UFC Fight Night Report: Amir Albazi defeats Kai Kara-France by split decision
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 flyweight division, as the third-ranked Kai Kara-France looked to defend his spot in the rankings against Amir Albazi. Albazi made his UFC debut in 2020 and has compiled a total record of 4-0 in the promotion since, securing stoppages in three of his four victories. Kara-France was coming into this fight off of a stoppage loss to the division’s current champion, Brandon Moreno, and was in need of a big win here in order to keep his name in the flyweight title picture. This card also featured Jim Miller, who stepped into the UFC octagon for the 42nd time, as he faced promotional newcomer Jesse Butler, who took the fight on extremely short notice.
Brendan Fitzgerald provided commentary for this card alongside Michael Bisping and Laura Sanko. Performance of the Night bonuses were awarded to Jim Miller and Muhammad Naimov. Fight of the Night bonuses went out to Alex Caceres and Daniel Pineda.
- Phillipe Lins def. Maxim Grishin by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
- Da’Mon Blackshear def. Luan Lacerda by TKO at 3:54 of Round 2
- Elise Reed def. Jinh Yu Frey by unanimous decision (29-28 all)
- Muhammad Naimov def. Jamie Mullarkey by TKO at 2:59 of Round 2
- John Castaneda def. Muin Gafurov by unanimous decision (29-27 all)
- Don’Tale Mayes def. Andrei Arlovski by TKO at 3:17 of Round 2
- Daniel Santos def. Johnny Munoz by unanimous decision (29-27 all)
- Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos def. Abubakar Nurmagomedov by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)
- Karine Silva def. Ketlen Souza by kneebar at 1:35 of Round 1
- Tim Elliott def. Victor Altamirano by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
- Jim Miller def. Jesse Butler by KO at 0:23 of Round 1
- Alex Caceres def. Daniel Pineda by unanimous decision (29-28 all)
- Amir Albazi def. Kai Kara France by split decision (48-47, 48-47, 47-48)
PHILIPE LINS (16-5, 205.5) VS MAXIM GRISHIN (32-9-2, 205) – LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT
Lins cracked Grishin with a powerful right hand to start the fight. Grishin started attacking the lead leg of Grishin and began stomping on Grishin’s left foot against the cage. Lins landed a short hook to the body before wrapping Grishin up against the cage, where he connected with a solid uppercut after the fighters disengaged from the clinch. Grishin caught Lins with a spinning elbow just before time expired, and Lins responded with a heavy right hand. 10-9 Lins.
Lins started the second round with a takedown against the cage, although Grishin was able to defend himself from damage well, picking himself up quickly. Grishin landed a heavy elbow upon returning to his feet, but Lins backed Grishin off of him with a solid right hand. A kick to the body found a home for Grishin before Lins opted to wrap him back up against the cage. Eventually, the fighters broke apart once again, and Lins landed a right hand as Grishin stepped in as he attempted a body kick. This was a close round. 20-18 Lins.
The battle returned to the clinch in the final round, as Lins continued to wrestle with Grishin, attempting to take the fight to the ground. Grishin showcased strong takedown defense, but was having trouble creating separation, and as a result, Grishin spent a considerable portion of this round with his back to the cage. With roughly ninety seconds remaining in the fight, Grishin was finally able to break away from Lins, and he landed yet another strong kick to the body, but once again, Lins quickly wrapped him back up in the clinch, where he proceeded to hold him against the cage until time expired. 29-28 Lins.
WINNER: Phillipe Lins by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
Early in the fight, it seemed apparent that Lins was the heavier hitter, and he seemed to possess enough of a speed advantage over Grishin to beat his opponent to the punch whenever they exchanged. The corner of Phillipe Lins however, wanted to see him wrestle, and their fighter followed their instructions, spending the vast majority of the fight searching for takedowns. The bout quickly turned into a dull fight, as Lins held Grishin up against the cage while generating very little activity offensively, and the fight was ultimately decided by the few exchanges that took place whenever the fighters broke apart, exchanges that Lins generally got the better of. Regardless of the fight’s quality, Lins’ approach led to him getting his arm raised in the end, and he is now 3-0 since moving down to the light heavyweight division.
DA’MON BLACKSHEAR (12-5-1, 136) VS LUAN LACERDA (12-2, 136) – BANTAMWEIGHT
Blackshear opened up with a pair of front kicks to the body before Lacerda caught him with a right hand that led to Blackshear shooting for a takedown. Lacerda defended the attempt, and the fighters began to wrestle against the cage until Lacerda pulled guard and rolled for a kneebar. Blackshear stepped over Blackshear to take top position, but Lacerda refused to give up on his kneebar attempt and rolled through as he tried to improve his position. Blackshear defended the submission attempt and returned to his feet, where the fighters exchanged looping punches, seemingly somewhat tired from their grappling exchange. Blackshear changed levels and took Lacerda down, but Lacerda quickly popped back up, and the fight continued to play out on the feet. Blackshear worked his jab, and eventually, Lacerda started looking for a takedown of his own, taking top position just before time expired.
Blackshear appeared to be the fresher fighter in the second round, and his strikes appeared to have a bit more on them throughout the early exchanges in the second round. Lacerda was falling behind on the strike count, and he opted to switch up his strategy, as he began hunting for body shots instead. Eventually, Lacerda started looking for another takedown, but Blackshear was able to take top position as the fight went to the ground. Much like the first round, Lacerda was looking for leg lock attempts, but this time, it led to him practically getting stacked in a position where he was unable to defend himself, and Blackshear threw down brutal left hands until the fight was stopped.
WINNER: Da’Mon Blackshear by TKO at 3:54 of Round 2
While the fighters appeared to be fairly evenly matched in the first round, close fights are often decided by which fighter is in better physical condition, and this fight was a prime example of that. Lacerda was gassed after their lengthy grappling exchange in the first round, and Blackshear really began to pull ahead in the fight, outworking Lacerda on the feet, before eventually stopping him with ground and pound strikes as Lacerda hunted for a leg lock on the ground. It was a strong performance from Blackshear against a strong grappler, and while Blackshear is largely known as a grappler himself, he showcased his power here, picking up just his second career stoppage by TKO.
ELISE REED (6-3, 115) VS JINH YU FREY (11-8, 116) – STRAWWEIGHT
Frey quickly secured a takedown, and she began to work from half guard with roughly four minutes remaining in the round. Frey moved into the guard of Reed, where she seemed to be attempting to posture up, but Reed was able to do enough defensively that Frey opted to give up her position as the fight returned to the feet. Frey took the fight right back to the ground, but Reed immediately returned to her feet, where Frey connected with a pair of wide right hooks. Reed started pressuring forward as she attempted to make up ground, but Frey seemed to be landing with more power, planting her feet and swinging hard as Reed closed the distance. 10-9 Frey.
Reed was doing a better job of landing her shots without leaving herself open to counters in the second round, which eventually led to Frey shooting for another takedown after Reed got the better of the action on the feet early. Frey began to work from half guard once again, where Reed did a good job defensively to keep Frey from advancing her position. While Frey maintained top position for a considerable amount of time, she did not do any significant damage, and Reed escaped to her feet in the round’s final thirty seconds, where she flurried forward in an attempt to make up some ground late. 19-19.
Neither fighter was terribly active throughout the first half of the final round, although Reed was the aggressor, pressing forward as Frey waited for her opportunities to counter. At one point, Reed pressed Frey against the cage, presumably, with a takedown in mind, but Frey quickly created separation. Reed landed a short combination of strikes which were the most impactful shots of the round, although Frey responded with a powerful hook just moments later. It was a close round, and neither fighter did quite enough to clearly earn take it, but I narrowly scored it for Elise Reed, based largely on her slight edge in activity. 29-28 Reed.
WINNER: Elise Reed by unanimous decision (29-28 all)
Frey was the stronger grappler, and she had the edge in terms of power as well, but the activity was not quite there for her. While Elise Reed’s offense was not overwhelming, she was able to out-strike Frey on the feet throughout the last two rounds, and while she spent a considerable amount of time in the fight with her back to the mat, Reed was often the more active fighter on the ground despite fighting off of her back, and that general edge in offensive activity led to her getting her arm raised in the end. Reed improved to 3-3 in the UFC following this win.
JAMIE MULLARKEY (16-5, 156) VS MUHAMMAD NAIMOV (8-2, 155.5) – LIGHTWEIGHT
Mullarkey took Naimov to the ground after spending the first ninety seconds of the fight exchanging strikes on the feet. Naimov quickly picked himself up and created separation, but Mullarkey’s pressure was giving him pause, and Mullarkey was controlling the pace of the fight in its early goings. Mullarkey’s straight shots were finding a home, although Naimov was doing a good job of blocking Mullarkey’s looping punches, which Mullarkey was often throwing whenever Naimov circled away from Mullarkey. Mullarkey also found success attacking the body throughout the round, and this was a fairly clear five minutes to score in Mullarkey’s favor.
An accidental low blow to Mullarkey brought a brief pause to the action just ten moments into the second round. Mullarkey resumed his forward pressure when the action resumed, and he partially landed a looping right hook that Naimov circled into. The jab from Mullarkey continued to prove effective whenever he worked it, although he was not throwing it with the frequency he has in the past. Eventually, Mullarkey brought the fight to the ground, but Naimov escaped to his feet quickly. Mullarkey went right back on the attack, and as he looked to step in with a right hook, Naimov intercepted him with a right hook of his own, knocking Mullarkey down hard, and Naimov immediately followed him to the ground, ending the fight with ground and pound strikes.
WINNER: Muhammad Naimov by TKO at 2:59 of Round 2
Naimov took this fight on roughly a week’s notice after Mullarkey’s original opponent, Guram Kutateladze withdrew from the fight and was a sizeable underdog going into the fight. Mullarkey had won four of his last five fights in the UFC, and for nearly eight minutes, he was in firm control of this fight, but eventually, Mullarkey recklessly stepped in with his left hand down as he attempted to land a hard right hook, and that one mistake cost him the fight as Naimov landed a counter hook of his own with considerable power, scoring the huge upset knockout in impressive fashion. This was quite the highlight reel finish for Naimov in his UFC debut, and this marked his fifth career win by TKO.
JOHN CASTANEDA (19-6, 136) VS MUIN GAFUROV (18-4, 136) – BANTAMWEIGHT
Both fighters were looking sharp on their feet early in the fight, throwing their strikes with serious power. At one point Gafurov partially landed an axe kick before throwing out a wheel kick. Gafurov caught a kick from Castaneda and just swarmed him with a combination of strikes until Castaneda created some distance and reset. A head kick from Castaneda found its target, and while it was tough to say if the kick dropped Gafurov or if he was in the process of changing levels, he was hurt from the kick regardless, and this moment may have very well won Castaneda what was otherwise a very close round. Castaneda briefly took top control after landing the head kick, but Gafurov was able to escape to his feet, and he flurried forward to end the round. 10-9 Castaneda.
Gafurov came out swinging like a madman in the second round, and the pace at which he was fighting was absolutely insane. A calf kick from Gafurov sent Castaneda to the ground momentarily, and Castaneda opted to take the fight to the ground after popping back to his feet. Gafurov quickly escaped, and continued to wing hooks wildly, landing with serious power, although Castaneda was responding with the occasional counter of his own. There was a clash of heads at one point in the round, and the action was paused, which led to a point being deducted from Gafurov for leading with his head. When the action resumed, it was Castaneda who was the aggressor, and he partially landed another head kick before Gafurov swarmed him and trapped Castaneda against the cage. Gafurov took Castaneda to the ground, but Castaneda escaped to his feet, where Gafurov went right back to throwing heavy hooks Castaneda’s way. Castaneda weathered the storm before firing back, and he ended the round unsuccessfully hunting for a takedown of his own. 19-18 Castaneda.
Gafurov chased after a takedown to start the final round, but Castaneda defended the attempt, throwing Gafurov off of him in an impressive fashion. Gafurov was still throwing out heavy hooks at an impressively high rate but was just a step slower than he was earlier in the fight, which allowed Castaneda to change levels and counter with a takedown, as he began to work from Gafurov’s guard. Gafurov was too tired by this point in the bout to escape from Castaneda, and Castaneda controlled the fight on the ground until time expired. 29-27 Castaneda.
WINNER: John Castaneda by unanimous decision (29-27 all)
This was a very entertaining fight. Gafurov fought at a ridiculous pace, truly swinging for the fences with every wild hook thrown, but that pace cost him in the third round, as Castaneda was able to weather Gafurov’s storm before securing a huge takedown that allowed him to maintain control of the fight for the remainder of the round. Despite the loss, Gafurov looked quite impressive throughout this fight, with that head kick from Castaneda in the first ultimately costing him the fight on the scorecards (as well as his headbutt in the second round that cost him a point). While his cardio finally betrayed him in the final round, he fought at an incredible pace for ten minutes, and he certainly showcased enough of his style that there will be excitement from the hardcore fanbase going into his next fight. John Castaneda is now 3-2 in the UFC following this win.
ANDREI ARLOVSKI (34-21, 2 NC, 245) VS DON’TALE MAYES (9-5, 1 NC, 262.5) – HEAVYWEIGHT
This marked the 44-year-old Andrei Arlovski’s 40th fight in the UFC.
Arlovski caught Mayes with a short combination to begin the fight, before landing a hard straight right hand to the body of Mayes. Arlovski found a home for a pair of right hands, and he was able to avoid the combinations that Mayes was throwing back his way in response. Mayes seemed to be somewhat puzzled by Arlovski’s speed and movement, and he did not have much to offer Arlovski offensively throughout this first round, although he landed a left hand that staggered Arlovski, as well as a heavy elbow before the end of the round.
A clash of heads led to a pause in the action at the start of round two, although neither fighter took much time before resuming the fight. Arlovski attacked the lead leg of Mayes early in the second round, although not with enough frequency for it to really impact the movement of Mayes. Mayes was doing a far better job of finding his target in the second round, mixing up his strikes whenever he threw in combination while landing with power whenever he found an opportunity to counter. Eventually, a heavy right hook from Mayes dropped Arlovski hard, and he quickly finished the fight with ground and pound strikes.
WINNER: Don’Tale Mayes by TKO at 3:17 of Round 2
Arlovski was the quicker fighter, and he certainly seemed to have the advantage in terms of his overall technique, but once Mayes finally cracked him a couple of times towards the end of the first round, the momentum of the fight quickly began to shift. Mayes began to grow in confidence, and he was landing at a much higher rate in the second round, breaking Arlovski down. While Arlovski was swinging back until the fights end, Mayes was just the heavier hitter, and eventually, he caught Arlovski clean with the fight-ending hook, knocking out the former UFC Heavyweight Champion in what marks the biggest win in the career of Don’Tale Mayes to this point. Mayes now holds a record of 3-3 (1 NC) in the UFC after this win.
DANIEL SANTOS (11-2, 135.5) VS JOHNNY MUNOZ (12-2, 136) – BANTAMWEIGHT
The fight began with a brutal low blow that immediately sent Munoz to the ground in immense pain. When the fight resumed, Santos landed a hard right hand, before Munoz shot in for a takedown, eventually opting to pull guard. Santos did not spend long in the position, although he ate a number of up kicks before the fighters eventually separated. Another groin strike, this time to Santos, led to another break in the action, although he did not take much time to recover. The fighters traded knees to the body, before Munoz pulled guard again, dragging Santos back to the ground. While Munoz was largely able to keep the fight on the ground for the remainder of the round, it was Santos who did the better work from the more advantageous position, and he likely won this round as a result. 10-9 Santos.
The fight quickly returned to the ground in the second round, as Santos began to work from the guard of Munoz yet again. Much like the previous round, Santos landed numerous strikes from top position, easily dominating the fight from Munoz’s guard, despite it being Munoz who wanted to fight from this position. With a minute remaining in the fight, Santos returned to his feet, but Munoz immediately shot for another takedown, forcing Santos to defend the attempt and continue dominating Munoz from top position. 20-18 Santos.
Much like the first round, the final round of this fight began with a low blow to Munoz that led to a lengthy pause in the fight. This time, a point was deducted from Santos for the foul, but when the fight resumed, Munoz opted to pull guard once again, which once again led to Santos taking top position where he proceeded to continue beating on Munoz. Santos connected with a spinning wheel kick upon returning to his feet, before returning to their previous position on the ground after a failed standing guillotine attempt from Munoz. The fighters were eventually stood up, and after Santos stumbled to the ground following a leg kick, Munoz took top position for the first time in the fight. Santos immediately created separation, however, and he hit Munoz with an up kick that allowed him to take top position yet again. The fight mercifully ended, and I scored it 29-27 in favor of Santos.
WINNER: Daniel Santos by unanimous decision (29-27 all)
This was an incredibly strange fight to watch. Munoz’s only real offensive strategy throughout the fight was to pull guard, and Daniel Santos put an absolute beating on him every time in which he utilized this strategy. If you thought the Kron Gracie/Charles Jourdain fight was a rough watch, this one was at an absolutely new level, as at the very least, Gracie was pulling guard to avoid the damage from Jourdain on the feet, as opposed to Munoz pulling guard to repeatedly welcome the damage from Santos. The most danger Santos was in throughout this fight, was from the risk of getting disqualified due to his own repeated kicks to the groin of Munoz. I thought this fight was an incredibly rough watch, and this will certainly be one to forget for Johnny Munoz, who is a better fighter than this performance would lead a first-time viewer of him to believe. Santos improved to 2-1 in the UFC following this win.
ABUBAKAR NURMAGOMEDOV (17-3-1, 170) VS ELIZEU ZALESKI DOS SANTOS (23-7, 171) – WELTERWEIGHT
Nurmagomedov seemed to hurt dos Santos with a pair of right hands toward the start of the fight, and he immediately pressured forward in search of a takedown. The fighters exchanged knees to the body in the clinch, as they wrestled against the cage for a lengthy period of time. Eventually, the fighters were separated due to inactivity, and dos Santos seemed to have recovered from those early shots from Nurmagomedov. I thought that dos Santos landed the better strikes throughout the final minutes of the round, but I still scored the round for Nurmagomedov. 10-9 Nurmagomedov.
The second round began with a heavy low kick to Nurmagomedov, which dos Santos soon followed with a strong uppercut that found its target. Nurmagomedov eventually decided to return to his wrestling, and he pressed dos Santos against the cage in search of a takedown. While Nurmagomedov was the aggressor throughout these clinch exchanges, dos Santos was doing good work with his back to the cage, which was keeping him in this fight despite the control time racking up for Nurmagomedov. In the final seconds of the round, Nurmagomedov finally succeeded in getting his opponent to the ground, but there was not enough time remaining in the round to capitalize on the new position. This was an extremely close round, but I gave the slight edge to dos Santos. 19-19.
Nurmagomedov defended an unexpected single-leg attempt from dos Santos in the third round before dos Santos landed a heavy right hand that sent Nurmagomedov on the retreat momentarily. Nurmagomedov sprawled on a takedown attempt from Nurmagomedov in impressive fashion, before landing a knee to the head of his opponent. Another sprawl from dos Santos convinced him to attempt an anaconda choke, which was unsuccessful and allowed Nurmagomedov to take the back of dos Santos on the ground momentarily. To his credit, dos Santos popped right back to his feet and shook Nurmagomedov off of his back, and the fighters traded strikes to end the fight. 29-28 dos Santos.
WINNER: Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)
While Nurmagomedov was able to hold dos Santos against the cage for a considerable amount of the fight, the damage was not quite there, while dos Santos made the most of each of his strikes, landing with power every single time. It was a very close fight, and while you can definitely justify a scorecard for Nurmagomedov, I thought that dos Santos did enough to earn the nod, and while he is a step slower than he was five years ago, dos Santos remains a very well-rounded fighter, with legitimate power, creative striking, and strong takedown defense. Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos now holds a record of 10-3 in the UFC, and this marked his first fight since October of 2021.
KARINE SILVA (15-4, 125.5) VS KETLEN SOUZA (13-3, 124.5) – FLYWEIGHT
Silva got this fight to the ground within its first minute, taking top position where she began to work from half guard. Silva opted to roll back for a knee, and she cranked the leg, forcing Souza to tap immediately.
WINNER: Karine Silva by kneebar at 1:35 of Round 1
Leglocks are always risky moves in MMA (as demonstrated by Luan Lacerda earlier on the card), but the risk paid off for Silva here, resulting in an immediate tap from Souza as her knee popped. It was a brutal finish, and hopefully, Souza is able to bounce back quickly from the injury, but this is a brutal sport, and this was certainly a tough way for Ketlen Souza to make her UFC debut. Silva now holds a record of 2-0 in the UFC, and she has secured a finish in each of her sixteen professional wins. The commentators were talking about her fighting a ranked opponent in her next fight, and while she may still be a win away from ranked competition, Silva has certainly looked impressive throughout her first two fights in the promotion.
TIM ELLIOTT (18-12-1, 126) VS VICTOR ALTAMIRANO (12-2, 124.5) – FLYWEIGHT
Altamirano began the fight with a pair of quick kicks but was taken down after Elliott caught a leg. Elliott was landing strong ground and pound strikes, and while Altamirano was working off of his back, his positioning was not quite right to threaten a submission, allowing Elliott to maintain his position and land solid shots without significant risk. Elliott stayed in top position for the near entirety of the round, and I thought this was an easy five minutes to score in his favor. 10-9 Elliott.
Elliott quickly brought the fight back to the ground in the second round, where he got right back to work, landing short ground and pound strikes from top position. This time, Altamirano was able to escape, and he seemed to rock Elliott with a head kick before taking top position as Elliott went to the ground. Elliott recovered and quickly escaped to his feet, where he flurried forward before securing yet another takedown. Elliott was able to maintain top position for the remainder of the round, peppering Altamirano with short ground and pound strikes. 20-18 Elliott.
Altamirano caught Elliott with a number of heavy hooks at the start of the final round, as Elliott danced and taunted Altamirano from just outside Altamirano’s reach. Elliott knew he could take Altamirano down at will, and he did it once again in the third round, taking top position with three and a half minutes to work. Much like the previous two rounds, Altamirano did not have much to offer Elliott off of his back but was eventually able to escape to his feet as time was winding down in the round. Altamirano grabbed the head of Elliott when Elliott ducked down on the feet, but this was merely a trap that allowed Elliott to take him back down, ending the fight in top position. 30-27 Elliott.
WINNER: Tim Elliott by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
Elliott notably tied Demetrious Johnson for the all-time record for total takedowns in UFC Flyweight history, with 58 total takedowns completed throughout his run in the promotion. This was largely a dominant win for Elliott, despite some small moments of success for Altamirano on the feet throughout the bout. Altamirano had no answers for Elliott’s wrestling, and Elliott was able to take him down at will throughout the bout, always staying from top position, continuously throwing quick ground and pound shots down on Altamirano. Elliott has now won four of his last five fights, which is the most successful stretch he has had in the UFC despite fighting at a high level in the promotion’s flyweight division for so many years.
JIM MILLER (35-17, 1 NC, 155.5) VS JESSE BUTLER (12-4, 154.5) – LIGHTWEIGHT
This marked Jim Miller’s 42nd fight in the UFC.
Just seconds into the fight, a straight left hand from Jim Miller dropped Butler hard, and if Butler was not already unconscious from the left hand, then the uppercut that followed from Miller certainly did the job.
WINNER: Jim Miller by KO at 0:23 of Round 1
Jim Miller has had an extremely long career, full of exciting fights and finishes, and this may have very well been the most brutal finish of the bunch. One has to feel for Jesse Butler, who took this fight on just two days’ notice after both of Millers’ previously scheduled opponents were forced to withdraw from the bout, but this is a brutal sport, and sometimes, big risks are not going to pay off. For Miller, this marked his 25th win in the promotion, extending his all-time record for promotional wins, as well as his record for most octagon appearances, with 42. Miller also moved into sole possession of second all-time for finishes in the UFC with 17, and he extended several divisional records that he holds for the UFC’s lightweight division specifically. In his post-fight interview, Miller made it clear that his goal is still to compete at UFC 300 (Miller fought at UFC 100 as well as UFC 200), and stated that he would like to continue fighting as often as possible despite his age.
ALEX CACERES (20-13, 1 NC, 145) VS DANIEL PINEDA (28-14, 3 NC, 145.5) – FEATHERWEIGHT
Caceres stepped over the back of Pineda and took top position on the ground as Pineda attempted a takedown, but the fight quickly returned to the feet. Pineda chased after a single leg, but once again, Caceres was able to defend the attempt before taking top position on the ground. Pineda threatened a number of submissions off of his back to force Caceres back to his feet, where Caceres landed a solid body shot before closing the distance and wrapping Pineda up against the cage. Eventually, the fighters separated and Caceres seemed to hurt Pineda with a left hand, but time expired before he could capitalize on the moment. 10-9 Caceres.
Pineda came out swinging in the second round, and while Caceres responded with heavy shots in response, Pineda was able to press through it and secure an early takedown. Caceres escaped to his feet, and Pineda was looking absolutely exhausted, and Caceres cracked him on his feet a few times before Pineda was able to take the fight back to the ground out of desperation. Caceres attempted to roll into top position, but Pineda was wise to it and was able to climb up the back of Caceres on the ground, although he slipped back into Caceres’s guard before the end of the round. 19-19.
Caceres began the final round with a heavy kick to the body that clearly hurt Pineda, however, Pineda was able to fight through the pain, remaining on his feet for the time being. Caceres continued to attack the body of Pineda to great effect, and while Pineda showcased some remarkable toughness, he was taking a lot of damage by this point in the fight. Pineda marched forward as he attempted to make something happen late in the fight, but he was absolutely exhausted and was unable to generate the activity he needed to force a finish. In the fight’s final minute, Caceres took Pineda to the ground, but Pineda escaped to his feet quickly and recorded a knockdown just before time expired in the fight. 29-28 Caceres.
WINNER: Alex Caceres by unanimous decision (29-28 all)
This was a very entertaining fight. Caceres got the better of Pineda throughout round one, and Pineda’s desperate attempts to take the fight to the ground seemed like a bad sign for him. If Pineda was in any way dispirited from Caceres’ strong showing in round one, he did not show it in round two, as he came out swinging until he eventually took the fight to the ground, getting the better of Caceres in Pineda’s comfort zone. By the third round, Pineda was beyond exhausted, and Caceres was well on his way to securing a 10-8 round, but Pineda showcased tremendous heart, fighting through the pain and exhaustion to mount one last comeback, knocking Caceres down in the final seconds of the fight to secure a moral victory, if not the actual win on the judge’s scorecards. It was a great fight, and Caceres has now won seven of his last eight fights, which is far and away the best stretch of his lengthy run in the UFC. After the fight, Caceres expressed his interest in fighting Yair Rodriguez again down the line, who defeated him by split decision in 2016.
KAI KARA-FRANCE (24-10, 125.5) VS AMIR ALBAZI (16-1, 126) – FLYWEIGHT
The fighters touched gloves to begin the main event. Albazi backed Kara-France into the cage quickly and changed levels after threatening a right hand. Kara-France defended the takedown attempt and created the separation he needed with half of the round to work. Kara-France and Albazi exchanged leg kicks before Kara-France began to work his jab as Albazi pressed forward. Towards the end of the round, both men stood facing each other with their hands by their sides, daring the other to engage. 10-9 Kara-France.
Neither fighter was very aggressive throughout the first minutes of the second round, with both men waiting for the other to make their move. At one point, Albazi shot in for a takedown, but the attempt was easily defended by Kara-France. Late in the round, Albazi landed a solid left hook that Kara-France circled into, which was arguably the most impactful strike of the round, but Kara-France had the advantage in terms of activity. It was a close round, where I did not think either fighter did quite enough to clearly take the round, but I narrowly scored it for Albazi. 19-19.
Albazi shot in for another takedown in the third round, but Kara-France swept his way into top position on the way down, before both fighters returned to their feet, and Albazi brought Kara-France in a more successful fashion. Albazi took the back of Kara-France on the ground, where he started hunting for a rear naked choke. Albazi was close to finishing the submission at one point, but the positioning was just a bit off, which allowed Kara-France to get back to his feet, where he slammed Albazi down and took top position to end the round. 29-28 Albazi.
Kara-France seemed to be the busier fighter on the feet throughout the fourth round, getting in and landing his shots before Albazi could respond with offense of his own. The output was fairly low from Albazi, and he eventually opted to change levels and take the fight to the ground, but Kara-France defended the attempt, and continued to outpoint Albazi on the feet. In the round’s final minute, Kara-France took Albazi to the ground, and while Albazi popped right back to his feet, this was a fairly clear round for Kara-France in my mind. 38-38.
Kara-France cracked Albazi with a hard shot towards the start of the fifth round, although Albazi was able to wrap him up against the cage just moments later. Kara-France defended Albazi’s attempts to take the fight to the ground, and the fight continued to play out on the feet, where Albazi clipped him with a hard right hand as Kara-France stepped in. Both fighters increased their output towards the end of the fight, but still, I thought that Kara-France was just the sharper fighter, and I scored the round, as well as the fight, in his favor. 48-47 Kara-France.
WINNER: Amir Albazi by split decision (48-47, 48-47, 47-48)
To be honest, I was very surprised by the judge’s decision here. While it was certainly a close fight, I thought that Kara-France won three of the five rounds in fairly decisive fashion, and even the two rounds I scored for Albazi, I could conceivably see being scored for Kara-France. Kara-France outlanded Albazi throughout the bout, and while you could argue that Albazi was packing a bit more power behind his punches, the difference between the two was not considerable. Albazi’s output was in my mind, his greatest enemy throughout the fight, as I thought his lengthy periods of inactivity would hurt him on the scorecards, and while I was wrong in thinking that would cost him this particular fight, it is something I would like to see him work on before his next five-round contest. Albazi will likely take Kara-France’s third-ranked spot in the division following this win, and with Deiveson Figueiredo leaving the division, I would not be surprised at all if Albazi is next scheduled to fight the winner of Brandon Moreno and Alexandre Pantoja’s upcoming flyweight title fight.