Alex Pereira, Weili Zhang Retain Championships Atop Historic UFC 300

The otherworldly power of Alex Pereira claimed another victim, this time under the brightest of all spotlights.

Pereira punched out Jamahal Hill to retain his undisputed Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight crown in the first round of their UFC 300 headliner on Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Pereira (10-2, 7-1 UFC) tagged his latest challenger’s figurative toe 3:14 into Round 1.

Hill (12-2, 6-2 UFC) answered leg kicks from the Brazilian with a few of his own but provided the champion with no real cause for concern. Pereira stalked forward behind stabbing jabs to the body, bided his time and marked his territory with a cold stoicism. He calmly brushed aside referee Herb Dean after absorbing an accidental kick to the groin, decked Hill with a left hook mere seconds later and then pounced with punches and hammerfists to cap a near-flawless performance.

Meanwhile, Syndicate MMA’s Weili Zhang waded through considerable difficulty to retain her undisputed women’s strawweight championship with a unanimous decision over Team Alpha Male standout Xiaonan Yan in the five-round co-main event. Zhang (25-3, 9-2 UFC) swept the scorecards from her countrywoman—it was the first-ever UFC title fight between Chinese competitors—with matching 49-45 marks from all three cageside judges.

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Yan (18-4, 8-3 UFC) proved herself a worthy contender in defeat, flooring the off-balance champion on multiple occasions with stout right hands. However, it was not enough to overcome the discrepancy in all-around skill. Zhang put her to sleep with a rear-naked choke as the bell sounded at the end of the first round, only to see the challenger awake and rise to her feet as soon as she was released. She had Yan in trouble again in Round 2, where she progressed to the back, flattened her out and cut loose with punches for another near finish. Only restraint from referee Jason Herzog allowed the bout to continue. Zhang fought through fatigue across the final 15 minutes, turning to her grappling over and over again when the opportunity presented itself. She dragged Yan to the canvas twice in the fifth round, kept her contained and piled up points with moderate ground-and-pound.

Zhang has won three fights in a row.

Elsewhere, Max Holloway capped another sensational performance with a wicked one-punch, last-second knockout of Justin Gaethje and claimed the symbolic BMF title in the fifth round of their unforgettable lightweight showcase. Holloway (26-7, 22-7 UFC) drew the curtain 4:59 into Round 5. Jaws everywhere dropped.

Gaethje (25-5, 8-5 UFC) ran into trouble right away. Holloway appeared to break his nose with a spinning back to the face late in the first round, making it virtually impossible for the former World Series of Fighting champion to breathe properly. Nevertheless, Gaethje pressed onward. He hammered away at Holloway’s lead leg with kicks to the thigh and calf but had no answer for the Hawaiian’s speed and output. Down on the scorecards, Gaethje somersaulted forward and attempted a rolling thunder kick in the waning seconds of Round 5. As he turned to face Holloway, he was beckoned forward to exchange in the center of the cage. The two action heroes swung at one another with reckless abandon for the better part of 10 seconds, until Holloway connected with a devastating right hook. An unconscious Gaethje faceplanted into the canvas, as he was on the receiving end of one of the most spectacular finishes in UFC history.

Holloway will ride a three-fight winning streak into his next assignment.

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Further down the card, ascending American Top Team export Arman Tsarukyan survived two tight submission attempts from Charles Oliveira—a guillotine choke in the first round and a brabo choke in the third—to claim a split decision in their three-round lightweight attraction. All three judges scored it 29-28: Mike Bell for Oliveira, Adalaide Byrd and Ron McCarthy for Tsarukyan.

Outside of those two chokes, Oliveira (34-10, 22-10 UFC) struggled to get his offense in gear. Tsarukyan took top position in all three rounds and largely neutralized the Brazilian’s notoriously venomous guard. He peaked in Round 2, where he delivered a takedown and opened multiple cuts on Oliveira with repeated elbows. Tsarukyan (22-3, 9-2 UFC) wheeled behind “Do Bronx” in the third round, connected with arching knee strikes to the body and weathered the Chute Boxe standout’s bid for a late Hail Mary choke.

Tsarukyan has rattled off four straight victories.

Finally, American Top Team’s Bo Nickal took care of Cody Brundage with a rear-naked choke in the second round of their middleweight appetizer. Brundage (10-6, 4-5 UFC) conceded defeat 3:38 into Round 2, his modest two-fight winning streak at an end.

A four-time NCAA All-American wrestler and three-time national champion at Penn State University, Nickal (6-0, 3-0 UFC) set the tone in the first round, where he wheeled behind the Factory X rep, bullied him to the canvas and eventually climbed to full mount. Brundage withstood his advances and forced the blue-chip prospect into a second stanza for the first time in his career but only prolonged the inevitable. Nickal executed a takedown inside the first minute, advanced to mount yet again and moved to the back, securing position with a body triangle. After a brief struggle, he snaked his arms into place for the choke, tightened his squeeze and prompted the tapout from Brundage.

Nickal, 28, has finished all six of his opponents.

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Johan Ghazali