Eddie Alvarez believed, even if few others did.
The Philadelphia native became the eighth lightweight titleholder in Ultimate Fighting Championship history, as he took out Rafael dos Anjos with first-round punches in the UFC Fight Night “Dos Anjos vs. Alvarez” headliner on Thursday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Dos Anjos (25-8, 14-6 UFC) absorbed a hellacious beating, until referee Herb Dean had seen enough and called for the stoppage 3:49 into round one.
Alvarez (28-4, 3-1 UFC) picked his spot and did not miss. The former Bellator MMA champion whipped a wide right hook around dos Anjos’ defenses and set him on rubbery legs. The Brazilian never recovered. Alvarez swarmed with an incredible burst of power punches, briefly wound up on his back after a wild attempt at a flying knee and closed out the Kings MMA rep with a final volley of violent hooks and right uppercuts along the fence.
The loss snapped dos Anjos’ five-fight winning streak and made Alvarez the first fighter in history to capture both Bellator and UFC gold.
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Lewis Downs Nelson to Win Fourth Straight
In the three-round heavyweight co-main event, former Legacy Fighting Championship titlist Derrick Lewis posted his fourth consecutive win in a split decision against “The Ultimate Fighter 10” winner Roy Nelson. All three cageside judges cast 29-28 scorecards: Dave Hagen and Glenn Trowbridge for Lewis, Adalaide Byrd for Nelson.
Lewis (16-4, 7-2 UFC) did some serious damage inside the first five minutes, particularly with knees and kicks to the body. The famously durable Nelson, his rotund midsection bruised, waded through the artillery, pushed the fight deeper and switched gears on the fatigued “Black Beast.” He executed repeated takedowns, passed guard with ease and utilized his ground-and-pound in spurts. However, he failed to corral Lewis on the floor, as the massive Texan returned to his feet each time he hit the mat.
Nelson (21-13, 8-9 UFC) struck for multiple takedowns in the third round but saw much of his good work erased following a restart from referee John McCarthy. Lewis let his powerful hands go and sent spit flying with a wicked right uppercut in the final minute -- a memorable exclamation point to the most significant victory of his career.
Jouban Outduels Game Muhammad
Alan Jouban withstood a furious comeback attempt from promotional newcomer Belal Muhammad, as he walked away with a hard-earned unanimous decision over the reigning Titan Fighting Championships titleholder in a featured showdown at 170 pounds. Jouban (14-4, 5-2 UFC) swept the scorecards with 28-27, 29-28 and 29-27 marks from the judges.
A replacement for the injured Nordine Taleb, the previously unbeaten Muhammad survived three knockdowns to make his presence known. Floored by a left hook and head kick in round one and a counter left in round two, the 27-year-old refused to go away. Muhammad (9-1, 0-1 UFC) found a home for his right hand in the third round, smashing his counterpart with hooks, straights and uppercuts while applying maximum pressure with his forward movement. Though he had Jouban ducking for cover at times and retreating at others, the finish he needed never materialized.
Duffy Chokes Clarke in 25 Seconds
Tristar Gym’s Joseph Duffy submitted Mitch Clarke with a rear-naked choke in the first round of their lightweight showcase. Clarke (11-4, 2-4 UFC) yielded to the choke 25 seconds into round one, as the Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt tapped out for the first time in his 15-fight career.
A clubbing right hand from Duffy (15-2, 3-1 UFC) sent the Jackson-Wink MMA-trained Canadian crashing face first to the canvas. The dazed Clarke rolled to his back and largely defended the Irishman’s follow-up attack. However, Duffy transitioned to the back, secured the choke and forged the submission.
Duffy, 28, has recorded five wins across his past six outings.
Mina Sinks ‘Quicksand’ Pyle
Kings MMA standout Alberto Mina knocked out former World Extreme Cagefighting champion Mike Pyle with a flying knee and follow-up punches in the second round of their preliminary welterweight affair. Pyle (27-12, 10-7 UFC) succumbed to blows 1:17 into round two.
Mina (13-0, 3-0 UFC) wasted no time in neutralizing the 40-year-old Tennessee native, as he drove the man they call “Quicksand” to the canvas with a pair of left hooks in the first round. A little more than a minute into the second, he cut down Pyle with the flying knee and then knocked him unconscious with subsequent punches and hammerfists.
Makdessi Edges Baghdad on Scorecards
John Makdessi threw the brakes on a two-fight losing streak, as he earned a split verdict against onetime Resurrection Fighting Alliance titleholder Mehdi Baghdad in a three-round undercard encounter at 155 pounds. All three cageside judges scored it 29-28: Junichiro Kamijo and Tony Weeks for Makdessi, Sal D’Amato for Baghdad.
Baghdad (11-5, 0-2 UFC) was the busier fighter throughout the 15-minute match, stinging the Canadian with leg kicks and two- and three-punch combinations. The notoriously difficult-to-hit Makdessi was more efficient, blending feints and deft footwork with effective counters. Baghdad had him reeling for a brief moment in the third round, where an overhand right and knees upstairs did the damage. Makdessi (14-5, 7-5 UFC) recovered -- an ill-advised flying armbar attempt from his opponent aided his cause -- and eventually buckled Baghdad with a right hand before swooping into top position and riding out the remaining seconds.
Birchak Awarded Split Decision
Anthony Birchak won for the seventh time in nine outings, as he eked out a split decision over Nova Uniao’s Dileno Lopes in a preliminary bantamweight tilt. Scores were 29-28 (Derek Cleary) and 29-28 (Patricia Morse Jarman) for Birchak, 30-27 (Lester Griffin) for Lopes.
Lopes (18-3, 0-2 UFC) ran out of steam after the first round, where he twice advanced to the back of the former Maximum Fighting Championship titleholder. Birchak (13-3, 2-2 UFC) nearly sat down the Brazilian with a left hook in the second round, nullified his takedown game over the final 10 minutes and zeroed in with knees to the body and punches to the head. Lopes struggled with output down the stretch, as his conditioning failed him when he needed it most.
Bloodied Munhoz Guillotines Doane
Former Resurrection Fighting Alliance champion Pedro Munhoz submitted Russell Doane with a first-round guillotine choke in a brief but action-packed undercard scrap at 135 pounds. Munhoz (12-2, 2-2 UFC) drew the curtain 2:08 into round one.
Doane (14-6, 2-3 UFC) came out firing. The onetime King of the Cage and Tachi Palace Fights titleholder blasted Munhoz with knees to the head and winging punching combinations, opening a cut near the Kings MMA rep’s hairline. Munhoz was undeterred, answered with a takedown and then snatched the guillotine when Doane rose to his feet.
The 29-year-old Doane has now suffered back-to-back-to-back defeats.
Opportunistic Arantes Dispatches Sanders
Macaco Gold Team’s Felipe Arantes forced a verbal submission from onetime NCAA All-American wrestler Jerrod Sanders with a second-round armbar in a preliminary bantamweight skirmish. Arantes (18-7-1, 5-3-1 UFC) closed the deal 99 seconds into round two.
Sanders (15-3, 1-2 UFC) had the fight where he wanted it, only to be lulled into a false sense of security. The 35-year-old World Series of Fighting alum scrambled into top position in the first round, achieved full mount and piled up points with ground-and-pound and positional control. His attempt to replicate that success did not go as he hoped. Arantes yielded a takedown and absorbed some ground-and-pound early in round two but caught the armbar from the bottom for the finish.
The 28-year-old Arantes has rattled off three wins in four appearances.
Burns Armbar Finishes Sajeweski
Four-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion Gilbert Burns submitted Lukasz Sajewski with a first-round armbar in an undercard clash at 155 pounds. Sajewski (13-2, 0-2 UFC) requested intervention from referee Jason Herzog 4:57 into round one.
Burns (11-1, 4-1 UFC) wobbled the Pole with a crushing right hand before following with a knee strike to the head, another right hand and a thrusting front kick to the face. The Blackzilians export executed a takedown with a little less than a minute to go in the first round, moved to the back and threatened the choke. Burns then transitioned to the armbar and coaxed the tapout.
Surging Beltran Taps Vieira
Marco Beltran tapped “The Ultimate Fighter Brazil” Season 4 winner Reginaldo Vieira with a second-round rear-naked choke in their preliminary bantamweight battle. Beltran (8-3, 3-0 UFC) finished it 3:04 into round two.
Vieira (13-4, 1-1 UFC) kept the Mexican prospect bottled up with takedowns and clinches throughout much of the first five minutes, but success was short-lived. After being taken down again in the second round, Beltran landed a pair of upkicks, the second of which had a dazed Vieira retreating to his back and diving on an ill-advised leg lock. Beltran extricated himself, wheeled to the back and cinched the fight-ending choke.
The defeat halted a three-fight winning streak for Vieira, who was submitted for the first time in nearly five years.
Luque Choke Submits Herrera
Blackzilians rep Vicente Luque submitted Alvaro Herrera with a second-round brabo choke in an undercard pairing at 170 pounds. Herrera (9-4, 1-1 UFC) conceded defeat 3:52 into round two, bringing an end to his modest two-fight winning streak.
Luque (9-5-1, 2-1 UFC) softened “The Ultimate Fighter Latin America” Season 2 graduate with kicks to the body and legs before running him through a series of takedowns and ground-and-pound. Herrera’s gas tanks slowly but surely bled dry, leaving him vulnerable to the choke late in the second round. Luque snaked his arms in place at the base of the fence, squeezed and forced the tap.
The 24-year-old Luque has won three of his last four fights.