Paulo Henrique Costa refused to be denied.
The undefeated former Jungle Fight champion climbed another rung on the Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight ladder, as he disposed of Uriah Hall with second-round punches in the featured UFC 226 prelim on Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Costa (12-0, 4-0) brought the firefight to a close 2:38 into Round 2.
Hall (13-9, 6-7 UFC) fought well, pumping a stiff jab into the Brazilian’s face while attempting to slow his forward progress with stinging leg kicks. Costa did not go away, even when the two-time Ring of Combat champion dropped him to a knee with a clubbing right to the side of the head in the second round. He flurried on Hall, backed him to the fence and dazed him with a left hook. Costa then fired a right uppercut to the body that brought down “The Ultimate Fighter 17” finalist and prompted referee Mark Smith to intervene.
Related » UFC 226 Round-by-Round Scoring
Consistent Assuncao Outclasses Font
Raphael Assuncao was a step ahead on the feet and on the ground, as he took a unanimous decision from Team Sityodtong’s Rob Font in a three-round undercard pairing at 135 pounds. All three judges arrived at the same verdict, casting 30-27 scorecards for Assuncao (27-5, 11-2 UFC).
Font (15-4, 5-3 UFC) ran into difficulty from the start. Assuncao sat down his counterpart with a clean one-two inside the first five minutes and continued to build his lead. He popped Font with leg kicks and sneaky counters while incorporating takedowns in the second and third rounds. Once in top position, the longtime Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt cut loose with punches, elbows and forearm strikes. Font grew more and more tentative as the fight progressed, becoming less and less of a factor as a result.
Assuncao has won four fights in a row since his unanimous decision loss to T.J. Dillashaw at UFC 200 two years ago.
Klose Downs Ineffective Vannata
Repeated calf kicks, smothering pressure and sublime counterpunching carried MMA Lab standout Drakkar Klose to a unanimous decision over Lando Vannata in a preliminary lightweight confrontation. All three cageside judges scored it 30-27 for Klose (9-1-1, 3-1 UFC), who rebounded from his Dec. 2 decision defeat to David Teymur.
Vannata (9-3-1, 1-3-1 UFC) was surprisingly ineffective. Klose zeroed in on his lower leg with kicks, countered his spinning attacks without so much as a blink and burned clock in the clinch, where he scored liberally with foot stomps and shoulder strikes. He opened a cut on Vannata with a standing elbow in the second round and survived a late ground exchange in which the Jackson-Wink MMA rep advanced to his back and set his hooks.
Close, 30, has won four of his last five bouts.
Surging Millender Sinks Griffin
Bellator MMA veteran Curtis Millender extended his run of consecutive wins to eight with a unanimous decision over former Tachi Palace Fights champion Max Griffin in a three-round undercard tilt at 170 pounds. Millender (16-3, 2-0 UFC) swept the scorecards with identical 29-28 marks from the judges.
Griffin (14-5, 2-3 UFC) executed a takedown and controlled the CSW product for much of the first round but never again managed to drag the action to the mat. Millender landed more of the consequential blows on the feet, making strong use of knees and kicks to the body. His efforts slowly wore down Griffin and left him susceptible to subsequent attacks. Millender had him reeling more than once with stabbing right hands in the third round.
The 30-year-old Millender has not lost a fight in nearly three years.
‘Hangman’ Hooker Blasts Burns
Former Australian Fighting Championship titleholder Dan Hooker put away Gilbert Burns with punches in the first round of their preliminary lightweight affair. Burns (13-3, 6-3 UFC) succumbed to blows 2:28 into Round 1, his modest two-fight winning streak at an end.
Hooker (17-7, 7-3 UFC) clipped the four-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion with a slashing straight right in the center of the cage, then cut off his bid for a takedown with a tight guillotine choke. The City Kickboxing standout reset on the feet, went to the body with a savage left hook and fired another left hook to the head. Burns hit the deck, where he was met with a closing hammerfist and required assistance from referee Mark Smith.
An emerging threat at 155 pounds, Hooker has rattled off four consecutive victories.
Well-Rounded Whitmire Handles Moyle
Xtreme Couture export Emily Whitmire posted her second win in three appearances, as she laid claim to a unanimous decision over Jamie Moyle in a three-round undercard clash at 115 pounds. All three cageside judges scored it the same: 29-28 for Whitmire (3-2, 1-1 UFC).
Moyle (4-3, 1-2 UFC) struggled to find an identity. Whitmire was superior in the initial standup exchanges, leading the dance at times and countering effectively at others. Moyle picked up the pace in the middle stanza, as she started to turn the tide with jabs, leg kicks and overhand rights. However, momentum proved fleeting. Whitmire surprised the Team Alpha Male rep with a takedown inside the first 20 seconds of Round 3 and remained in top position for the duration, leaving a final stamp on the match.