UFC Fight Night 120 on Saturday in Norfolk marked the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s first visit to Virginia since May 2012, when it witnessed a “Fight of the Year” contender between Dustin Poirier and Chan Sung Jung. This time, Poirier was involved in a blood-soaked, back-and-forth war with former UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis at the Ted Constant Convocation Center. From top to bottom, the card was occupied by compelling matchups that pushed the UFC toward its crowded holiday schedule.
A Bloody Beatdown
Poirier stepped into the Octagon with a chip on his shoulder. After fighting to a no-contest with another former lightweight champion in Eddie Alvarez in May, the Lafayette, Louisiana, native was looking to get back to his winning ways in the main event. He did as he planned in a bloody beatdown of Pettis. Theirs was a back-and-forth affair, one in which “The Diamond” refused to relent in the grappling exchanges while landing four of his five attempted takedowns.
The fight took a turn for the worse for Pettis in the second round, where Poirier landed a hellish elbow that opened a sizeable gash above the Milwaukee native’s eyebrow. With blood flowing down his face and into his eyes, Pettis tried to stay active from his back, throwing up several triangle and armbar attempts -- he locked in two different triangle chokes -- only to have the blood work in Poirier’s favor and provide means of escape.
The “Fight of the Year” candidate came to what some saw as an anti-climactic close in the third round, as Poirier landed another takedown, secured back control and locked in a body triangle. Pettis tried to reverse position -- a feat he managed in Round 2 -- but his body failed him. He suffered an apparent rib injury in the process and tapped to the body triangle 2:08 into the third round.
UFC Fight Night “Poirier vs. Pettis” saw a number of veterans give vintage performances.
Matt Brown declared that his co-main event with Diego Sanchez would be the final fight of his career. If it was his last appearance in the cage, he left on a high note. Sanchez looked to initiate grappling exchanges at the start, held Brown against the fence and hunted double-leg takedowns that were unsuccessful. With just under two minutes left in the first round, Brown caught a body kick from “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 1 winner and had him hopping backward towards the cage. He then released the leg, created some distance and punished Sanchez with a right elbow that sent him nosediving to the canvas. “The Nightmare” was out cold. Afterward, Brown backtracked on his retirement talk and indicated he would return home to reassess his situation after speaking with family, friends and coaches. He claimed to have had one of the best training camps of his career, and his brutal knockout victory may have left the perennial fan favorite wanting more.
Meanwhile, Andrei Arlovski entered his bout with Junior Albini on a five-fight losing streak that had many observers wondering if it was time for him to move on to the next chapter in his life. Now training at American Top Team, the former heavyweight showed he had something left in the tank and took a hard-fought decision from Albini -- a Brazilian prospect who had not lost since August 2012. Arlovski declined to comment on what was next but thanked fans for their support and enjoyed being back in the win column.
Elsewhere, longtime lightweight staples Clay Guida and Joe Lauzon opened the main card. Guida continued to thrive as a member of Team Alpha Male, landing a hard overhand right behind Lauzon’s ear that staggered him just 30 seconds into the fight. “The Carpenter” followed up with a flush uppercut that floored Lauzon and set the stage for the finish. Guida then rained punches and elbows until the bout was stopped 1:07 into the first round, giving him back-to-back wins for the first time in more than six years.
Raphael Assuncao extended his latest winning streak to three fights with a third-round knockout of Matthew Lopez. Assuncao attacked with crushing inside leg kicks that hobbled Lopez and left him vulnerable to the picture-perfect right hook that knocked him unconscious. The win moved the Brazilian to 10-1 at 135 pounds, his lone loss coming to current champion T.J. Dillashaw ... Former World Series of Fighting champion Marlon Moraes recorded his first win under the Ultimate Fighting Championship flag, as he took a split decision from John Dodson in the featured prelim. It was a hotly contested battle in which Moraes locked in a guillotine choke with mere seconds to go in the fight. Dodson tapped but after time expired, sending it to the scorecards ... “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 23 winner Tatiana Suarez did not skip a beat in her return from an injury layoff. She dominated Viviane Pereira on the ground, earned a clear-cut unanimous decision and kept her undefeated record intact ... Sage Northcutt got back on track with a unanimous verdict over Michel Quinones, as he showed off superior speed and power while also mixing in takedowns. Northcutt touted his move to Team Alpha Male and believes he will continue to make improvements moving forward.