Glover Teixeira’s heavy-handed finish of “Suga” Rashad Evans capped off an outstanding card in Tampa Saturday. The night gave us a mix of exciting finishes and nail-biting decisions, two of which may have determined title contenders in the second half of the year.
The night’s main event featured #7 Rashad Evans attempting to climb back into the top five of the light-heavyweight division at the expense of #4 Glover Teixeira, who’s coming off back to back stoppage wins. Glover once again tapped into the spirit of his idol Mike Tyson and delivered a crushing left hook on Rashad’s jaw, dropping him to his hands and knees. Glover followed up with a right to Suga’s jaw, turning out the lights completely. It was Glover’s 15th career stoppage win by KO/TKO. The win plants Glover firmly in the top tier of the division with Bones, Gus, DC, and Rumble. After the fight he suggested a fight with Anthony “Rumble” Johnson, an idea which appealed to UFC president Dana White.
“You know I don’t make fights after fights, but I’ve got to be honest when he called (Johnson) out, I like that fight.” -Fox Sports
The co-main event was very likely a title-eliminator contest at strawweight between #3 Rose Namajunas and #4 Tecia Torres. Most of the contest played out as a stand-up chess match with “Thug” Rose utilizing her ever-improving boxing, particularly a very effective jab, and Torres more a mix of karate kicks and blitzing strikes. Rose’s wrestling has become a big part of her game. She scored two timely late-round takedowns at the end of rounds one and three which may have made the difference. She earned a split decision win, avenging the loss she suffered to Torres in their Invicta days. The judges only unanimously agreed on one round, the second for Namajunas who finished the last ten seconds pressing Torres with combinations. The press corps was split right down middle with 9 for Rose, 9 for Tecia, and 2 had it a draw (mmadecisions.com). In the post-fight press conference Rose expressed that she’s willing to take some time off and await the winner of Claudia Gadelha and Joanna Champion in July.
The #2 lightweight Khabib Nurmagomedov made his highly anticipated return against a very brave Darrell Horcher who took the fight on 9 days notice, making his UFC debut in the process. Horcher has smooth hands, and the Dagistani product showed him respect in the first two minutes of round one. The Eagle was very careful on his entry for a takedown yet the southpaw Horcher did manage to have some success with his left. Khabib seemed to decide enough was enough, shot a slick single leg into a double, lift-carry-dump takedown. Horcher defended well on the bottom for a time, keeping his half-guard and controlling Khabib’s posture until around a minute to go in the round when Khabib began passing and striking, ending the round on Horcher’s back raining down strikes to his ears. The fight ended the next round with Khabib in the same position hitting a prone Horcher.
After the fight Khabib expressed no interest in fighting again before the holiday Ramadan, which ends in early July. He’s undefeated, and he’s the last fighter to beat the reigning champion Rafael Dos Anjos. Assuming RDA gets by an always game Eddie Alvarez in July the rematch makes a lot of sense.
The main card kicked off with a battle of top ten featherweights. #6 Cub Swanson made his return to the octagon almost a full year after his loss to Max Holloway against tenth-ranked Hacran Dias, who’s trying to keep building momentum and get his third straight victory. Swanson dropped two straight after building a very impressive six fight winning streak over some of the better fighters in the division and took some time to rest and reset, and it paid off.
Swanson played it safe in round one by design, finding his range and timing. In between rounds one and two his coaches gave him the green light to let loose. From that point on Cub outclassed Dias with his darting, evasive style. He dropped the Nova Uniao product with a slick left hook-low kick combo and did some good work while standing to a grounded Dias. Round three saw more of the same, the highlight being a overhand right/left head kick sequence, dropping Dias once again. The rejuvenated Swanson won a unanimous decision going away, solidifying his position as a top five gatekeeper at worst for the 145 pound division.
One of the night’s biggest winners was undoubtedly fourteenth-ranked Michael Chiesa who fought #7 Beneil Dariush in the prelim main event. In round one Dariush was reading Chiesa’s movement well and successfully implemented his varied muay thai attack. He finished the round with a takedown, locking it into the scorecards in his favor. However in round 2 Chiesa landed a body lock takedown on the BJJ blackbelt and transitioned quickly to Benny’s back where he immediately locked in hooks. From then on Benny was on the defensive against Chiesa’s rear-naked choke attack. Chiesa never got his arm under the chin, yet he got a good enough crank across Benny’s jaw that he forced a tap.
The win will likely move Chiesa up into the top ten, at the very least ahead of Al Iaquinta at 11, who he already has a submission win over. Post-fight Chiesa called out Tony Ferguson, which would be one hell of a scrap.
The rest of the night’s results:
Raquel Pennington def Bethe Correia by split decision
Santiago Ponzinibbio def Court McGee by KO/TKO 4:15 rd 1
Mike Graves def Randy Brown by Submission 2:31 rd 1
John Dodson def Manny Gamburyan by KO/TKO :47 rd 1
Cezar Ferreira def Oluwale Bamgbose by unanimous decision
Elizeu Zaleski def Omari Akhmedov by KO/TKO 3:03 rd 3
Bonuses: Fight of the Night-Zaleski vs Akhmedov, Performance-Teixeira, Chiesa