Cub Swanson landed straight right hands. He landed left hooks. Swanson landed uppercuts and punches to the body. Through it all, Kron Gracie, blood on his face, continued coming forward.
Gracie stalked Swanson for three rounds. And for three rounds, Swanson teed off en route to a unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27) victory Saturday night in the co-main event of UFC Fight Night: Joanna vs. Waterson in Tampa, Florida. The bout earned fight-of-the-night honors.
Swanson was never in trouble and it was a relatively dominant victory. But Gracie, the latest of the legendary family to compete in UFC, pushed him — hard.
“I’m tired,” Swanson said in the postfight interview. “It takes two to put on a great fight. Hats off to him for that. He stood and fought with me the whole time.”
Gracie does a distinctive breathing exercise during open workouts in which his stomach moves in and out. Swanson joked that he wanted to test that exercise with body shots and “try to tear a hole through him.” Swanson landed some brutal punches to Gracie’s midsection without much effect.
“Those are supposed to start kicking in by now,” Swanson said he was thinking late in the fight. “What’s going on?”
Swanson landed his full arsenal for three rounds. Gracie pressured and tried to force the fight into a clinch. He rarely succeeded, though he did hit Swanson with some punches, including one that opened up a cut to the side of Swanson’s right eye in the second round. Several times Gracie got close enough to clinch and try to drag Swanson down to the ground, but it worked with only 45 seconds left in the fight. By that time, the bout was all but decided and Swanson survived.
Swanson (26-11) snapped a four-fight losing streak with the victory. The California native earned his 16th win at featherweight, tied for the second most in UFC/WEC history in that division. Swanson, 35, proved he still belongs in the UFC with the win.
Gracie (5-1) was undefeated coming in and won all of his previous five fights by submission. The California native is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace like his famous family members — the first family of MMA in the United States. Gracie, 31, is the son of legendary grappler and vale tudo fighter Rickson Gracie and nephew of former multiple time UFC champion Royce Gracie.
Welterweight: Niko Price (14-3, -150) defeated James Vick (13-5) with a first-round KO by up-kick.
The old cliché about a fighter being able to knock out an opponent from any position is trite. Except in the case of Price.
For the second straight year, Price earned one of the most creative knockouts in MMA. “The Hybrid” landed an axe kick from his back on a standing Vick to win by KO at 1:44 of the first round.
“Fighting is not a technique,” Price told Michael Bisping in his post-fight interview. “You just fight! Be a dog! Get in it!”
In July, 2018, Price knocked out Randy Brown with hammer fists from the bottom. What made it unique was that Price held up Brown’s head with his foot to frame it for his strikes. The Florida native has established himself as one of the most innovative knockout artists in the sport.
Price (14-3, 1 NC) has won two of his last three fights and three of his last five. The 30-year-old welterweight has not gone to a decision a single time in his three-year UFC career. Vick (13-5), a 32-year-old Texas native, has lost four straight. He was moving up from lightweight to welterweight for this bout.
ESPN Sports & Information: Price scored just the second up-kick knockout in UFC history. The other was Jon Fitch’s finish of Thiago Alves in 2006. Price earned a performance-of-the-night bonus.
Strawweight: Amanda Ribas (8-1) defeated Mackenzie Dern (7-1) by unanimous decision.
The story going into this fight was Dern competing just four months after giving birth. The story coming out? Ribas’ emergence.
In a battle of women’s strawweight prospects, Ribas proved she was the one more ready for prime time with a dominant, unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27) win over Dern. Not a single round was all that close. Ribas pieced Dern up on the feet and stayed out of trouble on the ground against Dern, the former multiple time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion.
Ribas landed hard right hands throughout and kept Dern at bay with jabs. Dern has a notably powerful overhand right, but Ribas was staying out of range and then countering it with right hands. Dern was aggressive with her guard when the fight ended up on the ground in the first and second rounds, but Ribas stayed solid and didn’t allow for any significant offense. When Dern shot in for a takedown and tried to pull off a deep half guard sweep in the third, Ribas smashed her with punches and elbows. It was a complete performance and even drew recognition from featherweight and bantamweight champ Amanda Nunes.
Ribas (7-1) has won three straight, including her two lone fights in the UFC. The 26-year-old Brazilian was cleared earlier this year from an anti-doping suspension by USADA due to the belief that the positive test came from tainted supplements. She finished Emily Whitmire by submission in her debut in June.
Dern (7-1) gave birth to her daughter Moa in June. The 26-year-old Arizona native is still thought to be a top prospect at 115 pounds. Dern had won her only other two UFC fights coming in.
Lightweight: Matt Frevola (8-1-1) defeated Luis Pena (7-2) by split decision.
Pena levels Frevola with flying knee
“Violent Bob Ross” Luis Pena lands a devastating flying knee to the head of Matt Frevola in Round 2. For more UFC, sign up here for ESPN+ http://plus.espn.com/ufc.
Both men threatened on the ground. Both men did damage to each other on the feet. The featherweight bout went back and forth and could have ended several times, but it ended up a split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28) in favor of Frevola.
The first round started with Frevola upping the intensity and pressure. He took Pena down repeatedly and landed a hard right hand. Pena ended the round well, flurrying against the cage and landed a nice left that wobbled Frevola.
In the second, Pena landed a jumping switch knee that rocked Frevola and changed the course of the bout. Frevola took Pena down, but Pena worked for a kimura, got up, landed a knee and then a nice straight left hand. Frevola fired back with another takedown, but Pena reversed and ended up in mount to close the round. Frevola rallied once again in the third with a crushing right hand near the start of the round and a left that wobbled Pena toward the end of it. The performance in the final round was enough to seal the decision. Frevola (8-1-1) is unbeaten in his last three fights. The 29-year-old New York native has rebounded nicely after suffering a knockout loss to Polo Reyes in his UFC debut in 2018. Pena (7-2), a 26-year-old American Kickboxing Academy product, had his two-fight winning streak snapped.
Middleweight: Eryk Anders (13-4) defeated Gerald Meerschaert (29-12) by split decision.
Anders picked up an important win in his return to middleweight. The former University of Alabama football player rode a dominant first round and solid third to win a split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28).
Anders walked Meerschaert down in the first and landed hard punches. Meerschaert kept flopping to his back to draw Anders into a grappling match, but it didn’t work. Meerschaert found his striking and rhythm in the second round and landed a nice body kick that put Anders on his heels.
Anders and Meerschaert each landed left hands that rocked the other in the third. Meerschaert’s strikes seemed to do more damage — Anders was rocked — but the judges still saw the fight for Anders.
Anders (13-4) has won two straight following a three-fight losing streak. The 32-year-old Alabama native is likely to stick with middleweight now after a pair of bouts at light heavyweight over the past two years. Meerschaert (29-12), a 31-year-old Wisconsin native, has lost three of his past four bouts.
Flyweight: Deiveson Figueiredo(17-1) defeated Tim Elliott (15-9-1) by guillotine choke in the first round.
The flyweight division has a new, serious contender.
Figueiredo snatched a guillotine off an Elliott takedown and put the squeeze on and Elliott had no choice but to tap. The finish came at 3:08 of the first round. Afterward, Figueiredo called out No. 1 contender Joseph Benavidez. Figueiredo said, through translator and manager Wallid Ismail, that champion Henry Cejudo won’t be back until next year due to injury, so why not make Figueiredo vs. Benavidez for the interim title?
“Cejudo, you’re out,” Figueiredo said. “But Benavidez, come to fight for the interim belt. Cejudo isn’t gonna come back until next year. Why are you gonna wait? Benavidez, are you afraid to fight me? Are you afraid of Deiveson Figueiredo?”
Figueiredo (17-1) has won two straight and six of his past seven in the UFC. The dynamic Brazilian fighter’s lone career loss was to fellow contender Jussier Formiga. Figueiredo, 31, has stopped 14 of his 17 career wins, an eye-opening number in a division that has been panned for its lack of finishes. Figueiredo came in ranked No. 4 among flyweights by ESPN. Elliott (15-9-1) has lost three of his past five fights. The 32-year-old Las Vegas resident is the former Titan FC flyweight champion.
Lightweight: Mike Davis (8-2) defeated Thomas Gifford (17-9) by third-round knockout.
Color commentator Michael Bisping, among others, thought the fight should have been stopped sooner because of the damage Gifford was taking.
Gifford’s coach Marc Montoya told ESPN that the fighter was transported to the hospital and was “fine,” checking out great in tests.
ESPN Staff Writer
Thomas Gifford was transported to the hospital, but is “fine,” according to his coach Marc Montoya. Gifford suffered a pretty brutal third-round knockout against Mike Davis on the UFC Tampa prelims after sustaining damage throughout the fight. Montoya said Gifford is checking out great in tests — he’s just upset about the loss.
From ESPN Stats & Information: Davis finished with 139 significant strikes landed, the most in a lightweight, three-round fight in 2019. The only lightweights to land more this year are Max Holloway (181) and Dustin Poirier (178) during their interim lightweight title fight in April. Davis took this fight on just four days’ notice. This is Davis’ first UFC victory after losing to Gilbert Burns in his UFC debut. His two losses have come against Burns and Sodiq Yusuff, who have a combined record of 27-4 (13-3 in UFC).
Light heavyweight: Ryan Spann (17-5) defeated Devin Clark (10-4) by second-round submission.
From ESPN Stats & Information: Spann picks up his first UFC win via submission and the 11th of his career. Spann has now won seven straight fights, including his first three in the UFC.
Welterweight: Alex Morono (17-5) defeated Max Griffin (15-7) by unanimous decision.
From ESPN Stats & Information: Morono picked up his third straight victory.
Bantamweight: Marlon Vera (15-5-1, -170) defeated Andre Ewell (15-6) by third-round TKO.
“Every time I jump in the cage, I am more experienced and more prepared,” Vera said. “All I have to do is keep my work ethic on point, work hard, be in the gym all the time and keep looking for ways for me to improve. For me, it’s all about competition and I like to perform, that’s why I prepare myself so hard. I always say, ‘Whoever is next and ready, I’ll pick up the phone, say yes, put my boots on and walk into the Octagon.’ I just need to heal some things from this fight, I’m hurting a little, but as soon as I’m ready to go, I’ll contact my coaches and ask what’s next. Success is something you need to earn, if you can’t pay that rent then you can’t win out there, and I earn it every day. I’m the contender in this division.”
From ESPN Stats & Information: Vera picks up his fifth straight win, tying Petr Yan for the longest active win streak in the bantamweight division. Vera’s wins have all been stoppages, and Yan has gone to decision in three of the five fights — but Vera has not beaten a ranked fighter during that streak, while Yan has beaten two top-10 fighters, John Dodson and Jimmie Rivera. Vera earned a performance-of-the-night bonus.
Welterweight: Miguel Baeza (8-0) defeated Hector Aldana (4-4) by TKO in second round.
“Words can’t describe how it feels to get my first win in the UFC,” Baeza said. “It’s an accomplishment of so many years of hard work and all the people who have put time and love into me. I want to thank the UFC for putting me on this card and help me bring my family here. I almost need to make up a new word for how I’m feeling, nothing really does it justice. I always take one fight at a time, I had a great opportunity with ‘Dana White’s Contender Series,’ and it helped me get used to the cameras and the media and all that, but that and this were two separate monsters, I had to tackle one at a time. I’m ready for whatever the UFC throws at me, baby, this is just the beginning of my journey.”
From ESPN Stats & Information: Baeza’s knockout stemmed from a kick to the leg, the ninth such finish in UFC history and first by a welterweight. Baeza earned his UFC contract this summer on “Dana White’s Contender Series.”
Middleweight: Marvin Vettori (14-4-1) defeated Andrew Sanchez (12-5) by unanimous decision.
“That’s two wins in a row now, and before that I fought Israel [Adesanya], and he’s the champ now,” Vettori said. “It was a super close fight [against Adesanya], many even said I won, so I’ve had some up and downs, but I’m finding my stride now. Even my first eight or so fights, half of those guys are in the top 15 or former top 15 now, I feel; I never had easy fights, but it’s been a great learning curve, and now I’m on the right path.
“I need to find a way to finish fights, but I feel like I am putting on dominant performances, so I just have to keep going, and it will come. I was a little pissed with him because I stepped in as a replacement to fight him in Canada, and it wasn’t really a fight that did a lot for me, and then he pulls out three days before. I had friends and family from Italy who came to see me, my coaches put in a lot of work, so I was mad. He also talked a lot of trash, so I wanted to show a lot in this fight and prove to him that I am better, and I did that.”
Vettori makes it back-to-back decision victories in the Octagon with his win. After winning his UFC debut by submission, Vettori’s past six fights have all gone the distance. He is 3-2-1 in those fights.
From ESPN Stats & Information: Vettori is the only fighter to win on a scorecard over undefeated UFC middleweight champ Israel Adesanya. He lost a split decision to the Last Stylebender on April 14, 2018.
Women’s flyweight: JJ Aldrich (8-3) defeated Lauren Mueller (5-3) by unanimous decision.
“I really needed this, just for myself more than anything,” Aldrich said. “I’m here for a reason, and I do belong here; I wanted to prove to myself that I can compete, even when I get hit, I can still come out and win. This is my first win at flyweight, I felt really good. I’m not a small flyweight, I was a pretty big strawweight, and I had been cutting to that because that was where the UFC had fights, but I’m glad to make flyweight my home and shoot for the stars. Afterwards, my corner asked me how I felt, and I told them that I felt really good and won the fight. I knew she won the second round, so I wanted to come out in the third and put on a dominant performance, and I feel like I did that.”
From ESPN Stats & Information: Aldrich has won four of her six UFC fights, but this was her first win at flyweight.
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