DEREK BRUNSON was not in a welcoming mood, as he bludgeoned his way past Lyoto Machida after just 2-30 of the first round, sending “The Dragon” and his vociferous Brazilian support home from the Ginasio do Ibiriapuera in Sao Paulo with nothing to celebrate.
A jarring left hand from Brunson stunned Machida and he quickly followed up by dropping the former light-heavyweight champion with another before pouncing on the stricken Machida when he hit the canvas to add a 14th victim to his list of first round stoppages and a Performance of the Night bonus to go with it.
Machida was returning from a two year lay-off where he was suspended for a USADA violation after admitting to using a banned substance. He must have been wondering why he bothered, as after a good start and some flashes of the old Machida, but he slipped to his third straight stoppage loss.
Brunson snapped a two fight losing streak, including a disputed loss to Anderson Silva, and put himself back into the conversation for another big fight, as the rest of the middleweight division queue up awaiting the result of Michael Bisping and Georges St Pierre mammoth clash on Saturday.
In the co-main event, brash American Colby Covington picked up a big unanimous decision win over former title challenger Demian Maia, before further incensing the fiery crowd in his post-fight interview, which meant he was accompanied back to his changing room by extra security.
Covington has been outspoken to say the least in the build-up to his Brazilian trip and he continued to rile the local support throughout the week. Maia fought with an urgency he was lacking in his last performance against Tyron Woodley, out-striking Covington early, but the American was soon on top.
Covington stopped all of Maia’s takedown attempts and unloaded all his arsenal in the third, as he left Sao Paulo with the win, scored 29-27, 30-27 and 30-26 on the scorecards. It’s unlikely he’ll be welcomed back with open arms.
Pedro Munhoz picked up a submission win over Rob Font in the battle of the ranked bantamweights, which was an all-action affair until Font tapped out after 4-03 of the first round. Font dived for a takedown, but Munhoz rolled through to lock in a tight guillotine choke, which left him with no choice but to tap. He earned a Performance of the Night bonus with the win.
Francisco Trinaldo overcame a strong start from Jim Miller, in his UFC record 28th appearance in the Octagon, but eventually took control against the fan favourite on his way to a unanimous decision victory, scored 29-28 across the board.
Thiago Santos also scored a first round stoppage win, stopping Jack Hermansson with a second left in the round, as he pummelled the former Cage Warriors middleweight champion. Santos immediately set his sights on Brunson, who was yet to fight at the time, offering him the fight whether he won or lost. It was his third straight victory of 2017 and none have got close to the final buzzer.
Crowd favourite John Lineker, the highly-ranked bantamweight, returned for his first fight since his December defeat at the hands of TJ Dillashaw, putting in a superb performance on his way to a unanimous decision win over Marlon Vera. Lineker was handed the decision, 30-27 twice and 29-28 on the cards.
On the preliminary card, Vicente Luque ground down the previously unbeaten Niko Price with an impressive variety of strikes and then finished the job with an equally impressive D’Arce choke submission in the second round, which saw Price surrender his record with 4:08 gone in the round of their welterweight contest.
Antonio Carlos Junior proved far too much for Welshman Jack Marshman, dominating him until he tapped out to a rear naked shoe after 4-30 of the first, whilst lightweight Jared Gordon was just as dominant over Hacran Dias, although he had to go to the scorecards, which were scored 29-26, 30-27 and 29-27 in his favour.
Eliseu Zaleski Dos Santos came out on top in the Fight of the Night over welterweight rival Max Griffin, who survived a torrid first round to come back and almost leave with the win. Both left with a deserved bonus.
Marcelo Golm walked through late replacement Christian Colombo in their heavyweight encounter, destroying him on the feet and submitting him on the ground by way of a rear naked choke. It was the sixth straight first round stoppage for Golm and a memorable way to begin his career in the UFC.
Finally, Deivison Figueiredo picked up a split decision win over Jarred Brooks in the meeting of unbeaten flyweights. Figueiredo kept hold of his unbeaten ledger by two scores of 29-28, whilst the third judge gave it 30-27 in favour of Brooks.