TONY FERGUSON submitted Kevin Lee in the third round of their highly anticipated grudge match to become the UFC’s Interim lightweight champion and immediately turned his focus on a fight with Conor McGregor, who holds the official title.
Ferguson demanded the Irishman “defend or vacate” in the wake of his submission win by way of a triangle choke and capped off a long road to title glory in the UFC. He overcame a strong start from “The Motown Phenom” to grind out a victory at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
It has been a difficult week for the city following the atrocities that happened the previous Sunday and the UFC portrayed the message of “Vegas Strong” throughout the week and they welcomed some of the victims and first responders into the cage before the show in a fantastic show of unity.
What followed was a terrific night of action, headlined by Ferguson’s win against Lee, who fought on despite suffering from a staph infection. Lee’s infection was clear to see and he admitted it contributed to his difficult weight cut, which calls into question why the Nevada State Athletic Commission, who are never not under scrutiny, allowed him to fight in the first place.
Lee, seemed resigned to his fate and put it all on the line in the first round, securing a takedown and unloading his arsenal on a stricken Ferguson, who soaked up the pressure. The trash talk that dominated the build-up never stopped throughout the fight, but it was obvious that Lee was in trouble.
Ferguson sensed this and although it wasn’t a vintage performance by “El Cucuy” he began to press forward and wear down Lee. Lee continued to stick to his game-plan and went after takedowns, landing an excellent one in the third, but he was so drained he couldn’t press home the advantage.
Ferguson immediately went to work from the bottom, looking to snap in an armbar, but Lee stepped over to almost snatch the win. Ferguson quickly transitioned and smashed some nasty elbows into Lee’s face, before finally squeezing in a triangle that Lee couldn’t hold off.
With the win Ferguson is now well and truly a big player in the “McGregor Sweepstakes”, whilst Lee has some re-building to do, possibly up at welterweight. His eccentricities have caught the eye, but he is a top quality operator and has more than enough to get himself back into the title picture.
In the co-main event, UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson produced a stunning armbar finish in the fifth round, which saw him break the record for the UFC’s most consecutive title defences, dominating an outclassed Ray Borg to secure his place in the history books.
Johnson was in total control throughout the five rounds, before picking up Borg as if to suplex him, before somehow switching in midair to sink in the armbar, which Borg had simply no choice but to tap out to. It was “Mighty Mouse’s” 11th title defence.
Borg looked totally out of his depth the second the first leg kick snapped in and it was almost as if it was a matter of time before Johnson would finish the job. Borg did everything he could, but “Mighty Mouse” was always a step, sometimes two or three ahead of him.
It was a joy to watch Johnson, who put in another sensational performance and could well now move back up to bantamweight to pursue more title glory and confirm his status as one of the best of all time. The rest of the flyweight division can breathe a huge sigh of relief.
On the undercard former UFC heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum overcame late notice opponent Walt Harris in just 65 seconds, by way of an armbar submission, to make up for the fallout of his scheduled clash with Derrick Lewis, who aggravated a back injury after the weigh-in. Harris was due to face Brit Mark Godbeer on the card, but his step-up in class was nothing short of a nightmare.
In the women’s flyweight division, debutant Mara Romero Borella dominated fellow debutant Kalindra Faria on the way to forcing her to tap out to a tight rear naked choke in the first round. It capped an excellent performance by the Italian, who replaced Andrea Lee, who had failed to fulfil the USADA requirement of going through the testing pool for six months, having previously failing a drug test.
Beneil Dariush and Evan Dunham clashed in a battle of ranked lightweights, battling to a gruelling draw. Dariush dominated the first round, taking it 10-8 and having Dunham in a world of trouble, however he succumbed to a leaky engine and Dunham gained a foothold, doing enough to steal the last two and make the majority decision draw a fair result. The cards 28-28 twice and 29-28 to Dariush.
On the preliminary card, lightweights Lando Vannata and Bobby Green met in a sensational fight that had the crowd on their feet. Blood and guts were on full display, as the two’s styles matched perfectly and ended in a second draw on the card. Vannata was deducted a point for an illegal knee, possibly costing him the win, but there will be no one who wouldn’t mind seeing it again.
In the clash of bantamweight prospects Cody Stamann upset the momentum of “The Fire Kid” Tom Duquesnoy, to take a close split decision, whilst Matt Schnell put in an excellent performance in the flyweight division to take home a unanimous decision over Marco Beltran.
Poliana Botelho was also a unanimous decision winner over Pearl Gonzalez in a horrendous fight, which did nothing for Gonzalez’s hopes of remaining in the UFC long-term, whilst on the Fight Pass portion of the card, #11 flyweight John Moraga flattened the unbeaten Russian and #15 seed Magomed Bibulatov in the first round.
Opening the card was Brad Tavares, who dominated Thales Leites and forced his way into the middleweight rankings, leaving the grizzled veteran and #13 ranked Leites bloodied and bruised as he fought his way to a wide, unanimous decision.