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While some fighters shrink in the spotlight, others thrive in it. It seems clear that Marvin Vettori falls in the latter category.
Laser-guided left hands, stellar takedown defense and a willingness to go to the end of his rope carried the ascendant Rafael Cordeiro protégé to a unanimous decision over Jack Hermansson in the UFC on ESPN 19 headliner on Saturday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. A short-notice substitution for Kevin Holland, Vettori (16-4-1, 6-2-1 UFC) swept the scorecards with 49-46, 49-46 and 49-45 marks from the judges.
Hermansson (21-6, 8-4 UFC) ran into early difficulty, as Vettori dropped him with a left hand in the first round and pursued a finish on the ground with punches and elbows before his bid for a guillotine choke failed. Drawing on his guile and experience, the Swede battled back in the second and third rounds by moving forward and uncorking combinations. A pep talk from Cordeiro after Round 3 appeared to breathe new life into Vettori. The Kings MMA product fought through fatigue across the final 10 minutes, tearing into Hermansson with one left cross after another to punctuate the most important victory of his 21-fight career.
The 27-year-old Vettori will ride a four-fight winning streak into his next assignment, almost certainly against another Top 10 contender at 185 pounds.
Hill Stops St. Preux, Moves to 8-0
Dana White’s Contender Series graduate Jamahal Hill dismissed Ovince St. Preux with punches in the second round of their light heavyweight co-main event. St. Preux (25-15, 13-10 UFC) succumbed to blows 3:37 into Round 2, suffering his first knockout loss since 2016.
Hill (8-0, 2-0 UFC) focused his initial efforts on the body, even as he ate a number of leg kicks for his troubles. St. Preux switched stances in both rounds but appeared far more vulnerable when he fought orthodox. Hill backed him to the fence with punches in the second round and unleashed with accurate hooks, uppercuts and crosses, all while referee Jason Herzog hovered nearby. St. Preux never left his feet, but once it became clear the Knoxville MMA mainstay had no hope of recovering to defend himself, Herzog intervened.
St. Preux, 37, has lost four of his last six bouts.
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Benitez Knee Freezes Jaynes
American Kickboxing Academy standout Gabriel Benitez disposed of Justin Jaynes with a brutal knee strike to the solar plexus and follow-up punches in the first round of their featured lightweight clash. His body no longer willing to comply with his commands, Jaynes (16-6, 1-2 UFC) bowed out 4:06 into Round 1.
Benitez (22-8, 6-4 UFC) managed to withstand the Xtreme Couture rep’s offensive flurries, gave him pause with searing leg kicks and kept him at bay with slashing uppercuts at close range. “The Ultimate Fighter Latin America” semifinalist floored Jaynes with a crushing knee to the midsection late in the first round, trailed him to the canvas and closed the deal with punches.
The victory closed the book on a two-fight losing streak for Benitez.
Undefeated Dolidze Subdues Allan
Xtreme Couture’s Roman Dolidze remained unbeaten in his sternest test to date, as the former World Warriors Fighting Championship titleholder took a split decision from John Allan in a three-round light heavyweight showcase. Judges Dave Hagen and Michael Bell scored it 30-27 and 29-28 for Dolidze, while Chris Lee saw it 29-28 for Chute Boxe-trained Allan.
The verdict notwithstanding, the fight was not particularly competitive. Allan (13-6, 0-1 UFC) enjoyed brief periods of success on the feet but too often found himself pinned to the mat by the relentless Georgian. Dolidze (8-0, 2-0 UFC) delivered takedowns in all three rounds, paired them with suffocating control and applied his ground-and-pound, all while fishing for heel hooks at various times.
The setback was Allan’s first in more than two years.
Leavitt Slams Wiman Unconscious
Unbeaten Syndicate MMA prospect Jordan Leavitt knocked out Matt Wiman with a violent slam in the first round of their lightweight feature. Wiman (16-10, 10-8 UFC) met his end just 22 seconds into Round 1 and remains winless since Nov. 22, 2014.
Leavitt (8-0, 1-0 UFC) dipped in for a double-leg takedown, lifted “The Ultimate Fighter 5” quarterfinalist off his feet and carried him across the cage toward his corner. Wiman failed to disengage his legs, maintained a closed guard and rendered himself defenseless. Leavitt framed on the veteran’s neck with his left arm and drove him downward, his head striking the canvas with devastating force.
It was the 12th slam knockout in the 27-year history of the UFC.
Continue Reading » UFC on ESPN 19 Prelims: Resurgent Louis Smolka Grounds, Pounds Jose Alberto Quinonez
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