UFC Fight Night Report: Sergei Pavlovich knocks out Curtis Blaydes in the first round
On Saturday evening, the UFC held a Fight Night event from the Apex Facility in Las Vegas, Nevada. The card was headlined by a bout in the heavyweight division, as Curtis Blaydes faced Sergei Pavlovich. Blaydes has been one of the top heavyweight contenders for half a decade and was looking to finally earn himself a shot at UFC gold with a big win here, after a number of near misses over the years. His opponent, Sergei Pavlovich, was closing in on a title shot as well, with five consecutive first-round knockout wins, notably defeating Derrick Lewis and Tai Tuivasa in his last two outings. This was very much a classic wrestler versus striker matchup, with Blaydes being one of the top wrestlers in the history of the UFC’s heavyweight division, and Pavlovich perhaps being Francis Ngannou’s successor as the hardest-hitting man in the promotion. This card also featured a middleweight bout between another heavy hitter, Bruno Silva, and Brad Tavares, who was looking to climb back into the middleweight rankings.
John Gooden provided commentary for this card, alongside Paul Felder and Dominick Cruz. Performance of the Night bonuses were awarded to Sergei Pavlovich, Bruno Silva, Christos Giagos, and Montel Jackson.
- Brady Hiestand def. Batgerel Danaa by TKO at 4:21 of Round 3
- William Gomis def. Francis Marshall by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)
- Mohammad Usman def. Junior Tafa by unanimous decision (29-28 all)
- Norma Dumont def. Karol Rosa by unanimous decision (29-28 all)
- Montel Jackson def. Rani Yahya by KO at 3:42 of Round 1
- Christos Giagos def. Ricky Glenn by KO at 1:35 of Round 1
- Jeremiah Wells def. Matthew Semelsberger by split decision (30-27, 30-27, 28-29)
- Iasmin Lucindo def. Brogan Walker by unanimous decision (30-27 all)
- Bobby Green vs. Jared Gordon resulted in a no-contest at 4:35 of Round 1
- Bruno Silva def. Brad Tavares by TKO at 3:35 of Round 1
- Sergei Pavlovich def. Curtis Blaydes by TKO at 3:08 of Round 1
BRADY HIESTAND (6-2, 136) VS DANAA BATGEREL (12-4, 136) – BANTAMWEIGHT
Hiestand was throwing out numerous head kicks throughout the fight’s first minute, but Batgerel was able to block the kicks and pressured forward. Batgerel found success attacking the lead leg of Hiestand, and successfully defended Hiestand’s first takedown attempt of the fight, tripping Hiestand down momentarily in the process. Batgerel defended another takedown in the round’s final minute, and he landed a solid hook as Hiestand broke away from him, which was arguably the biggest strike of the round to that point. The fighters traded strikes to end the round, with Hiestand seemingly getting the better of the exchange.
Batgerel dropped Hiestand in the first exchange of the second round, and Batgerel went on the attack as he attempted to finish the fight. Hiestand changed levels and took Batgerel down to the ground to relieve the pressure, but he ate a number of elbows from Batgerel in the process. Regardless, Hiestand was able to work his way to the back of Batgerel, where he started to look for a rear naked choke. Batgerel turned into Hiestand to take top position, where he began to throw down brutal ground and pound strikes, looking to secure the late finish. However, Hiestand managed to escape from under Batgerel, and the round ended on the feet.
Hiestand attacked the lead leg of Batgerel to start the final round, as Batgerel attempted to work his jab. As the round wore on, Hiestand began to incorporate heavy right hands into his offense, and they were finding their target with regularity, landing with power. With just under two minutes remaining in the fight, Hiestand connected with a left hand that seemed to stun Batgerel, before he took the fight to the ground. Hiestand was active with ground and pound as he looked to secure the late finish, and eventually, the finish came.
WINNER: Brady Hiestand by TKO at 4:21 of Round 3
Batgerel certainly looked like the better fighter throughout the first two rounds, but he was tired by round three, and Hiestand was able to capitalize despite all the damage he had sustained to that point. His advantage in cardio won him this one, and he showcased a great deal of heart and resiliency to fire back and secure the finish in the fight’s final minute. After the fight, Hiestand called out Christian Rodriguez, who is coming off of a high-profile win over Raul Rosas Jr. Hiestand improved to 2-1 in the UFC with this win.
FRANCIS MARSHALL (7-0, 146) VS WILLIAM GOMIS (11-2, 147) – FEATHERWEIGHT
Gomis missed weight by 1lb and was fined a percentage of his purse.
The first significant exchange of the fight occurred when Marshall connected with a right hand, just as Gomis landed a powerful kick to the body. Marshall pressured forward as Gomis circled, with Gomis looking to catch Marshall with quick kicks whenever he closed the distance. Marshall started hunting for takedowns late in the round, but Gomis’s defense held up well, and the round ended with Marshall pressing Gomis into the cage. 10-9 Gomis.
Gomis unsuccessfully chased after a takedown of his own early in the second round. Gomis continued to do a good job of landing his strikes with accuracy, tagging Marshall almost every time in which Marshall attempted to close the distance, but he was not creating his own offensive opportunities, which was keeping this fight quite close despite his clear advantage on the feet. Late in the round, a kick from Gomis landed low, resulting in a momentary pause in the action before time expired. 20-18 Gomis.
The third round looked as though it would play out in a similar fashion to the previous two, with Marshall pressuring forward, and Gomis countering on Marshall’s way in. Unlike the previous two rounds however, Marshall was able to secure a takedown in the third round, and he maintained top position for a lengthy period of time as Gomis attempted to post up and make it back to his feet. Marshall took the back of Gomis, and he nearly sunk in a rear naked choke, but Gomis escaped the submission and made it to the final horn. 29-28 Gomis.
WINNER: William Gomis by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)
This fight ultimately came down to a razor-close opening round that could have been scored either way. Marshall did not have much to offer Gomis on the feet, often walking right into solid counters while missing a high percentage of his own strikes, but Gomis spent a considerable amount of the round on the retreat, playing defense, and that made for a very close round. I gave the round, and thus the fight, to Gomis, but there was certainly a great deal to be learned here for both fighters, who both found greater success in the later rounds. Gomis is now 2-0 in the UFC following this win.
MOHAMMED USMAN (8-2, 239.5) VS JUNIOR TAFA (4-0, 252) – HEAVYWEIGHT
Usman closed the distance early as he attempted to take Tafa down. Tafa’s defense held up well, but he was pressed up against the cage for the vast majority of the round, where very little happened on either side. With less than a minute remaining in the round, Tafa broke away from Usman and flurried forward as he attempted to generate offense. Usman survived Tafa’s late attack, but Tafa likely landed enough big shots to take the round, considering that very little judge able activity occurred in the round prior to its final minute. 10-9 Tafa.
A big jab from Tafa forced Usman to shoot for another takedown in the opening minute of the second round. Usman succeeded in taking Tafa to the ground and began to work from half guard with over three minutes to work. Tafa did a decent job of keeping Usman wrapped up from bottom position, but was unable to escape from under Usman, and Usman remained in top position until time expired. This was a tough round to score, as Usman did very little with his control time, but I would argue that he did just enough damage from top position to take the round. 19-19.
Usman immediately pressed Tafa into the cage at the start of the third round, and he wasted little time in securing another takedown. Much like the previous round, Usman did not do much with his advantageous position, but he maintained it for the near entirety of the round. In the final seconds of the fight, Tafa managed to break away from Usman, and he flurried forward in a desperate attempt to secure a late finish, but that finish did not come, and the fight went the distance. 29-28 Usman.
WINNER: Mohammad Usman by unanimous decision (29-28 all)
Tafa was clearly the stronger striker, but Usman’s wrestling won him this fight, and Tafa did not have many answers for Usman’s wrestling by the start of the second round. This was the furthest thing from an entertaining fight, but Usman’s strategy proved effective in the end, as he was largely able to stay away from Tafa’s dangerous power throughout the fight’s final ten minutes. Usman will certainly have to work on his striking defense as he attempts to climb the heavyweight ladder, but his physical strength and wrestling ability will be enough to give him an advantage over some of the lower-ranked heavyweights in the promotion. Usman improved to 2-0 in the UFC following this win, and this marked Tafa’s first fight in the promotion.
KAROL ROSA (16-4, 144.5) VS NORMA DUMONT (8-2, 145) – FEATHERWEIGHT
Neither fighter was terribly active throughout the opening minutes of the fight. When the fighters would let their hands go, the exchanges were fairly even, and both women were in need of a significant moment to secure the round. Eventually, they began to wrestle against the cage, where Dumont was hunting for a takedown, but Rosa defended the attempt, and they were eventually separated due to inactivity. They traded strikes as the action resumed, with Rosa seemingly getting the better of their final exchanges. 10-9 Rosa.
Dumont went on the attack at the start of the second round, backing Rosa into the cage, where she started hunting for a takedown. Rosa defended the takedown attempt, but Dumont opened up a significant cut on the right eye of Rosa that was impacting her vision. Rosa eventually broke away from Dumont and started hunting for a takedown of her own, but Dumont remained on her feet, and the fighters were locked in a stalemate against the cage for a lengthy period of time until the horn eventually sounded to signal the end of the round. 19-19.
After a brief exchange of strikes to start the final round, the fighters returned to their battle in the clinch, where neither fighter did much of significance. With two minutes remaining in the fight, the fighters broke apart, and Rosa connected with a heavy right hand that dropped Dumont. Dumont recovered quickly, but the fighters went right back to the clinch, where they remained for the next minute. Towards the end of the round, they broke apart and both women landed some strong shots before time expired, but the fight ultimately went the distance. 29-28 Rosa.
WINNER: Norma Dumont by unanimous decision (29-28 all)
A considerable portion of this fight was spent wrestling in the clinch against the cage, where neither fighter was able to pull ahead in any meaningful way. Even their few striking exchanges were very even, and as a result, this was a very close (and very dull) fight. I thought the final two rounds were fairly clear-cut, with Dumont earning the second round due to her early flurry, and Rosa taking the final round due to the knockdown. The first round, however, was very tough to score, and while I gave the edge to Rosa, I took no issues with the judges seeing it for Dumont, as neither fighter did quite enough to separate themselves from the other. Dumont is now 5-2 in the UFC following this win, and she will likely be next in line to face Amanda Nunes for her featherweight championship.
RANI YAHYA (28-10-1, 1 NC, 136) VS MONTEL JACKSON (12-2, 136) – BANTAMWEIGHT
Jackson out-struck Yahya on the feet throughout the round’s first two minutes, which prompted Yahya to shoot for a single leg. It was not the strongest takedown attempt, and Jackson took top position as a result. Yahya attempted to work from his back, but Jackson opted to return to his feet, where he caught Yahya with a solid kick to the body, before knocking him down with a heavy left hand (as well as a follow-up right before Yahya even had time to fall). Jackson followed Yahya to the ground, and quickly ended the fight with ground and pound.
WINNER: Montel Jackson by KO at 3:42 of Round 1
Jackson was a heavy favorite going into this fight, and he looked the part with this performance. Yahya is a very experienced fighter, but he has never been the strongest striker, and Jackson was wise to keep this fight on the feet despite taking top position at one point, keeping the fight out of Yahya’s comfort zone. Despite Yahya’s age, he is no easy outing, but Jackson made it look that way here, and this was one of his strongest performances to date. Jackson is now 7-2 in the UFC, and he has won four consecutive fights. For Yahya, this was a tough loss after a lengthy absence from the cage, but I thought he looked fine physically, and I would not mind seeing him matched up against some of the older bantamweight fighters in the future (although that is not typically the UFC’s style).
RICKY GLENN (22-6-2, 155.5) VS CHRISTOS GIAGOS (19-10, 155.5) – LIGHTWEIGHT
Giagos was throwing some heavy strikes from the very start of this fight. Eventually, Giagos caught Glenn with a left hand to the temple, and Glenn just crashed face-first to the ground, as Giagos secured the vicious first-round knockout.
WINNER: Christos Giagos by KO at 1:35 of Round 1
Glenn is a durable fighter, having never been knocked out up until this point in his career, but Giagos came out throwing bombs, and the fight-ending left hook caught Glenn clean, ending this one quickly. It was a very impressive knockout win for Giagos and one that he was in desperate need of after two consecutive quick losses to Arman Tsarukyan and Thiago Moises respectively. This marked Giagos’s first win by knockout since 2016, and his second stoppage victory since joining the UFC in 2018.
JEREMIAH WELLS (11-2-1, 171) VS MATTHEW SEMELSBERGER (11-4, 171) – WELTERWEIGHT
The fighters immediately started trading hands like madmen, and Semelsberger dropped Wells hard. Semelsberger followed Wells to the ground as he attempted to finish the fight, and it looked as though he was on the verge of securing the quick stoppage, but Wells weathered the storm, and returned to his feet, where he secured a takedown after wrestling in the clinch. Wells seemed to have recovered by this point in the fight, and he started throwing down hard ground and pound strikes, but Semelsberger managed to escape to his feet with ninety seconds remaining in the round. Wells opted to take Semelsberger back to the ground, and he threw down ground and pound strikes to end the round. 10-9 Semelsberger.
Semelsberger dropped Wells again in the first exchange of the second round. Semelsberger followed Wells to the ground, but Wells popped back to his feet, where the fighters continued to trade hands. Wells changed levels on Semelsberger and brought him back to the ground, where he began to land heavy ground and pound shots, just as he did in the previous round. Once again, I thought Semelsberger took the round with his knockdown, but I could see this one being scored for Wells as well. 20-18 Semelsberger.
Wells began the final round with a flying knee, before taking Semelsberger down in the middle of the cage. Wells was dominant from top position, landing short ground and pound strikes while looking for the occasional submission, but he eventually lost his position, giving Semelsberger the opportunity that he needed to escape to his feet. Wells gave him no room to reset however and dragged him right back to the ground. This was a great final round for Jeremiah Wells, and he ended the fight in top position. 29-28 Semelsberger.
WINNER: Jeremiah Wells by split decision (30-27, 30-27, 28-29)
Semelsberger recorded huge knockdowns at the start of the first two rounds and was actually quite close to finishing the fight in its opening minute, but Wells mounted comebacks in each round and went on to dominate round three. Personally, I thought Semelsberger’s knockdowns were enough to earn him the first two rounds (and I would actually argue that the first round was fairly clear), but Wells did enough on two of the judge’s scorecards to steal back those rounds, and there is no questioning his resiliency, as well as his superiority of his wrestling ability to Semelsberger’s, who was never able to rebound from Wells big takedowns. Wells is now 4-0 in the UFC following this win, with this marking his first fight in the UFC to go the distance. In his post-fight interview, Wells called for a ranked opponent in his next fight.
IASMIN LUCINDO (13-5, 126) VS BROGAN WALKER (7-3, 126) – FLYWEIGHT
Lucindo opened up with a right hand that caught Walker off balance, and followed that up with a quick kick to the body. Lucindo was certainly getting the better of Walker on the feet early, countering strongly whenever Walker went on the attack as well. Lucindo flurried forward and caught Walker with a series of hooks late in the round, which was one of her best combinations of the fight to that point. There was not a ton of activity from Walker throughout this opening round, and I thought this as a clear round for Lucindo. 10-9 Lucindo.
Lucindo continued to control the fight on the fight throughout the first half of the second round, tagging Walker with sharp right hands whenever she threw them. Walker eventually opted to change strategies, pushing Lucindo into the cage where she attempted to secure a takedown, but Lucindo was able to defend the attempt, and the fight continued to play out on the feet. The hard right hands from Lucindo continued to find their target, and she recorded a pair of takedowns in the round’s final minute. 20-18 Lucindo.
The third round played out largely like the previous two rounds. Lucindo was the superior striker, and she was able to dictate the pace and range of the stand-up battle, picking Lucindo apart from her comfort zone. Walker did not have the power or the wrestling ability to threaten Lucindo and was unable to create any significant moments of offense for herself before time expired. 30-27 Lucindo.
WINNER: Iasmin Lucindo by unanimous decision (30-27 all)
Lucindo was originally scheduled to face Melissa Martinez on this card, but after Martinez pulled out of the fight, Walker stepped in, looking to rebound from her loss to Julianna Miller on the Ultimate Fighter finale. Walker was clearly several steps behind Lucindo here, and while she went the distance with her more experienced opponent, Walker was never really in this fight, and Lucindo won every round fairly easily. It was a strong performance from Lucindo, who showcased her sharp striking as throughout the fight, as well as her wrestling ability towards the final few minutes of the bout. Lucindo is now 1-1 in the UFC following this fight, with this marking her first win in the promotion.
BOBBY GREEN (29-14-1, 156) VS JARED GORDON (19-6, 155.5) – LIGHTWEIGHT
Green pressured forward early, backing Gordon into the cage. Gordon was finding a home for some strong looping left hands, but Green was largely getting the better of their exchanges, throwing his shots right down the middle. Green’s hands were, as usual, down at his sides, which was allowing Gordon to land some of his cleaner strikes with power, but Green took these shots well, and continued to march forward, looking for straight right hands. Eventually, there was a clash of heads that dropped Gordon, and Bobby Green followed him down and knocked Gordon unconscious with a series of brutal hammer fists.
Result: No Contest at 4:35 of Round 1
Joe Martinez was in the middle of announcing Bobby Green as the winner of the fight when he was cut off, and the commission ruled that the fight would go down as a no-contest instead, due to the (unintentional) illegal clash of heads that led to the fight’s finish. It was the right call, but certainly an unfortunate result to what was one of the more exciting fights of the night on paper. I would not be surprised at all if this fight is simply rescheduled for a date in the near future, although both men have no shortage of options in the talent-stacked lightweight division.
BRAD TAVARES (19-7, 185) VS BRUNO SILVA (22-8, 186) – MIDDLEWEIGHT
Tavares landed a solid left hook to begin the fight, as Silva looked to close the distance. Tavares was getting the better of their early striking exchanges, but Silva composed himself and began to throw more quick strikes down the middle as the round progressed. A short right hand from Silva seemed to hurt Tavares, and he went on the attack as he rushed in to finish the fight. Tavares was throwing back with power, but a heavier right hook from Silva dropped Tavares hard, and referee Mark Smith stepped in to stop the fight.
WINNER: Bruno Silva by TKO at 3:35 of Round 1
Bruno Silva is rarely in dull fights, and this one was no exception. The fighters quickly started exchanging heavy hands, and I thought Tavares was getting the better of their early exchanges, but eventually, Silva tagged Tavares with a sharp right hook, and he proceeded to go on the attack, eventually dropping Tavares hard to finish the fight. There was some debate regarding the stoppage, as some thought it was too quick, and after watching the Jeremiah Wells fight earlier, I can definitely see the case for that argument, but it was a rough knockdown, and I cannot fault Mark Smith for stepping in when he did. Silva is now 4-2 in the UFC following this win, and each of those four wins in the promotion has come by way of knockout.
SERGEI PAVLOVICH (17-1, 260.5) VS CURTIS BLAYDES (17-3, 1 NC, 262.5) – HEAVYWEIGHT
The fighters touched gloves to begin the main event. Pavlovich connected with a heavy right hand through the guard of Blaydes, and the fighters began trading strikes, as both men looked to secure the early finish. Both fighters took the strikes well, but eventually a right hand from Pavlovich knocked Blaydes off balance, putting Pavlovich ahead in terms of apparent damage early. A big jab from Pavlovich seemed to stun Blaydes, and he was able to defend a takedown attempt from Blaydes as he moved in to finish the fight. Pavlovich flurried forward with strikes, and while Blaydes did his best to weather the storm, a left hand eventually sent him to the ground, and Pavlovich quickly finished the fight with ground-and-pound strikes.
WINNER: Sergei Pavlovich by TKO at 3:08 of Round 1
While Curtis Blaydes’ striking ability has improved greatly over the years, standing and trading with Pavlovich was never the route to victory for him, and it did not take long for Pavlovich to start landing with enough power to hurt Blaydes. There were a couple of attempts from Blaydes to bring the fight to the ground, but his level changes were not hidden well, and Pavlovich was able to defend with ease and keep the fight standing, where he eventually dropped Blaydes before securing the finish. Pavlovich has now won six consecutive fights by first-round knockout, which is one of the longest knockout streaks in UFC history. Pavlovich established himself as the top contender at heavyweight with this win and should be fighting for the UFC Heavyweight Championship in his next fight, regardless of whether the champion is Jon Jones or Stipe Miocic.