UFC 231 is now available on Amazon Prime.
Two Ultimate Fighting Championship titles were on the line at UFC 231 on Saturday in Toronto, as Max Holloway put his featherweight crown on the line against Brian Ortega in the main event and Valentina Shevchenko met Joanna Jedrzejczyk to decide the fate of the vacant women’s flyweight belt in the co-headliner. However, this installment of the Geek for Technique series focuses on what went down on the prelims.
Aleksandar Rakic defeated Devin Clark by technical knockout in the first round. Early on, Clark landed several illegal knees that the referee somehow failed to notice but still could not slow down his counterpart. Clark later decided to run forward with a wild lead hook, and Rakic made him pay with an old-school counter backfist that set up the finish. Rakic has emerged as one of the more promising prospects at 205 pounds and now owns a 3-0 record in the UFC.
Carlos Diego Ferreira stopped Kyle Nelson via technical knockout but not without wading through some significant adversity. Nelson found early success with his kickboxing and landed several clean overhand rights, snap kicks to the sternum and even a high kick on the clinch break. However, in the second round, the newcomer’s pace slowed tremendously. Ferreira heated up and put away Nelson with ground-and-pound 1:23 into the period.
Dhiego Lima authored one of the best knockouts of the year with a beautiful lead hook to Chad Laprise. Lima was wobbled by multiple clean leg kicks early, but just when it seemed Laprise was about to take over, the Atlanta-based Brazilian took a slight angle inside the closed guard, feinted the jab and landed a perfect lead hook. It was reminiscent of the same tactic boxing champion Saul “Canelo” Alvarez used against Gennady Golovkin in their Sept. 15 rematch.
Canadian prospect Brad Katona bested Matthew Lopez amid some controversy. After a relatively close fight, Katona locked up a rear-naked choke from an odd position in the third round that left Lopez halfway conscious and stumbling all over the cage after the final bell. Some thought it should have gone down as a submission for Katona, but he settled for a unanimous decision.
Elias Theodorou took a split decision from former University of Alabama linebacker Eryk Anders in a three-round middleweight clash. It followed a similar narrative to many of Theodorou’s fights, as he used footwork to circle the cage and keep Anders at bay before jumping in with a quick combination punctuated by a kick. Anders struggled to answer the Canadian’s creative efforts and seemed flustered at times but still almost finished him with an overhand left in the second round. Nevertheless, Theodorou recovered, came back to win the third and walked away with a split verdict.
Jessica Eye extended her winning streak to three fights and put herself in position to possibly challenge for the flyweight championship with a split decision over Katlyn Chookagian. The 15-minute battle was far from thrilling, but Eye managed to land some nice counters whenever Chookagian attempted to kick and even charged forward with a quick combination on occasion, seeming to catch “Blonde Fighter” off-guard virtually every time.
Multiple-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion Gilbert Burns earned one of the more impressive victories of his MMA career, as he laid claim to a unanimous decision over Olivier Aubin-Mercier. Burns entered the cage as a slight underdog but controlled the fight from bell to bell, on the ground and on the feet. His hands looked as sharp as ever, and he even dropped Aubin-Mercier with a counter lead hook at one point. Burns, 32, now owns a 7-3 record in the UFC.
Nina Ansaroff provided the biggest upset of the night with a unanimous decision over Claudia Gadelha at 115 pounds. Many expected Gadelha to run away with it, but instead, Ansaroff controlled the second and third rounds with a mix of jabs and kicks, negating the Brazilian’s advantages in the grappling department. Ansaroff has rattled off four straight wins since losing her first two fights in the UFC.
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