Another champion bit the dust.
Tyron Woodley disposed of Robbie Lawler with first-round punches, as he became the ninth undisputed Ultimate Fighting Championship welterweight titleholder in the UFC 201 headliner on Saturday at Philips Arena in Atlanta. Woodley (16-3, 6-2 UFC) brought it to a close 2:12 into round one, as he joined Nick Diaz as the only men to have stopped Lawler with strikes.
Lawler (27-11, 12-5 UFC) never knew what hit him. Woodley dropped the champion against the fence with a blinding right hook and followed with a series of unanswered rights that forced referee Dan Miragliotta to intervene. The dazed Lawler had no chance to defend himself, his remarkable late-career run of five straight victories at an end.
Woodley, 34, will ride a three-fight winning streak into his first title defense, likely against Stephen Thompson later this year.
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Kowalkiewicz Clinch Sinks Namajunas
In the three-round co-main event, the unbeaten Karolina Kowalkiewicz cemented her place as the No. 1 contender in the women’s strawweight division with a split decision over “The Ultimate Fighter 20” finalist Rose Namajunas. All three judges scored it 29-28, Ken Coffey and Jeff Mullen for Kowalkiewicz, Chris Lee for Namajunas.
Namajunas (5-3, 3-2 UFC) countered beautifully in the first round, cutting off the KSW and Invicta Fighting Championships veteran with both hands. Kowalkiewicz made the necessary adjustment in the second, lured the Grudge Training Center standout into the clinch and battered her with knees to the body and standing elbows to the head. The work paid dividends, as Namajunas’ movements became slower, her breathing more labored.
Kowalkiewicz (10-0, 3-0 UFC) not surprisingly closed the distance again in round three. There, she uncorked more knees to the body, tagged Namajunas with a right uppercut and drove her to the mat, settling in guard. Kowalkiewicz then piled up points with ground-and-pound, avoiding armbar, heel hook and omoplata attempts from Namajunas.
Ellenberger Liver Kick Wrecks Brown
Kings MMA representative Jake Ellenberger dispatched Matt Brown with a brutal body kick and follow-up punches in the first round of their welterweight feature. Brown (20-15, 13-9 UFC) met his end 1:46 into round one, as he was finished by strikes for the first time in his 35-fight career.
Ellenberger (31-11, 10-7 UFC) floored the Xenia, Ohio, native with an overhand right inside the first 10 seconds and pounced with punches. His effort came with a price, as “The Juggernaut” became winded in his pursuit of the stoppage. Brown returned to his feet and walked down the Nebraskan with punches, the tide seemingly turned. However, Ellenberger folded Brown with a vicious liver kick from which he was unable to recover. Follow-up punches and hammerfists prompted referee Marc Goddard to act on Brown’s behalf.
The victory halted a two-fight losing streak for Ellenberger.
Perez Outduels Bloodied Rivera
Alliance MMA export Erik Perez leaned on superior movement, crisp punching combinations, well-conceived takedowns and ground-and-pound in claiming a unanimous verdict from Francisco Rivera in a three-round bantamweight showcase. Perez (16-6, 6-2 UFC) swept the scorecards with 30-26, 30-26 and 29-28 marks from the judges.
Rivera (11-7, 4-6 UFC) countered effectively but often threw in single shots. Perez cut him with a spinning elbow in the second round and punctuated his work in the middle stanza with a late takedown. Following a wild 20-second punching exchange -- both were staggered -- between the two bantamweights to start round three, Perez restored order with a takedown on the exhausted Rivera and remained in top position for roughly four minutes to salt away the victory.
The 34-year-old Rivera has lost five of his last six bouts.
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Benoit Edges Olympian SerranoLegacy Fighting Championship alum Ryan Benoit registered his seventh win in 10 appearances, as he eked out a split decision over onetime Olympian Freddy Serrano in a featured flyweight clash that ran the gamut from explosive to plodding to downright bizarre. All three cageside judges scored it 29-28, two of them siding with Benoit (9-4, 2-2 UFC).
Serrano (3-1, 2-1 UFC) emptied his magazine, trying everything from axe kicks to somersault attacks. He executed repeated takedowns but failed to consolidate the majority of them with meaningful damage or positional advancements. A short-notice replacement for the injured Ray Borg, Benoit bided his time when pinned to the mat, escaped to his feet and outstruck the Colombian wrestler in most of their standup exchanges. He had Serrano reeling with a two-punch combination in the first round and closed out the third with leg kicks at range and punches and elbows in the clinch.