UFC on ESPN 31 Prelims: Dusko Todorovic Eviscerates Reeling Maki Pitolo

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Dusko Todorovic reasserted himself in the Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight division and did so with renewed vigor and purpose.

The Secutor MMA standout on Saturday rebounded from back-to-back losses to Punahele Soriano and Gregory Rodrigues, as he dispatched Maki Pitolo with punches in the first round of their featured UFC on ESPN 31 prelim at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. Now on a troubling four-fight losing streak, Pitolo (13-9, 1-5 UFC) met his end 4:34 into Round 1.

Todorovic (11-2, 2-2 UFC) delivered a takedown, freed himself from a loose guillotine choke and made slow but consistent progress on the ground. He transitioned from half guard to full mount, then moved to Pitolo’s back. From there, Todorovic flattened out the Hawaiian and cut loose with punches until referee Mark Smith had no choice but to intervene.

Ferocious Kape Blitzes Zhumagulov

Former Rizin Fighting Federation champion Manel Kape cut down Zhalgas Zhumagulov with punches in the first round of their flyweight tilt. Kape (17-6, 2-2 UFC) brought it to an emphatic close 4:02 into Round 1, notching his second victory in as many appearances.

Zhumagulov (14-6, 1-3 UFC) was the aggressor at the start but played with fire one too many times. Kape sat down the onetime Fight Nights Global titleholder with a blinding left hook-right cross combination in the center of the cage, pressured him into the fence and uncorked a devastating volley of power punches from both hands until the Kazakhstani scrapper folded.

It was Zhumagulov’s first stoppage loss since Jan. 24, 2015.

Barberena Downs Unbeaten Weeks

A sustained attack on the body and legs spurred Gym-O representative Bryan Barberena to a unanimous decision over promotional newcomer Darian Weeks in a three-round welterweight clash. All three cageside judges struck 29-28 scorecards for Barberena (16-8, 7-6 UFC), who recorded his second win in three outings.

A short-notice substitution for Matt Brown, Weeks (5-1, 0-1 UFC) executed multiple takedowns and punched effectively in spurts. However, Barberena moved forward with the unwavering purpose for which he has become known, zeroed in on the lead leg with kicks and peppered the body with punches. His consistent output became more and more of a factor as the match progressed.

Weeks entered his Octagon debut on the strength of five straight finishes.

Related » UFC on ESPN 31 Round-by-Round Scoring

Surging Vlismas Handles Martin

Xtreme Couture export Cheyanne Vlismas outstruck and outmaneuvered Mallory Martin to a unanimous decision in a three-round women’s strawweight battle. Vlismas (7-2, 2-1 UFC) carried all three scorecards: 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28.

Martin (7-5, 1-3 UFC) was a step or two behind in the standup exchanges. Vlismas circled on the perimeter, connected with accurate punching combinations and managed to steer clear of return fire. Hand speed, footwork and output provided the difference, the divide between the two women seeming to grow as the minutes and seconds ticked off the clock.

Vlismas, 26, has won six of her last seven bouts.

Hulking Knight Outpoints Menifield

Thornton Martial Arts representative William Knight won for the fifth time in six outings, as he laid claim to a contentious unanimous decision over fellow Dana White’s Contender Series graduate Alonzo Menifield in a three-round light heavyweight encounter. All three cageside judges scored it the same: 29-28 for Knight (11-2, 3-1 UFC).

The 15-minute bout was marked by extended periods of inactivity. Knight authored the most significant moments of offense in the first round, where he scrambled into full mount, advanced to the back and briefly threatened with a rear-naked choke. Once the two men disengaged, he sat down Menifield (11-3, 4-3 UFC) with a left hook and appeared to have him teetering on the brink when the bell sounded. Not much happened over the final two rounds, as Menifield relied on a stall-heavy clinch and Knight responded with a few power punching bursts.

The loss snapped Menifield’s two-fight winning streak.

Puelles Kneebar Submits Gruetzemacher

Sanford MMA prospect Claudio Puelles submitted “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 22 quarterfinalist Chris Gruetzemacher with a kneebar in the third round of their lightweight encounter. Gruetzemacher (15-5, 3-4 UFC) raised the white flag 3:25 into Round 3.

The 25-year-old Puelles (11-2, 4-1 UFC) set the tone with a strong first round, where he struck for a takedown, applied his ground-and-pound and ultimately achieved full mount. “The Ultimate Fighter Latin America” Season 3 finalist held his own in the clinch throughout a grimy middle stanza, then waited for an opportunity to present itself in the third. Gruetzemacher held top position for much of the frame but paid too little attention to the Peruvian’s persistent attacks on his lower extremities. Puelles eventually isolated his left leg, engaged his hips on the kneebar and prompted the tapout.

Puelles will ride a four-fight winning streak into his next assignment.

Syndicate’s Morales Buries Smolka

Syndicate MMA export Vince Morales put away former Pacific Xtreme Combat champion Louis Smolka with punches in the first round of their bantamweight pairing. Smolka (17-8, 8-8 UFC) succumbed to blows 2:02 into Round 1, losing for the third time in five appearances.

Morales (11-5, 3-3 UFC) targeted the Hawaiian with body-head combinations and a few leg kicks. Smolka engaged him at close range and fired off a few knees from the Thai clinch but left his head exposed in the process. Morales floored him with an overhand right and pounced with punches until referee Chris Tognoni called for the stoppage.

The 31-year-old Morales has rattled off back-to-back victories.


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