Statement made, Stephen Thompson.
Thompson destroyed Johny Hendricks in the UFC Fight Night “Hendricks vs. Thompson” headliner on Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, as he disposed of the former Ultimate Fighting Championship welterweight titleholder with first-round punches. Hendricks (17-4, 12-4 UFC), who had never before been finished, wilted 3:31 into round one.
Once Hendricks misfired on his initial takedown attempt, his situation rapidly deteriorated. Thompson (12-1, 7-1 UFC) controlled the distance with his kicks, as he whipped his shins and feet into the legs, body, arms and head of the “Bigg Rigg.” He wobbled Hendricks with a right hand, sent a thrusting kick into his chest, sat him down with a probing straight left and then polished him off with unanswered punches.
Thompson, 32, has won six straight.
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Nelson Halts Three-Fight Skid
In the heavyweight co-main event, former International Fight League champion Roy Nelson outdueled a gunshy Jared Rosholt to a unanimous decision. All three cageside judges scored it for Nelson (21-12, 8-8 UFC): 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28.
Neither man offered much in the way of meaningful offense, their three-round encounter bringing out the boo birds. A three-time NCAA All-American wrestler at Oklahoma State University, Rosholt (14-3, 6-2 UFC) whiffed on his two takedown attempts and was reduced to circling and jabbing on the outside. Nelson kept the pressure on the Team Takedown rep, firing off sporadic overhand rights and winging left hooks. Some of them landed and others did not, but his efforts were enough to sway the judges.
St. Preux Dominates Listless Cavalcante
Ovince St. Preux won for the eighth time in 10 appearances, as he cruised to a unanimous verdict against onetime Strikeforce champion Rafael Cavalcante in a three-round clash at 205 pounds. Scores were 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28, all for St. Preux (19-7, 7-2 UFC).
Cavalcante (12-7, 1-4 UFC) fought like a man who had better things to do and failed to capitalize when the former University of Tennessee linebacker injured his ankle with a kick in the first round. St. Preux fought through the pain, buckled the Brazilian on more than one occasion and chipped away with punches and kicks. He moved into top position in all three rounds, bludgeoning “Feijao” with ground-and-pound. St. Preux appeared to be on the verge of a stoppage when the horn sounded at the end of round three.
Winless since November 2013, Cavalcante finds himself on a three-fight losing streak.
Benavidez Too Much for Makovsky
Joseph Benavidez overwhelmed former Bellator MMA and Resurrection Fighting Alliance champion Zach Makovsky with pace and volume, as he captured a unanimous decision in their three-round flyweight battle. All three judges sided with Benavidez (24-4, 11-2 UFC): 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28.
Makovsky (19-6, 3-3 UFC) was a step slow. Benavidez peppered him with combination punching, knees and occasional kicks throughout their 15-minute scrap. Makovsky was made to work for his takedowns, and whenever he did land them, he watched helplessly as Benavidez scrambled to his feet. By the time the third round arrived, his frustration was visible and he seemed resigned to the outcome.
Benavidez, 31, has won his last five fights.
Cirkunov Neck Crank Submits Nicholson
Misha Cirkunov submitted newcomer Alex Nicholson with a first-round neck crank in a featured attraction at 205 pounds. Nicholson (6-2, 0-1 UFC) tapped 1:28 into round two, concluding his run of five consecutive victories.
Cirkunov (11-2, 2-0 UFC) stalked and swung throughout a one-sided first round. The 28-year-old Latvian cracked Nicholson with punches and body kicks, closed the distance with ease and generally made life miserable for him. Early in the second, Cirkunov secured a takedown, climbed to the back and cinched the crank. The subsequent squeeze and twist resulted in an immediate tapout from Nicholson, who appeared to suffer a broken or dislocated jaw in the process.
Enjoying a steady rise on the light heavyweight ladder, Cirkunov has won six in a row.
Ageless Pyle Stops Spencer
Former World Extreme Cagefighting champion Mike Pyle took care of Sean Spencer with an exquisite spinning back elbow and a follow-up barrage of strikes in the third round of their welterweight showcase. Spencer (12-5, 3-4 UFC) met his end 4:25 into round three.
Pyle (27-11-1, 10-6 UFC) overcame a slow start that saw him dropped by an overhand right in the first round. He shifted the momentum with a forearm shiver in round two and turned up the heat in the third. Pyle secured a takedown and threatened with a guillotine choke before Spencer escaped to his feet. There, “Quicksand” connected with a spinning back elbow that staggered Spencer and left him vulnerable to the finish. Standing elbows and savage knee strikes came next, prompting referee Yves Lavigne to act.
The win snapped a two-fight losing streak for Pyle.