In the strawweight opener, JJ Aldrich scored a three-round unanimous decision win over Lauren Mueller.
Aldrich (8-3) showed off a little bit of everything in the opening frame, striking with confidence while also throwing in a takedown as well. Mueller (5-3) got a takedown late, but it wasn’t enough to change the result of the round. Mueller did get more aggressive with her hands in the second and when she threw with bad intentions, she did well. But after a spirited between rounds talk from coach Pat Barry, Aldrich regained control, allowing her to sail to victory via scores of 30-27 and 29-28 twice.
The standup game of Italy’s Marvin Vettori was sharp for all 15 minutes and it allowed him to leave Tampa with a shutout three-round decision over Andrew Sanchez in their middleweight bout.
Scores were 30-27 across the board for Vettori, now 14-4-1. Sanchez falls to 12-5.
Vettori looked for an early finish as he pressed Sanchez with his rapid-fire striking, but the former TUF winner took everything in stride and asked for more as he stood with his foe. As the fight progressed, Sanchez tightened things up, but Vettori wasn’t going to be denied, as he stayed a step ahead all night and secured the win.
Unbeaten Contender Series graduate Miguel Baeza put on a show for his home state fans in his UFC debut, as he stopped Hector Aldana in the second round of their welterweight bout.
Baeza was patient in the opening round, using his height and reach advantage to keep Aldana at bay. Baeza’s key weapon was the calf kick, and in the second stanza, those repeated shots downstairs paid off, as a kick to Aldana’s left leg sent the Mexican battler to the mat, where a series of unanswered punches brought in referee Michael Cardoso to stop the fight at 2:32 of round two.
With the win, Davie’s Baeza moves to 8-0. Mexicali’s Aldana falls to 4-4.
With his fifth consecutive finish, this one a third-round stoppage of Andre Ewell, Marlon Vera should find himself in the top 15 of the bantamweight division, a place the Ecuador native has earned the hard way.
Ewell was using his range well early, but everything almost went south when he missed a wild punch and Vera locked in a head and arm choke. As the fight went to the mat, Ewell was in trouble, but he stayed calm and got loose, ultimately settling into Vera’s guard. With a little under a minute left, the two stood, battling it out on the feet until the horn.
Vera used his legs well in the second round, firing off kicks at long-range and knees up close, while Ewell appeared to be rapidly tiring thanks to a steady diet of body kicks.
Keeping the pressure on, Vera took over the fight for good in the third round, and after using a guillotine choke attempt to bring the fight to the mat, he opened up with strikes that brought in Andrew Glenn to stop the fight at 3:17 of the final frame.
With the win, Vera ups his record to 15-5-1. Ewell falls to 15-6.
Brazil’s Deiveson Figueiredo delivered a statement-making victory in his bout with fellow flyweight contender Tim Elliott, submitting his foe in the first round.
As expected, the action was fast-paced from the start, but after a spell on the feet, Elliott decided to test the waters on the mat. But as he sought a takedown, Figueiredo locked in a guillotine choke, and that forced a tap out at 3:08 of the opening stanza.
The No. 3-ranked Figueiredo moves to 17-1 with the win. The No. 6-ranked Elliott, fighting for the first time since December 2017, falls to 16-9-1.
Welterweights Alex Morono and Max Griffin put on a three-round show for Tampa fans before the judges ruled Morono the victor via unanimous decision.
There was good stuff from both fighters in the first round, Griffin scoring with several hard right hands, while Morono tried to get his combos off before “Pain” could let his shots go.
The back and forth action continued into the second stanza, but Griffin did wobble Morono briefly with the right hand just before the midway point of the round. Morono cleared his head, though, and with less than a minute go, he wound up delivering the biggest shot of the frame as he dropped Griffin with a flush left kick to the head. Griffin made it back to his feet but then ate a couple knees and a spinning backfist before the horn intervened.
The 60-second break between rounds did wonders for Griffin, as he came out for the third determined to take the final frame, and three takedowns likely did that for him, even though Morono made it interesting with a couple submission attempts before the bout ended. It wouldn’t be enough, though, as the judges scored the bout 29-28 and 29-27 twice for Morono, now 17-5 with 1 NC. Griffin falls to 15-7.
Taking the fight on less than a week’s notice, lightweight Mike Davis picked up his first UFC victory in emphatic fashion, knocking out Thomas Gifford in the third round of a one-sided bout.
The speed and variety of Davis’ striking was an immediate issue for Gifford, and it only got worse as the round progressed. And though Gifford took all the shots coming his way, finally with under a minute left, he got rocked by a Davis left hand and was nearly finished.
Davis continued to batter Gifford in the second round, with only heart keeping “The Young Lion” upright. Remarkably, Gifford still came out for the third, and while he had his moments briefly, it was more of the same from Davis, who landed the finishing right hand that sent Gifford face first to the canvas and ended the bout at 4:45 of the final frame.
Daytona’s Davis moves to 8-2 with the win. Gifford falls to 17-9 with 2 NC.
In a battle of light heavyweight prospects, Ryan Spann took the patient approach against Devin Clark until he turned up the heat and ended the bout via submission in the second round.
It was a close first round without much in the way of compelling action outside of a Clark takedown and a late charge by Spann. And while Spann got a talking to from coach Sayif Saud between rounds, “Superman” was still taking his time until the second minute of round two when he rocked Clark with a left hand, exchanged punches with his foe, then locked in the guillotine choke that ended the bout at the 2:01 mark.
With the win, Spann moves to 17-5. Clark falls to 10-4.
Eryk Anders’s return to the middleweight division was a successful one, but he had to dig deep for it, as he pounded out a three-round split decision over Gerald Meerschaert.
Scores were 29-28 twice and 28-29 for Anders.
The first round belonged to Anders, whose superior punching power kept Meerschaert from getting enough time or space to score a takedown. Of course that didn’t stop Meerschaert from trying, and he came out confidently for the second stanza, where he was able to have some success both offensively and defensively with his standup game, even backing Anders up late. And while the third was close, Meerschaert rocked Anders in the final minute, only for it not be enough for “GM3” to get the nod on the scorecards.
With the win, Anders moves to 13-4. Meerschaert falls to 29-12.
Fighting in his adopted hometown of Tampa, Matt Frevola left it all in the Octagon en route to a hard-fought split decision win over Luis Pena in an exciting lightweight scrap.
Scores were 29-28 twice and 28-29 for Frevola, now 8-1-1. Pena falls to 7-2.
Frevola was throwing bombs from the start, and though Pena remained cool under pressure, the local favorite kept pushing, much to the crowd’s delight. A pair of slams only got them more excited, but Pena weathered the storm and did good work at close range, where he controlled the closing minute, rocking Frevola just before the horn.
A flush knee by Pena in the opening minute of round two staggered Frevola and prompted a takedown attempt, but Pena used a kimura to get back to his feet and the “Violent Bob Ross” went right back to work on his bloodied foe. But Frevola wasn’t going anywhere, and he was able to get in some shots in the closing stages of the frame.
The third saw neither man backing down, and as they chased a strong finish, it was Frevola who surged ahead to take the round and the decision.
Back in the Octagon just four months after giving birth, Mackenzie Dern went three hard rounds with Amanda Ribas, but it was Ribas who left with the victory via unanimous decision.
A fast-paced first round belonged to Ribas thanks to several hard right hand counters, as well as a beautiful judo throw late in the round. Dern was active throughout, but even on the mat, she wasn’t able to pull away against her well-prepared opponent. Ribas was able to keep the fight standing for much of the second stanza as well, and that served her well as her striking remained sharp. Dern’s inability to get the fight into her wheelhouse on the mat left her needing a big third round, but it was Ribas continuing to control the action as she locked up the win via three scores of 30-27.
With the win, Ribas moves to 8-1. Dern falls to 7-1.
Cape Coral welterweight Niko Price did it again, scoring a first-round knockout of James Vick that will make its way to highlight reels around the sports world.
Expected to be a Fight of the Night candidate, Price and Vick went chasing after that bonus from the time the fight began, first on the feet and then on the mat. But after Vick seemingly turned the tables on Price on the mat and postured up to land some ground strikes, Price landed with a kick to the head, and that was it for Vick, who took a couple subsequent punches before referee Herb Dean called the fight off at 1:44 of the opening frame.
With the win, Price moves to 14-3 with 1 NC. Vick, a former lightweight contender who was making his 170-pound debut, falls to 13-5.
The UFC Tampa co-main event wasn’t the fight many expected. It was better than that, as Cub Swanson and Kron Gracie went to war for three rounds, with Swanson winning a unanimous decision to snap a four-fight losing streak and hand Gracie his first pro defeat.
All three judges saw it 30-27 for the longtime featherweight contender, who ups his record to 26-11. Gracie falls to 5-1.
After a tentative start, Swanson got into an offensive rhythm and put together a brilliant first round, staying off the fence as he moved his punches and kicks everywhere on Gracie. And while the shots to the head, body and legs didn’t stop Gracie’s forward motion, it did keep him from getting the fight to the mat.
In the second minute of round two, the now bloodied Gracie got Swanson to the fence for a spell, and while he landed some punches, he wasn’t able to floor the veteran. He was getting closer, though, even pulling guard midway through, but Swanson got free and kept it standing. By the final minute, Swanson was cut over his eye and the fight had turned into a grueling war of attrition.
After two minutes of battling in the trenches to start the final round, Gracie nearly threw Swanson to the mat, but the Palm Springs native avoided danger and kept his feet. That didn’t deter Gracie, as he kept throwing, and so did Swanson. In the final minute, the fight finally went to the ground, but they didn’t stay long, as the fight fittingly ended where it began, on the feet.
Returning to the strawweight division she ruled for over two and half years, Joanna Jedrzejczyk was in championship form in the UFC Tampa main event Saturday night, as she scored a five-round unanimous decision over Michelle Waterson.
Scores were 50-45 twice and 49-46 for the No. 5-ranked Jedrzejczyk, now 16-3. The No. 7-ranked Waterson falls to 17-7.
The two traded kicks early, which surprisingly led to a takedown attempt by Waterson. Jedrzejczyk avoided the mat but was forced to defend some clinch work before getting free. Waterson kept looking to grapple with the former champ, but as the round progressed, Jedrzejczyk had more and more success with striking on the inside, allowing her to take the frame.
Jedrzejczyk didn’t stray from the game plan in the second, as she peppered Waterson with punches and kicks, producing more blood from the Albuquerque native’s nose.
Just before the midway point of round three, Jedrzejczyk mauled Waterson and dragged her to the canvas, and while they didn’t stay there long, the Poland native had sent a message to her opponent that she was willing to go wherever she needed to in order to secure the win. Yet just when Jedrzejczyk appeared to be pulling away, Waterson was able to take her down and get to her back, where she nearly sunk in a rear naked choke. Jedrzejczyk stayed cool and got to her feet, and when she escaped just before the horn, she fired off a series of strikes that had the crowd roaring.
Jedrzejczyk avoided the mat in the fourth frame and even picked up a brief takedown of her own, and around that trip to the canvas, she kept the steady pressure on with her striking, even though her right foot was shown to be badly swollen between rounds.
Refusing to give ground, Waterson gave her grappling another shot in the fifth, and with a little over two minutes left, she got to Jedrzejczyk and took her back. Jedrzejczyk rose and ultimately broke loose, avoiding the danger she was in late in the third round. With a minute left, neither fighter stopped trying to win, but by the time the final horn sounded, it was clearly Jedrzejczyk’s night.