Curtis Blaydes continues to be as sharp as his name -- literally as well as figuratively.
What appeared to be well on its way to a dominant but unspectacular decision victory for Blaydes turned in an instant to a bloodbath, as the man nicknamed “Razor” split the forehead of Alistair Overeem (43-17) wide open with a series of vicious elbows. Referee Dan Miragliotta called the fight off at 2:56 of the third round of the UFC 225 preliminary card headliner.
Up until the brutal salvo that ended the fight, Blaydes (10-1) had spent the majority of the fight atop the “Demolition Man,” having taken him down with apparent ease in every round. Overeem’s only real offense consisted of a couple of heel hook attempts and a few clean strikes on the feet before being taken down.
With the win, Blaydes, who called for a title shot in the in-cage interview after the fight, moves to 5-1 (1 N/C) since his April 2016 loss to Francis Ngannou. Overeem’s late-career renaissance hits a snag, as he has now lost back-to-back fights via stoppage for the first time since 2013.
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Gadelha Slips by Esparza
In a battle of strawweight contenders, Claudia Gadelha defeated Carla Esparza via split decision in a rollicking back-and forth scrap that featured wild momentum swings in the form of exchanges on the feet as well as positional scrambles on the mat.
Gadelha (16-3) rocked the former champ with punches early in the opening stanza and threatened with a guillotine at the horn. Round two offered more of the same, as the overwhelming physicality of “Claudinha” appeared to be too much for Esparza (13-5).
Round three was Esparza’s high-water mark, as she tagged her opponent with a kick to the face and some sharp combinations early in the round, and then swept Gadelha after being slammed to the canvas. The win moves Gadelha, who sits at 0-2 to longtime divisional queen Joanna Jedrzejczyk, one step closer to a fight with new champ Rose Namajunas. Meanwhile Esparza, who already owns a win over “Thug Rose,” sees the end of her two-fight winning streak.
Bektic Tops Lamas
Mirsad Bektic continued to show why he is one of the most highly-touted prospects in the featherweight division, as he defeated Ricardo Lamas via split decision.
“The Bully” had clear difficulty dealing with the taller, stronger Bektic, as he could not mount any of his usual grinding wrestling attack, and frequently found himself stuck at the end of his striking range. To make matters worse, an accidental clash of heads early in the second round opened a cut under Lamas’ eye.
Lamas’ best round was the third, where he threatened with two deep guillotines. However, Bektic extricated himself from both chokes and ended the fight standing over his foe, landing strikes against the fence.
With the win, Bektic moves to 6-1 in the UFC. Former title challenger Lamas has now lost two straight.
De la Rocha Outlasts Coulter
In heavyweight action to open the Fox Sports 1 portion of the card, Chris de la Rocha defeated Rashad Coulter via punches and elbows in the second round.
After a back-and-forth opening period that saw both fighters come close to finishing the other, De la Rocha (5-2) took his opponent down early in the second. After several attempts at chokes and neck cranks, the Washington native settled for punching the head of Coulter (8-4) until referee Kevin MacDonald elected to wave the fight off at 3:53.
Both fighters entered the bout with 0-2 UFC marks; the 39 year-old De la Rocha moves to 1-2 in the promotion.
Smith Knocks out Reeling Evans
Anthony Smith fought like he was double-parked.
In the final fight of the Fight Pass preliminary card, Smith laid waste to former light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans in both men’s return to the 205-pound division.
Smith (29-13) and his prey clinched against the fence, where the Nebraskan pushed the smaller man’s head down with one forearm and crushed him with a knee to the head.
Evans (19-8) crumpled to the ground, where Smith tagged him with a single follow-up blow before referee Dan Miragliotta could interpose himself. The end came at 53 seconds of the first round. Smith’s win brings his UFC tally to 5-2. The loss is Evans’ fifth straight. He has not won since defeating Chael Sonnen at UFC 167 in November 2013.
Pettis Edges Benavidez
Two-time flyweight title challenger Joseph Benavidez was thwarted in his return to the Octagon after an 18-month injury layoff, as he dropped a split decision to Sergio Pettis (16-3).
The story of the fight was the near-shutout pitched by Pettis’ takedown defense. Pettis rocked Benavidez (25-4) with a flurry of punches early in the first round, a round in which he also successfully defended all but one of the Team Alpha Male rep’s takedown attempts.
The second and third rounds were far more closely contested, characterized by tense punching exchanges, Pettis’ airtight counter-wrestling, and Benavidez’s stinging low kicks. With the win, Pettis regains some of the momentum lost when his four-fight win streak was snapped by Henry Cejudo at UFC 218 last December.
‘Do Bronx’ Quickly Taps Guida
Short-notice replacement Charles Oliveira claimed yet another submission victim, his 10th in his UFC tenure, as he took out Clay Guida with a guillotine choke in front of Guida’s hometown crowd.
A couple of tentative exchanges on the feet led to “do Bronx” grabbing a front headlock in a scuffle. Oliveira (23-8) quickly jumped guard, tightening the choke as the fighters fell to the mat. Guida (34-18) was let no choice but to tap almost instantly; the end came at 2:18 of the first round.
Ige Ruins Santiago’s Homecoming
In the opening bout of the evening, featherweight Dan Ige (9-2) made short work of Mike Santiago (20-12).
After an opening flurry, theXtreme Couture product took the Santiago to the floor, where he quickly achieved back mount and locked up a body triangle. Ige then switched between thudding ground-and-pound and hunting for a rear-naked choke. After several particularly solid blows and with the Chicagoan offering little defense, referee Kevin MacDonald stopped the fight at a mere 0:50 of the first round.