Carlos Vergara made the most of his moment in the spotlight.
The Fury Fighting Championship titleholder on Tuesday was one of five competitors to earn an Ultimate Fighting Championship contract on Week 2 of Dana White’s Contender Series, as he cut down Bruno Mesquita with a knee strike to the body in the first round of their flyweight showcase at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. Mesquita (12-4-1) bowed out 41 seconds into Round 1, suffering his first defeat in nearly four years.
Vergara (9-2-1) flew out of the gate and never looked back. He sat down “The Ultimate Fighter Brazil” Season 4 semifinalist with a right hook, snatched a front headlock and connected with a few knees to the head before he disengaged. As Vergara separated, he delivered a devastating knee to the liver that shut down Mesquita and prompted referee Herb Dean to intervene.
In addition to Vergara, UFC President Dana White elected to sign Josh Quinlan, Chidi Njokuani, Saimon Oliveira and Chad Anheliger.
The unbeaten Quinlan took care of Logan Urban with punches in the first round of their welterweight showcase. Urban (5-2) replaced Darian Weeks on short notice and met his end 47 seconds into Round 1, losing for the first time since Aug. 18, 2018.
Quinlan (6-0) countered a kick with a clubbing right hand behind the ear. The impact set Urban on rubbery legs and left him in no condition to defend against the ferocious barrage of punches that followed. Quinlan backed the Revolution Fight and Fitness export to the fence, fired punches with both hands and buried Urban where he stood.
The 28-year-old Quinlan has finished all six of his opponents, three of them inside one round.
Meanwhile, Njokuani put away Mario Filipe de Sousa with a volley of elbow strikes in the third round of their middleweight pairing. Sousa (12-2) succumbed to blows 95 seconds into Round 3, his five-fight winning streak having run its course.
Njokuani (20-7) withstood two low blows in the first round that resulted in a point deduction for his Brazilian adversary. Sousa never seemed to find his footing. Njokuani excelled in open space, beat up the Caes do Ringue prospect in the clinch and flexed his superiority on the ground. The former Tachi Palace Fights champion drove Sousa to the canvas with a series of knees to the body early in the third round, assumed a dominant position and activated his ground-and-pound. Punches eventually gave way to elbows and forced the stoppage.
The 32-year-old Njokuani has delivered 12 of his 20 career wins by knockout or technical knockout.
Elsewhere, Astra Fight Team’s Oliveira eked out a split decision over former Combate Americas champion Jose Alday in a three-round bantamweight tilt. All three judges struck 29-28 scorecards, two of them ruling in Oliveira’s favor.
Two closely contested rounds gave way to a more decisive third. There, Oliveira (18-3) rang the Entram Gym product’s bell with an overhand right, backed him toward the fence and executed a double-leg takedown. He then applied some ground-and-pound before the two men re-engaged on the feet, where Alday (13-6-1) failed to turn the tide in his favor despite cutting loose with both hands.
Oliveira, 30, has won five fights in a row.
Finally, Anheliger outstruck the heavily favored Muin Gafurov to a split decision in a three-round bantamweight affair. All three cageside judges scored it 29-28, two of them siding with Anheliger (11-5), a two-division Rise Fighting Championship titleholder.
Gafurov (16-4) completed five takedowns and piled up more than five minutes of control time, but the One Championship alum failed to match his Canadian counterpart in the standup exchanges. Anheliger rebounded from being mounted twice in the first round and floored the Tajikistani standout with a close-range knee strike late in the period, pairing the knockdown with some significant ground-and-pound. He managed to stay upright in Round 3, where Gafurov’s intensity waned with the onset of fatigue. Anheliger unleashed leg kicks and jabs before mixing in two- and three-punch combinations to the head.
The 34-year-old Anheliger, who has not lost since June 13, 2014, now finds himself on a nine-fight winning streak.
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