Even the sturdiest of chins has its limits.
American Top Team’s Yves Edwards knocked out Jeremy Stephens 1:55 into the first round of their lightweight duel as part of the UFC on Fox 5 “Henderson vs. Diaz” prelims on Friday at the Key Arena in Seattle. Stephens (20-9, 7-8 UFC), who entered the cage with 28 professional fights to his credit, had never before been knocked out.
Edwards (42-18-1, 10-6 UFC) cracked the Iowan with a short counter right hook, dropping Stephens where he stood. He followed the dazed “Lil’ Heathen” to the mat and swarmed with hammerfists and punches, ultimately finishing it with a nasty elbow to the face.
“When he went down, I thought he was out for a second, but his eyes were still open so I jumped on him,” Edwards said. “I was like, ‘I can’t let this guy recover. This guy has a good chin.’ So, I had to take him out.”
Assuncao Slows Easton Ascent
Raphael Assuncao took another significant step forward at 135 pounds, as he captured a unanimous decision from former Ultimate Warrior Challenge champion Mike Easton in a preliminary bantamweight encounter. All three judges ruled in favor of Assuncao (19-4, 3-1 UFC), who has won four of his last five fights.
Crisp counterpunching was the story, as the Brazilian met the oncoming Easton (13-2, 3-1 UFC) with rights and lefts, interrupting his rhythm and racking up points on the scorecards. Assuncao failed to get his takedowns in gear, but it mattered little against an opponent who seemed unwilling or unable to make adjustments on the fly. Easton moved forward, and Assuncao kept measuring him for counters.
A Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt under Lloyd Irvin, Easton was effective when he kicked to the legs, but, more often than not, he settled for power punches, most of them finding nothing but air. With that, his eight-fight winning streak was over.
‘Ultimate Fighter’ Finalist Nijem Downs Proctor
A stout chin, a few takedowns and some high-risk, high-reward strikes carried “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 13 finalist Ramsey Nijem to a unanimous verdict over Joe Proctor in an undercard matchup at 155 pounds. All three cageside judges scored it for Nijem (7-2, 3-1 UFC): 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28.
Nijem stormed out of the gate, bloodying his opponent’s mouth with a jumping front kick and follow-up ground-and-pound in the first round. Rounds two and three were far more competitive, but Proctor (8-2, 1-1 UFC) never managed to turn the corner. He threatened Nijem with a guillotine choke in the second round and an armbar in the third, only two see both opportunities slip away and his adversary assume dominant positions.
The defeat halted Proctor’s four-fight winning streak.
Cruickshank Kick KOs Martinez
Daron Cruickshank knocked out Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts representative Henry Martinez with a beautiful second-round head kick in their preliminary catchweight match. Martinez (9-3, 1-2 UFC), who was over weight for the bout, went down 2:57 into round two.
Cruickshank (12-2, 2-0 UFC) had the Bellator Fighting Championships veteran reeling in the first round, as he planted his foot in the New Mexican’s solar plexus. A series of head and body kicks followed on the folded Martinez, but the 29-year-old refused to go away despite the visible agony on his face.
In the second round, Cruickshank picked up where he left off. He lured his foe to the center of the cage and fired high with an exquisite kick, his foot wrapping around Martinez’s head, shin striking neck and skull. Martinez collapsed, and Cruickshank’s arms rose in a triumphant salute.
“Henry’s a tough guy,” Cruickshank said. “There’s no pushovers here. I was always taught if you take out the body, the head will come.”
Trujillo Knees Stop LeVesseur
Blackzilians export Abel Trujillo dazzled in his promotional debut, as he put away decorated amateur wrestler Marcus LeVesseur with a series of savage knee strikes to the body in the second round of their undercard duel at 155 pounds. A late substitute for former three-division King of the Cage champion Tim Means, LeVesseur (22-7, 1-2 UFC) met his end 3:56 into round two.
Airtight takedown defense, brutal work in close quarters and blinding hand speed carried Trujillo (10-4, 1-0 UFC) to his fifth consecutive victory. The 29-year-old Florida-based lightweight blasted LeVesseur with elbows to the head and back in response to repeated takedown attempts. The volleys slowly broke the Minnesotan’s spirit.
In the third round, Trujillo countered a weak single-leg, pinned his turtled opponent against the cage and let loose with a savage series of knees that forced the stoppage.
Siver Overwhelms, Outpoints Phan
Dennis Siver recorded his sixth win in seven appearances, as he overwhelmed “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 12 alum Nam Phan en route to a lopsided unanimous decision in a preliminary featherweight bout. All three cageside judges scored it for Siver (21-8, 10-5 UFC): 30-24, 30-25 and 30-26.
The 33-year-old Russian-born German was in charge from the beginning. Siver went to work with kicks in the first round, targeting Phan’s lead leg, head and body. His offensive onslaught only grew in scope, as he mixed in straight right hands, left jabs, left hooks and the spinning back kicks for which he has become known. A late replacement for the injured Eddie Yagin, Phan (18-11, 2-4 UFC) did little more than absorb punishment for 15 minutes.
Siver added takedowns to his attack in rounds two and three, twice moving to mount and battering Phan from above with elbows, punches, forearms and occasional hammerfists.
Jorgensen Choke Dispatches Albert
Scott Jorgensen submitted “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 14 alum John Albert with a first-round rear-naked choke in a competitive undercard battle at 135 pounds. Albert (7-4, 1-3 UFC) conceded defeat with one precious second remaining in round one.
The bantamweights spent almost their entire encounter on the ground, exchanging sweeps and scrambles. Jorgensen (14-6, 3-2 UFC) spent more time in top position, as he launched short elbows to the head and freed himself from a triangle choke. Late in the first round, the Twisted Genetiks representative moved to Albert’s back during an attempted escape, cinched the choke and flattened out the Dennis Hallman protégé for the last-second finish.
“I know I was short [on] time,” Jorgensen said, “and I knew I had to squeeze my butt off.”