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Alex Caceres was simply too seasoned for Chase Hooper at UFC 250.
Relying on superior standup and movement, Caceres cruised to a unanimous decision triumph over Hooper in a preliminary featherweight contest at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas on Saturday night. All three cageside judges saw the fight 30-27 in favor of “The Ultimate Fighter 12” cast member.
Hooper (9-1-1, 1-1 UFC) had one goal: to get Caceres to the canvas. The 20-year-old’s intentions were often poorly disguised, however, and “Bruce Leeroy” was able to counter effectively throughout the contest. Caceres’ (16-12, 1 NC, 11-10 1 NC UFC) best moment occurred early in Round 1, when he dropped his youthful foe with a big counter right. Caceres elected not to follow-up for an early finish and allowed Hooper to return to his feet.
“I know that he’s been caught before and he’s taken the fight to the ground and dominated there. The whole game plan was patient pressure,” Caceres said.
That plan paid off for Caceres’ third win in his last four Octagon appearances. Hooper threatened with a kneebar late in Round 1, but the majority of his grappling advances were thwarted by Caceres.
“I know my career has been up-and-down,” Caceres said. “I know I’m a gatekeeper right now. But today I proved that I’m not, that I can rise above that. I’m not going to accept that (label).”
Heinisch Swarms Meerschaert
Former Legacy Fighting Alliance middleweight champion Ian Heinisch made short work of Gerald Meerschaert, winning via technical knockout just 74 seconds into the opening stanza of a middleweight clash. The 31-year-old Heinisch (13-3, 3-2 UFC) halted a two-bout skid.
Heinisch hurt Meerschaert (31-13, 6-5 UFC) with hard inside leg kicks in the early going before dropping his adversary with a perfectly-timed overhand right behind the ear. Heinisch swarmed with punches from there, ending the contest with alternating lefts and rights as a dazed Meerschaert turtled up on the canvas.
Heinisch nearly wasn’t able to compete on the card after one of his cornermen tested positive for COVID-19, but the result was ultimately determined to be a false positive and the bout was reinstated.
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Stamann Outduels Kelleher
Cody Stamann earned an emotional victory, taking a three-round verdict over Brian Kelleher at featherweight. All three judges submitted 30-27 scorecards in favor of Stamman, who was fighting following the death of his 18-year-old brother, Jacob, last week.
“I’ve been fighting tears all day,” Stamann said. “It’s a hard time for me. I had to buckle up and be a man to get this done -- for him, for my family and for myself.”
Stamann utilized pressure and feints while consistently landing punches to the head of his opponent for the duration of the 15-minute encounter. He secured the lone takedown of the fight in the second frame and held off a late charge from Kelleher down the stretch in Round 3. Both Stamann and Kelleher normally compete at 135 pounds in the UFC.
Pitolo Pounds Out Byrd
Maki Pitolo’s first UFC venture at 185 pounds was a success, as he stopped Fortis MMA product Charles Byrd by technical knockout in the second stanza. A barrage of unanswered punches and hammerfists brought a halt to the contest 1:10 into the period to give the Hawaiian fighter his first promotional triumph.
The two men traded takedowns in Round 1, but it was Byrd (10-7, 1-3 UFC) who did more with his position, threatening with a guillotine and landing some solid ground-and-pound. Pitolo (13-5, 1-1 UFC) took over in the second period, however, unloading on a fading Byrd against the fence with a series of body shots and elbows to head. “Coconut Bombz” then tripped his man to the canvas and unleashed the decisive salvo on his defenseless opponent.
“I just come in here and react. This is the way the cards played out,” Pitolo said.
Perez Leg Kicks Topple Formiga
Alex Perez became the 11th fighter in UFC history to finish a bout with leg kicks in a technical knockout victory against Jussier Formiga at flyweight. One final grazing low kick from Perez sent the Brazilian to the canvas for a second time, forcing referee Keith Peterson to wave off the contest at the 4:06 mark of Round 1.
Perez (24-5, 6-1 UFC) was impressive throughout the abbreviated contest, blending hard leg kicks with quick punching combinations to the head. The Team Oyama member was aggressive in dictating the action, and Formiga (23-8, 9-7) was never able to find his footing. The 35-year-old Shooto Brazil veteran has lost his last three Octagon appearances.
“It’s kinda tough. I met the guy about 10 years ago…We stayed good friends,” Perez said of Formiga. “For me, it’s business. I’m here to make it to the top. I want that title shot. 2020 is my year.”
Clark Hands Menifield First Defeat
Devin Clark took Alonzo Menifield into deep waters, an approach that paid serious dividends.
The Sioux Falls, South Dakota, native rallied from early adversity for a unanimous decision triumph over Menifield in a grueling light heavyweight contest. One judge scored the bout 30-27, while two others saw it 29-28 -- all in favor of Clark (12-4, 6-4 UFC). In defeat, Menifield (9-1, 2-1 UFC) went past the second stanza for the first time in his professional career.
Menifield threatened to make it an early night when he rocked Clark with a right uppercut in the first round. The Fortis MMA product swarmed with power punches as Clark blinked and winced from the damage, but “Brown Bear” was able to survive the barrage.
Even with the vision in his left eye potentially impaired, Clark got stronger as the bout progressed. He repeatedly sucked Menifield into the clinch, where he attacked with solid knees and punches to the body. When the combatants separated, Clark peppered his foe with quick punching combinations. After the initial surge, Menifield was unable to put his formidable power to use.
Burns Spoils Dunham’s Return
Herbert Burns ruined Evan Dunham’s return from retirement, submitting the Xtreme Couture product in a 150-pound catchweight contest. The end came 1:20 into Round 1, as Burns secured a rear-naked choke. Burns (11-2, 2-0 UFC) has won his last five professional appearances.
The younger brother of welterweight contender Gilbert Burns wasted little time taking the action to the canvas against his fellow jiu-jitsu black belt. “The Blaze” moved to a rear-waist lock behind a punch during an early exchange, and he tripped Dunham (18-9-1, 11-9-1 UFC) to the canvas. From there, Burns hunted for the choke, eventually rolling his veteran foe over and adjusting the hold -- along with his choke arm -- to earn the tapout.
Dunham was fighting for the first time since September 2018.