The Ultimate Fighting Championship on Saturday made its final appearance on Fox, as the promotion brought UFC on Fox 31 to the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee. A rematch between Al Iaquinta and Kevin Lee was tabbed as the headliner. Over five rounds, Iaquinta and Lee traded punches in a fight that saw the former emerge victorious. Iaquinta tuned up Lee with a precise, pressure-filled boxing attack that “The Motown Phenom” could not match. After four back-and-forth rounds, Iaquinta turned up the heat in the fifth, walked down Lee and winged punches with reckless abandon. Lee had no answer. At fight’s end, Iaquinta was awarded the unanimous decision victory, giving him a 2-0 advantage in his head-to-head series with Lee and his first win over a Top 5-ranked opponent.
The fight began with both competitors feeling out each other, with neither man wanting to commit to a big strike. Early on, Lee was content to stand with Iaquinta and did not shoot for takedowns until the second and third rounds, where he managed to work his way to back control on more than one occasion and work heavy ground-and-pound and submission attempts. On the feet, it was all “Ragin’ Al,” and as the fight wore on, he became more and more precise with his boxing combinations.
By the championship rounds, Iaquinta’s range was locked in and he began landing at will on Lee, who was growing increasingly fatigued. In the fifth, Iaquinta put a stamp on his victory, as he walked down Lee for five minutes and landed heavy punches throughout. Before exiting the Octagon, Iaquinta thanked his coaches and training partners while Lee looked on, dumbfounded by the result.
Barboza Back on Track
Edson Barboza was in unfamiliar territory ahead of UFC on Fox 31. For the first time in an MMA career that spanned more than 10 years, Barboza was on the heels of back-to-back losses. Knowing a third straight defeat could spell trouble for his UFC career, Barboza turned in one of the most dominant and devastating performances of his career, as he finished Dan Hooker in the third round after the New Zealand native succumbed to an accumulation of body strikes, including kicks, knees and punches.
The co-main event started fast and furious, with Hooker meeting Barboza in the center of the Octagon and the duo immediately trading hard, heavy shots. Hooker was intent on marching forward, while Barboza was happy to let his opponent lead as he stayed on his back foot launching lightning-quick jabs and low kicks. The accumulation of strikes took a toll, and Hooker began slowing down considerably. By the middle of the second round, Barboza took notice and began ramping up the pace and pressure, putting a hurting on “The Hangman.”
The question in the third round became when -- not if -- the fight would be stopped. Barboza put a beating on Hooker, but the New Zealander was unwavering and determined to see the final bell. Barboza continuously went back to the well with body kicks, knees and punches, and eventually, Hooker could withstand no more. One final left hook to the liver sent him to the mat, where the referee decided he had seen enough to warrant the stoppage.
Main Card Madness
Rob Font took on Sergio Pettis in the latter’s return to the bantamweight division after an extended run at 125 pounds. Font got the best of Pettis for the majority of three rounds, utilizing his size and reach advantages and hitting well-timed takedowns en route to a clear-cut decision win. Over three rounds, Font remained steadfast with his jab, keeping Pettis at bay and not allowing him to land anything significant over 15 minutes. At fight’s end, Pettis marched out the Octagon in frustration at his second straight loss, while Font stood victorious with his second win of 2018 under his belt.
Meanwhile, Charles Oliveira exacted revenge on Jim Miller to open the main card, as the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black-belt continued to set the bar for submission grappling in the UFC and extended his own record for submission wins inside the Octagon. The fight opened with Oliveira immediately closing the distance and moving in for a body lock on Miller, lifting and slamming him to the mat within the first 30 seconds. From there, it did not take long for Oliveira to take Miller’s back and begin hunting for the rear-naked choke. Just over a minute into the round, Oliveira locked up the choke to force the tap. It was his 12th submission win in the UFC.
Elsewhere, Zak Ottow and Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series alum Dwight Grant fought to a split decision that saw Ottow as the victor. Ottow and Grant were reluctant to mount any credible offense throughout the early minutes of the opening round. Ottow came forward for the majority of the match, with Grant playing off of his back foot. It seemingly came down to Ottow’s aggression and Octagon control in a bout that was tough to score for either fighter. Controversial decision aside, the win brought Ottow to 4-3 in the UFC, while Grant was handed second pro loss in his organizational debut.