Nicco Montano completed the long hike to the top of the mountain.
The Fit NHB export laid claim to the inaugural Ultimate Fighting Championship women’s flyweight title with a clear-cut unanimous decision over Roxanne Modafferi in “The Ultimate Fighter” 26 Finale headliner on Friday at Park Theater in Las Vegas. Scores were 50-45, 49-46 and 49-46, all for Montano (4-2, 1-0 UFC).
A short-notice replacement for the ailing Sijara Eubanks, Modafferi (21-14, 0-2 UFC) kept it competitive but found herself outmatched at virtually every turn. Montano spent much of the fight moving forward, hid straight left hands behind a sneaky jab, hit timely takedowns and even threatened her adversary with a triangle choke in the second round. Behind on the scorecards entering the fifth, Modafferi saw her chance at a Hail Mary victory come and go in tantalizing fashion. There, she trapped Montano in a tight armbar, only to see the former King of the Cage champion slip through her grasp.
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Dazzling O’Malley Overcomes Ware
The unbeaten Sean O’Malley made a successful promotional debut, as he captured a unanimous decision from Terrion Ware in the bantamweight co-main event. O’Malley 9-0 (1-0 UFC) swept the scorecards with 29-28 marks across the board.
Pressure was the primary weapon for Ware (17-7, 0-2 UFC). He did his best work in the second round, where he backed up O’Malley with punches and close-quarters knee strikes while turning the tide in his favor, if only briefly. O’Malley was basic at times, spectacular at others. The 23-year-old John Crouch understudy utilized a variety of kicks and darting punches. In the third round, with the outcome still in doubt, O’Malley used head movement and footwork to avoid danger and cut angles. He struck in combination and landed three late takedowns to get the job done.
Ware, 31, has lost back-to-back bouts.
Relentless Murphy Edges Honchak
MMA Lab export Lauren Murphy eked out a split decision over fellow former Invicta Fighting Championships titleholder Barb Honchak in a three-round women’s flyweight showcase. All three cageside judges scored it 29-28: Junichiro Kamijo and Jeff Mullen for Murphy, Derek Cleary for Honchak.
Murphy (10-3, 2-3 UFC) pushed back the Pat Miletich protégé with punches throughout the first round, establishing her foothold in a match that was hotly contested from start to finish. Honchak answered with a strong middle frame, where she staggered the Alaska native with a sneaky overhand right, countered effectively and incorporated leg kicks when opportunities arose. Round 3 was difficult to call. Murphy executed a pair of takedowns but also had to fend off a series of submissions, as Honchak transitioned from an armbar to a triangle choke and back to an armbar during one extended sequence. Her efforts proved fruitless, however. Murphy climbed to the back in the final minute, likely securing the nod on the scorecards.
The setback snapped a nine-fight winning streak for Honchak (10-3, 0-1 UFC), as she lost for the first time since September 2010.
Meerschaert Liver Kick Short Circuits Spicely
Roufusport’s Gerald Meerschaert cut down Eric Spicely with a brutal liver kick in the second round of their featured confrontation at 185 pounds. Meerschaert (27-9, 3-1 UFC) brought it to a close 2:18 into Round 2, as he won for the eighth time in nine appearances.
Spicely (10-3, 2-3 UFC) withstood an early onslaught in the first round, answered with a takedown and maneuvered onto the former Resurrection Fighting Alliance champion’s back. He secured his position with a body triangle and pestered Meerschaert with attempted neck cranks and rear-naked chokes, none of which were successful. Spicely absorbed a series of body kicks in the second round, the last of which folded him and rendered him incapable of going any further.
Bennett-Fabian Battle to Draw
DeAnna Bennett and Melinda Fabian fought to a majority draw in a plodding three-round women’s flyweight feature. Judge Tony Weeks saw it 29-27 for Bennett, while Jeff Mullen and Glenn Trowbridge cast matching 28-28 scorecards.
Fabian (4-3-2, 0-0-1 UFC) nearly finished it in the waning moments of the first round, where she felled her 33-year-old counterpart with a devastating head kick. Only the bell saved Bennett, as she staggered back to her corner and managed to recover between rounds. She spent the majority of her effort whiffing on low-percentage takedowns and pursuing an uneventful clinch against the cage. However, Fabian was deducted a point for grabbing the fence in the middle stanza -- a foul that proved costly when the verdict was read. Bennett (8-3-1, 0-0-1 UFC) finally assumed top position in the closing seconds of Round 3 but could not capitalize on the momentary window.
Johns Calf Slicer Dooms Soto
Former Titan Fighting Championships and Cage Warriors Fighting Championship titleholder Brett Johns submitted Joe Soto with a calf slicer in the first round of their bantamweight showcase. Soto (18-6, 3-4 UFC) conceded defeat 30 seconds into Round 1, his three-fight winning streak having run its course.
Johns (15-0, 3-0 UFC) surrendered a takedown and rolled immediately into the calf slicer. Sensing what was about to transpire, Soto attempted to free himself but had no choice but to tap.
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