Canadian welterweight Yohan (White Lion) Lainesse posted his first UFC victory, earning a split decision Saturday over American Darian Weeks on the UFC 279 undercard.
The judges scored it 29-28, 28-29, 29-28 for the 30-year-old from Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville, Que. Weeks looked surprised as the scorecards were announced.
"It was a close fight," said the six-foot-one Lainesse. "I have a big problem — it's always been my gas tank because I'm a powerful puncher.
"I'm very happy to do three rounds today. And I proved to myself I'm able to do three rounds with a good pace. Darian's a tough guy. And it's just the beginning. We have a new animal in the welterweight division."
Lainesse (9-1-0) lost his UFC debut in April to American (Gifted) Gabe Green, who survived an early onslaught to stop Lainesse in the second round. Lainesse won his UFC contract on "Dana White's Contender Series" with a 97-second KO of previously unbeaten Justin Burlinson last November.
Two other Canadians did not fare so well on the night.
China's Heili (The Mongolian Knight) Alatengb used crisp striking to win a unanimous (30-27, 30-27, 30-27) decision over Alberta bantamweight Chad (The Monster) Anheliger.
Anheliger, who trains in Calgary but calls Airdrie home, came into Saturday's bout riding a 10-fight win streak with his last loss in June 2014.
Calgary featherweight (Mean) Hakeem Dawodu lost a unanimous (30-27, 30-27, 30-27) decision to American Julian (Juicy J) Erosa.
Dawodu (13-3-1) missed the non-title featherweight limit of 146 pounds, weighing in at 149.5 pounds. He was fined 30 per cent of his purse.
The revamped all-American main event at the T-Mobile Arena pitted Nate Diaz against Tony Ferguson in a five-round welterweight bout. The co-main event featured unbeaten Swede Khamzat Chimaev, who was originally due to take on Diaz, and Kevin (Trailblazer) Holland at a catchweight of 180 pounds.
Chimaev weighed 7.5 pounds over the non-title welterweight limit of 171 pounds and was moved out of the Diaz matchup to fight Holland at a catchweight on the advice of UFC doctors.
The card featured three of the 14 Canadians currently on the UFC roster.
Erosa (28-9-0) scored with his right hand in a dominant first round before looking for the takedown, crunching Dawodu against the fence. And he wobbled the Canadian with a right to the chin in a flurry of blows to end the round.
Dawodu began to find a home for his jab in the second round. But Erosa took him down and then took his back when Dawodu got back up. Erosa locked in a body triangle and Dawodu ended back on the ground, eating elbows and punches. He managed to get to his feet just before the round ended.
Erosa was more cautious in the third round but still found a home for his uppercut at times. And he landed a takedown with 90 seconds remaining.
Erosa had a 98-69 edge in significant strikes in the fight, with a 44-23 edge in the first round. It was his third straight win, a run that included a submission victory over Canadian Charles (Air) Jourdain.
Weeks (5-3-0) was slated to meet Cedric Doumbe on a Sept. 3 card in France but shifted to face Lainesse after the bout fell through. The Missouri-based fighter lost his first two UFC outings, against Bryan (Bam Bam) Barberena on four days’ notice and most recently Ireland's Ian (The Future) Garry in April.
Lainesse, with former UFC contender Patrick (The Predator) Cote in his corner, connected with several powerful right hands in the early going. Weeks scored with a nasty stomp to Lainesse's left leg later in the first round.
Weeks did better in the second round, wobbling Lainesse with a left hook early. Lainesse returned the favour midway through the round. Weeks slammed Lainesse to the ground with a big takedown, only to see the Canadian get right back up. Lainesse fought off another takedown later in the round.
Lainesse stuffed Weeks' takedown attempts in the third but found himself clinching at the fence as Weeks pushed the pace. Both fighters seemed to be running out of steam as the bout ended.
The 35-year-old Anheliger backed up midway through the first round after taking a punch from Heili. And Heili sent him backwards again with a big blow to the forehead.
Anheliger, his face bloodied, was hurt again as the Chinese fighter continued to find the target.
"You got caught a couple of times," Anheliger was told between rounds.
Heili (16-8-2) kept pressuring Anheliger in the second round, scoring with a left and then driving the Canadian backwards with another shot. Anheliger (12-6-0) kept punching but got the worst of most of the exchanges.
Heili switched strategy to open the third round, taking Anheliger down with a trip. He scored another takedown late in the round.
Heili was coming off a 47-second stoppage of Kevin (Crash) Croom in April and came into Saturday's bout with a 3-1-1 UFC record.
Anheliger won his UFC contract with a spilt-decision win over Tajikstan's Muin (Yajik) Gafurov on "Dana White's Contender Series" last September.
The judges scored it 29-28, 28-29, 29-28 for Anheliger.
"Hell of a fight and he's a Canadian,'' White said in announcing the 135-pounder was headed to the UFC. Anheliger won his UFC debut in February, stopping Jesse (Sui Generis) Strader in the third round.