UFC Rio Rancho Report: Jan Błachowicz knocks out Corey Anderson in the first round.
On Saturday evening the UFC held its 25th card on ESPN+, at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. Following last week’s title fight between champion Jon Jones and Dominick Reyes, light heavyweight contenders Corey Anderson and Jan Błachowicz each looked to establish themselves as next in line for a championship opportunity. The two had fought previously at UFC 191, with Anderson defeating Błachowicz by unanimous decision. In the co-main event, UFC Hall of Famer and TUF 1 winner Diego Sanchez, made his 31st octagon appearance, facing off against the wild Michel Pereira.
The commentary team for this card consisted of Brendan Fitzgerald and former UFC champion, Daniel Cormier. Performance bonuses were awarded to Jan Błachowicz and Daniel Rodriguez. Fight of the Night bonuses went out to Jim Miller and Scott Holtzman. The reported attendance for the event was 6,449, with a gate of $596,820.
*Raulian Paiva def. Mark De La Rosa by KO at 4:42 of Round 2
*Macy Chiasson def. Shanna Young by unanimous decision (30-26 all)
*Merab Dvalishvili def. Kenney by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-25, 29-28)
*Devin Clark def. Dequan Townsend by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-26, 30-26)
*Scott Holtzman def. Jim Miller by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
*John Dodson def. Nathaniel Wood by TKO at 0:16 of Round 3
*Daniel Rodriguez def. Tim Means by guillotine choke at 3:32 of Round 2
*Lando Vannata def. Yancy Medeiros by unanimous decision (30-27 all)
*Ray Borg def. Rogerio Bontorin by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-25)
*Brok Weaver def. Kazula Vargas by disqualification (illegal knee) 4:02 of Round 1
*Montana De La Rosa def. Mara Romero Borella by unanimous decision (30-27 all)
*Diego Sanchez def. Michel Pereira by disqualification (illegal knee) at 3:09 of Round 3
*Jan Błachowicz def. Corey Anderson by KO at 3:08 of Round 1
MARK DE LA ROSA (11-3, 126) VS RAULIAN PAIVA (18-3, 126) – FLYWEIGHT
It was noted that Mark De La Rosa and his wife, Montana De La Rosa, would be the first married couple to compete on the same card in the UFC.
The first round was spent on the feet, with both men trying to find their range and rhythm. There were a few exchanges where they really started trading in the pocket, and Paiva was finding a home for his right hook. Paiva controlled the center of the octagon for the entirety of the round, but the striking numbers were similar. Close round, but I gave the edge to Paiva.
The second round was similar to the first. De La Rosa had occasional success when he went to the body, but didn’t go there consistently enough to really slow Paiva down. The right hand continued to be the difference-maker for Paiva, who was doing significant damage with it at this point. Towards the end of the round, Paiva threw a jab and followed it with one last right hook, flooring De La Rosa, and getting the second-round stoppage.
WINNER: Raulian Paiva by KO at 4:42 of Round 2
Paiva found an effective weapon early in the fight and used it continuously until he got the finish. After losing his first two fights in the promotion, this was a needed win for Paiva, who became the first fighter to finish Mark De La Rosa with strikes.
MACY CHIASSON (6-1, 135) VS SHANNA YOUNG (7-2, 134) – BANTAMWEIGHT
Young took this fight on one week’s notice after Chiasson’s original opponent, Nicco Montaño, withdrew from the bout.
The beginning of this fight was wild. Both women were aggressive out the gate, landing hard and often. Young must have connected with about three head kicks to Chiasson in the first minute. Chiasson responded with a barrage of knees to the body in the Thai clinch, and it was apparent that they were beginning to affect Young. Chiasson landed a head kick of her own, before taking Young down to the ground. She ended the round on Young’s back, throwing down strikes as she attempted to get a stoppage before time expired. I thought this first round was great and scored it 10-9 in Chiasson’s favor.
Both fighters were tired after the action-packed first round, and the vast majority of the next ten minutes were spent on the ground. Chiasson dominated the grappling exchanges in rounds 2 and 3, doing enough damage to maintain her position, but never came especially close to finishing the fight. The third round could have easily been scored a 10-8 for Chiasson, who maintained top position for the entire round. Ultimately, I scored the fight 30-26 for Macy Chiasson.
WINNER: Macy Chiasson by unanimous decision (30-26 all)
The first round of this fight was excellent. In the latter two rounds, Young did not have much of an answer to Chiasson’s grappling heavy attack but nonetheless gave a good accounting of herself on short notice. Chiasson is now 4-1 in the UFC.
CASEY KENNEY (13-1, 135.5) VS MERAB DVALISHVILI (9-4, 136) – BANTAMWEIGHT
Dvalishvili was mixing up his offense well in the first. Both men had some success with kicks to the body. While Kenney was really starting to find his range by the end of the round, the grappling that Dvalishvili incorporated throughout the round was perhaps the biggest difference-maker. He lifted Kenney on his shoulders and expertly brought him back down to the ground at one point, which always looks good to the judges. He likely won the round.
Dvalishvili was really putting the pressure on in the second, continuing to mix up his striking and grappling to keep Kenney hesitant. To Kenney’s credit, he continuously returned to his feet whenever he was brought down and kept Dvalishvili from advancing into a more dominant position, but this was definitely a Dvalishvili round.
The cardio difference between the fighters was clear by the third round. Dvalishvili continued to suffocate Kenney with his output and pressure. I scored this fight 30-27 for Merab Dvalishvili.
WINNER: Merab Dvalishvili by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-25, 29-28)
The commentary team made a lot of Dvalishvili’s cardio, and for good reason. He didn’t appear to have slowed much at all as the fight progressed, and that allowed him to really pull away with this fight after a competitive first round. Dvalishvili is now 3-2 in the UFC.
DEVIN CLARK (10-4, 205) VS DEQUAN TOWNSEND (21-10, 202) – LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT
Townsend had actually competed on the last fight night card (January 25th), in a losing effort against Bevon Lewis.
Clark found success with his wrestling in the first round. He pressured Townsend against the cage for some time, and when they were eventually separated for inactivity, he shot in and easily brought Townsend to the ground. Clear 10-9 for Devin Clark.
Jon Jones was shown in the crowd, who is a sparring partner of Clarks. Townsend started swinging wildly, which allowed Clark to change levels and bring the fight back to the ground. Clark spent the rest of the round on top, keeping busy enough to keep the referee from standing them back up. 20-18 Clark after two rounds.
Once again Townsend was taken down by Clark, who began to work from Townsend’s guard. He maintained this position for the remainder of the round and won this fight convincingly.
WINNER: Devin Clark by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-26, 30-26)
This was not an entertaining fight, but it was a dominant performance nonetheless from Devin Clark, who easily won every round with his wrestling. Townsend had no answer to Clarks grappling and has lost all three of his fights since signing with the UFC. Clark is now 5-4 in the promotion.
JIM MILLER (31-13, 1 NC, 156) VS SCOTT HOLTZMAN (13-3, 156) – LIGHTWEIGHT
This marked Millers 34th fight in the UFC, tying Donald Cerrone’s record number of octagon appearances.
Holtzman was fighting patiently early, trying to gauge Miller’s timing. This allowed Miller to get the better of the early striking exchanges, finding success with his straight left. Holtzman turned on the pressure later in the round, countering that left punch of Miller repeatedly with his right hand. Miller landed a hard-left hook towards the end of a close first round. I narrowly gave it to Jim Miller.
Miller briefly took Holtzman’s back against the cage, but Holtzman escaped the position and began to really let loose with his hands, which seemed to open a couple of cuts on Miller’s face, and proceeded to take Miller down. Holtzman landed some solid elbows from side control, and I had this fight all tied up going into the third round.
Miller looked tired going into the third, and the commentators speculated that there may be something wrong with his knee. Miller was still swinging hard as Holtzman moved forwards, but was constantly on the backfoot, which allowed Holtzman to pressure Miller against the cage. They both let loose towards the end of the round, capping off a hard-fought fifteen minutes. I scored the fight 29-28 Holtzman.
WINNER: Scott Holtzman by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
I enjoyed this fight, and both men took a lot of big shots throughout the fight. Holtzman had the advantage in the cardio department, and the longer the fight went, the more he pulled ahead. Holtzman has won 5 of his last 6 fights.
JOHN DODSON (20-11, 133.5) VS NATHANIEL WOOD (16-3, 136) – BANTAMWEIGHT
Dodson found success in the first round with his forward flurries of strikes and quick retreats. Wood seemed to be having trouble gauging his timing, and Dodson seemed a step ahead in the striking department. Wood began to find a home for his left hand, and briefly took Dodson down. Dodson popped right back up, and shortly thereafter the round concluded. I scored it 10-9 Dodson.
John Dodson was kicked down low twice. I would be surprised if he does not hold the record for most timed kicked down low in a career. Much like the first, Dodson found success when he let loose with his flurries of strikes, and Wood’s best weapon was that left hand. Dodson opened up a cut above Wood’s left eye, and the fight was momentarily paused as the doctor confirmed that Wood could continue. They traded wildly to end the round. I had Dodson up 20-18 going into the final round.
As Wood rushed in, Dodson dropped him with a left hook and proceeded to throw strikes down on Wood until referee Joe Coca stopped the fight.
WINNER: John Dodson by TKO at 0:16 of Round 3
Dodson was a bit more aggressive then he’s fought since returning to bantamweight, and it resulted in his first finish since 2016. This was a much-needed win for Dodson, who was coming off consecutive losses for the first time in his career. This loss snapped an 8-fight win streak for Nathaniel Wood.
TIM MEANS (29-11-1, 1 NC, 171) VS DANIEL RODRIGUEZ (10-1, 146) – WELTERWEIGHT
The fight opened with a quick takedown from Means, but Rodriguez popped right up. Means was the aggressor throughout the round and was comfortably out-striking Rodriguez early. Rodriguez dropped Means with a left hook at the very end of the round, and Means looked hurt badly walking back to his corner.
Rodriguez’s left hook was doing damage in the second. He stumbled Means with another one. Means managed to recover and went back on the attack, but Rodriguez hurt him again with a left hook, and Means shot for a desperation single leg. Rodriguez countered the attempt with a standing guillotine choke, and Means quickly tapped.
WINNER: Daniel Rodriguez by guillotine choke at 3:32 of Round 2
Once Rodriguez found that left hook at the end of the first, the entire fight changed. Rodriguez was doing a ton of damage in the second, and the fight was over the second he locked in that choke. This was an impressive win for Rodriguez over a tough veteran of the sport in Tim Means.
LANDO VANNATA (10-4-2, 156) VS YANCY MEDEIROS (15-6, 1 NC, 155) – LIGHTWEIGHT
Vannata was giving Medeiros all he could handle early, countering Yancy’s attacks with high kicks and looping punches. He briefly had Medeiros backed up against the cage as he continuously found his target with his strikes. Medeiros recovered and gave a good accounting of himself for the rest of the round. That moment was the difference-maker in the round, and I thought this was a clear 10-9 round for Lando Vannata.
The second round continued at a slower pace, with both fighters fighting at a slower pace than usual, waiting for the other one to make their move. Vannata landed a pair of hooks and attempted a takedown, which Medeiros defended well. Medeiros found more success in this round, but Vannata was still leading the dance. Vannata landed a solid kick to the body to end the round.
Vannata rushed forward and connected with a solid left hand to begin the round. Lando Vannata was doing damage in this round, as Medeiros began to fight with more desperation. Cormier noted that if Vannata was more aggressive, he could have finished this fight, but seemed content to stick to the game-plan. He continued to stay a step ahead of Medeiros and pretty clearly won the round. I scored the fight 30-27 Vannata.
WINNER: Lando Vannata by unanimous decision (30-27 all)
Both fighters fought more conservatively then I expected them to coming into this fight. Vannata was cautious, but his counterstriking ability was too much for Medeiros to overcome here. He is now 3-4-2 in the UFC.
RAY BORG (12-4, 128) VS ROGERIO BONTORIN (16-1, 1 NC, 126) – FLYWEIGHT
Borg weighed in 2lbs over the flyweight limit and was fined 30% of his purse. This marked Borg’s 4th time missing weight in the UFC.
Bontorin pressed Borg against the cage from the get-go. Borg defended the takedown attempts from Bontorin, and then took him down in return. Bontorin briefly made his way back to the feet, but Borg took him right back down and ended the round on top. 10-9 Borg on my scorecard.
Borg took Bontorin right back down to start the second, took Bontorin’s back, and searched for the choke. He didn’t find it, but he remained in a dominant position, riding out the rest of the round in time control, landing some big elbows. Very clear round for Borg, and at this point it looked as though Bontorin did not have an answer to Borg’s grappling.
Nonetheless, Bontorin re-engaged in the grappling, and Borg immediately took him down and began to work. The round was all Borg, and this was a dominant performance for the former UFC flyweight title challenger.
WINNER: Ray Borg by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-25 all)
This fight wasn’t particularly competitive. Pure domination from Ray Borg from the beginning until the end. The win will be marred by the weight miss, but a loss could have been disastrous for Borg considering the circumstances. Borg apologized profusely for the weight miss in his post-fight interview. Borg is 3-1 in fights where he has missed weight.
BROK WEAVER (14-4, 156) VS KAZULA VARGAS (11-3, 156) – LIGHTWEIGHT
Vargas was throwing heavy strikes in the first minute of the fight. He backed Weaver against the fence, threw a barrage of strikes, and then took him to the ground. Weaver went for a guillotine choke that looked tight, but Vargas escaped and went to work with strikes to the body. Vargas threw a hard knee to the face of the clearly grounded Brok Weaver, and it appeared to knock him out. Referee Robert Romero stopped the contest and disqualified Vargas.
WINNER: Brok Weaver by disqualification (illegal knee) 4:02 of Round 1
Well, this was one of the more blatant disqualifications I can recall seeing. There is not much to break down, but I thought Vargas looked good, finish aside. I have no idea what was going through his head before he threw that knee, but he cost himself a fight that he was winning early. This was Weaver’s first fight in the promotion, and thus his first win. The commentators noted that the fighters expressed interest in running the fight back in the future.
MONTANA DE LA ROSA (10-5, 126) VS MARA ROMERO BORELLA (12-6, 2 NC, 125) – FLYWEIGHT
There were some good grappling exchanges and scrambles early in this one. Borella snatched De La Rosa’s back, but in the process, she ate an elbow that cut her open. De La Rosa took Borella’s back in turn and rode out the remainder of the round in dominant position. Back and forth round. I had De La Rosa narrowly edging out the opening round, but it could really have gone either way.
The next two rounds were more decisive. De La Rosa tripped Borella to the ground and took her back once again in the second. She searched for a choke for the vast majority of the round, but couldn’t find it. In the third. De La Rosa dropped Borella with a big right hand and finished the round on top. I scored the fight 30-27 for Montana De La Rosa.
WINNER: Montana De La Rosa by unanimous decision (30-27 all)
After a competitive first round, De La Rosa pulled away with the fight in the later rounds, dropping Borella, and gaining and maintaining dominant position. With this win, De La Rosa is 4-1 in the UFC.
DIEGO SANCHEZ (29-12, 171) VS MICHEL PEREIRA (23-10, 2 NC, 170) – WELTERWEIGHT
This was Diego Sanchez’s 31st fight in the UFC. He got a huge reaction from the New Mexico crowd.
Sanchez started the round with a Rob Van Dam style rolling thunder because that’s the sort of fight this was. Pereira landed a couple of kicks to the body, then attempted a showtime kick, and followed that up with a flying knee. Pereira continued to work the body of Sanchez. Diego did another summersault. This fight was just as strange as you would think it would be.
It would be impossible to detail the strange movements and stylings that either of these men attempted throughout this fight. Pereira’s body shots continued to have an effect on Sanchez. Pereira changed stances about six timed and then hurt Diego with a straight right. Superman punch off the cage from Pereira. Pereira ended the round with a huge takedown.
Pereira started dancing to begin the third. Sanchez took another hard kick to the body, attempted a spinning back fist, and got thrown to the ground. Naturally, Pereira backflipped onto Sanchez. When they returned to the feet Diego ate another knee. There came a point in the round where Sanchez was downed against the cage, and Pereira kneed him in the head. The fight was paused by referee Jake Herzog. Sanchez was cut open badly on his forehead by the knee. Sanchez said he could not continue and the fight was stopped.
WINNER: Diego Sanchez by disqualification (illegal knee) at 3:09 of Round 3
This was as strange and unique a fight as you would expect, complete with another disqualification finish. Pereira dominated the vast majority of the fight, but that knee cost him a fight he was two minutes away from winning. It may have not been as blatant as the one earlier in the night, but still a disappointing conclusion to this fight. Sanchez has now won 3 of his last 4 fights.
COREY ANDERSON (13-4, 205) VS JAN BLACHOWICZ (25-8, 206) – LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT
At UFC 191 in 2015, Anderson defeated Błachowicz by unanimous decision. Since that night, both fighters have had ten fights apiece, with both men going 7-3 in that span.
Anderson changed levels a couple of times early in the first, looking for a takedown, but Błachowicz shook him off. As Anderson moved forward, Błachowicz connected with a right hand that dropped him, and a single hammer fist finished the job. This was a brutal knockout finish for Jan Błachowicz.
WINNER: Jan Błachowicz by KO at 3:08 of Round 1
Following the controversial decision from Jon Jones/Dominick Reyes fight last week, a lot of fans and analysts were naturally calling for a rematch. That left Jan Błachowicz and Corey Anderson in a position where they really needed to make a statement in this fight to keep their name in the conversation for the next light heavyweight title fight. Błachowicz did just that with this highlight reel knockout. Błachowicz called out Jon Jones in his post-fight interview, and they jawed at each other a bit following the finish. This was exactly what Jan needed to get that fight. He is now 7-1 in his last 8 fights.