If you weren’t convinced that Demian Maia is a legitimate threat in the welterweight division, his dominant, one-sided win over perennial contender Jon Fitch on Saturday on the UFC 156 main card should have you sold now.
The standout grappler smothered Fitch from the opening second, charging across the cage and taking Fitch’s back in under a minute. He spent the majority of the round hunting for chokes as a human backpack, and then did more of the same over the final two rounds to earn a unanimous decision win.
Now 3-0 since relocating to the welterweight ranks, Maia should find himself in the cage with a top-5 opponent later this year after his standout performance on Saturday night.
Likely battling for a chance to once again challenge Demetrious Johnson for the UFC flyweight title, Joseph Benavidez was able to outwork Ian McCall over the course of 15 entertaining minutes of action to earn a split decision win on Saturday night. The two 125-pound competitors went toe-to-toe for the duration, with the Team Alpha Male representative getting the better of things in the first and third to earn the nod.
Benavidez was able to wobble McCall on a couple different occasions, his power in the stand-up exchanges proving to be the difference. Though McCall was able to capitalize on a late slip in the second to gain dominant position and flurry on Benavidez, the former bantamweight title challenger was able to endure, and pull out the win with a strong final frame.
On the undercard, lightweights Evan Dunham and Gleison Tibau closed out the preliminary portion of Saturday’s UFC 156 in Las Vegas with a back-and-forth battle that went to the scorecards. A slow starter, Dunham found his range and rhythm late in the first, and was able to take advantage of a tiring Tibau over the final 10 minutes to earn a split decision victory.
After being controlled by the massive Brazilian in the first, Dunham started working off his jab more in the second, sticking Tibau with enough strikes in the second and third to get the nod from two of the three officials. Tibau did a very good job of stuffing takedowns, but was clearly fatigued as the fight pressed on, minimizing what he was able to do offensively.
Tyron Woodley announced his presence in the welterweight division in a massive way, blasting Jay Hieron with a right hand out of the gate, dropping the veteran. The former Strikeforce standout pounced, and pounded out the finish, earning the win in just over 30 seconds. It was a tremendous rebound performance for Woodley, who was stopped by Nate Marquardt in his final Strikeforce appearance last summer.
What initially looked like it would be another Jacob Volkmann smother-fest turned into an entertaining debut performance for Bobby Green. After getting out-grappled in the first round, Green took the fight to Volkmann from the start of the second, and dominated the wrestler throughout the rest of the fight.
Green used solid ground-and-pound to soften Volkmann up in the second, though referee Kim Winslow tried to screw things up by standing them up inexplicably late in the frame. Though Vokmann took his back to end the round, the regional veteran Green rebounded, and turned up the intensity in the final frame. Late in the round, Green slipped into mount, transitioned to the back, and choked out Volkmann to earn a win in his UFC debut.
The first former Strikeforce fighter to compete in the Octagon since that organization closed its doors, Isaac Vallie-Flagg kicked off “the invasion” with a hard-fought split decision win over veteran Yves Edwards. The veteran Team Jackson-Winkeljohn representative was the aggressor throughout, pressing forward behind an awkward striking style that left Edwards off balance. It was a close fight through the first two rounds, but Vallie-Flagg was the fresher of the two in the final frame, and was able to out-work Edwards over the final five minutes to earn the split decision, his third consecutive victory by that result.
UFC 156 kicked off on Sportsnet.ca with a pair of impressive finishes.
Young Hawaiian prospect Dustin Kimura maintained his unbeaten record, scoring a third-round submission win over Chico Camus in his UFC debut. The undefeated 23-year-old controlled the fight from his back in the opening two rounds, threatening with submissions in each. When Camus went for a takedown late in the third, Kimura countered, taking Camus back, and from there, the rear naked choke was locked in to secure the tap.
In the opener, Francisco Rivera earned a solid come-from-behind victory over Edwin Figueroa. After getting outworked through most of the opening seven minutes of the fight, Rivera caught Figueroa along the cage, and took advantage of his tired opponent, connecting with a big right hand that staggered him. From there, Rivera pounced, putting away the victory to earn another solid win inside the Octagon.