus far to become an undeniable challenger for the undisputed strap after previously earning the interim title. Usman is yet to be bettered in the UFC, dominating all 10 foes with his smothering wrestling and insane stamina. But if there is anyone who can match both of those facets, it is Covington, and these two cancel each other out stylistically. While these two are elite grapplers, the fight could be won on the feet, with Kamaru’s power coming against Colby’s volume striking. This looms as being one of the tightest title fights to call in recent memory, and should be a cracker.

Prediction: Usman by decision.

FEATHERWEIGHT | Max Holloway [C] vs. Alexander Volkanovski [1]

Max Holloway defends his featherweight belt for the fourth time when he meets number one contender Alexander Volkanovski in the co-main event, with a clash of styles set to take place. A pressure striker, Holloway has made a name from overwhelming his opponents, but comes up against a strong wrestler with accurate and powerful stand-up in Volkanovski. Coming from a rugby background, the Australian challenger has heavy hands and can test Holloway that way, as well as in the grappling department. Holloway is seldom not a heavy favourite, and will be just that coming in, but sleep on the Aussie at your own peril after taking out a couple of UFC featherweight greats.

Prediction: Holloway by decision

W. BANTAMWEIGHT | Amanda Nunes [C] vs. Germaine de Randamie [1]

Amanda Nunes has the opportunity to further cement her status as the women’s MMA GOAT when she defends her bantamweight belt for the fifth time against another former UFC champion. ‘The Iron Lady’ – Germaine de Randamie is the challenger this time around, with the Dutch Muay Thai champion insistent on making it a 135lbs fight despite her history at featherweight. Her length and striking prowess should pose problems for Nunes, but the ‘Lioness’ own power punching will put the champ in good stead. Coming off incredible KO victories over Cris Cyborg and Holly Holm, Nunes should be confident of repeating the feat against another striker who matches her physically.

Prediction: Nunes by T/KO

BANTAMWEIGHT | Marlon Moraes [1] vs. Jose Aldo [3/FW]

Long-time WEC/UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo makes the cut down to 135lbs to face fellow Brazilian powerhouse Marlon Moraes. With the bantamweight division looking good at the top end but being held up by double-champ Henry Cejudo, this bout could prove vital in deciding the likelihood of either fighter getting another shot at UFC gold. While Moraes fell short in his recent shot at the belt, and Aldo is coming in off a loss to Volkanovski, so made the unconventional move down a division for a fresh start. His knockout capabilities are undeniable, but it will be interesting to see if he loses a step, or gains two with the extra weight cut. Moraes is just as ‘Magic’ on the feet with his explosive kicks, but will have to make up for a slight height and reach disadvantage. These two are essentially very similar fighters, which could bode for fireworks on the feet, or a surprise move to the ground.

Prediction: Moraes by T/KO

BANTAMWEIGHT | Petr Yan [4] vs. Urijah Faber [12]

Petr Yan will look to put his name in lights and take out a bantamweight legend in Urijah Faber when the two meet to kick off the main card. Yan has enjoyed an impressive rise in the UFC, remaining unbeaten across five fights and looking very good in each. A win here could put him right up in the number one contender spot, but he will have to do it in style given the following fight. Faber needs no introduction, and could also put himself in the title picture with another highlight reel win here. Both effective pressure fighters but in different disciplines, it could well be a matchup between the future, and the past of the bantamweight division.

Prediction: Yan by decision

PRELIMINARY CARD:

WELTERWEIGHT | Geoff Neal [14] vs. Mike Perry

Tuesday Night Contender Series alum Geoff Neal takes on fan favourite Mike Perry in a bout that is fitting for the main preliminary card slot. Having fought to decision just once in four UFC fights, Neal is on a tear and finds himself ranked in the stacked welterweight division. Perry, a man with equally heavy hands, has been there but comes in having won just two of his last six bouts. Perry is afraid of no one and only needs one strike to land, but Neal is already well equipped in dealing with dangerous opponents.

Prediction: Neal by T/KO

W. BANTAMWEIGHT | Ketlen Vieira [2] vs. Irene Aldana [10]

Undefeated prospect Ketlen Vieira takes on Irene Aldana in a fight which could propel either fighter right into championship calculations. At 10-0 and number two in the rankings, we finally get to catch another glimpse of Vieira after a 20-month layoff. Having beaten a couple of MMA vets and with a rounded game, Vieira would be watching the bantamweight title fight keenly. But Aldana stands in her way, not to be overlooked after looking sharp in her last outing. With either fighter boasting impressive wins both on the feet and ground, expect the unexpected.

Prediction: Vieira by submission

MIDDLEWEIGHT | Ian Heinisch [10] vs. Omari Akhmedov [14]

Omari Akhmedov will be hoping to continue his climb up the middleweight rankings when he faces Ian Heinisch, with a third win for the calendar year up for grabs. Undefeated in his last five fights and sharp upon his return to middleweight, Akhmedov is an accomplished grappler. Tuesday Night Contender Series alum Heinisch was enjoying a similar run before he ran into Derek Brunson, and should look to keep this fight on the feet with his superior boxing skills.

Prediction: Akhmedov by decision

WELTERWEIGHT | Matt Brown vs. Ben Saunders

A fight between two MMA veterans is set to open the prelims, with Matt Brown making his UFC return against Ben Saunders. A former contender and one of the baddest men to ever do it, Brown has not fought since retiring in 2017, but has regained the hunger and will look to hand Saunders a fourth-consecutive defeat. A loss either way could spell the end for either fighter.

Prediction: Brown by decision

EARLY-PRELIMINARY CARD:

FEATHERWEIGHT | Chase Hooper vs. Daniel Teymur

Prediction: Teymur by T/KO

FLYWEIGHT | Brandon Moreno [5] vs. Kai Kara-France [6]

Prediction: Kara-France by decision

W. FLYWEIGHT | Jessica Eye [2] vs. Viviane Araujo[5]

Prediction: Araujo by T/KO

MIDDLEWEIGHT | Punahele Soriano vs. Oskar Piechota

Prediction: Piechota by decision

Firework fight: Kamaru Usman vs. Colby Covington
Under the radar: Brandon Moreno vs. Kai Kara-France