Fabricio Werdum now holds interim gold. | Photo: Josh Hedges/UFC/Getty/Zuffa
Midnight took the form of a Fabricio Werdum lightning strike for MMA’s Cinderella Man.
Werdum stopped 2001 K-1 World Grand Prix winner Mark Hunt with a second-round knee and follow-up punches, as he claimed the interim Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight crown in the UFC 180 headliner on Saturday at Mexico City Arena in Mexico City. The two-time Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships gold medalist closed out Hunt 2:27 into the second round.
A replacement for injured champion Cain Velasquez, Hunt (10-9-1, 5-3-1 UFC) controlled the first round with his striking and a takedown, and he twice dropped the Brazilian with right hands. However, he never came close to a finish. Werdum landed a crushing knee in the center of the cage midway through round two and pounced on the dazed kiwi with punches and hammerfists. Hunt, 40, did not recover.
Werdum (19-5-1, 7-2 UFC), who figures to face Velasquez in a unification bout sometime in early 2015, has won five fights in a row, three of them finishes.
Gastelum Choke Sinks Ellenberger
In the welterweight co-main event, “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 17 winner Kelvin Gastelum submitted Jake Ellenberger with a first-round rear-naked choke. Ellenberger (29-9, 8-5 UFC) asked out of the match 4:46 into round one, as he suffered a third straight defeat.
Gastelum (10-0, 5-0 UFC) was on the march from the start. Ellenberger stood him up with a two-punch combination, but the heavy-handed Nebraskan lost what little momentum he possessed by surrendering a takedown soon after. The two welterweights later returned to their feet, and Ellenberger struck for a takedown of his own. However, the unbeaten Gastelum scrambled to his back, softened him with punches and landed the choke in one fluid motion for the finish.
Lamas Guillotine Taps Bermudez
Former title contender Ricardo Lamas submitted Dennis Bermudez with a first-round guillotine choke in a pivotal featherweight showcase. Bermudez (14-4, 7-2 UFC) tapped out 3:18 into round one, his run of seven consecutive victories at its end.
The two men spent much of their time jockeying for position in the clinch. After they separated, Lamas (15-3, 6-1 UFC) sat down “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 14 finalist with a stiff left jab, attacked his exposed neck with a guillotine, rolled into a mounted position and awaited his opponent’s surrender.
Lamas, 32, has won nine times in his last 11 outings, losing only to featherweight champion Jose Aldo and Iuri Alcantara.
Montano Knees Dispatch Heatherly
Jungle Fight alum Augusto Montano recorded his fifth win in a row, as he put away Chris Heatherly with a volley of knees to the head and body in the first round of their featured matchup at 170 pounds. The end came 4:50 into round one.
Heatherly (8-3, 0-2 UFC) executed a takedown inside the first minute, but his offense was limited at best. Montano attacked with lunging punches and knees, one of which backed up the American and had him ducking for cover against the fence late in the round. Sensing a finish was in reach, “Dodger” unleashed. Montano (14-1, 1-0 UFC) slammed one knee after another into the ribs and head of Heatherly, who remained standing but offered nothing in terms of intelligent defense.
Urbina Drops Guillotine on Garcia
American Top Team’s Hector Urbina submitted Edgar Garcia with a first-round guillotine choke in a welterweight showcase. Urbina (17-8-1, 1-0 UFC) secured the tapout 3:38 into round one.
Garcia (14-4, 0-3 UFC) moved to a quick advantage, delivering a takedown after catching a kick. He then transitioned to Urbina’s back, set his hooks and fished for a rear-naked choke. In his haste, he squandered his positional advantage. Urbina tried an anaconda choke, returned to his feet and then caught Garcia in the finishing guillotine during an exchange along the fence.
The defeat halted Garcia’s streak of four straight wins.
Rodriguez Last ‘TUF: Latin America’ Featherweight Standing
Well-timed takedowns and superior jiu-jitsu spurred Yair Rodriguez to a unanimous decision over the previously unbeaten Leandro Morales in “The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America” featherweight final. Rodriguez (4-1, 1-0 UFC) swept the scorecards with matching 29-28 marks.
Morales (4-1, 0-1 UFC) enjoyed some success on the feet, particularly with his kicks, but did not have enough to overcome his deficiencies on the ground. Rodriguez executed takedowns in each of the first two frames, achieving full mount once and threatening with various submissions, from armbars to heel hooks, on the mat.
The two featherweights fought to a virtual stalemate on the feet over the final five minutes, as Rodriguez picked up his second straight victory.
Perez Crowned ‘TUF: Latin America’ Bantamweight Winner
Alejandro Perez leaned on a steady diet of leg kicks and crisp punching combinations, as he captured a unanimous verdict from Jose Alberto Quinonez in “The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America” bantamweight final. All three judges ruled in favor of Perez (15-5, 1-0 UFC), casting 29-26, 29-26 and 28-27 scores for the Jungle Fight alum.
Quinonez (3-2, 0-1 UFC) had his moments. The Alliance MMA product struck for a takedown in the first round and briefly had Perez on the run with punches in the second. However, any realistic shot at victory went out the window in the third, where Quinonez was penalized two points for an intentional head butt from top position. Needing a finish, the 24-year-old went all-in on a last-second guillotine choke but failed to elicit a tapout.
Perez, 25, has won five of his past six bouts.
Eye Stops Smith on Ruptured Ear
Last Stand Fight Team’s Jessica Eye forced a second-round stoppage against Leslie Smith due to a ruptured cauliflower ear in a preliminary women’s bantamweight scrap. Referee Herb Dean called a halt to the match on the advice of the cageside physician 1:30 into round two, despite vehement protests from Smith (7-6-1, 1-2 UFC).
Eye (11-2, 1-1 UFC) utilized her speed advantage and lit up the Invicta Fighting Championships veteran with heavy punching combinations. One of her punches landed directly on Smith’s ear in the first round, spewing blood and resulting in a grotesque split in the flesh. The injury only grew worse in the second frame, where subsequent punches from Eye had the ear dangling perilously from Smith’s head and drew Dean’s attention.
Benitez Guillotine Silences Morrison
American Kickboxing Academy representative Gabriel Benitez choked Humberto Brown Morrison unconscious with a third-round standing guillotine in an undercard battle at 145 pounds. Morrison (4-5, 0-1 UFC) passed out and collapsed 30 seconds into round three.
Outside of a few takedowns and the occasional clubbing right hand, Morrison was never a factor. Benitez (17-4, 1-0 UFC) neutralized him with repeated submission attempts in the clinch and clean punching combinations at a distance. In the third round, the 26-year-old Mexican backed up Morrison with a lunging knee, locked in a standing guillotine on the ensuing exchange and sealed the deal.
Benitez has rattled off three consecutive wins.
Briones Choke Submits Canneti
Enrique Briones submitted Guido Canneti with a second-round rear-naked choke in a preliminary bantamweight affair. Canneti (6-2, 0-1 UFC) conceded defeat 1:44 into round two, his four-fight winning streak snapped in decisive fashion.
Briones (16-4, 1-0 UFC) was on the run for much of the first round, as his Argentinian adversary brutalized him with a series of body kicks. Shin met ribs on several occasions, but the San Diego-based Mexican survived. In the second round, Briones felled Canneti with a counter right uppercut, pounced with punches on the ground and cinched the fight-ending choke.
The 34-year-old Briones is 7-0-1 over his past eight appearances.
Beltran Edges Jackson’s Vera
Takedowns, ground-and-pound and stubborn submission defense carried Marco Antonio Beltran to a unanimous decision over Marlon Vera in an undercard tilt at 135 pounds. All three cageside judges scored it the same: 29-28 for Beltran (6-3, 1-0 UFC).
Beltran did his best work in top position, where he battered the Jackson-Wink MMA representative with elbows. He dodged a pair of near finishes in the second round, as he freed himself from two rear-naked chokes and later achieved full mount. Vera (6-2-1, 0-1 UFC) made his move in the third, where he drove his Mexican counterpart into the ground, dropped elbows and framed a late brabo choke. However, the finish stoppage he needed did not present itself.
The victory halted a three-fight losing streak for Beltran.