UFC 292 Report: Aljamain Sterling vs. Sean O’Malley Results
Welcome to POST Wrestling’s coverage of UFC 292 from the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. The card was headlined by a bout for the UFC Bantamweight Championship, with Aljamain Sterling attempting to defend his title against Sean O’Malley. Sterling won the title in March of 2021 and has since defended his championship three times, a promotional record for the UFC’s bantamweight division. Sterling looked to extend his record here against O’Malley, a popular fighter who had won four of his last five fights, last defeating Petr Yan by split decision to earn this title shot. This card also saw UFC Strawweight Champion, Weili Zhang, put her title on the line against Amanda Lemos, a dangerous fighter who had won seven of her last eight fights going into this title bout. The commentary team for this card consisted of Jon Anik, Joe Rogan, and Daniel Cormier.
- Karine Silva def. Maryna Moroz by guillotine choke at 4:59 of Round 1
- Natalia Silva def. Andrea Lee by unanimous decision (30-27 all)
- Andre Petroski def. Gerald Meerschaert by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
- Brad Katona def. Cody Gibson by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
- Kurt Holobaugh def. Austin Hubbard by triangle submission at 2:39 of Round 2
- Gregory Rodrigues def. Denis Tiuliulin by KO at 1:43 of Round 1
- Brad Tavares def. Chris Weidman by unanimous decision (30-27 all)
- Marlon Vera def. Pedro Munhoz by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
- Mario Bautista def. Da’Mon Blackshear by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
- Ian Machado Garry def. Neil Magny by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-24)
- Zhang Weili def. Amanda Lemos by unanimous decision (50-43, 50-44, 49-45) to retain the UFC Strawweight Championship
- Sean O’Malley def. Aljamain Sterling by TKO at 0:51 of Round 2 to win the UFC Bantamweight Championship
KARINE SILVA (16-4, 125) VS MARYNA MOROZ (11-4, 125) – FLYWEIGHT
This was a rematch of a fight from November of 2014, a fight that Moroz won by armbar in the first round.
After roughly two minutes of trading strikes on the feet, a left hand from Silva sat Moroz down briefly, and while Moroz was quick to return to her feet, she was clearly hurt from this exchange. Moroz was able to compose herself and clinched Silva against the cage, buying herself time to recover. The fighters eventually separated, and Silva attacked the lead leg of Moroz with kicks. Moroz caught one of those heavy kicks from Silva, but ate a number of right hands in the process, forcing her to let go of the leg. Silva eventually opted to take the fight to the ground, and while Moroz was able to transition into top position, Silva responded with a guillotine choke from beneath Moroz. Moroz did her best to escape the submission, but the choke was in tight, and Moroz was forced to submit with a second left in the round.
WINNER: Karine Silva by guillotine choke at 4:59 of Round 1
Moroz may have won their prior fight by way of armbar, but a long time has passed since 2014, and Karine Silva has become a very dangerous fighter in her own right. Silva hurt Moroz on the feet early with a well-timed left hand, and while Moroz did a good job of locking Silva up against the fence to recover, the fight eventually made its way to the ground, where Silva quickly secured the first-round submission win, evening the score with Moroz. Silva has looked very impressive since making her UFC debut last year, submitting all three of her opponents in the first round, and this victory marked her eighth consecutive win. Silva has secured finishes in all seventeen of her professional wins, and that finishing ability can go a long way in the UFC Flyweight division, as evidenced by the commentary team suggesting that Silva should be a ranked fighter following this impressive win.
ANDREA LEE (13-7, 125) VS NATALIA SILVA (15-5-1, 125) – FLYWEIGHT
The fighters traded kicks throughout the opening minute of the fight. A straight right hand from Silva seemed to wobble Lee, who went on the retreat momentarily, as Silva attempted to break through Lee’s guard with kicks. A left high kick from Silva found its target, and a cut was opened up on the right side of Lee’s head as a result. Another quick head kick from Silva snuck through Lee’s guard, and the accumulation of strikes to Lee’s nose resulted in heavy bleeding as well. 10-9 Silva.
Lee was having trouble generating offense against Silva, who was feinting often while circling the octagon, keeping Lee hesitant. Silva continued to fire off kicks with regularity as well, landing the majority of her strikes to the body of Lee. Silva did not do as much damage in the second round as she did in the first, but I thought this was another fairly clear round for Silva regardless, who remained a step ahead of Silva throughout these five minutes. 20-18 Silva.
Silva’s movement continued to trouble Lee in the final round, limiting her offensive activity. A well-timed kick to the body sat Lee down momentarily, but she did not appear to be hurt and quickly returned to her feet. Lee pressed forward with a left hand at one point but was caught by a hook on her way in, forcing her to reset. A three-piece combination of strikes landed with power for Silva as the fight approached its final minute. Ultimately, this fight went the distance, and I scored the bout 30-27 for Natalia Silva.
WINNER: Natalia Silva by unanimous decision (30-27 all)
Silva was clearly the more talented striker, and she out-struck Lee throughout this fight with ease, mixing up her attack to the head, body, and legs of Lee, while throwing out tons of feints to keep Lee frozen. It was a very strong performance from Silva, who dominated this fight for fifteen minutes, doing significant damage on the feet, while taking very little from Lee in return. Silva is now 4-0 in the UFC following this win, and she has won ten straight fights, a streak that dates back to 2017 when she lost to Marina Rodriguez.
ANDRE PETROSKI (9-1, 186) VS GERALD MEERSCHAERT (35-16, 185) – MIDDLEWEIGHT
Petroski was swinging hard in the opening minutes of the fight, seemingly trying to end this fight quickly. Petroski was overcommitting to some of these big swings, allowing Meerschaert to move out of the way before Petroski could find his target. Eventually, Petroski started to chain his strikes together, allowing him to push Meerschaert back, and catch him with a few shots as Meerschaert attempted to lean out of Petroski’s reach. An inadvertent eye poke from Meerschaert led to a break in the action while Petroski was given time to recover. In the final seconds of the round, Petroski took Meerschaert down but was trapped in position due to an inverted triangle from Meerschaert. 10-9 Petroski.
Petroski chased after a single leg early in the second round, but Meerschaert defended the attempt. Meerschaert caught Petroski with a left hand on his way in, as the fighters continued to trade strikes at a fairly even rate. As the round wore on, Meerschaert began to press forward with regularity, finding more success offensively than he did in the first, but it was eventually Petroski who fired back and dropped Meerschaert with a big left hand. Meerschaert recovered and escaped to his feet, but the big knockdown secured the round for Petroski. 20-18 Petroski.
Meerschaert quickly took top position in the third round, after catching a kick and taking Petroski to the ground. Petroski scrambled to his feet without taking too much damage, although Meerschaert opened up a cut near the left eye of Petroski. Meerschaert was finding success on the feet whenever he pressed forward, but Petroski eventually opted to shoot for a takedown, taking top position with two minutes to work. After a failed guillotine choke attempt from Petroski, the fight returned to its feet with thirty seconds remaining, and the fighters traded strikes like madmen until time expired. 29-28 Petroski.
WINNER: Andre Petroski by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)
This was a very competitive fight, especially on the feet, where they exchanged strikes at a very even rate. The bigger moments of the fight belonged to Petroski, who secured the second round with a big knockdown, but as the fight wore on, Petroski began to gas, and Meerschaert took over in the third, doubling Petroski’s third-round strike count. In the end, the fight came down to a very competitive first round, a round that I personally gave Petroski the edge in largely due to his edge in power. Regardless of the scoring, Petroski is now 5-0 in the UFC and is rapidly approaching ranked opposition.
BRAD KATONA (12-2, 135) VS CODY GIBSON (19-8, 135) – BANTAMWEIGHT
Katona landed the first notable strike of the fight, a right hand over the guard of Gibson. Gibson worked his jab while the fighters traded body kicks, and eventually, a straight right hand from Gibson generated a reaction from Katona, who took a step backward before resetting. The fighters were trading strikes at quite the pace, with both fighters finding success whenever they met in the pocket, but the right hands from Gibson appeared to be the most effective weapon from either fighter, catching Katona repeatedly at the start of these lengthy exchanges. Katona tagged Gibson with a short hook right before time expired in the opening round. 10-9 Gibson.
Katona attacked the body to start the second round, before going high with another heavy hook. It did not take long for Gibson to start firing back, and he began pressuring forward with short combinations. Gibson dug into the body with lengthy combinations, as he continued to push a heavy pace, giving Katona no room to breathe. Katona held his ground well and was constantly responding with heavy counters in response to Gibson’s pressure, but Gibson appeared to have the edge in terms of activity. Both fighters landed heavy uppercuts before a right hand from Katona generated a big reaction from Gibson. Katona went on the attack as he attempted to capitalize on the moment, but if Gibson was hurt, he recovered quickly, and he continued to fire back until the horn sounded. 19-19.
A big right hand from Gibson found its target early in the fight’s final round. Gibson pressed forward after landing the shot, seemingly looking to land a strong follow-up, but Katona quickly responded with a heavy combination to back Gibson off of him. These fighters continued to trade at a ridiculous pace, but by this point in the fight, Katona seemed to just have a bit more left in the gas tank, and I thought he was doing a better job of chaining his strikes together. Gibson was hurt underneath his right eye, and the spot started swelling immediately, but just when it looked as though Gibson was about to crumble, he started firing back, and much to this crowd’s approval, this wild fight went the distance. 29-28 Katona.
WINNER: Brad Katona by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
This was a fantastic fight. The pace at which these two fighters fought for fifteen minutes was insane, and there were so many sudden changes of momentum throughout the bout, that this very much felt like anybody’s fight until the final horn sounded. Gibson’s pressure was relentless, even once he started to tire, and while that pressure led to great success, it also allowed Katona to counter with consistency, especially as the fight wore on. In the end, Katona was able to generate more of those big moments throughout the final two rounds, and his arm was raised in the end as a result. This fight marked the bantamweight finale of the 31st season of The Ultimate Fighter, and as a result of this win, Katona will be offered a UFC contract, becoming the first fighter to win the Ultimate Fighter tournament twice (Katona won Season 27 as well, but was cut from the promotion after a pair of losses). It would not surprise me if Gibson was offered a contract after his performance here as well, as this was genuinely one of the best finales to the Ultimate Fighter that I can recall.
AUSTIN HUBBARD (15-6, 155) VS KURT HOLOBAUGH (19-7, 1 NC, 155.5) – LIGHTWEIGHT
Hubbard quickly took the fight to the ground after landing a right hand. Holobaugh was able to escape to his feet without taking much damage, and the fighters exchanged right hands back on the feet. Holobaugh began to pressure forward, throwing flurries of right hands at Hubbard, but Hubbard was able to keep his distance, avoided the majority of Holobaugh’s shots, and started to work his jab in response. Hubbard took the fight back to the ground, and while Holobaugh was able to escape to his feet yet again, I thought that Hubbard did enough in this opening round to take it on the scorecards.
Holobaugh began the second round with a lengthy combination to the head and body. Holobaugh defended a takedown attempt and connected with a big right hand back on the feet. Another heavy right hand caught Hubbard off balance, and Holobaugh followed Hubbard down to the ground, where he took the back of his opponent, looking for a rear naked choke finish. Hubbard escaped the position, but Holobaugh rolled for an armbar, and when Hubbard attempted to counter by rolling into top position, Holobaugh caught him in a triangle choke, quickly forcing Hubbard to submit.
WINNER: Kurt Holobaugh by triangle choke at 2:39 of Round 2
Holobaugh has had two prior stints in the UFC, compiling a total record of 0-4 in the promotion throughout those two short runs, so this season of the Ultimate Fighter provided quite the opportunity to Holobaugh, who likely would not have been given a third shot in the promotion otherwise. Holobaugh made the most of the opportunity, stopping Jason Knight in the semifinals of the tournament to make it to the finals here, where he defeated Hubbard (who held a respectable record of 3-4 in the UFC prior to being cut in 2021) to win the lightweight tournament of the 31st season of the Ultimate Fighter, earning a UFC contract for a third time. It was a slick finish, and I thought that Holobaugh looked impressive throughout this fight, pressuring forward to overwhelm Hubbard on the feet, before finishing the fight on the ground. After the fight, Holobaugh called out Paddy Pimblett, a fight that I do not see happening in the immediate future.
GREGORY RODRIGUES (13-5, 186) VS DENIS TIULIULIN (10-7, 1 NC, 185) – MIDDLEWEIGHT
Rodrigues took the fight to the ground about a minute into the fight. It took Rodrigues roughly thirty seconds to move into full mount, where he took the back of Tiuliulin and immediately ended the fight with a pair of brutal elbows, knocking Tiuliulin unconscious.
WINNER: Gregory Rodrigues by KO at 1:43 of Round 1
The first elbow from Rodrigues was right to the back of the head of Tiuliulin, but that is a foul that is rarely called in Mixed Martial Arts, and I would not be surprised if nothing comes of the potential foul, despite it being the blow that ultimately decided this fight. It was a brutal finish, and certainly, an unfortunate one for Tiuliulin if it was indeed an illegal shot, but controversy aside, Rodrigues just ran through Tiuliulin here, taking him down, passing his guard, and taking his back in mere seconds. There was clearly a skill discrepancy between these two fighters, and Rodrigues dominated this fight for the short time in which it lasted. Assuming the result stands, this was a fantastic bounce-back win for Rodrigues after being stopped in the first round of his last fight, and Rodrigues remains one of the middleweight division’s most exciting fighters.
CHRIS WEIDMAN (15-6, 186) VS BRAD TAVARES (19-8, 185) – MIDDLEWEIGHT
Tavares began the fight with a double jab followed by a right hand. Tavares defended a takedown attempt from Weidman, before tagging him with a heavy right hand. Weidman shot in for another takedown, but once again, Tavares defended the attempt, keeping the fight on the feet. An accidental low blow to Weidman led to a pause in the action while the former champion was given time to recover. Tavares began to attack the lead leg of Weidman with kicks as the action resumed, generating some big reactions from Weidman. 10-9 Tavares.
Tavares landed yet another heavy low kick near the start of the second round, and Weidman started limping on it heavily, struggling to keep himself up. Tavares started to swarm Weidman with strikes as he attempted to finish the fight, but Weidman defended himself well once Tavares stopped targeting the leg, and Weidman started pressing forward as he attempted to shift the momentum of the fight. Tavares was not reacting well to Weidman’s pressure, but a kick to the body from Weidman landed low, and the fighters were separated momentarily as a result. When the action resumed, Tavares landed another leg kick, but the pressure from Weidman continued to be a game-changer, leading to a level of success that he was unable to find earlier in the fight. A right hand from Weidman found its target following a head kick attempt, but the takedown defense from Tavares held up whenever Weidman looked to change levels. This was a very close round. 20-18 Tavares.
We had yet another low blow at the start of the final round, with Weidman being on the receiving end of the strike. Once the action resumed, a series of leg kicks had Weidman in deep trouble, but yet again, Weidman was able to flurry forward to relieve the pressure. An overhand left from Weidman found its target, but Tavares took the shot well, and he continued to focus his attack on the lead leg of Weidman. In the fight’s final minute, Weidman attempted to flurry forward to secure a late stoppage, but his movement was severely compromised, and the fight went the distance. 30-27 Tavares.
WINNER: Brad Tavares by unanimous decision (30-27 all)
There were moments in this fight, in which I was certain that Weidman was going to crumble from the accumulated damage from Tavares’ leg kicks, but every time in which it seemed as though Weidman was done, he would start pressuring forward and actually gave Tavares trouble whenever he started striking in combination. Much like Rafael dos Anjos last weekend however, Weidman’s desire to get the fight to the ground betrayed him in this fight, as Tavares defended each of Weidman’s takedowns throughout the bout, and whenever the fighters broke away from the clinch, Tavares would go right back to attacking Weidman’s legs. It was a gutsy performance from Weidman to weather through so much damage to his legs after breaking his leg in such brutal fashion in his last fight, but in the end, Tavares was the better fighter, and he picked up his first win since 2021 as a result.
MARLON VERA (20-8-1, 136) VS PEDRO MUNHOZ (20-7, 1 NC, 135) – BANTAMWEIGHT
Munhoz wasted little time in taking the fight to Vera, pushing a heavy pace early. Vera quickly began to fall behind in terms of activity, but he was able to match Munhoz’s leg kicks while defending the takedown attempts from Munhoz as well. As the round progressed, Vera began to throw back some strong counters Munhoz’s way, catching him with some looping hooks and knees up the middle on his way in. Munhoz did a good job of attacking the lead leg of Vera throughout the round but was having trouble finding his target when attacking the head, despite his general edge in terms of activity. This was a competitive round, but I gave the edge to Munhoz. 10-9 Munhoz.
Vera worked his jab throughout the first minute of the second round, mixing in the occasional looping hook as well. The fighters traded heavy right hands, and both men seemed to be growing in confidence as the round progressed. Munhoz was putting more behind his strikes in this second round, although Vera continued to do a good job defensively of rolling with the strikes. The jab from Vera was landing with power whenever he threw it, but Munhoz pressed through the shots, throwing heavy hooks to make up whatever ground he may have lost. This was another very close round. 19-19.
The jabs from Vera were bothering Munhoz at the start of the third round, freezing him in place a few times, allowing Vera to extend his combinations. Vera was doing his best work of the fight in this third round, pulling ahead in terms of activity in the round, while landing the bigger strikes as well. Munhoz was still swinging back at Vera, but he seemed to be struggling with Vera’s attack in this third round, and his offense was not as effective as Vera’s lengthier combinations. The fight went the distance, and I scored the bout 29-28 for Vera.
WINNER: Marlon Vera by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
On paper, this was a very interesting fight stylistically. Vera is typically a very low-output fighter, who relies on his ability to create big moments to steal rounds (or finish fights), but picks up the pace as the fight enters the later rounds, while Munhoz is all activity, but tends to fade as the fight wears on. This clash of styles played itself out in a somewhat expected fashion here, with Munhoz arguably having the edge early in the fight as he outworked Vera before Vera picked up the pace himself to pull ahead in the back half of the bout. It was an extremely close fight, with the only clear round being the third in favor of Vera, but in the end, the judges were in agreement in terms of the bout’s winner, and Vera’s arm was raised in victory. This was a much-needed win for Vera in order to keep his name in title contention, and while he likely sits behind Merab Dvalishvili and Cory Sandhagen in the pecking order for a title shot, he holds a prior victory over Sean O’Malley, and if O’Malley were to unseat Sterling for the UFC Bantamweight Championship in the night’s main event, that could certainly lead to Vera jumping the line for a title shot as well.
DA’MON BLACKSHEAR (14-5-1, 135.5) VS MARIO BAUTISTA (12-2, 136) – BANTAMWEIGHT
Blackshear attempted to spin Bautista to the ground in the bouts opening minute, but Bautista was able to maintain his footing, and the fighters began to wrestle in the clinch up against the cage. Eventually, Blackshear was successful in taking the fight to the ground, and he began to work from the guard of Bautista with three minutes remaining in the round. Bautista quickly scrambled to his feet, and he landed a solid elbow as the fighters broke apart. Blackshear changed levels and took Bautista back to the ground, but Bautista threw up a guillotine choke to defend himself. While he was unable to secure the submission, Bautista did make it back to his feet before the round’s conclusion. 10-9 Blackshear.
The fighters traded elbows throughout the early minutes of the second round. Much like the previous round, Blackshear opted to engage Bautista in the clinch, where he looked to take the fight to the ground, but Bautista defended the attempt successfully and slapped Blackshear with a head kick after the fighters separated. Blackshear defended a takedown attempt from Bautista before Bautista sprawled on a takedown from Blackshear in response. Bautista’s pressure on the feet was leading to success with his striking, but Blackshear was constantly looking to change levels, keeping Bautista from getting too comfortable. I scored this round for Bautista, but it was a competitive five minutes. 19-19.
Bautista came out swinging in the third round, landing some heavy shots as Blackshear circled the cage. Bautista eventually opted to take the fight to the ground, wrestling his way onto Blackshear’s back. While Bautista was unable to secure a submission from this position or do significant damage, he was able to keep the position until the final seconds of the round, and despite escaping to his feet momentarily, Blackshear was unable to make something big happen before time expired in the fight. 29-28 Bautista.
WINNER: Mario Bautista by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
Bautista was originally scheduled to face former UFC Bantamweight Champion Cody Garbrandt on this card, but Garbrandt was forced to withdraw from the fight due to injury, and on just a few day’s notice, Da’Mon Blackshear stepped up to face Bautista. While these short-notice fights are not uncommon in the UFC, what made Blackshear’s decision remarkable, is that the man fought literally just seven days ago, where he defeated Jose Johnson in the first round via twister. Despite the wild circumstances, I thought that Blackshear gave a good account of himself here, winning the first round of the bout before Bautista slowly began to take over, out-landing Blackshear on the feet, and eventually, taking control of the fight on the ground as well. It was a strong performance from Bautista against a very different fighter stylistically from his originally scheduled opponent, and his UFC record now stands at 7-2.
NEIL MAGNY (28-10, 170.5) VS IAN GARRY (12-0, 170.5) – WELTERWEIGHT
Garry kicked Magny’s leg out from under him at the start of his fight but allowed him to his feet. The second low kick from Garry had the same effect, and it was clear that the kicks from Garry were troubling Magny greatly, early in this fight. Magny was having trouble generating his own offense, and the kicks from Garry were quickly impacting Magny’s movement. Eventually, the fighters started wrestling against the cage, where Garry took Magny to the ground. Garry allowed Magny back to his feet yet again, but another leg kick sent Magny back down. Magny attempted to lure Garry to the ground, but Garry did not take the bait. Magny’s leg was clearly in rough shape, and by the end of this opening round, it did not appear as though Magny had much to offer Garry. 10-9 Garry.
Garry continued to attack the lead leg of Magny in the second round, and a minute into the round, it was apparent that Magny could barely stand on the leg. Magny attempted to take the fight to the ground, but Garry’s defense held up well, and they spend a considerable portion of the round wrestling up against the cage. Eventually, Garry created separation and slapped Magny with a head kick that knocked Magny’s mouthpiece out. One more heavy leg kick from Garry sent Magny limping away from him, and Garry pressured forward, looking to end the fight with a heavy swarm of strikes. Magny was doing a good job of defending the strikes to the head, but he had no answer for the leg kicks, which were tearing him apart. Magny made it to the end of the round, but this was an uncompetitive fight. 20-18 Garry.
Magny was a one-legged fighter by the third round and was having a very hard time creating offense for himself as a result. Garry teed off on Magny’s lead leg, and Magny had absolutely no defense for these kicks, taking kick after kick without offering Garry anything to think about in response. Credit can be given to Magny for fighting through the pain, much like Chris Weidman earlier in the night, but he was not finding the offensive success that Weidman generated, and eventually, Garry really started to turn up the pressure in search of the finish. In the fight’s final minute, Garry followed Magny to the ground in search of a finish, but was unable to secure the finish, and flipped Magny off as the buzzer sounded. 30-26 Garry.
WINNER: Ian Garry by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-24)
While perhaps credit can be given to Magny for going the distance despite his leg being heavily compromised from the first seconds of the fight onward, Magny offered Garry nothing offensively throughout the bout, and Garry used the lead leg of Neil Magny as target practice for the better part of fifteen minutes. It was an excellent performance from Garry against an experienced ranked welterweight, and while it was perhaps not the test that his originally scheduled opponent, Geoff Neal, would have offered, it was likely enough to move Garry into the top ten of the division. After his win, Garry called out Stephen Thompson, asking for a five-round fight against the skillful striker. Garry’s UFC record now stands at 6-0 following this win.
WEILI ZHANG (23-3, 115) VS AMANDA LEMOS (13-2-1, 114) – UFC STRAWWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
The fighters touched gloves to begin this title bout. A leg kick from Zhang immediately swept Lemos’s leg out from under her, and Zhang followed Lemos to the ground, where she began to work from side control. Zhang began to land left hands from half guard, as well as the occasional short elbow. The ground-and-pound shots from Zhang were landing with power, but she was starting to get a bit reckless, and Lemos countered with a D’Arce choke. The submission looked as though it was in tight, but Zhang escaped and re-gained top position, where she continued to land ground and pound strikes until the end of the round. 10-9 Zhang.
Zhang caught Lemos with a clean sidekick a minute into the second round, and Lemos responded with a heavy right hand. Zhang took the fight back to the ground, where she began to work from half-guard once more. Zhang worked her way to the back of Lemos but was unable to maintain the position for long, as Lemos successfully spun her back into half-guard. Zhang postured up and found a home for some short elbows, and when Lemos picked herself back up, Zhang caught her with a series of knees to the body before dragging her back to the ground. 20-18 Zhang.
Lemos defended an early takedown attempt from Zhang in the third round and began to look for one of her own, but Zhang stuck with it and was eventually the fighter who took top position once the fight went to the ground. Once again, Zhang took the back of Lemos, where she started looking for a rear naked choke. Lemos was able to escape the position and slowly picked herself up along the cage, but Zhang’s pressure was exhausting, and she landed some heavy strikes once the fighters finally separated. 30-27 Zhang.
Zhang attacked Lemos with a variety of kicks throughout the opening minutes of the fourth round. Keeping the fight on the feet allowed Lemos to land some of her better strikes of the fight on the feet, and her strike count finally reached the double digits as the round wore on. With two minutes remaining in the round, Zhang brought the fight back to the ground, where Lemos started looking for a D’Arce choke off of her back. Zhang avoided the submission, but Lemos made it back to her feet. Lemos connected with some heavy shots before the end of the round, and this was easily her strongest round of the fight to this point. 40-36 Zhang.
A huge right hand from Zhang dropped Lemos hard in the opening seconds of the final round. Zhang followed Lemos to the ground as she attempted to finish the fight, throwing down heavy ground and pound strikes. Lemos was moving constantly to improve her position and eventually took a somewhat advantageous position as she grabbed onto the leg of Zhang, but Zhang just threw down right hand after right hand, cracking Lemos with hard knees and elbows, before taking Lemos back to the ground. Zhang controlled Lemos from top position until time expired, and the fight went the distance. 50-44 Zhang.
WINNER: Weili Zhang by unanimous decision (50-43, 50-44, 49-45) to retain the UFC Strawweight Championship
Zhang absolutely dominated this fight for twenty-five minutes. According to the UFC broadcast, the final strike count in this fight was 288 strikes for Zhang to 21 for Lemos, which marked the greatest strike differential in a women’s fight in UFC history. While Lemos did her best to land strong strikes on the feet, as well as threaten submissions off of her back, Zhang’s offensive output was just way too much for Lemos to handle in this fight, and this fight will be remembered as one of the most one-sided title fights in UFC history. Zhang’s wrestling has improved immensely since her debut in the company, and she was able to take Lemos down with ease throughout this fight, where she was able to maintain top position, land damaging strikes, and threaten submissions of her own. It was a fantastic performance, and coming out of this fight, I feel like the most interesting fight in the division would be Zhang against the undefeated Tatiana Suarez, who is perhaps the strongest wrestler in the division today. This marked the first title defense of Zhang’s second reign as UFC Strawweight Champion.
ALJAMAIN STERLING (23-3, 135) VS SEAN O’MALLEY (16-1, 1 NC, 135) – UFC BANTAMWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
The fighters touched gloves to begin the main event, after staring each other down as Bruce Buffer went through his introductions. O’Malley applied the pressure early in the fight, moving forward as Sterling circled the cage. O’Malley threw the occasional front kick to the body of O’Malley, as Sterling focused his kicks in on the lead leg of O’Malley. Late in the round, Sterling shot for a takedown, but O’Malley defended the attempt. Neither fighter was terribly active throughout this opening round, which made for a very difficult round to score.
Sterling began the second round with a takedown attempt, but the shot was defended, and the fight remained on the feet. As Sterling rushed in and overextended with a straight left hand, O’Malley caught him with a perfectly timed right hand, dropping him hard. O’Malley followed Sterling to the ground, and he threw down ground and pound strikes until the fight was stopped.
WINNER: Sean O’Malley by TKO at 0:51 of Round 2 to win the UFC Bantamweight Championship
Neither fighter committed too much offensively in the first round, but Sterling started the second round with far more aggression, and wildly flurried forward, providing O’Malley with the opportunity to land the clean right hand that dropped him. It was a perfectly timed shot from O’Malley, and he capitalized on the moment, throwing down relentless ground-and-pound strikes until the fight was stopped. The crowd treated O’Malley like a superstar here, and this was quite the crowning moment, becoming the tenth fighter to hold the UFC Bantamweight Championship. After the fight, O’Malley called out Marlon Vera, who holds a win over the champion and was victorious earlier in the night. While Merab Dvalishvili and Cory Sandhagen will undoubtedly be displeased by that callout, I would not be shocked if the UFC goes in that direction for O’Malley’s next fight, as he attempts to even the score with Vera. Sterling was interviewed as well after the fight, and despite stating earlier in the week that he would like to move to featherweight after this fight regardless of its outcome, the way in which Sterling lost this fight seemed to change his mind. Personally, I would like to see Sterling make the move up, as Featherweight could use some freshness near the top of its division, but if he is to remain at Bantamweight, I would not be opposed to seeing Sterling rematch Sandhagen next.