UFC on ESPN 22 Prelims: Alexander Romanov Defeats Juan Espino in Foul-Shortened Affair

By Tristen Critchfield Apr 17, 2021

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It almost certainly wasn’t the way Alexander Romanov envisioned extending his 14-bout professional winning streak.

The Moldovan remained unbeaten in unusual fashion at UFC on ESPN 22, taking a technical split decision against Juan Espino (10-2, 2-1 UFC) in a preliminary heavyweight contest at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas on Saturday night. The bout reached an abrupt end 1:05 into Round 3, when Espino rendered Romanov (14-0, 3-0 UFC) unable to continue after landing an accidental knee to the groin from the clinch position. As a result, the bout was scored where it stood: Dave Hagen and Tony Weeks saw it 29-28 for Romanov, while Chris Lee submitted a 29-28 tally for Espino.

Early on, the matchup was about which heavyweight could get the advantage through takedowns and in the clinch. Romanov authored arguably the most significant moment in Round 2, when he assumed top position and battered “The Ultimate Fighter 28” winner with heavy punches and elbows. Espino appeared to be on the verge of being stopped, but the Spainard was ultimately able to survive until the final stanza.

There, Espino scored an early takedown and then pressed Romanov into the fence when “King Kong” returned to his feet. After the foul landed, Romanov spent the full five-minute recovery period on the canvas before informing the cageside physician that he could not continue.

Returning Penne Edges Godinez

Jessica Penne was successful in her first Octagon appearance in nearly four years, as she earned a hard-fought split-decision triumph against former Legacy Fighting Alliance and BTC Fight Promotions champ Lupita Godinez at strawweight. Judges Michael Bell and Derek Cleary saw it 29-28 for Penne (13-5, 2-4 UFC), while Rick Winter submitted a 29-28 scorecard in favor of Godinez (5-1, 0-1 UFC).

When the fight was at range, Godinez landed more effective combinations with more force than Penne, but all too often, the ex-Invicta Fighting Championships title holder was able to lure her adversary into the clinch. One of Penne’s best sequences occurred in Round 1, when she thwarted a headlock takedown attempt and transitioned to Godinez’s back, where she spent nearly two minutes. Penne also took her foe’s back in Round 2, and although Godinez was never seriously in danger of being submitted, she couldn’t do enough to sway the scorecards in her favor with a strong third-round push.

Related » UFC on ESPN 22 Round-by-Round Scoring

Meerschaert Puts Fabinski to Sleep

Make that 24 career submission victories for Gerald Meerschaert. The 33-year-old Roufusport representative used one of his specialties to vanquish Bartosz Fabinski, putting his opponent to sleep with a guillotine choke 2:00 into Round 1 of a middleweight affair. In victory, Meerschaert (32-14, 7-6 UFC) snaps a two-bout losing streak.

The combatants spent the early moments of the fight battling for position in the clinch. When Fabinski (15-5, 3-3 UFC) attempted to change levels for a takedown near the fence, that allowed Meerschaert to lock in a guillotine. From there, he moved to mount, then adjusted the hold while hooking his legs around his opponent’s. Fabinski did his best to break his foe’s grip before being rendered unconscious.

Hubbard Wears Down Newcomer Bush

Elevation Fight Team representative Austin Hubbard weathered a strong start from Dakota Bush to earn a unanimous decision in a lightweight affair. All three cageside judges submitted 29-28 tallies in favor of the former Legacy Fighting Alliance title holder.

Bush, who accepted the bout on a week’s notice, came out swinging heavy leather in the opening round and had success with his lead left hook, one-two combinations and kicks to the calf. His energy waned over the final 10 minutes, however, as Hubbard (13-5, 3-3 UFC) landed takedowns and mounted his adversary on multiple occasions. Bush (8-3, 0-1 UFC) showed resilience by attempting to scramble out of bad positions, but he didn’t have enough left in the tank to seriously threaten Hubbard down the stretch.

Gravely Finishes Birchak

Dana White’s Contender Series alum Tony Gravely earned his second consecutive Octagon triumph, as he defeated well-traveled veteran Anthony Birchak via technical knockout in a bantamweight showdown. The end came 1:31 into Round 2, when Gravely (21-6, 2-1 UFC) countered a low kick with a left hook to drop Birchak (16-8, 2-4 UFC) and pounced for two follow-up hammerfists to get the finish.

The largest betting favorite on the card, Gravely performed as such. During a frenetic opening stanza, the American Top Team representative dropped his foe with a straight right hand, secured multiple takedowns and nearly forced a stoppage with heavy ground-and-pound from top position. Birchak’s best moment came when he had Gravely trapped in a tight guillotine, but he couldn’t maintain the squeeze long enough to get a tapout. Advertisement
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