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Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC
One week, it’s Southeast Asia. The next week, it’s central Texas.
The UFC followed last Saturday’s pay-per-view event in Singapore with a 10,000-mile jaunt to the east for a rare Fight Night show away from its Las Vegas home.
The Moody Center in Austin hosted what turned out to be a 13-bout card that lost its co-main event on the morning of the show when veteran lightweight Joe Lauzon pulled out with a knee injury apparently suffered at Friday’s weigh-in.
The 38-year-old, inactive since 2019, was scheduled to face fellow O.G. Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone but took to Instagram on Saturday morning to break the cancelation news.
“The freakiest, weirdest thing ever,” he said. “I weigh-in officially, everything is fine. … I go to put my socks on, I turn my knee out, and my knee locks out. … I’m trying not to make a scene and let people know I got a problem with my knee.
“Eventually, I hopped on one of my cornerman’s back, acted like I was choking him like we were joking … but I couldn’t stand. I couldn’t walk at that point.”
A bantamweight bout matching Adrian Yanez and Tony Kelley was elevated from the preliminary card to maintain a six-bout main show that was headlined by world-ranked featherweights Calvin Kattar and Josh Emmett.
The announcing team of Brendan Fitzgerald, Daniel Cormier and Dominick Cruz handled blow-by-blow and analysis for the ESPN broadcast, and Megan Olivi worked the rest of the room for features and breaking news.
It was just the third Fight Night show of 2022 away from the Apex facility and the first since a visit to the Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, in late March.
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Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC
It was a hard act to follow.
On a card that had seen nine finishes and eight knockouts, including six in the first round, it would have been difficult for Kattar and Emmett to top what had already occurred.
So while the featherweights combined to land 237 significant strikes over 25 minutes, and each finished the fight swollen and bleeding, it wasn’t the same.
After all, one more KO would have yielded a record for a UFC card.
And it didn’t help that the judging was a bit questionable, too.
In the end, seventh-ranked contender Emmett won a split decision over his fourth-ranked foe, earning a pair of 48-47 nods (3-2 in rounds) to offset a 48-47 dissenter for Kattar.
B/R’s scorecard agreed with the minority and had it 48-47 for Kattar, who landed 130 significant strikes to Emmett’s 107, including a 75-43 margin across the final two rounds.
“I thought I won,” Emmett said. “I thought I had it 4-1, as a matter of fact.”
The Arizona native and California resident pressed forward for the majority of the fight and tended to do better in rounds where he was more active. He was especially effective in Rounds 2 and 3 while staying busy and forcing Kattar backward while winging power shots, but he seemed impacted by a bloody cut over his left eye in Rounds 4 and 5.
It was his ninth win in 11 UFC fights since 2016 and 18th in 20 fights as a pro.
And it prompted him to speak directly to Dana White during a post-fight interview with Cormier to campaign for bigger events at 145 pounds.
“Dana, give me my shot,” he said. “I believe I deserve it.
“Calvin Kattar was ranked fourth, and look at the guys he’s fought. They’ll be a big featherweight fight in two weeks, and I’ll be ringside looking to see who I’ve got next. [Max] Holloway and [Alexander] Volkanovski are two of the best featherweights of all time. All respect to them. But I can get it done.”
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Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC
Maybe he should have been a welterweight all along.
Fort Worth resident Kevin Holland made his second appearance at 170 pounds since moving down from middleweight and was successful for the second straight time, punishing rugged foe Tim Means before finishing him with a second-round d’arce choke.
It was his 23rd win in 31 pro fights, his first submission win in six fights, and perhaps the most complete effort against a qualified opponent since his UFC debut in 2018.
“He looked great,” Cruz said. “Holland looked incredible tonight.
“Very professional. A beautiful performance.”
Three months after his debut in the weight class against Alex Oliveira, Holland was quicker and more agile than his 38-year-old foe while pasting him with quick, precise strikes.
He fended off Means’ attempts to get the fight to the floor in the first round, then dropped the Oklahoma native to his knees with a punch early in the second.
From there, he isolated Means’ left arm, locked his own right arm around Means’ neck and drew the tap at 1:28.
“Two wins at welterweight, both in the second round,” Holland said.
“I need to get you guys a first-round finish. I think I can submit anyone in the world, to be honest. We don’t slow down, we step it up.”
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Carmen Mandato/Getty Images
Sometimes it’s a KO of the Year. Sometimes it’s a beatdown.
But make no mistake, Joaquin Buckley likes it either way,
The muscular middleweight took the latter route to a third consecutive victory on Saturday’s main card, battering former training partner Albert Duraev with heavy strikes until his Russian foe was kept from continuing by a doctor’s stoppage at the start of Round 3.
“He’s been known for the one and done. This time it was volume,” Cruz said.
“This is the best he’s looked in all his fights.”
The win lifted Buckley to 15-4 as a pro and 5-2 in the UFC and was his 11th victory by KO.
It came five fights and 20 months after a viral finish of Impa Kasanganay on Fight Island but was just as effective as Duraev’s left eyelid was hideously swollen, and his right cheekbone was cut and puffy as well thanks to precise left hands and high kicks.
Buckley landed 30 strikes across 10 minutes, dropped Duraev twice with punches and successfully defended seven of nine takedown attempts. The former allies were contentious at Friday’s weigh-in and continued the tension before the fight, but embraced afterward.
“This is war. We ain’t friends. We enemies. Then once the ref stops the fight we’re brothers,” he said. “I wanted to show my wrestling defense. I got my ass back up and we got to fighting again. We did a lot of running (to work on conditioning). Nonstop. Until I couldn’t go no more. Hard work. Hard grind.”
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Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC
In a word, Yanez was motivated.
The native Texan got a huge pop from a partisan crowd and immediately used that energy to punish Kelley, who’d flipped-off that crowd during intros and baited him at Friday’s weigh-in.
Additional chatter between the fighters during the early going of their bantamweight match did nothing to lessen his aggression on the way to a TKO win at 3:49 of the first round.
“He started talking s–t to me in the middle of the fight and I told myself, ‘Nah, I’m gonna get you for those words,'” Yanez said. “‘I’m gonna show you how Texans do it.'”
Indeed, the Houston resident worked through Kelley’s kicks and scored well to the head and body with punches. He wobbled Kelley badly with a combination punctuated by a right hand before sending him to his knees with a left hook to the jaw.
Five more ground strikes followed before referee Kerry Hatley literally dove in between the fighters, tripping over Kelley’s prone body in the process, to push Yanez away.
It was Yanez’s fifth straight win since arriving to the promotion following a stint on Dana White’s Contender Series in 2020 and his first fight away from the Apex facility in Las Vegas.
He landed 36 of 68 strike attempts (53 percent) and improved to 16-3 with 12 finishes.
“He’s good,” Cormier said. “What can you say? The kid’s really good.”
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Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC
Maybe they had dinner reservations.
Or maybe they wanted to get back to the hotel to catch golf on TV.
Either way, it was clear the fighters on Saturday’s preliminary show were anxious to handle business without wasting a lot of time.
Five of the seven early-card bouts ended before their scheduled three-round distance, including four in the first round and three in less than 90 seconds.
Predictably, highlight-reel KOs were frequent, with Roman Dolidze stopping Kyle Daukaus with a knee, Ricardo Ramos erasing Danny Chavez with a spinning back elbow and Jeremiah Wells ending Court McGee with a shot Fitzgerald dubbed “a left hook from hell.”
Cody Stamann blitzed Eddie Wineland with a flurry of hard, flush punches and Phil Hawes was a marathon man in comparison before a late second-round stoppage of Deron Wells arrived thanks to a vicious barrage of elbows.
Strawweights Maria Oliveira and Gloria de Paula were the first to go 15 minutes in the night’s fourth bout, won by Oliveira by split decision, and flyweights Jasmine Jasudavicius and Natalia Silva also went the distance before Silva won unanimously on the scorecards.
“(It was) another big moment in my life that I will never forget,” said Ramos, who now has two of the five spinning back elbow KOs in UFC history. “After you repeat a technique 10,000 times (in training) it becomes one of the best things you do. I always work on it.”
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Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC
Josh Emmett def. Calvin Kattar by split decision (47-48, 48-47, 48-47)
Kevin Holland def. Tim Means by submission (d’arce choke), 1:28, Round 2
Joaquin Buckley def. Albert Duraev by TKO (doctor’s stoppage), 0:10, Round 3
Damir Ismagulov def. Guram Kutateladze by split decision (28-29, 29-28, 30-27)
Gregory Rodrigues def, Julian Marquez by KO (punches), 3:18, Round 1
Adrian Yanez def. Tony Kelley by TKO (punches), 3:49, Round 1
Natalia Silva def. Jasmine Jasudavicius by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-27)
Jeremiah Wells def. Court McGee by KO (punch), 1:34, Round 1
Ricardo Ramos def. Danny Chavez by KO (spinning back elbow), 1:12, Round 1
Maria Oliveira def. Gloria de Paula by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Cody Stamann def. Eddie Wineland by TKO (punches), 0:59, Round 1
Phil Hawes def. Deron Winn by TKO (elbows), 4:25, Round 2
Roman Dolidze def. Kyle Daukaus by KO (knee), 1:13, Round 1