Junior dos Santos remains a factor in the division he once ruled.
The former Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight titleholder brought down Tai Tuivasa with punches in the second round of their UFC Fight Night 142 headliner on Saturday at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre in Adelaide, Australia. Dos Santos (20-5, 14-4 UFC) sealed the deal 2:30 into Round 2, though it was far from an easy night’s work.
Tuivasa (8-1, 3-1 UFC) crippled the Brazilian with a devastating leg kick in the first round, pinned him to the fence and uncorked a standing elbow and clubbing right hand. Dos Santos weathered the attack but retreated to his corner in a compromised state. Tuivasa, 25, moved in for the kill in the opening minutes of the second round, only to walk into a counter right hook from “Cigano,” the impact resulting in a fight-altering knockdown. Dos Santos jumped into side control and dropped elbows and hammerfists before climbing to full mount. More punches fell, prompting referee Herb Dean to act.
Resilient ‘Shogun’ Stops Pedro
Mauricio Rua survived several tense moments to stop Tyson Pedro with punches in the third round of their light heavyweight co-main event. The 2005 Pride Fighting Championships grand prix winner and former UFC champion brought it to a close 43 seconds into Round 3, improving to 26-11 (10-9 UFC).
An inadvertent clash of heads in the first round put Rua on rubbery legs. Pedro (7-3, 3-3 UFC) capitalized with an opportunistic volley, as he unleashed a barrage of punches and knees that had the Brazilian on the verge of collapse. Somehow, “Shogun” withstood the onslaught. He turned to takedowns and top control in the second round -- a risk-averse tactic that offered him further time to recover. Pedro appeared to suffer a leg injury early in the third, hit the deck after Rua clobbered him with an overhand right and offered no intelligent defense on the ground, where he ate a burst of punches and hammerfists before referee Steve Perceval elected to intervene.
It marked the 22nd finish of Rua’s remarkable career.
Willis Vanquishes Inactive Hunt
American Kickboxing Academy rep Justin Willis extended his winning streak to eight fights with a unanimous decision over 2001 K-1 World Grand Prix winner Mark Hunt in a three-round heavyweight showcase. All three cageside judges scored it the same: 29-28 for Willis (8-1, 4-0 UFC).
Hunt (13-14-1, 8-8-1 UFC) zeroed in on his opponent’s midsection and lead leg with kicks in the first round. However, he suffered a laceration just below the knee and saw his output dwindle to next to nothing across the ensuing 10 minutes. Willis was content to remain on the outside, as he peppered the visibly frustrated, dejected and fatigued “Super Samoan” with a punishing jab while integrating intermittent uppercuts and knees.
The 44-year-old Hunt has lost three consecutive bouts.
Martin Chokes Matthews Unconscious
American Top Team’s Anthony Rocco Martin put “The Ultimate Fighter Nations” alum Jake Matthews to sleep with an anaconda choke in the third round of their welterweight feature. Matthews (14-4, 7-4 UFC) bowed out 1:19 into Round 3, his three-fight winning streak at an end.
After obliging the Australian with a wild standup exchange in the first round, Martin (15-4, 7-4 UFC) settled in and fought at a more manageable pace. He weakened Matthews’ base with a string of calf kicks, countered effectively and methodically turned the tide in his favor. Early in the third round, Martin swept his counterpart’s legs out from under him with another kick, denied a subsequent takedown and wheeled to the back before catching the choke on the transition. Soon after, Matthews went limp.
Martin, 28, has put together three straight wins since his split decision loss to Olivier Aubin-Mercier in September 2017.
Yusuff Blitz Buries Mokhtarian
Team Lloyd Irvin export Sodiq Yusuff dazzled in his promotional debut, as he put away Suman Mokhtarian with punches in the first round of their featured featherweight tilt. Mokhtarian (8-1, 0-1 UFC) succumbed to blows 2:14 into Round 1, experiencing defeat for the first time as a professional.
Yusuff (8-1, 1-0 UFC) rang the Australian’s bell with collar-tie punches at the start, softened him with knees from the clinch and then struck from a distance. A multi-punch combination had Mokhtarian reeling, as he retreated backward and leaned against the fence. Sensing the end was near, Yusuff cut loose with power punches to the body and head, and while several shots missed the mark, referee Greg Kleynjans had seen enough to warrant the stoppage.
Spawned by Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series, the 25-year-old Yusuff will carry a three-fight winning streak into his next appearance.
Crute Kimura Submits Craig
Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series graduate Jim Crute submitted onetime British Association of Mixed Martial Arts champion Paul Craig with a kimura in the third round of their light heavyweight showcase. Craig (10-3, 2-3 UFC) conceded defeat 4:51 into Round 1.
Crute (9-0, 1-0 UFC) did his best work in the first and third rounds, where he climbed to full mount, applied his ground-and-pound and threatened with submissions. Late in the third, the 22-year-old Australian brute relinquished an attempted arm-triangle choke, pummeled Craig with punches and settled in side control. Crute then isolated the arm, clamped down on the kimura and forced the tap in the waning seconds of the match.
It marked the first time Craig had been submitted in his 13-fight career.
Kunchenko Dominates Okami, Moves to 20-0
Former M-1 Global champion Alexey Kunchenko kept his perfect professional record intact with a unanimous decision over Yushin Okami in a preliminary welterweight clash. Kunchenko (20-0, 2-0 UFC) swept the scorecards with 30-26, 30-26 and 30-27 marks from the judges.
Okami (35-12, 14-7 UFC) was offered no path to success. Kunchenko took a measured approach in the standup and utilized a crushing sprawl, cutting off the Japanese judoka at every turn. The 34-year-old Russian staggered Okami with a chopping right hand in the third round and later tore into him with a volley of clinch elbows to the side of the head while defending a takedown.
Okami has lost two of his three fights since returning to the UFC in 2017.
Reis Smothers, Short Circuits Nguyen
Wilson Reis threw the brakes on a career-worst three-fight losing streak with a clear-cut unanimous decision over Ben Nguyen in a three-round undercard tussle at 125 pounds. Reis (23-9, 7-5 UFC) was awarded 30-27 marks by all three judges, as he posted his first victory since February 2017.
Nguyen (16-8, 4-3 UFC) failed to answer the Brazilian’s aggression. Reis was met with little resistance, as he closed the distance and either smothered the taekwondo black belt in the clinch or secured strategic takedowns. His efforts bled an untold amount of time from the clock and denied the frustrated Nguyen opportunities to engage offensively.
The 30-year-old Nguyen has suffered consecutive losses for the first time in more than eight years.
Experienced Nakamura Upends Touahri
Former Sengoku and Deep champion Keita Nakamura leaned on sneaky punching combinations and occasional kicks, as he eked out a split decision over American Top Team’s Salim Touahri in a preliminary welterweight battle. Judges Howie Booth, 30-27, and Charlie Keech, 29-28, scored it for Nakamura, while Howard Hughes struck a 29-28 scorecard in Touahri’s favor.
After an uneventful first five minutes, Nakamura (34-9-2, 4-6 UFC) seized control. The 34-year-old forced Touahri (10-3, 0-2 UFC) to circle on the perimeter while feeding him basic two- and three-punch volleys mixed with kicks to the body and leg. Nakamura dropped the Pole to a knee with a counter right hand in the second round, stayed busy and consistently beat him to the punch in the majority of their exchanges.
Nakamura has won eight of his past 11 bouts.
Newcomer Kara-France Obliterates Garcia
City Kickboxing standout Kai Kara-France spent the better part of three rounds picking apart Elias Garcia with sustained ground-and-pound, as he cruised to a unanimous decision in a three-round undercard confrontation at 125 pounds. Scores were 30-25, 30-25 and 30-26, all for Kara-France (18-7, 1-0 UFC). Outside of a knockdown in the first round and a triangle-choke-to-armbar series in the second, Garcia (6-2, 0-2 UFC) swam upstream. Kara-France assumed top position with surprising ease and assaulted the Roufusport representative with elbows and punches from above, flirting with a finish on more than one occasion. A short-notice substitute for the injured Ashkan Mokhtarian, Garcia could only turtle, retreat and scramble.
Kara-France now finds himself on a six-fight winning streak.
Giagos Outpoints Reeling Hirota
Onetime Resurrection Fighting Alliance and Tachi Palace Fights titleholder Christos Giagos won for the fifth time in seven appearances, as he took a unanimous decision from Mizuto Hirota in a preliminary lightweight affair. All three judges sided with Giagos (16-7, 2-3 UFC): 29-28, 29-27 and 30-28.
Hirota (18-10-2, 1-5-1 UFC) struggled to gain a foothold in the match. Giagos dropped the Japanese veteran to a knee with a right hand in the first round, swarmed with follow-up punches and executed a takedown before applying heavy ground-and-pound. The 28-year-old Black House rep also controlled much of the middle stanza, only to have fatigue provide Hirota with a window of opportunity. There, he assumed top position, advanced to the mount and ultimately achieved full mount. Unfortunately for the former Deep and Sengoku champion, time was not on his side, and an exhausted Giagos survived the final 10 seconds.
Hirota, 37, has lost three fights in a row.
Ismagulov Sinks Unbeaten Gorgees
Repeated takedowns, suffocating top control and productive ground-and-pound carried former M-1 Global champion Damir Ismagulov to a lopsided unanimous decision over the previously unbeaten Alex Gorgees in a three-round undercard pairing at 155 pounds. Ismagulov (17-2, 1-0 UFC) swept the scorecards with 30-25, 30-26 and 30-26 marks from the judges.
Gorgees (6-1, 0-1 UFC) offered virtually nothing in return. Ismagulov hammered him with a series of lightning-bolt right hands on the feet before swooping in for takedowns, pinning him to the canvas and piling up points with punches and elbows. Gorgees tried and failed to lure the Russian into a firefight in the third round, only to have his porous takedown defense exploited yet again.
Ismagulov has rattled off 12 straight wins.