Is Demetrious Johnson underrated? Please tell us below. | Photo: Josh Hedges/Zuffa/UFC/Getty
Chris Cariaso now knows the truth about the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s flyweight division: Demetrious Johnson is without peer.
Johnson submitted Cariaso with a second-round kimura to retain his 125-pound title in the UFC 178 headliner on Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. His face contorted by a combination of pain and hopelessness, Cariaso (17-6, 7-4 UFC) asked out of the cage 2:29 into round two.
“Mighty Mouse” nearly finished it in the closing seconds of round one, as he blasted Cariaso with an overhand right and followed it with a picture-perfect knee strike to the face. The challenger stumbled back to his corner, glassy-eyed and uncertain. He found no refuge in the second round. Johnson (21-2-1, 9-1-1 UFC) jumped into Cariaso’s guard after the challenger slipped, advanced to a mounted crucifix position and dropped elbows and punches. Moments later, he framed up the kimura for the tapout.
Related: UFC 178 Play-by-Play
Cerrone Spoils Alvarez Debut
In the co-main event, Donald Cerrone utilized textbook muay Thai in claiming a unanimous decision over former Bellator MMA champion Eddie Alvarez. All three cageside judges scored it the same: 29-28 for Cerrone (25-6, 12-3 UFC), who finds himself on a streak of five straight wins.
Alvarez (25-4, 0-1 UFC) had his moments, a first-round exchange in the clinch in which he tore into “Cowboy” with a burst of right hands chief among them. Cerrone withstood the onslaught and pushed him into the second round, where his investment in leg kicks and knees to the body paid dividends. The Jackson-Wink MMA export saved his best work for round three, as he chopped down Alvarez with repeated kicks to the leg. Cerrone drove the wounded Philadelphia native to the mat, settled in half guard and polished off the victory with some effective ground-and-pound.
McGregror Tops Poirier, Streak Reaches 12
Former two-division Cage Warriors Fighting Championship titleholder Conor McGregor took out Dustin Poirier with a straight left behind the ear and follow-up punches in the first round of their featured featherweight encounter. Poirier (16-4, 8-3 UFC), who had never before been finished by strikes, met his end 1:46 into round one.
McGregor (16-2, 4-0 UFC) backed up the Louisianan with a series of spinning attacks, stood him up with a clean right to the face and picked his spots from there. A straight left to the side of the ducking Poirier’s head dropped him to all fours and left him vulnerable to subsequent blows. Hammerfists and jackhammer lefts forced referee Herb Dean to intervene.
A superstar in the making, McGregor, 26, will carry a 12-fight winning streak into his next appearance.
Romero Continues Middleweight Ascent
American Top Team’s Yoel Romero dismissed Tim Kennedy with a barrage of third-round punches in a middleweight showcase. A battered, bloodied and exhausted Kennedy (18-5, 3-1 UFC) succumbed to the blows 58 seconds into round three, his four-fight winning streak a thing of the past.
Romero (9-1, 5-0 UFC) carved up the Jackson-Wink MMA representative with quick left hands through much of the first half of the fight. Kennedy turned the tide late in round two, when he had the 2000 Olympic silver medalist out on his feet after a pair of right uppercuts and a series of follow-up power punches. Only the bell saved him. Controversy entered the picture between rounds, when Romero’s corner delayed their exit from the cage and allowed their fighter to remain on the stool well beyond the usual 60 seconds allotted for rest.
Kennedy walked into a buzzsaw in round three, where he was met with a savage right hand and collapsed. Romero dropped him a second time with a left hook before finishing it with swarming punches on the ground. It marked the first time Kennedy had been stopped since his professional debut in August 2001.
Zingano Stays Unbeaten, Dispatches Spent Nunes
Cat Zingano kept her perfect professional record intact, as she took out Amanda Nunes with third-round ground-and-pound from the mount in a featured women’s bantamweight battle. Zingano (9-0, 2-0 UFC) drew the curtain on the Brazilian 1:21 into round three.
Nunes (9-4, 2-1 UFC) emptied her gas tank in the first round, where she took down the former Ring of Fire champion and battered her with heavy, relentless ground-and-pound. Zingano weathered the assault and drew the MMA Masters export into deeper waters. Nunes had nothing left for rounds two and three. In the third, Zingano achieved full mount, opened a nasty gash on the side of the Brazilian’s head with a well-placed elbow and sealed it with unanswered blows from the top.
Cruz Wipes Out Mizugaki in Return
Former bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz returned from close to a three-year-long layoff to stop Takeya Mizugaki on punches a little more than a minute into their undercard affair at 135 pounds. The end came 61 seconds into round one, with a dazed Mizugaki (20-8-2, 7-3 UFC) face down at the base of the cage.
Cruz (20-1, 3-0 UFC) darted in and out, popped the Japanese standout with a right hand and followed with an immediate takedown. Mizugaki attempted to scramble to his feet but left his head exposed in the process. Cruz exploded with ground-and-pound, a volley of vicious rights bringing it to a close.
The 29-year-old Cruz, who had not fought since Oct. 1, 2011, has won 11 fights in a row.
Surging Masvidal Denies Krause
American Top Team’s Jorge Masvidal punched effectively in combination, commanded the center of the cage and pushed a merciless pace in notching a unanimous decision over James Krause in a preliminary lightweight encounter. All three cageside judges scored it for Masvidal (28-8, 5-1 UFC): 30-27, 29-28 and 30-27.
Krause (21-6, 2-2 UFC) never fully established himself in the fight. Masvidal kept him on his heels throughout, transitioning beautifully between striking and grappling. The 29-year-old Miami, Fla., native dropped an off-balance Krause with a stout right hand in the second round and answered his advances in the third, where he bullied into full mount in the final minute.
Masvidal has rattled off eight wins in his past 10 appearances.
Thompson Outpoints ‘The Predator’
Stephen Thompson recorded his fourth straight win, as he took a unanimous verdict against former Maximum Fighting Championship titleholder Patrick Cote in an undercard duel at 170 pounds. Thompson (10-1, 5-1 UFC) swept the scorecards with 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27 marks from the judges.
Thompson picked his spots against the heavy-handed Canadian, content to cut angles and mix punches and kicks from the outside. Cote (20-9, 7-9 UFC) was effective with his leg kicks, especially early, but had no answer for the unorthodox, karate-based style of “Wonderboy.” Thompson landed the decisive strike of the match with roughly 90 seconds remaining in round three, where he floored Cote with a counter right hand. “The Predator” was on unsteady footing for the remainder of the fight.
The defeat snapped Cote’s three-fight winning streak.
Ebersole Edges Howard, Halts Skid
Tiger Muay Thai’s Brian Ebersole threw the brakes on a two-fight losing streak, as he walked away with a split decision over John Howard in an undercard tilt at 170 pounds. All three cageside judges scored it 29-28, two of them siding with Ebersole (51-16-1, 5-2 UFC), who won for the first time in more than two years.
Howard’s output, aside from leg kicks, left a lot to be desired in the bookend rounds. Ebersole scored with a takedown in the first and pecked away with punches from the perimeter and sneaky kicks to the legs and body in the third. It proved costly for “Doomsday” and overshadowed a productive middle frame, where he executed a takedown of his own, transitioned to Ebersole’s back and threatened with a rear-naked choke.
The 31-year-old Howard (22-10, 6-5 UFC) has dropped back-to-back bouts.
Gamburyan Guillotine Submits Gibson
“The Ultimate Fighter” Season 5 finalist Manny Gamburyan submitted Cody Gibson with a Hail Mary guillotine choke in the second round of their undercard scrap at 135 pounds. Gamburyan (14-8, 5-6 UFC) finished it 4:56 into round two.
Gibson (12-5, 1-2 UFC) controlled much of the fight with his standup. The 27-year-old Tachi Palace Fights veteran staggered Gamburyan with a right hand in the first round and floored him with another in the second. However, the Armenian judoka dragged Gibson to the mat with a single-leg takedown, lured him into the guillotine and put everything he had into the squeeze. The tapout came with four seconds remaining on the clock.