The UFC touched down in Atlantic City, New Jersey with a stacked card for a Fight Night. Edson Barboza and “The Motown Phenom” Kevin Lee squared off in the main event from to determine a title contender at 155. Lee imposed his will early by taking Edson down to the mat and keeping it there. Edson had no answer for Lee’s ground and pound and unrelenting cardio.
Edson was able to wobble Kevin in the 3rd with a head kick that badly hurt and had him dancing around the ring trying to stay upright. But Lee was able to stave off trouble by getting the fight back to the ground. The Motown Phenom pounded Barboza until midway through the fifth round when the doctor determined the cut above Edson’s eye couldn’t take any more.
In the co-main event, Frankie “The Answer” Edgar showed his championship level acumen by disposing of Cub Swanson via unanimous decision. Coming off a devastating knockout from the hands of Brian Ortega, “The Answer” came back strong and dominated in typical Frankie fashion. He outclassed Swanson on the feet for three rounds with textbook strikes coupled with his signature quick feet and body movement. With the win, Edgar jumps right back into title contender land at 145. Now for the best finishes from Saturday night…
Elsewhere on the main card, David Branch bested Thiago Santos by brutal knockout at two minutes and 30 seconds in the very first round. Santos was hurting Branch with leg kicks early, but he found his opening and capitalized to the tenth degree. The counter right surprised Santos and dropped him to the canvas where Branch finished him. The KO earned him a Performance of the Night bonus and is a statement win David’s resume.
Saturday night’s Prelim card featured fantastic finishes as well. Merab Dvalishvili and Ricky Simon both fought tremendously in what ultimately became the official Fight of the Night. Dvalishvili looked reminiscent of the aforementioned Frankie Edgar, overwhelming Simon with relentless pace and movement. Simon stayed true to his game plan and fought through the beating he received on the feet. Late in the third round, Simon wrestled Merab down to the mat and locked in a rear naked choke with about 30 seconds left.
As we watched the clock tick down anxiously, Dvalishvili struggled to stay awake. With his face as purple as a plum and his legs kicking around frantically, the ref believed him to be conscious. However just before the horn sounded, it looked as if Dvalishvili was out, and when Simon relinquished his grip Dvalishvili was motionless. It was a controversial decision as the ref originally ruled the fight had gone the full three rounds, but shortly after the end, the New Jersey Athletic Commission ruled Dvalishvili was out cold and it was deemed a submission. Regardless of the controversy, it was an incredible performance by both men that ended in the very last second in thrilling fashion.
One of the most brutal finishes in recent memory comes from Siyar Bahadurzada. His opponent Luan Chagas was on the back foot all of round one and couldn’t find an answer to Bahadurzada’s confidence on the feet. The 34-year-old seasoned vet showed remarkable knockout power and found the button midway through round two. He delivered a nasty front kick to the Chagas’ liver that had him immediately keeled over and wincing. Siyar gave Chagas one on the chin for good measure and secured the second Performance of the Night bonus. The fighter from Afghanistan showed off scary striking power and adds his name to the deep list of Welterweights on the rise.
The UFC is back in action May 12th from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for UFC 224. Legends from Brazil are on the card with Vitor Belfort, Lyoto Machida, and Ronaldo “Jacaré” Souza and Amanda Nunes will defend her Bantamweight Championship against Raquel Pennington.