Marlon Moraes and Jimmie Rivera locked horns in the UFC Fight Night 131 main event, as the Ultimate Fighting Championship on Friday made its debut in Utica, New York. The Top-10 bantamweights had a long history of bad blood, so it was no shock when they passed on the touch of gloves once referee John McCarthy brought them to the center of the Octagon for final instructions.
It did not take long for the fight to play out. A mere 30 seconds into the opening round, Moraes uncorked a thunderous switch kick that connected flush with Rivera’s temple and sent him crashing to the canvas. Moraes swarmed immediately and delivered a flurry of punches that finished job. In the blink of an eye, a feud that had been built for the better part of a year came to a dramatic close, and Moraes was staring at a possible shot at the UFC bantamweight title.
Afterward, Moraes was gracious in victory, thanking his teammates and coaches before turning his attention to the winner of the forthcoming rematch between current bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw and former titleholder Cody Garbrandt.
“Nothing else makes sense for me now,” said Moraes, who has won 16 of his last 17 fights. “I’ll wait however long it takes, but that title is mine.”
Gregor Gillespie improved to 5-0 in the UFC with a second-round submission of Vinc Pichel in the co-headliner. Gillespie relied on his wrestling prowess early and often, as he planted Pichel on the mat, shifted from side control to mount and put himself in position to work his ground-and-pound and attempt submissions. After a dominant first round, Gillespie followed up with more of the same in the second.
After a final completed takedown, Gillespie moved quickly to quarter mount, with one leg tied up. From that position, he secured an arm-triangle choke with just over a minute left in the round and had Pichel tapping quickly. The win pushed Gillespie’s overall record to 12-0; he has finished four of his five wins in the UFC.
Though reluctant to call out anyone, Gillespie nevertheless finds himself in position to challenge a ranked fighter in the UFC’s lightweight division.
Ben Saunders made quick work of Jake Ellenberger, melting him with a well-timed knee to the body in the first round. The veteran welterweights got to work at the opening bell -- there was no feeling-out process -- and looked for an early stoppage with hard shots. Saunders drew Ellenberger into the Thai clinch before he teed off with punches and knees. Soon after, he found the mark with a fight-ending strike to the liver. The win snapped a two-fight losing streak for Saunders and put him back in the win column for the first time since January 2017 ... David Teymur extended his run of consecutive victories to eight by taking a unanimous decision from Nik Lentz. Teymur defended Lentz’s takedown attempts and used effective counterstrikes off of his back foot; the Swede also scored with heavy leg kicks that had a visible impact on Lentz in the latter rounds. He made Lentz pay for power shots, opting to throw clean, crisp straight punches when then windows were open … Nathaniel Wood made a successful UFC debut against Johnny Eduardo, submitting the Brazilian in the second round of their bout. Wood faced early adversity in the fight, as an overhand right set him on wobbly legs. He managed to stay on his feet, even as Eduardo connected with crisp shots to the body and head. Round 2 was all Wood. Two minutes into the middle stanza, Eduardo shot for a takedown and was promptly stuffed face first into the mat. From there, Wood cinched a brabo choke, rolled Eduardo to his side and forced the tap.