“The Ultimate Fighter” Season 23 winner kept her perfect professional record intact and perhaps staked her claim as the No. 1 contender in the Ultimate Fighting Championship women’s bantamweight division, as she captured a unanimous decision over Tatiana Suarez in the featured UFC 238 prelim on Saturday at the United Center in Chicago. All three cageside judges scored it the same: 29-28 for Suarez (8-0, 5-0 UFC).
Ansaroff (10-6, 4-3 UFC) initially failed to keep a safe distance between herself and the Millennia MMA standout. Suarez executed repeated takedowns in the first and second rounds, applied her ground-and-pound and bled time off the clock, all while conserving valuable energy. Nevertheless, fatigue became a factor. Ansaroff denied Suarez’s bids for takedowns in the third round, cracked her with a head kick and had her backpedaling under fire in the waning seconds. However, the finish she needed failed to materialize.
Streaking Sterling Overwhelms Munhoz
Serra-Longo Fight Team export Aljamain Sterling subdued former Resurrection Fighting Alliance champion Pedro Munhoz with volume and creativity, as he cruised to a unanimous decision in their preliminary bantamweight clash. Sterling (18-3, 10-3 UFC) was awarded 30-27 scores across the board.
Munhoz (18-4, 8-4 UFC) had no answer for the athleticism and hand speed his opponent brought to the table. Sterling fired a variety of kicks and punches from a variety of angles, steered clear of danger and escaped the American Top Team rep’s vaunted guillotine on two separate occasions. Munhoz enjoyed some success with a series of calf kicks but too often found himself beaten to the punch.
Sterling, 29, has rattled off four consecutive victories.
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Efficient Grasso Dominates Kowalkiewicz
Alexa Grasso reminded the MMA world why she was so highly regarded when she broke into the sport as a teenager in 2012, as she picked apart former KSW champion Karolina Kowalkiewicz and recorded a unanimous decision in their three-round undercard scrap at 115 pounds. All three judges struck 30-27 scorecards for Grasso (10-3, 3-2 UFC), who appeared to turn another corner in her development.
Kowalkiewicz (12-5, 5-5 UFC) walked into an ambush. Grasso, 25, intercepted her with clean counters, damaging jabs, well-disguised kicks and thudding close-quarters knee strikes. She showed her superiority at range -- her efforts left Kowalkiewicz with a bloody nose and set her on rubbery legs more than once -- and in the clinch, where she assaulted the Pole with elbows and repeated knees. Grasso even snuck in an attempted guillotine choke in the waning seconds of the bout.
The 33-year-old Kowalkiewicz finds herself on a three-fight skid for the first time in her career.
Favored Kattar Waylays Lamas
Calvin Kattar climbed another rung on the 145-pound ladder, as he cut down former title challenger Ricardo Lamas with punches in the first round of their preliminary featherweight confrontation. Lamas (19-8, 10-6 UFC) bowed out 4:06 into Round 1, losing for the third time in four outings.
Kattar (20-3, 4-1 UFC) trapped “The Bully” on the feet, withstood a handful of leg and body kicks and slowly put his stamp on the fight. The 31-year-old Metheun, Massachusetts, native wobbled Lamas with a stiff jab, turned up the heat and floored him with an exquisite left hook-right cross combination. Kattar trailed his fallen adversary to the canvas, let fly with punches and prompted the stoppage.
Kattar has won 12 of his last 13 fights, a decision loss to Renato Carneiro his only misstep.
Yan Outduels Struggling Hill
China Top Team standout Xionan Yan extended her winning streak to four fights with a unanimous decision over former Invicta Fighting Championships titleholder Angela Hill in a preliminary women’s strawweight tilt. All three cageside judges scored it the same: 29-28 for Yan (11-1, 4-0 UFC).
Hill (9-7, 4-7 UFC) enjoyed success here and there and nearly finished it with a triangle choke at the end of the first round. However, she was outmatched on the feet. The Alliance MMA representative was too often limited to single strikes, eating two, three or four in return. Yan knocked down Hill with a right hand in the second round and kept her guessing with a variety of techniques in the third, including a spinning backfist and side kick to the head.
The 34-year-old Hill has lost three of her past four bouts.
Stewart Sinks Prospect Lewis
Crushing leg kicks, airtight takedown defense and stellar effort in the clinch carried Cage Warriors Fighting Championship veteran Darren Stewart to a unanimous decision over Bevon Lewis in a three-round undercard pairing at 185 pounds. Stewart (10-4, 3-4 UFC) swept the scorecards with 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27 marks from the judges.
Lewis (6-2, 0-2 UFC) never got in gear. Stewart swept him off his feet with consecutive leg kicks in the first round, withstood a right cross after the bell and continued to keep the Jackson-Wink MMA prospect off-balance through the middle stanza. Lewis engaged “The Dentist” at close range for much of Round 3 but bailed on a few takedown attempts, made little headway and suffered his second straight setback.
Stewart, 28, has won three of his last four fights.
Wineland Blasts Newcomer Popov
Onetime World Extreme Cagefighting champion Eddie Wineland put away Grigory Popov with punches in the second round of their preliminary bantamweight affair. Popov (13-2, 0-1 UFC) succumbed to blows 4:47 into Round 2, his run of nine consecutive victories at an end.
Wineland (24-13-1, 6-7 UFC) was the aggressor from the start and did not relent, despite running into trouble in a few standup exchanges. He marched forward with punches, crowded Popov with pressure and neutralized the Tiger Muay Thai export’s primary skills. Wineland uncorked a volley of right hands in the third round, drove the Octagon newcomer to the mat and threatened with a guillotine choke before allowing him to stand. He then blasted the reeling Popov with a sweeping right hook that dropped the Russian to a knee and prompted referee Kevin MacDonald to act.
The win was Wineland’s first since December 2016 and allowed him to rebound from back-to-back decision defeats to John Dodson and Alejandro Perez.
Chookagian Interrupts Calderwood Rise
Former Cage Fury Fighting Championships titleholder Katlyn Chookagian won for the fourth time in five appearances, as she took a unanimous decision from “The Ultimate Fighter 20” quarterfinalist Joanne Calderwood in a three-round undercard battle at 125 pounds. All three cageside judges scored it for Chookagian (12-2, 5-2 UFC): 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28.
Calderwood (13-4, 5-4 UFC) leaned heavily on low kicks and did significant damage to the inside of her counterpart’s lead leg. Chookagian was undeterred, utilized occasional knees from the clinch and cut loose with two-, three- and four-punch combinations. Calderwood answered in spurts and even integrated a few takedowns, but her efforts went unrewarded on the scorecards.
The loss snapped a two-fight winning streak for Calderwood.