Luke Rockhold needed a round to knock off the rust after a 15-month layoff. Once he did, the onetime Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight titleholder zeroed in on David Branch.
Rockhold struck the former two-division World Series of Fighting champion with second-round punches in the UFC Fight Night 116 headliner on Saturday at the PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh. Branch (21-4, 3-3 UFC) tapped to strikes 4:05 into Round 2, his run of 11 straight victories at an end.
Not all went according to plan for Rockhold (16-3, 6-2 UFC), who appeared for the first time since being upset by Michael Bisping at UFC 199. The 32-year-old American Kickboxing Academy star struggled to gain a foothold in the fight in the first round, as Branch met him with merciless forward pressure and had him reeling against the cage with power punches at one point. Rockhold withstood the assault and pushed the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt into the second round. He struck for a takedown with a little more than two minutes left in the frame, climbed immediately to mount and started dropping punches. Branch rolled from his back to his stomach in an unsuccessful bid to free himself. Punches continued to fall until the 35-year-old Renzo Gracie protégé decided he had endured enough.
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Perry Knee Fells Reyes
Team Sparta’s Mike Perry wiped out former King of the Cage champion Alex Reyes with a knee strike in the first round of their welterweight co-main event. A short-notice replacement for Thiago Alves, Reyes (13-3, 0-1 UFC) bit the dust 79 seconds into Round 1.
Perry (11-1, 4-1 UFC) paid no mind to the Octagon newcomer. He ensnared Reyes in a collar tie along the fence and started ripping punches and elbows. Perry fired a knee strike up the middle that flipped the switch. Reyes stiffened before falling to the mat, where he ate a standing-to-ground hammerfist from “Platinum Mike” before referee Keith Peterson could rescue him from further abuse.
The 26-year-old Perry has posted back-to-back victories since his Dec. 17 decision defeat to Alan Jouban.
Smith Stops Fading Lombard
Anthony Smith disposed of onetime Bellator MMA champion Hector Lombard with third-round punches in their middleweight showcase. Lombard (34-8-1, 3-5 UFC) wilted 2:33 into Round 3, as the 39-year-old suffered his fourth consecutive setback and remained winless since March 2014.
Smith (28-12, 4-2 UFC) sputtered out of the gate. Lombard chewed into his lead leg with inside and outside kicks, closed the distance and let his hands fly with rolling right and left hooks. Near the end of the second round, Smith sprang to life. A thudding right knocked Lombard off-balance and seemed to shake the Cuban judoka’s confidence and resolve. Midway through Round 3, Smith sent a knifing right hand crashing into his counterpart’s face. Lombard folded and covered up in a kneeling position on the canvas, a follow-up punching volley from Smith sealing his fate.
A former Cage Fury Fighting Championships and Victory Fighting Championship titleholder, Smith finds himself on a three-fight winning streak.
Gillespie Arm-Triangle Submits Gonzalez
Former Ring of Combat champion Gregor Gillespie submitted Jason Gonzalez with an arm-triangle choke in the second round of their featured lightweight clash. Perhaps seconds from blacking out, Gonzalez (11-4, 1-2 UFC) conceded defeat 2:11 into Round 2.
Neither man was tentative, as they engaged in a series of blistering exchanges on the feet throughout a memorable first round. Gillespie (10-0, 3-0 UFC) walked through a pair of head kicks, dropped the Millennia MMA rep with a slashing right hand and executed multiple takedowns, climbing to mount on two occasions.
Gillespie elected to forgo the standup early in the second round, secured another takedown and once again achieved full mount. From there, the four-time NCAA All-American wrestler went to work on the arm-triangle. Gonzalez offered up substantial resistance but ultimately yielded to his advances.
Surging Usman KOs Moraes
“The Ultimate Fighter” Season 21 winner Kamaru Usman knocked out Sergio Moraes in the first round of their welterweight showcase. Usman (11-1, 6-0 UFC) drew the curtain 2:48 into Round 1, handing the longtime Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt his first defeat since June 23, 2012.
Moraes (12-3-1, 6-2-1 UFC) stood and traded with the Combat Club export, doing all he could to keep him at bay. Usman chipped away with kicks to the lower leg, stalked the 35-year-old with power punches and waited for his opportunity. A straight right hand pierced Moraes’ defenses and sent him somersaulting to the canvas in a semi-conscious state. Usman threw in a hammerfist before referee Dan Miragliotta could arrive on the scene.
Usman, 29, has won 10 fights in a row.
Unbeaten Ledet Outpoints Anyanwu
Justin Ledet kept his perfect professional record intact with a split decision over former Cage Fury Fighting Championships titleholder Azunna Anyanwu in a three-round heavyweight feature. All three judges struck 29-28 scorecards: Dave Brogan and Cardo Urso for Ledet, Eric Colon for Anyanwu.
A short-notice fill-in for the injured Dmitriy Sosnovskiy, Anyanwu (14-5, 0-1 UFC) performed far better than most anticipated. He tagged Ledet (9-0, 3-0 UFC) with a number of overhand rights to the head and right hooks to the body. However, Anyanwu had no answer for the Texan’s jab. Utilizing a height, reach and speed advantage, Ledet stung the 36-year-old over and over again, mixing in occasional left hooks and short right hands. By the time it was over, Anyanwu’s right eye was nearly swollen shut.
The loss snapped Anyanwu’s five-fight winning streak.
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