Karolina Kowalkiewicz kept her name on a short list of potential title contenders in the Ultimate Fighting Championship women’s strawweight division.
Kowalkiewicz leaned on multi-punch volleys, sneaky kicks and damaging standing elbows, as she took a split verdict from Felice Herrig in the featured UFC 223 prelim on Saturday at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. All three judges scored it 29-28: Derek Cleary and Sal D’Amato for Kowalkiewicz, Chris Lee for Herrig.
Herrig (14-7, 5-2 UFC) spun her wheels at the start, rebounded and hit her stride late, but she struggled to match the Pole’s pace. Kowalkiewicz (12-2, 5-2 UFC) connected more often and landed the more telling blows, cutting off the Jeff Curran protégé with slashing elbows in the clinch and front kicks to the body. Herrig staggered the KSW veteran in the closing minute and clinched, but her bid to finish fell short, the loss snapping her four-fight winning streak.
Aubin-Mercier Knees Fold Dunham
“The Ultimate Fighter Nations” finalist Olivier Aubin-Mercier dispatched Evan Dunham with a pair of knee strikes to the body and follow-up punches in the first round of their undercard confrontation at 155 pounds. A replacement for Mairbek Taisumov, Aubin-Mercier (11-2, 7-2 UFC) brought it to a close 53 seconds into Round 1.
Unbeaten in five appearances since July 2014, Dunham (18-7-1, 11-7-1 UFC) stung the Tristar Gym representative with a straight left during their initial exchange but saw his situation deteriorate from there. Aubin-Mercier drew him into the clinch and blasted him with a knee to the body. The stricken Dunham retreated to the cage, where he was met with punches and another brutal knee to the solar plexus before a sustained burst of punches finished it.
Aubin-Mercier has rattled off four consecutive victories.
Busy Evans-Smith Denies Rawlings
Team Oyama’s Ashlee Evans-Smith put an end to a two-fight losing streak with a unanimous decision over “The Ultimate Fighter 20” alum Bec Rawlings in a preliminary women’s flyweight affair. Evans-Smith (6-3, 3-3 UFC) swept the scorecards with matching 30-27 marks.
Volume was the difference. Evans-Smith fought at a blistering pace, lighting up the Aussie with two-, three- and four-punch combinations. Short elbows, knees to the body and uppercuts buoyed her efforts in the clinch. Rawlings (7-8, 2-5 UFC) briefly turned a corner in the second round -- she connected with a stout right hand, strung together combinations and incorporated leg kicks -- but her efforts proved futile. Evans-Smith found another gear over the final five minutes, continued to pile up points and walked out with her hand raised.
Rawlings, 29, has lost four fights in a row.
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Clark Outhustles Newcomer Rodriguez
Multiple takedowns and a committed clinch carried former Resurrection Fighting Alliance champion Devin Clark to a unanimous decision over Mike Rodriguez in an undercard clash at 205 pounds. All three cageside judges scored it for Clark (9-2, 3-2 UFC): 29-28, 30-27 and 30-27.
It was not a blowout. Rodriguez (9-3, 0-1 UFC) performed well in open space, particularly with leg kicks. However, Clark was relentless. The Jackson-Wink MMA export bullied into the clinch, pressed Rodriguez into the fence and wore down the CES MMA veteran in close quarters. Clark sealed it with a strong third round, as he executed three takedowns, stayed glued to his counterpart and steered clear of danger.
The loss snapped a four-fight winning streak for Rodriguez.