Tom Lawlor made up for lost time.
In his first appearance in more than two years, Lawlor knocked out former Ring of Combat champion Gian Villante with a counter right hook at UFC on Fox 16 “Dillashaw vs. Barao 2” on Saturday at the United Center in Chicago. Lawlor (10-5, 6-4 UFC) finished it 27 seconds into round two, announcing his return to the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s 205-pound division in grand fashion.
Villante (13-6, 3-3 UFC) was in charge for a majority of their preliminary light heavyweight duel. He blistered Lawlor’s lead leg with kicks while also targeting his ribs and arms. Lawlor searched for an opening and found it in the second round, where he smashed the forward-moving Villante with a short right hook on the button. The 30-year-old Strikeforce veteran folded where he stood, as Lawlor followed him to the canvas, fed him a few punches and triggered referee Robert Madrigal’s intervention.
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Miller Outduels Kick-Minded Castillo
Jim Miller put his 14th UFC win in the books and put an end to a two-fight skid with a split verdict over Team Alpha Male’s Danny Castillo in a three-round undercard tilt at 155 pounds. Two of the three judges scored it for Miller, 29-28 and 30-27; a third saw it 29-28 for Castillo.
Miller (25-6, 14-5 UFC) was at his best in the first round, where he scrambled into top position after absorbing a high kick, advanced to full mount and made a run at a triangle choke before “Last Call” escaped to his feet.
Rounds two and three were closely contested. Miller zeroed in on the legs and body with kicks, while mixing in the occasional straight left to the head. Castillo (17-9, 7-6 UFC) answered with a burst of kicks to the arms and head, the impacts echoing through the arena. He made a final bid to sway the judges late in the fight when he scrambled into side control and kept Miller pinned to the canvas as the seconds ticked away.
Saunders Edges Robertson, Wins Third Straight
American Top Team’s Ben Saunders picked up his third consecutive victory, as he eked out a split decision against Kenny Robertson in a preliminary welterweight confrontation. All three judges scored it 29-28, two of them giving Saunders the edge.
Robertson (15-4, 4-4 UFC) exchanged with “The Ultimate Fighter 7” grad throughout the three-round match, and many of his winging punches found a home. One of them, an overhand right to the temple, briefly dropped Saunders in round one. However, the Floridian answered with a stream of knees and kicks to the body and arms, slowing Robertson’s progress. Saunders (17-6-2, 7-3 UFC) also controlled the action on the ground, as he threatened with an omoplata in the first round and bloodied the Central Illinois Combat Club representative with mission-control elbows from the bottom in the third.
The defeat halted Robertson’s three-fight winning streak.
Caraway Downs Returning Wineland
Forward pressure, a digging jab, sneaky left hooks and a number of overhand rights carried Xtreme Couture Mixed Martial Arts’s Bryan Caraway to a unanimous decision over former World Extreme Cagefighting champion Eddie Wineland in an undercard scrap at 135 pounds. Caraway (20-7, 5-2 UFC) swept the scorecards with 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27 marks from the judges.
Wineland (21-11-1, 3-5 UFC), who had been sidelined for more than a year by a broken jaw that had him contemplating retirement, never found a rhythm. Caraway stayed in his face with punches, utilized some dirty boxing in close quarters and did not let the threat of a takedown stray too far from his mind. Wineland gave his counterpart pause with two looping right hands in the third round, but the opportunity to secure the finish he needed failed to materialize.
The 31-year-old Wineland has lost three of his last four bouts.
Krause Choke Submits Cruickshank
Resurrection Fighting Alliance vet James Krause submitted Daron Cruickshank with a first-round rear-naked choke in a preliminary lightweight affair. Cruickshank (16-7, 6-5 UFC) conceded defeat 1:27 into round one, bowing for the second time in as many appearances.
Krause (22-7, 3-3 UFC) walked down the Michigan Top Team rep with punches, delivered a takedown and immediately moved to the back. From there, he set his hooks and cinched the choke, the outcome soon becoming a formality.
Holbrook Split Decision Stuns Nijem
Andrew Holbrook kept his perfect professional record intact with a controversial split decision over “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 13 finalist Ramsey Nijem in a three-round undercard battle at 155 pounds. All three judges saw it 29-28, two of them siding with Holbrook (10-0, 1-0 UFC), a short-notice fill-in for the injured Erik Koch.
Nijem (9-6, 5-5 UFC) struck for takedowns in all three rounds and twice had the Octagon rookie reeling with punches on the feet. Holbrook utilized a hyperactive guard that generated multiple submission attempts, including a tight brabo choke in the second round and a kneebar in the third. Nijem escaped both, assumed top position and let his hands go, only to see his grind go unrewarded on the scorecards.
Phillips Weathers Reeling Duke
Sikjitsu’s Elizabeth Phillips banked two rounds and withstood a late charge from Jessamyn Duke for a unanimous decision in a preliminary women’s bantamweight clash. All three cageside judges scored it the same: 29-28 for Phillips (5-3, 1-2 UFC), who snapped a two-fight losing streak.
Rounds one and two belonged to Phillips, as she was superior in the scrambles, achieved full mount on multiple occasions, worked her ground-and-pound and put her punches together on the feet. However, all the good work came at a cost. Phillips ran out of gas in the third round, leaving the door open for the CSW export. There, Duke punched well in combination, fired off knees in close quarters and consolidated a pair of takedowns with effective ground-and-pound. The 29-year-old Kentucky native positioned herself for a Hail Mary armbar in the closing seconds, only to see time run out as she was extending the arm.
Duke has lost three in a row.
Cummings Blasts Debuting Steele
“The Ultimate Fighter” Season 17 alum Zak Cummings put away reigning CES MMA champion Dominique Steele with first-round punches in an undercard pairing at 170 pounds. A short-notice replacement for the injured Antonio Braga Neto, Steele (13-6, 0-1 UFC) succumbed to blows 43 seconds into round one.
Cummings (18-4, 3-1 UFC) wasted neither time nor energy. He floored Steele with a straight left and swarmed with follow-up punches, focusing more on accuracy than intensity. The staggered Steele tried to escape but found only more punishment, his defensive efforts proving fruitless.
The 30-year-old Cummings has rattled off five wins over his past six outings.