Former Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight titleholder Junior dos Santos returned to the Octagon in the UFC Fight Night 133 main event on Saturday in Boise, Idaho, after a yearlong layoff due to a United States Anti-Doping Agency investigation. Found guilt-free by the organization, dos Santos made up for lost time, as he outpointed onetime World Series of Fighting champion Blagoy Ivanov with crisp, precise boxing combinations across five rounds and earned a unanimous decision.
The fight played out exclusively on the feet, where dos Santos teed off early and often with clean combos, returned to his roots and allowed himself to get in a groove following his extended period of inactivity. “Cigano” was steadfast in his approach and never attempted to rush a finish, choosing instead to keep Ivanov on the outside while utilizing his speed and striking advantages.
A sense of relief enveloped dos Santos afterward. He has alternated wins and losses over the last five years but made it known that he plans to find his championship form in the division he once ruled.
‘Money’ Still Matters
Chad Mendes stepped back into the UFC’s featherweight division following a two-year PED suspension and knocked out Myles Jury in the first round of their 145-pound feature. The win was Mendes’ first since he defeated Ricardo Lamas in April 2015.
The two featherweights spent the early stages of the fight feeling out each other: The taller Jury looked to stick to the outside and keep “Money” guessing with leg kicks and jabs, while Mendes stalked around the cage in an attempt to gain a better understanding of his opponent’s range. Two minutes in, Mendes lunged forward with a left hook that sent the Alliance MMA rep crashing to the floor. He shut down Jury’s submission attempts, forced him to turtle and rained punches until referee Jason Herzog had seen enough.
In the immediate aftermath, Mendes jokingly called out Brock Lesnar and declared, “I’m back.” He then adopted a more serious tone, explained how grateful he was to return to competition and expressed an interest in taking on a Top-5 opponent in his next appearance.
The Redemption of ‘Super Sage’
Sage Northcutt was back in the welterweight division after consecutive wins at 155 pounds. Citing the difficulty in meeting the lightweight threshold, Northcutt decided it was in his best interest to focus his efforts at 170 pounds despite a 0-2 UFC record in the weight class. “Super Sage” proved his detractors wrong in the co-headliner, as he took out Zak Ottow in a second-round knockout.
Ottow enjoyed success with his wrestling early in the bout. He planted Northcutt on the mat in the first round, worked ground-and-pound and submission attempts on the 22-year-old Team Alpha Male rep and held the vast majority of dominant positions. However, Northcutt forced his way to his feet and immediately was on the attack, forcing his counterpart backward with a blitzing combination. The opening stanza concluded with Northcutt hunting for a mounted guillotine before briefly transitioning to ground-and-pound of his own.
As Round 2 started, Ottow worked towards more grappling exchanges and again took down the Texan. However, Northcutt was no longer content to play guard and popped back to his feet. He cracked Ottow with knees from the clinch before uncorking a right hand and then a left that had the Milwaukee native in real trouble. Ottow tried for an ankle pick, only to have “Super Sage” blast away with hammerfists until the lights were out.
Rick Glenn defeated Dennis Bermudez by split decision in their featherweight showcase. Glenn found success in the standup department, as he utilized his range and reach to keep the former “Ultimate Fighter” finalist on the outside. Bermudez countered with wrestling but did not do enough in the judges’ eyes to warrant a decision. It was his fourth straight loss … Niko Price knocked out Randy Brown in the second round of their encounter at 170 pounds and earned “Performance of the Night” honors with an unorthodox hammerfist barrage from bottom position. The welterweights were involved in a series of grappling exchanges for the first five minutes, as Brown gained an upper hand and dumped Price on the canvas. Round 2 saw more of the same, but Price rolled for a kneebar and then unleashed a volley of punches from his back that separated Brown from his senses … Surging featherweight contender Alexander Volkanovski authored the most significant victory of his career, as he took a dominant unanimous decision from Team Alpha Male’s Darren Elkins at 145 pounds. Volkanovski had the notoriously durable Indiana native in trouble throughout the first round, as he blasted him with powerful hooks and straights. Elkins never managed to fully recover and continued to absorb punishment throughout the 15-minute affair. Volkanovski, 29, has won 15 fights in a row and now owns a perfect 5-0 record in the UFC.