All went according to plan for Bevon Lewis.
The Jackson-Wink MMA prospect kept his perfect professional record intact, as he cut down Alton Cunningham with a volley of close-quarters knee strikes in the first round of their middleweight confrontation on Season 2, Episode 4 of Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series at the UFC Training Center in Las Vegas. Cunningham (3-1) bit the dust 3:01 into Round 1.
Lewis (6-0) established himself as the superior fighter as the start and did not relent. He lured Cunningham into the clinch and picked him apart with knees, elbows and punches at close range. Lewis dropped the 25-year-old at the base of the cage, moved to the top ride and hunted a rear-naked choke. He then reset, sucked Cunningham back into the clinch and uncorked knees to the head until referee Mark Smith had seen enough.
Afterward, Lewis was awarded a UFC contract. He was not alone.
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Luttrell’s MMA export Jordan Espinosa put away former Pacific Xtreme Combat champion Riley Dutro with punches in the third round of their flyweight scrap. Dutro (11-4) succumbed to blows 4:58 into Round 3, his seven-fight winning streak having run its course.
Espinosa (13-5) had the Hawaiian reeling at various points but saved his best work for the third round. There, he floored Dutro with a crisp one-two, then caught him returning to his feet seconds later and scored another knockdown with a head kick. Espinosa pounced with punches for a potential finish before backing out for a reset. Dutro hit the canvas again on the end of a straight left in the waning moments and decided to turtle at the base of the fence, prompting Smith to intervene.
The loss snapped a seven-fight winning streak for Dutro. Like Lewis, Espinoza punched his ticket to the UFC.
Meanwhile, reigning Legacy Fighting Alliance champion Kevin Aguilar extended his run of consecutive victories to seven, as he eked out a split decision over Joey Gomez in a three-round lightweight scrap. All three cageside judges scored it 29-28, two of them siding with Aguilar (15-1).
Bleeding from a cut near his hairline, Gomez (7-1) executed a takedown in the first round and applied his ground-and-pound. His elbows were particularly effective but did not exact enough of a toll to forge a finish. Aguilar had the Hawaii-based Colorado native reeling backward with a multi-punch burst punctuated by a left hook in the second round, helping to offset another takedown. Gomez’s pace slowed noticeably down the stretch, and he played right into his opponent’s hands. Aguilar sent sweat and spit flying with a sweeping left hook in the third round and piled up points with a stiff jab and a few right crosses. More importantly, he denied Gomez’s bids for takedowns, kept himself upright and stayed in his comfort zone.
Elsewhere, Bellator MMA alum Jalin Turner was awarded a technical knockout against Checkmat representative Max Mustaki in between the first and second rounds of their lightweight pairing. Mustaki (6-3) was forced to bow out with an apparent foot injury.
Turner (7-3) controlled the majority of the exchanges. He battered Mustaki bloody with straight lefts, partially blocked head kicks, occasional knee strikes and a standing elbow, but he did real damage when he went to the body. Twice Turner doubled over his counterpart with blows to the midsection, first with a searing left hook and later with a body kick. Through it all, Mustaki kept firing back. However, at the end of the first round, the cageside physician examined his badly swollen foot and advised referee Herb Dean to call for the stoppage.
The 23-year-old Turner has won three fights in a row.
Finally, Combate Americas alum Ricky Palacios took a unanimous decision from Toby Misech in a three-round encounter at 145 pounds. All three cageside judges scored it for Palacios (10-1): 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28. The defeat was the first for Misech (9-5) in nearly four years.