UFC 173 Prelims: ‘Ultimate Fighter’ Winner Michael Chiesa Dominates Francisco Trinaldo

By Brian Knapp May 24, 2014
Michael Chiesa thoroughly dominated Francisco Trinaldo at UFC 173. | Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

Michael Chiesa imposed his will through patience, persistence and pure technique.

Takedowns, ground-and-pound and a heavy top game spurred “The Ultimate Fighter 15” winner to a unanimous decision over Francisco Trinaldo at UFC 173 “Barao vs. Dillashaw” on Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. All three cageside judges scored it for Chiesa (11-1, 4-1 UFC): 30-27, 30-26 and 30-26.

Trinaldo (14-4, 4-3 UFC) was never much of a factor. Chiesa steered clear of his power when upright, struck for timely takedowns and went to work from top position. The 26-year-old Aurora, Colo., native was at his best in the first round, where he remained in full mount for nearly two minutes, bashing Trinaldo with short punches and elbows.

Surging Ferguson KOs Kikuno

“The Ultimate Fighter” Season 13 winner Tony Ferguson won for the eighth time in nine appearances, as he knocked out former Deep champion Katsunori Kikuno with a ringing right cross in the first round of their undercard battle at 155 pounds. Ferguson (15-3, 5-1 UFC) brought it to a close 4:06 into round one.

Kikuno (22-6-2, 1-1 UFC) tagged “El Cucuy” during their initial exchanges, as the Japanese karateka kept him off-balance with his awkward, hands-down approach. However, a pair of sharp left hands turned the tide for Ferguson, who had his foe on the run with straight punching combinations. He later threatened with a brabo choke before resuming his assault on the feet, eventually cracking Kikuno with a right hand to the jaw that sent him crashing to the mat, his head bouncing off the canvas.

The loss snapped a six-fight winning streak for the 32-year-old Kikuno, who had never before been knocked out.

Undefeated Holdsworth Dominates Camus

Team Alpha Male’s Chris Holdsworth passed the most significant test of his career, as he captured a one-sided unanimous verdict from Chico Camus in an undercard match at 135 pounds. All three cageside judges scored it the same: 30-27 for the unbeaten Holdsworth (6-0, 2-0 UFC).

Camus (14-5, 3-2 UFC) -- who replaced the injured Kyung Ho Kang on short notice -- enjoyed some success standing, but he was rarely allowed to operate there. Holdsworth grounded him with relative ease, short-circuiting him with a smothering top game that alternated between ground-and-pound and submission attempts. “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 18 winner moved to mount in all three rounds, establishing his superiority over Camus.

Clarke Chokes Iaquinta Unconscious

MMA Lab export Mitch Clarke left Al Iaquinta unconscious with a second-round brabo choke in a preliminary lightweight encounter. Clarke (11-2, 2-2 UFC) closed the deal 57 seconds into round two.

Iaquinta (8-3-1, 3-2 UFC) controlled much of the match. The Serra-Longo Fight Team representative staggered Clarke with a right hand in the first round, followed him to the canvas and slid into side control, working his ground-and-pound from the top. In the second, Clarke lured Iaquinta back to the ground, countered a guard pass with the choke from the bottom and hooked “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 15 finalist’s leg with his own, leaving him no means of escape.

The defeat halted Iaquinta’s three-fight winning streak.

‘From Hell’ Pichel Overwhelms Njokuani

“The Ultimate Fighter” Season 15 alum Vinc Pichel cruised to a unanimous decision over World Extreme Cagefighting veteran Anthony Njokuani in an undercard tilt at 155 pounds. Pichel (9-1, 2-1 UFC) swept the scorecards with 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 marks.

Njoukuani (16-8, 3-4 UFC) was given no space through which to execute his game plan. Pichel turned on the jets in the second round, where he swarmed the Nigeria-born Texan with clinches and neutralized him with one takedown after another. The 31-year-old Lancaster, Calif., native appeared close to a finish at one point in the frame, as he tagged the exposed Njokuani with thudding right hands on the ground. The muay Thai stylist survived, only to be taken down three times and mounted twice over the final five minutes.

Sicilia Spoils Phillips Debut

Takedowns, ground-and-pound and superior topside grappling carried “The Ultimate Fighter 15” graduate Sam Sicilia to a unanimous decision over the previously unbeaten Aaron Phillips in a preliminary featherweight affair. All three cageside judges scored it for Sicilia (13-4, 3-3 UFC): 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27.

Phillips (5-1, 0-1 UFC), who replaced the injured Doo Ho Choi, did well in the standup, as he backed up his counterpart with a series of kicks and knees to the body. However, Sicilia closed the distance without much resistance and repeatedly dragged the still-green Louisianan to the canvas. He piled up points and put the finishing touches on the victory in round three, where he grounded Phillips, attacked with standing-to-ground punches and eventually set up shop in side control.

China’s Li Edges Michaud

China Top Team’s Jingliang Li made a successful Octagon debut, as he took a split decision from “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 16 alum David Michaud in an undercard scrap at 170 pounds. Two of the three cageside judges, Junichiro Kamijo and Tony Weeks, scored it for Li (9-2, 1-0 UFC) by 29-28 and 30-27 scores; a third, Dave Hagen, cast a dissenting 29-28 nod in Michaud’s favor.

Leg kicks, takedowns and ground-and-pound were the weapons of choice for Li, though a stiff jab also served him well. A replacement for the injured Danny Mitchell, Michaud (7-1, 0-1 UFC) did his best work in the second round, where he briefly moved to the Chinese import’s back. Li closed with a flourish, as he grinded on the South Dakotan from top position late in the fight, freeing himself from a desperation guillotine choke.


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