UFC Fight Night Report: Sean Strickland stops Abus Magomedov in the second 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 middleweight division, with the seventh-ranked middleweight contender, Sean Strickland, attempting to defend his place in the rankings against Abusupiyan Magomedov. While Strickland has suffered some recent setbacks to Alex Pereira and Jared Cannonier, a short-notice victory in January over Nassourdine Imavov returned Strickland to the win column, and he was looking to elevate his standing in the division with another win over a surging contender here. For Magomedov, this was a huge opportunity to jump into the division’s top ten after only one fight in the promotion, a fight that he won by knockout in just nineteen seconds. The co-main event featured Damir Ismagulov facing Grant Dawson, as both lightweight contenders looked to inch their way closer to the division’s top ten.
Brendan Fitzgerald provided commentary for this card alongside Laura Sanko and Michael Bisping. Performance of the Night bonuses were awarded to Sean Strickland and Nursulton Ruziboev. Fight of the Night bonuses went out to Elves Brener and Guram Kutateladze.
- Alexander Romanov def. Blagoy Ivanov by unanimous decision (30-27 all)
- Luana Carolina def. Ivana Petrovic by unanimous decision (29-28 all)
- Elvis Brener def. Guram Kutateladze by TKO at 3:17 of Round 3
- Karol Rosa def. Yana Santos by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)
- Joanderson Brito def. Westin Wilson by KO at 2:54 of Round 1
- Rinat Fakhretdinov def. Kevin Lee by guillotine choke at 0:55 of Round 1
- Nursultan Ruziboev def. Brunno Ferreira by KO at 1:17 of Round 1
- Benoit Saint Denis def. Ismael Bonfim by rear naked choke at 4:48 of Round 1
- Ariane Lipski def. Melissa Gatto by split decision (29-28, 30-27, 28-29)
- Michael Morales def. Max Griffin by unanimous decision (29-28 all)
- Grant Dawson def. Damir Ismagulov by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-27)
- Sean Strickland def. Abus Magomedov by TKO at 4:20 of Round 2
ALEXANDER ROMANOV (16-2, 264) VS BLAGOY IVANOV (19-5, 1 NC, 259) – HEAVYWEIGHT
Romanov threw the first significant strike of the fight, an overhand left. Ivanov responded with a looping hook before both fighters attempted to catch the other with a jab. The pace of this opening round was very slow, and neither fighter was doing a good job of attacking in combination, which led to five minutes of the fighters exchanging strikes at a fairly even rate. Ivanov may have landed the better strikes throughout the round, but it was close, and neither fighter could be confident that they won this first round going into the second. 10-9 Ivanov.
Romanov landed a number of leg kicks that seemed to affect the lead leg of Ivanov. Ivanov was largely head-hunting while Romanov did a better job of mixing up his attack, and I thought Romanov was having a much better second round as a result. Once again, I did not think as though the activity was quite there from either fighter, but towards the end of the round, Romanov took Ivanov down, and he landed a number of heavy left hands from top position to secure the round in a decisive fashion. 19-19.
Romanov continued to attack the lead leg of Ivanov at the start of the final round and seemed to get the better of their wilder exchanges in the center of the cage. Romanov eventually opted to press Ivanov against the cage, but could not keep him there for long. Romanov surged forward with a jumping knee; however, Ivanov was able to avoid the heavy knee. With just over a minute remaining in the fight, the fighters started trading heavy strikes, until Romanov once again took Ivanov to the ground, ending the fight in top position. 29-28 Romanov.
WINNER: Alexander Romanov by unanimous decision (30-27 all)
Cardio has been a significant issue for Romanov in the past, but he was ready to go for fifteen minutes here, pacing himself well against Ivanov, who is always content to fight at his opponent’s pace. While it was a competitive fight, Romanov was able to pull ahead toward the end of each round, taking Ivanov down whenever he needed to in order to secure close rounds. Not long ago, Romanov was considered to be one of the top prospects at heavyweight, and while that hype has definitely cooled off, this was the type of performance that shows that Romanov still has genuine potential at heavyweight, and his overall record in the promotion improved to 6-2 as a result of this win.
IVANA PETROVIC (6-0, 125.5) VS LUANA CAROLINA (8-4, 126) – FLYWEIGHT
Carolina began the fight with a number of leg kicks, which prompted Petrovic to surge forward with a pair of hard right hands. The fighters began to wrestle against the cage, where Petrovic eventually tripped Carolina to the ground. Despite the trip, Carolina successfully took top position upon hitting the ground, and she quickly started looking for ways to advance her position. Eventually, Petrovic worked her way into top position, and she went for a heel hook, but time was not on her side, and this fight would see a second round. 10-9 Carolina.
Petrovic pushed Carolina up against the cage early in the second round, looking for another takedown. While Petrovic was unable to get Carolina back to the ground, she held her up against the cage for a considerable portion of the round, landing short strikes against the cage until Carolina eventually broke away. Once the fighters were separated, Carolina went on the attack, and she seemed to be the more comfortable striker on the feet, landing her shots consistently without taking much damage in return. Petrovic was able to take Carolina down right before time expired, but I thought that Carolina did enough damage on the feet to take this round on the scorecards regardless. 20-18 Carolina.
Carolina took top position after a failed takedown attempt from Petrovic roughly a minute into the final round. Carolina quickly postured up and started throwing down ground and pound shots, doing significant damage as Petrovic started climbing back to her feet. Petrovic opted to roll for a kneebar, and while she was unable to secure the submission, she did take top position on the ground. Petrovic rolled for a leg once again, seemingly chasing after a heel hook, but she could not get the finish, and the fight went the distance. 30-27 Carolina.
WINNER: Luana Carolina by unanimous decision (29-28 all)
This was an odd fight to observe, as Petrovic was largely able to dictate where the fight took place, but was often unable to capitalize on the positioning, which resulted in Carolina pulling ahead with what she would accomplish offensively throughout her shorter periods of activity. Carolina appeared to be the more comfortable fighter on the feet, and she was certainly doing more immediately apparent damage whenever she landed, but what was perhaps more surprising was her success on the ground, making the most of her top control time by attacking Petrovic with vicious ground and pound strikes whenever the opportunity was presented. Carolina’s UFC record improved to 4-3 following this win.
GURAM KUTATELADZE (12-3, 155) VS ELVES BRENER (14-3, 155) – LIGHTWEIGHT
Kutateladze landed a number of hard kicks to the body of Brener throughout the fight’s first minute. Brener quickly made the decision to change levels, and he successfully took Kutateladze to the ground with four minutes to work. Kutateladze was able to escape to his feet without taking much damage but ate a hard combination of strikes upon returning to his feet. Brener slipped to the ground at one point, but he popped right back up and took Kutateladze back to the ground. Once again, Kutateladze was quick to escape to his feet, and he landed a heavy strike to the body before the fighters began wrestling against the cage. Kutateladze was not content to end the round grappling against the cage, however, and he went on the attack late, rocking Brener repeatedly with a lengthy combination of strikes against the cage before time expired.
Brener still appeared to be hurt going into the second round, and he was bleeding heavily from a cut sustained near the end of the first round. A knee from Kutateladze seemed to do considerable damage, as did a heavy left hand that he landed just moments later. Brener and Kutateladze both defended attempts from the other to get the fight to the ground, keeping the fight on the feet, where Kutateladze was starting to slow down as the round progressed. Brener had absorbed a great deal of damage, but he seemed to be the fresher fighter, and he flurried forward as he attempted to capitalize on Kutateladze’s apparent exhaustion. In the rounds final minute, Kutateladze swept Brener to the ground, ending the second round in top position. This was a very close round, but I thought the early damage dealt from Kutateladze gave him the edge.
Brener began the third round with an extended combination of strikes, catching Kutateladze clean repeatedly. Brener was doing significant damage, but just when it seemed as though Kutateladze was gassed, he fired back with some heavy strikes of his own, before wrapping Brener up in the clinch against the cage. Kutateladze was unable to secure the takedown, and after the fighters separated, a left hand from Brener dropped Kutateladze hard. Brener immediately capitalized on the knockdown, quickly finishing the fight with ground and pound strikes.
WINNER: Elvis Brener by TKO at 3:17 of Round 3
Kutateladze was a significant favorite according to the oddsmakers heading into this fight, but it did not take long for him to start showing apparent signs of fatigue, and Brener slowly began to take over the fight. Kutateladze has had two very close fights in the UFC against two of the lightweight division’s best fighters in Mateusz Gamrot and Damir Ismagulov respectively, and I do not recall his cardio being an issue in either of those fights, but conditioning appeared to be the difference maker this time. Brener absorbed significant damage throughout the first half of this fight, but once Kutateladze began to tire, Brener started going on the attack, and the momentum of the fight quickly shifted in his favor. Eventually, Brener found the finish, and he pulled off the impressive comeback win, stunning the oddsmakers with his performance. Brener is now 2-0 in the UFC following this win, and this marked just his second career victory by way of knockout.
YANA SANTOS (14-7, 1 NC, 144.5) VS KAROL ROSA (16-5, 146) – FEATHERWEIGHT
The fighters wrestled against the cage throughout the opening minutes of the fight, where Santos looked to throw up short knees and elbows against the cage. While Rosa was not taking an immense amount of damage from these strikes, she spent a considerable portion of the round with her back to the cage, absorbing these short shots, and when the fighters eventually broke apart, she was in desperate need of some significant offensive activity. Instead, it was Santos who continued to be the busier fighter, and I thought that activity ultimately won her this round. 10-9 Santos.
Rosa began the second round aggressively but was quickly wrapped up in the clinch by Santos. Unlike the first round, Rosa was able to escape from the clinch in quick fashion, and she was finding more success on the feet in this second round, landing her carefully selected shots with power. Santos continued to be the busier fighter in terms of general activity, but I thought this was a far better round from Rosa, who was even on the strike count and was arguably landing the more damaging strikes. 19-19 on my scorecard heading into the final round.
Rosa caught a kick from Santos and landed a hard right hand, one of the better strikes of the fight to that point. While Rosa was not offering Santos more than the occasional straight right hand, the power differential between the two was keeping Santos from getting comfortable. I did not think that either fighter was doing quite enough to decisively take this final round, but the visual of Rosa pressing forward throughout the five-minute period may have swayed judges who were on the fence. In the final seconds of the fight, Rosa secured a takedown, ending the round in top position. 29-28 Rosa.
WINNER: Karol Rosa by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)
I was not surprised to see the judges split on the result of this one. Santos was the busier fighter throughout the vast majority of the fight, but in terms of damage, which is the primary factory when scoring rounds, the rounds were very even. I thought that Rosa did enough to earn the final two rounds, but I would not argue with anyone who saw the bout for Santos either, as I did not think either fighter did quite enough to clearly earn that final round. Regardless, Rosa is now an impressive 6-2 in the UFC following this win, and all eight of those fights have gone the distance.
JOANDERSON BRITO (14-3-1, 145.5) VS WESTIN WILSON (16-7, 146) – FEATHERWEIGHT
Brito began the fight with a strong right hand, which he quickly followed with a left hand that seemed to shake Wilson. Brito pressed Wilson against the cage for some time, before taking him to the ground with over three minutes to work. Wilson started hunting for a kneebar on the ground, and Brito responded with heavy right hands, just throwing down bombs until he eventually knocked Wilson unconscious.
WINNER: Joanderson Brito by KO at 2:54 of Round 1
Brito was one of the largest betting favorites in recent memory going into this fight, and he quickly made good on those odds with this decisive first-round knockout finish. Brito was originally scheduled to face Khusein Askhabov on this card, but Askhabov was forced to withdraw from the bout, and Wilson stepped in on fairly short notice, making his UFC debut here. The matchmaking was heavily criticized by fight fans, and the bout played out as expected, with the massive favorite more or less steamrolling through his opponent here. Brito has now finished three consecutive fights in the first round, and after his win, Brito called out Dan Ige repeatedly, as well as Alex Caceres.
KEVIN LEE (19-7, 171) VS RINAT FAKHRETDINOV (20-1, 171) – WELTERWEIGHT
Fakhretdinov dropped Kevin Lee with a hard right hand in the first minute of the fight, and he quickly grabbed a hold of a guillotine choke, choking Lee unconscious.
WINNER: Rinat Fakhretdinov by guillotine choke at 0:55 of Round 1
After nearly two years away from the UFC, this was about as tough of a test as Kevin Lee could have asked for in his return fight to the promotion, and Rinat Fakhretdinov was able to dispose of him quickly here, dropping Lee in the first real exchange of the fight before picking up the submission finish. Obviously, this was a devastating result for Kevin Lee, but this was always going to be a tough fight for him, and I maintain that Lee is a better fit at lightweight despite his difficulties making 155 lbs. For Fakhretdinov, this was his biggest win to date, and a quick finish like this was exactly what he needed to get noticed after a pair of decision victories to begin his run in the promotion. Fakhretdinov has now won twenty consecutive fights, and I imagine he will be facing a ranked opponent the next time in which he steps into the octagon.
BRUNNO FERREIRA (10-0, 185) VS NURSULTAN RUZIBOEV (34-8-2, 2 NC, 183.5) – MIDDLEWEIGHT
The fight did not go long before Ruziboev landed a heavy right hand that dropped Ferreira hard. Ruziboev followed him to the ground and threw down ground-and-pound shots until the fight was stopped.
WINNER: Nursultan Ruziboev by KO at 1:17 of Round 1
Just as the commentary team was discussing the finishing rates of both these fighters and the unlikelihood of this fight seeing the scorecards, Ruziboev caught a kick from Ferreira, before landing a right hand that ended Ferreira’s night, bouncing him from the ranks of the unbeaten. It was an excellent performance from Ruziboev in his UFC debut, and while the fight was so short that we did not get a true gauge of his abilities, this was certainly the exact result that will leave a lasting impression in the minds of those who tuned in. Ruziboev is a tall middleweight at 6’5, and with over thirty finishes throughout his career, he will certainly be a dangerous outing for all future opponents. Ruziboev has now won nine consecutive fights, and he has finished all nine of those fights in the first round.
ISMAEL BONFIM (19-3, 156) VS BENOIT SAINT-DENIS (10-1, 1 NC, 156) – LIGHTWEIGHT
Bonfim cracked Saint-Denis with a right hand to start the fight, before the fighters started trading heavy kicks, with Saint Denis landing multiple kicks to the body of Bonfim. Saint-Denis changed levels and secured a takedown, quickly moving into mount. Bonfim returned to his feet in impressive fashion, where he partially landed a looping punch that seemed to hurt Saint-Denis, prompting Saint-Denis to shoot for a takedown. Bonfim sprawled on the attempt, keeping the fight on the feet. Saint-Denis no longer seemed to have interest in standing with Bonfim however, and he continued to chase after takedowns until he successfully dragged Bonfim down, where he rolled onto Bonfim’s back in impressive fashion. Saint-Denis was eventually locked in a rear naked choke, and he squeezed down until Bonfim was forced to submit.
WINNER: Benoit Saint-Denis by rear naked choke at 4:48 of Round 1
This was a very entertaining fight while it lasted. Saint-Denis found success attacking the body of Bonfim with kicks early, but it did not take long for Bonfim’s power to start overwhelming him on the feet. Just when it seemed as though the momentum had shifted towards Bonfim, Saint-Denis brought the fight to the ground, where he quickly took Bonfim’s back, securing the rear naked choke finish. It was an impressive performance against a tough opponent, and Saint-Denis has now won three consecutive fights, finishing all three of those opponents in the process. After the fight, Saint-Denis called out Mateusz Gamrot, Arman Tsarukyan, and Rafael Fiziev.
ARIANE LIPSKI (15-8, 126) VS MELISSA GATTO (8-1-2, 125.5) – FLYWEIGHT
Lipski was getting the better of their early striking exchanges, backing Gatto into the cage where she would step in with short combinations before retreating. Gatto was attempting to time her counters whenever Lipski stepped in, which led to some success, but I thought she was falling behind in terms of activity due to her counter-based approach. As the round progressed, Gatto began to pull ahead on the strike count, and as the fighters continued to trade shots, one of Gatto’s right hands opened up a cut below the right eye of Lipski. The fighters wrestled up against the fence to end the round. 10-9 Gatto.
Gatto caught a kick from Lipski and attempted to take her down in the second round, but Lipski’s takedown defense held up well, and the fight continued to play out on the feet. Lipski momentarily secured a takedown of her own, but Gatto immediately popped back to her feet, where she looked to even the score by continuing her hunt for a takedown. Eventually, the fighters separated, and this round still felt as though it was anyone’s to take with ninety seconds remaining. The strike count was weighted heavily in favor of Gatto, and that may have very well been the difference maker in this second round despite the general lack of damage done. 20-18 Gatto.
Lipski landed a solid combination of strikes in the third round, before defending another takedown attempt from Gatto. Gatto was eventually able to wrap herself around Lipski’s back against the cage, and she attempted to drag Lipski to the ground, but Lipski let Gatto slide, and took top position as her opponent fell to the ground. Gatto escaped to her feet without taking much damage, but I thought Lipski did the better work on the feet for the remainder of the fight, and I scored this final round in her favor. 29-28 Gatto.
WINNER: Ariane Lipski by split decision (29-28, 30-27, 28-29)
Gatto outlanded Lipski throughout the fight, but in terms of damage dealt, the bout was quite even, and as Lipski was largely the advancing fighter, I was not shocked to see her get the nod in what was a very close fight. Lipski’s takedown defense was impressive throughout the bout, especially in the final round, where she was able to outmaneuver Gatto against the cage to take top position on the ground, a sequence that may have very well decided the fight. Lipski now holds a record of 5-5 in the UFC, and Gatto has fallen to 2-2 as a result of this loss.
MAX GRIFFIN (19-9, 170.5) VS MICHAEL MORALES (14-0, 170.5) – WELTERWEIGHT
Griffin rushed in with a right hand to start the fight, and Morales responded with a sharp jab moments later. That jab continued to find its mark as the round progressed, with Morales’s other go-to weapon being the occasional flying knee that was consistently being blocked by Griffin. Griffin started hunting for takedowns as the round progressed, but Morales’s defense held up well. The fighters exchanged strikes towards the end of the round, with both fighters landing with power. This was a competitive round, but I gave the edge to Morales. 10-9 Morales.
A right cross from Michael Morales seemed to hurt Griffin near the start of the second round, and he went on the attack as he attempted to finish the fight. Griffin swung back to keep Morales from getting too comfortable, buying himself time to recover, but he was starting to fall behind in this fight. Morales was able to defend a takedown attempt from Griffin to keep the fight on the feet, where he continued to get the better of Griffin with his heavy flurries. 20-18 Morales.
Morales’s takedown defense continued to hold up in the final round, and he was starting to showboat, taunting Griffin before going on the attack once more. After numerous attempts, Griffin was finally able to take Morales to the ground, but Morales immediately escaped to his feet. By this point in the fight, there was a clear gap in skill between the two fighters on the feet, and the fight was becoming one-way traffic in terms of damage dealt. In the end, the fight went the distance, and I scored it 30-27 in favor of Morales.
WINNER: Michael Morales by unanimous decision (29-28 all)
The first round of this fight was very competitive, with the fighters landing at a fairly even rate, but as the bout progressed, Morales began to take control of the action. Morales’s jab was his best weapon throughout the fight, and as he wore Griffin down, Morales was able to do damage with these lengthy flurries of strikes that were clearly bothering Griffin whenever Morales committed to them. Griffin eventually started hunting for takedowns, but Morales showcased some strong takedown defense, further depleting Griffin’s gas tank. It was a solid performance from Morales, who maintained his undefeated record with this win and is now 3-0 in the UFC.
DAMIR ISMAGULOV (24-2, 156) VS GRANT DAWSON (19-1-1, 156) – LIGHTWEIGHT
Dawson was fighting aggressively from the very start of the fight, and he quickly took Ismagulov down to the ground, where he began to work from half guard. It did not take long for Dawson to work his way to the back of Ismagulov, a position that he maintained for the vast majority of the round. In the round’s final minute, Dawson climbed up the back of Ismagulov to throw down ground and pound strikes, and while he could not secure the finish, he certainly put a stamp on what was a one-sided round. 10-8 Dawson.
The fighters exchanged strikes on the feet at the start of the second round, but it did not take long for Dawson to lift Ismagulov up into the air before taking him back down. Much like the first round, Dawson was able to work his way to the back of Ismagulov quickly, and Ismagulov had no answers for Dawson’s body triangle. Dawson spent the remainder of the round in this position, and this was another clear round to score in his favor. 20-17 Dawson.
It took less than thirty seconds for Dawson to return Ismagulov to the ground, where Dawson immediately took the back of his opponent once again. While Ismagulov was able to defend Dawson’s submission attempts, he was completely unable to improve his position, and much like the previous two rounds, Ismagulov spent the entirety of the round with Dawson on his back. The fight ultimately went the distance, and I scored it 30-26 in favor of Dawson.
WINNER: Grant Dawson by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-27)
Grant Dawson absolutely dominated Damir Ismagulov throughout the entirety of this fight. Ismagulov is a skilled fighter, but as a grappler, Dawson was on another level here. Ismagulov never mounted any significant offense throughout the bout, being taken down near the start of each of the three rounds, where Dawson proceeded to control him with ease until time expired. It was an excellent performance from Dawson, who will likely be matched up against a top-ten opponent next, given that his UFC record now stands at an impressive 8-0-1. After the fight, he mentioned Tony Ferguson and Beneil Dariush as potential opponents for his next fight, before calling out Islam Makhachev, respectfully warning the current UFC Lightweight Champion that Dawson is coming to take his place.
SEAN STRICKLAND (26-5, 186) VS ABUS MAGOMEDOV (25-4-1, 186) – MIDDLEWEIGHT
Magomedov began the fight with a series of kicks to the midsection of Strickland before an accidental poke to the eye of Strickland led to a pause in the action. After a lengthy break, it was ruled that Strickland could continue, and the fight resumed. Magomedov attacked the lead leg of Strickland, before cracking him with a heavy left hook. Strickland did a good job of slowing Magomedov down with his awkward style, but he was falling behind on the strike count, and needed to get active in order to earn some respect from Magomedov, who was attacking without much fear of a counter to this point in the bout. A head kick from Magomedov found its target before he opted to take Strickland down near the cage. Magomedov took the back of Strickland momentarily, but Strickland quickly escaped to his feet.
Strickland went on the attack at the start of the second round, showing signs of life that were not present in round one. Magomedov seemed overwhelmed by Strickland’s aggression and was getting trapped against the cage where he was turtling up, eating shots from Strickland. Strickland had Magomedov badly hurt, and Magomedov was looking exhausted on the feet, just desperately trying to weather the storm from Strickland. Referee Herb Dean warned Magomedov that he needed to fight back, and while he attempted to do so, the gas tank was empty, and it was not long before he went down from Strickland’s attack, and Strickland quickly finished the fight with ground and pound strikes.
WINNER: Sean Strickland by TKO at 4:20 of Round 2
Magomedov looked good in the opening round, but he was exhausted by round two, and Strickland knew it. Strickland immediately went on the attack, giving Magomedov absolutely no room to rest, and eventually, Magomedov crumbled from Strickland’s output. This was an extremely tough test for a fighter with a single UFC bout (a nineteen-second fight at that), and it proved a bit too much for Magomedov here, who was clearly not ready for a five-round fight against one of the division’s best fighters. Strickland has now knocked back two consecutive prospects at middleweight and has put himself in a position to fight up in the rankings once more. While most of Strickland’s post-fight interview was censored on the broadcast, he certainly called out Israel Adesanya at one point in it, and as Strickland is one of the few middleweights that Adesanya has not already beaten, I would not be shocked to see that fight come together at some point, especially if Strickland can pick up one more big one.