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Gilbert Burns succeeded where 20 other men had failed previously and solved the riddle that was Alexey Kunchenko.
The Hard Knocks 365 representative leaned on takedowns, crushing top control and intermittent ground-and-pound, as he took a unanimous decision from Kunchenko in the featured UFC Fight Night 156 prelim on Saturday at Antel Arena in Montevideo, Urugay. A short-notice substitution for Laureano Staropoli, Burns (16-3, 9-3 UFC) swept the scorecards with 29-28 marks across the board.
Kunchenko (20-1, 2-1 UFC) struggled to deal with the four-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion’s multi-pronged attack. Burns made a triumphant return to the Ultimate Fighting Championship welterweight division, as he set the pace over the first 10 minutes with leg and body kicks before shooting for well-timed takedowns. Kunchenko enjoyed a strong third round and racked up points in the clinch, but the former M-1 Global champion never sniffed the finish he needed.
Gane Choke Vanquishes Pessoa
Former TKO Major League MMA champion and current Francis Ngannou stablemate Ciryl Gane submitted Raphael Pessoa with an arm-triangle choke in the first round of their heavyweight confrontation. Pessoa (9-1, 0-1 UFC) bowed out 4:12 into Round 1, as he fell from the ranks of the unbeaten.
The two organizational newcomers spent a majority of their time hunting power punches on the feet. Late in the first round, Pessoa executed a trip takedown, only to have the position immediately reversed. Gane (4-0, 1-0 UFC) moved on top, cinched the arm-triangle, used the cage for leverage and nailed down the submission.
The 29-year-old Gane has finished all four of his opponents, three of them in the first round.
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Unbeaten Rodriguez Handles Torres
Dana White’s Contender Series Brazil graduate Marina Rodriguez remained undefeated, as she cruised to a unanimous decision over “The Ultimate Fighter 20” quarterfinalist Tecia Torres in a three-round women’s strawweight clash. Scores were 30-27, 30-27 and 30-26, all for Rodriguez (12-0-1, 2-0-1 UFC).
Torres (10-5, 6-5 UFC) had issues with the height and reach discrepancies. Rodriguez routinely clipped her with right hooks, kept her off-balance with front kicks to the body and closed the distance when the mood struck, operating behind knees to the body inside the clinch.
The reeling Torres has lost four fights in a row.
Bontorin Knee Hacks Open Paiva
A knee strike from Rogerio Bontorin opened a nightmarish cut on Raulian Paiva’s right eyebrow and resulted in an immediate doctor stoppage in the first round of their flyweight encounter. Paiva (18-3, 0-2 UFC) was deemed unfit to continue 2:56 into Round 1, as he suffered his second loss in as many outings.
Bontorin (16-1, 2-0 UFC) walked into a left hook in one of their initial exchanges, the blow resulting in a cut and hematoma under his left eye. The damage was serious enough to warrant an examination by the cageside physician and was exacerbated by the fact that he blew his nose during the respite. Upon the restart, it was as if the Dana White’s Contender Series graduate’s turbo button had been pressed. He stormed forward with punches and unleashed the fight-ending knee to the face. The resulting cut appeared to be as wide as it was deep, necessitating the stoppage.
The 27-year-old Bontorin will carry a four-fight winning streak into his next assignment.
Surging Gutierrez Edges De Freitas
Factory X standout Chris Gutierrez won for the fifth time in six fights, as he eked out a split decision over former Shooto Brazil champion Geraldo de Freitas Jr. in a three-round bantamweight tilt. Judge Joseph Terrell saw it 30-27 for de Freitas, while Phillipe Iorio and Tony Weeks struck 29-28 scorecards for Gutierrez.
In a back-and-forth battle that turned bloody, Gutierrez (14-4-1, 2-1 UFC) shifted momentum with jarring leg kicks and a consistent jab. De Freitas (12-5, 1-1 UFC) landed a pair of takedowns and was the aggressor for much of the match but too often was reduced to wild, lunging punches that left him open to be countered. Gutierrez never stopped chipping away at his base -- he swept him off his feet with kicks more than once -- and continued to pester him with jabs.
The setback ended de Freitas’ run of seven straight victories.
Coelho Controls Debuting Vargas
Takedowns, positional advances and steady ground-and-pound carried Astra Fight Team export Alex da Silva Coelho to a unanimous decision over promotional newcomer Rodrigo Vargas in a three-round lightweight affair. All three cageside judges scored it the same: 30-27 for Coelho (21-2, 1-1 UFC).
Vargas (10-3, 0-1 UFC) was ineffective due to his inability to stay upright. The Combate Americas veteran conceded takedowns in all three rounds, surrendered his back on more than one occasion and absorbed a series of punches and elbows from the bottom. Coelho set the tone with a strong first round, where he landed a takedown, moved to the back, secured his position with hooks and fished for chokes.
The loss snapped Vargas’ two-fight winning streak.
Macedo Armbar Submits Viana
Veronica Macedo dispatched former Jungle Fight champion Polyana Viana with an armbar in the first round of their women’s flyweight pairing. Macedo (6-3-1, 1-3 UFC) sprang the submission 69 seconds into Round 1, closing the book on a three-fight losing streak.
A short-notice replacement for Rachel Ostovich, Viana (10-4, 1-3 UFC) executed a takedown inside the first minute, advanced to half guard and wandered into the fight-ending sequence. Macedo rotated her hips from the bottom, isolated the arm and adjusted her grip before eliciting the tapout.
Viana, 27, has suffered three consecutive defeats.