Marlon Moraes gained some traction in the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s bantamweight division, though not in the decisive manner he had hoped.
The former World Series of Fighting champion notched his 14th win in 15 outings, as he was awarded a split decision over John Dodson in the featured UFC Fight Night 120 prelim on Saturday at the Ted Constant Convocation Center in Norfolk, Virginia. All three cageside judges scored it 30-27, two of them siding with Moraes (19-5-1, 1-1 UFC).
Dodson (19-9, 8-4 UFC) decked the Brazilian with a blinding left hand in the first hand, but his bid to finish yielded nothing of consequence. Fouls overshadowed the 15-minute battle, as Moraes was warned after an accidental groin strike and an inadvertent eye poke. Frustration built in Dodson, who swung wildly at times and doubled up on his left hand at others. Moraes zeroed in on the legs, head and body with kicks while sneaking in counters whenever possible. He seemed to seal the win in the closing seconds, when he trapped Dodson in a tight guillotine that elicited a tapout after the bell.
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Unbeaten Suarez Dominates Pereira
“The Ultimate Fighter 23” winner Tatiana Suarez kept her perfect professional record intact and did so in overwhelming fashion, as she cruised to a unanimous decision over Viviane Pereira in a preliminary women’s strawweight tussle. In her first fight since July 8, 2016, Suarez (5-0, 2-0 UFC) prompted 30-27, 30-27 and 30-26 nods from the judges.
The outcome was never in doubt. Suarez executed takedowns in all three rounds, consolidated them with positional dominance and applied her ground-and-pound with varying degrees of intensity. Pereira (13-1, 2-1 UFC) offered little in terms of meaningful resistance. Suarez did her best work in the middle stanza, where she achieved full mount and battered the former Bitetti Combat champion with punches, elbows and hammerfists from top position.
Rebounding Northcutt Bests Quinones
Team Alpha Male’s Sage Northcutt bounced back from a Dec. 17 submission loss to Mickey Gall with a unanimous decision over Michel Quinones in a three-round undercard scrap at 155 pounds. Northcutt (9-2, 4-2 UFC) carried the scorecards with 30-27s across the board.
The speed difference between the two lightweights was stark. Quinones (8-3, 0-2 UFC) was forced to feet off his back foot and was largely ineffective outside of a handful of low kicks. Nortchutt worked over the Bellator MMA veteran with snapping right hand counters, blitzed the 32-year-old with punching combinations and integrated the spectacular kicks for which he has become known when opportunities arose. He also mixed in timely takedowns at the end of the first and second rounds.
Ansaroff Surprises Favored Hill
American Top Team export Nina Ansaroff announced her arrival as a contender, as she picked up a unanimous decision against former Invicta Fighting Championships titleholder Angela Hill in a preliminary women’s strawweight match. All three cageside judges scored it 29-28 for Ansaroff (8-5, 2-2 UFC).
Hill (7-4, 1-4 UFC) found herself outgunned in a fight that was contested almost entirely on the feet. Ansaroff leaned on crisp punching combinations and thudding leg kicks for much of the 15-minute confrontation. Hill did what she could to switch gears, only to run into the fists and feet of an opponent with sharper skills.
Strickland Handles ‘Ultimate Fighter’ Winner McGee
A penetrating jab and airtight takedown defense carried onetime King of the Cage titleholder Sean Strickland to a unanimous verdict over “The Ultimate Fighter 11” winner Court McGee in their three-round undercard clash at 170 pounds. Strickland (19-2, 6-2 UFC) swept the scorecards with 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28 marks from the judges.
McGee (18-7, 7-6 UFC) never found the right combination, despite his incessant forward movement and commitment to leg kicks. Strickland chipped away with jabs and sharp right hands, all while utilizing an effective sprawl to counteract McGee’s advances. He struck for a takedown late in the third round, advanced to the back and hunted for the rear-naked choke. While McGee denied his advances, the decision was his.
Strickland, 26, has won four of his last five fights.
Collier Outduels Fortuna, Returns to Win Column
Former Resurrection Fighting Alliance champion Jake Collier posted his eighth win in 11 appearances, as he captured a three-round unanimous decision from Marcel Fortuna in a preliminary light heavyweight affair. All three cageside judges scored it for Collier (11-4, 3-3 UFC): 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28.
Fortuna (9-3, 1-2 UFC) had his chances -- he mounted the American in the second round -- but failed to capitalize on his opportunities. Collier staggered the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt with an overhand left in Round 1 and remained the aggressor for the majority of the fight, outstriking Fortuna in the standup exchanges while holding his own on the ground.
The 32-year-old Fortuna has suffered back-to-back defeats.
Roberson Choke Submits Stewart
Cage Warriors Fighting Championship and Ring of Combat alum Karl Roberson made a successful promotional debut, as he submitted Darren Stewart with a rear-naked choke in the first round of their undercard pairing at 185 pounds. Stewart (7-2, 0-2 UFC) tapped 3:41 into Round 1.
Roberson (6-0, 1-0 UFC) rang the Brit’s bell with a series of uppercuts, forced him into a tie-up and tossed him to the canvas. The 27-year-old Octagon newcomer maneuvered onto Stewart’s back and cinched the fight-ending choke after a considerable struggle.
It was the fifth first-round finish of Roberson’s six-fight career.