Junior dos Santos came through with the performance he desperately needed.
The former Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight titleholder beat up Ben Rothwell for five rounds, as he recorded a unanimous decision in the UFC Fight Night 86 headliner on Sunday at Zagreb Arena in Zagreb, Croatia. Dos Santos (18-4, 12-3 UFC) swept the scorecards with 50-45 marks from all three judges.
Rothwell (36-10, 6-4 UFC) boxed with a superior boxer, and it did not go well for the Kenosha, Wisconsin, native. Dos Santos targeted the head and body with equal aplomb, slowly chipping away at his monstrous opponent. Rothwell spent the majority of his time chasing the Brazilian around the cage, unable to contend with dos Santos’ superior quickness, technique and footwork. “Cigano” landed a crushing overhand right in the second round and followed up with a front kick to the body that sent Rothwell careening into the cage. It was a sign of things to come.
Dos Santos stayed true to his game plan in the third, fourth and fifth rounds, as he mangled Rothwell’s face with a punishing jab while continuing to zero in on the body. Despite repeated pleas from his corner, Rothwell never attempted to get the fight to the ground and looked on as his four-fight winning streak came to an end.
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Lewis KOs Gonzaga in First Round
Former Legacy Fighting Championship titleholder Derrick Lewis made the most of his opportunity as a replacement for the injured Ruslan Magomedov, as he knocked out Gabriel Gonzaga with a right hook and follow-up punches in the first round of their heavyweight co-main event. Gonzaga (17-11, 12-10 UFC) succumbed to blows 4:48 into round one.
Lewis (15-4, 6-2 UFC) survived a takedown and subsequent ground exchange with the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, welcomed into the clinch and waited for an opening. Late in the first round, he pushed Gonzaga to the fence and uncorked a series of heavy punches. A short right hook floored the Brazilian, allowing Lewis to pounce and punch him unconscious for the stoppage.
The 31-year-old Lewis has rattled off three straight wins, all of them finishes.
Ngannou Wins Sixth Straight
Francis Ngannou forced a doctor stoppage on the previously unbeaten Curtis Blaydes in a featured heavyweight battle. A short-notice fill-in for Bojan Mihajlovic, Blaydes (5-1, 0-1 UFC) met his end between the second and third rounds despite his protests.
Ngannou (7-1, 2-0 UFC) short circuited the Resurrection Fighting Alliance alum’s takedown game, trapped him on the feet and tore into him with punches. He twice staggered Blaydes in the first round and stepped up his attack in the second, where he continued to target the American’s right eye and mixed in kicks on occasion. By the time round two was complete, Blaydes could no longer see and the stoppage was called.
The 29-year-old Ngannou has recorded six consecutive victories.
Johnson Outduels Octagon Rookie Tybura
An effective clinch game, power punching volleys and a stout chin carried Timothy Johnson to a unanimous decision over former M-1 Global champion Marcin Tybura in a three-round heavyweight showcase. Johnson (10-2, 2-1 UFC) drew 29-28 marks from all three judges, as he won for the ninth time in 10 outings. Sherdog scored it 29-28 and 29-28 for Johnson, 29-28 for Tybura.
After a competitive first round, Johnson found another gear in the second. There, he tore into Tybura with rights and lefts, cut the Polish import near his right eye and shrugged off a takedown. Johnson at one point snapped back his head with three consecutive rights. To his credit, Tybura (13-2, 0-1 UFC) did not go away. He struck for a takedown in the third round and rattled Johnson with a head kick, leaving significant damage to the American’s right eye in his wake. However, the finish he needed did not materialize.
The 30-year-old Tybura has lost two of his last three fights after a 12-0 start to his career.
Blachowicz Denies Returning Pokrajac
Former KSW champion Jan Blachowicz threw the brakes on a two-fight losing streak, as he took a unanimous verdict from the returning Igor Pokrajac in their featured scrap at 205 pounds. All three cageside judges arrived at the same ruling: 29-28 for Blachowicz (19-5, 2-2 UFC). Sherdog saw it 29-28, 29-28 and 29-28 for Blachowicz, as well.
Pokrajac (28-13, 4-8 UFC) started strong but faded late, doing his best work in the first round, much to the delight of his fellow Croatians. Success was fleeting. Blachowicz had “The Duke” reeling with heavy punches to the body and head in round two, and while Pokrajac withstood the assault, the momentum had shifted. Blachowicz secured a takedown in the third round, where he tied the bow on a much-needed victory with ground-and-pound.
The loss snapped a three-fight winning streak for Pokrajac.
Moroz Spoils Stanciu Debut
Ukrainian prospect Maryna Moroz claimed a unanimous decision over Cristina Stanciu in a three-round women’s strawweight showcase. Moroz (7-1, 2-1 UFC) swept the scorecards with 30-27s across the board, as she bounced back from an Aug. 23 defeat to Valerie Letourneau. Sherdog also scored it 30-27, 30-27 and 30-27 for Moroz.
Stanciu (5-1, 0-1 UFC) fought well in spurts but had difficulty sustaining offense. Moroz executed an outside trip takedown in the first round, climbed to the back and fished for the rear-naked choke. More of the same followed in the second, where she countered a kneebar from Stanciu, achieved full mount and applied her ground-and-pound.
The 22-year-old Stanciu appeared to briefly turn the tide in round three, as she reversed an attempted trip and wound up in top position. However, the Romanian wandered into an armbar from Moroz and was forced to defend against the submission for more than a minute.