Mike Pierce introduced Carlos Eduardo Rocha to a perfectly executed game plan, and it was not a pleasant experience for the 30-year-old Brazilian.
Pierce (14-5, 6-3 UFC) broke Rocha’s spirit in the clinch, struck for well-timed takedowns and controlled him on the mat with strategic ground-and-pound en route to a split decision at UFC on FX 3 “McCall vs. Johnson 2” on Friday at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Fla. All three cageside judges scored it 30-27: two of them for Pierce, the other inexplicably for Rocha.
In his first appearance in over a year, Rocha (9-2, 1-2 UFC) had no answers for the man standing in front of him. Pierce peppered him with left hands, bullied him in the clinch and delivered takedowns in all three rounds. The 31-year-old Oregonian closed with a flourish, as he swarmed on a grounded Rocha in the final seconds, putting an exclamation point on the victory. Pierce still has never lost consecutive fights as a professional.
Baczynski Garners Split Nod, Edges Benoist
“The Ultimate Fighter” Season 11 alum Seth Baczynski recorded his fourth win an as many outings, as he took a split decision from the previously unbeaten Lance Benoist in a preliminary welterweight bout. Two of the three cageside judges scored it for Baczynski (16-7, 3-1 UFC) by matching 29-28 counts; a third cast a dissenting 30-27 nod in favor of Benoist (6-1, 1-1 UFC).
Benoist landed takedowns in all three rounds, but his opponent delivered the strikes of consequence on the feet, including a third-round knee from the Thai plum that left his foe with a nasty vertical gash near his eyebrow. The 30-year-old Baczynski closed all three frames in a dominant position, perhaps impacting the decision in his favor.
Grice Dominates Garcia, Notches Decision
Takedowns, a heavy top game and relentless ground-and-pound carried Matt Grice to his first UFC win in nearly five years, as he defeated former WEC title contender Leonard Garcia by unanimous decision in a lopsided undercard encounter at 145 pounds. Grice (15-4, 2-4 UFC) swept the scorecards by matching 30-27 counts, securing his first victory inside the promotion since October 2007.
Grice struck for takedowns in all three rounds and compromised his befuddled foe’s guard with a steady stream of punches, elbows, forearms and even shoulder strikes. He nearly finished in the first round when he caught a scrambling Garcia in a north-south choke. The hold failed. Grice’s resolve did not, and he proceeded to punish the Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts veteran for the better part of 15 minutes.
“I know it wasn’t the most exciting fight for some of the fans, but Leonard is a really tough guy,” Grice said. “I wanted to stand a little more, but I think I broke my foot on the first kick, so I stuck with the takedowns and it worked great for me.”
Pague Choke Submits Papazian
“The Ultimate Fighter” Season 14 alum Dustin Pague submitted Jared Papazian with a first-round rear-naked choke in a preliminary bantamweight affair. Papazian, a former King of the Cage champion, asked out 3:21 into round one.
Pague (11-5, 1-1 UFC) lured the aggressive Californian into the Thai plum and struck for a beautiful trip takedown from the position. He landed in mount, softened Papazian (14-8, 0-2 UFC) with punches and elbows and forced him to surrender his back. Pague calmly fished for the choke, locked it in and coaxed the tapout for his first UFC victory.
“Words can’t describe it. It feels amazing,” Pague said. “The original plan was to keep my distance. Jared does a good job of attacking, but we said if he does get in close to clinch up and work for the takedown and then work the ground game.”
Means Wipes Out Salas in 66 Seconds
Former three-division King of the Cage champion Tim Means needed a little more than a minute to dispatch Justin Salas in a one-sided undercard matchup at 155 pounds. Salas (10-4, 1-1 UFC) met his end 66 seconds into round one.
Means (18-3-1, 2-0 UFC) countered a leg kick from the Grudge Training Center representative and staggered Salas with a straight left hand during an initial exchange. Salas never recovered. Means pursued him with calculated aggression, blasting him with knees and punches. The valiant Salas tried but failed to stay in the fight. A final sprawl left him grounded and vulnerable, and the lanky, 6-foot-2 Means finished it with a series of jackhammer right hands.
“It felt real good. Salas is a grinder and a great opponent. I couldn’t be happier right now,” said Means, who has rattled off nine wins in a row. “People look at my physique and don’t think I’m powerful, but if you give me the opportunity, I’m going to try to take you out.”
Roberts Wins UFC Debut, Streak Reaches Six
Stiff right hands and stellar takedown defense buoyed Buddy Roberts, as the Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts export cruised to a unanimous decision and knocked Caio Magalhaes from the ranks of the unbeaten in a preliminary middleweight bout. All three cageside judges ruled in favor of Roberts (12-2, 1-0 UFC): 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28.
The 29-year-old Roberts has won six fights in a row.
Staggered by an overhand right inside the first 10 seconds, Magalhaes (5-1, 0-1 UFC) never got in gear. The 24-year-old Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt was denied repeatedly in the clinch, as Roberts stymied most of his single- and double-leg takedowns. Magalhaes finally put Roberts on the ground late in the third round, but a telegraphed leg lock allowed the American to return to his feet, where he sealed the deal with a beautiful right uppercut.
Jackson’s MMA Rep Martinez Outpoints Magalhaes
Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts representative Henry Martinez won for the fifth time in six appearances, as he captured a split decision over former Cage Fighting Championship titleholder Bernardo Magalhaes in a plodding undercard bout at 155 pounds. Martinez (9-2, 1-1 UFC) won two scorecards with counts of 29-28, 30-27 and 28-29.
Martinez shut down the Australia-based Brazilian’s takedown game, stayed busy on the feet and did not allow his opponent to get comfortable for a majority of their 15-minute encounter. The 30-year-old Magalhaes (11-3, 0-2 UFC) has lost back-to-back fights for the first time as a professional.
Pierson Outduels Hecht, Halts Skid
Superior standup and some slick topside grappling carried Sean Pierson to a unanimous decision over Fiore MMA representative Jake Hecht in a preliminary welterweight bout. All three cageside judges scored it 29-28 for Pierson (12-6, 2-2 UFC), who threw the brakes on a two-fight losing streak.
Pierson weathered a first-round takedown, scrambled into top position and passed his foe’s guard without much resistance. In round two, the 36-year-old Canadian’s hands became more of a factor, as he peppered Hecht (11-4, 1-2 UFC) with combinations and kept himself upright. Hecht fought with a sense of urgency down the stretch, scoring with another takedown, but his work over the final five minutes was not enough to erase the deficit facing him.