Canadian lightweight Kyle (The Monster) Nelson, returning to action after a 22-month-absence, started strongly but faded en route to a loss by decision to England's Jai (Black Country Banger) Herbert on a UFC Fight Night card Saturday.
All three judges scored it 29-28 to Herbert (12-4-0), each giving him the last two rounds.
Nelson (13-5-0) scored more significant strikes, 41 to 36 according to UFC Stats, but Herbert had more control time, five minutes 57 second compared to 3:07 for the Canadian.
"I felt like I was better than my opponent everywhere in the fight. But I let the fight go to the judges in enemy territory," Nelson said via social media about the bout. "I still have more to show! No injuries hope to be back soon!"
The main event at the O2 Arena pitted American Curtis (Razor) Blaydes, ranked fourth among heavyweight contenders, against No. 6 Tom Aspinall of England.
Both Nelson and Herbert weighed in at 155 pounds with the 31-year-old from Huntsville, Ont., who trains out of Stoney Creek, Ont., making the move up to lightweight from featherweight (145 pounds).
Both needed a win, each coming into the cage at 1-3-0 in the UFC after losing by nasty knockout last time out.
Nelson was felled by Billy Quarantillo in September 2020 while Herbert was stopped by Spain's Ilia (El Matador) Topuria in March at the same venue.
Nelson said his stamina at 155 pounds is much better, adding that fighting at featherweight "just doesn't make any sense any more."
At six foot one, the 34-year-old Herbert had a two-inch height and six-inch reach advantage over Nelson, who was greeted with boos when he was announced.
Nelson landed several early kicks on Herbert and pinned the English fighter to the fence, looking to take him down. Nelson connected with a couple of elbows but was unable to get Herbert down.
"Give me another one just like that," Nelson's corner told him between rounds.
Hebert looked to find his striking range in the second round. Nelson continued with leg kicks and then looked to take Herbert down at the fence again.
Herbert resisted the takedown with the two fighting in-close. Nelson appeared to tire as the round ended with Herbert coming forward.
"It's all on this last round … You must be quality now," Herbert was told by his corner.
Herbert appeared to be suffering from damage to his leg from Nelson's kicks as the third round started. But he got a break when the two went down to the ground with Nelson on the bottom.
Herbert controlled Nelson on the ground, pushing him up against the fence but failing to inflict much damage. Nelson fought his way back up with a minute remaining in the bout.
The fight ended with the two in another clinch by the fence, with Hebert fighting of a takedown attempt.
Nelson's first win in the UFC was an impressive first-round knockout of Mexican Marco Polo Reyes in September 2019 in Mexico City. The Canadian had previously lost by submission to American Matt (Robo) Sayles and by TKO to Brazil's Diego Ferreira.
He was scheduled to meet Sean (The Sniper) Woodson at a catchweight of 150 pounds in June 2020in Las Vegas. But Nelson, given less than three weeks notice, was unable to get his visa in time.
Nelson is co-owner of Muskoka Martial Arts Academy in Gravenhurst, Ont.