LAS VEGAS, February 4 - Dustin Poirier ran his win streak to four in a row in UFC 143 prelim action Saturday at the Mandalay Bay Events Center, tapping out Hawaii’s Max Holloway with an armbar from a mounted triangle at 3:23 of round one.
Holloway, the youngest fighter on the UFC roster at 20, was the aggressor early on the feet, but he was unable to stop a Poirier double leg slam that forced the action to the canvas.
“I’m happy. You know, I’m 4-0 in the UFC now. I’m for real now,” said Poirier, who keeps inching his way into title contention against UFC featherweight kingpin Jose Aldo. “(Max Holloway) is tough. He’s a great kickboxer. A lot of people don’t know him but I trained for him like I would train for Anderson Silva.”
Watch Poirier's post-fight interview
EDWIN FIGUEROA VS. ALEX CACERES
Edwin Figueroa walked away from the Octagon holding his crotch. Alex Caceres walked away wondering … well, who really knows? Surely the 23-year-old bantamweight could learn a valuable lesson after controlling Figueroa for much of their scrap – but he was unable to overcome a two-point deduction for the second of two killer low blows that made Figueroa collapse to the canvas, writhing in pain and requiring minutes to recover.
Only Figueroa can say how much those devastating illegal kicks to the groin weakened him. But Texas’ Figueroa was performing early in round one – finding “Bruce Leroy’s” chin on a few occasions, even though Caceres did momentarily drop him with a shot.
Then came a brutal low kick from Caceres. Upon the first infraction, referee Herb Dean warned Caceres but did not deduct a point.
After taking minutes to regroup, and visibly miffed, Figueroa fought on and landed a hard kick to the face that dropped Caceres, who absorbed some ground and pound shots but later turned the tide, forcing a ground war and hanging on Figueroa like a backpack but unable to finish him with a rear naked choke.
Caceres was finding his groove early in the second, scoring with a front kick and a hard right hand. Then came a second, hard blow to the crotch. Again Figueroa lay on the canvas in agony.
When they resumed, referee Dean signaled for the two-point deduction, and urgency set in for Caceres to make up the deficit on the judges’ scorecards. The Miamian was impressive for the remainder of the bout against a weakened Figueroa, whom he dominated in the grappling realm. But at every turn Figueroa fought off Caceres’ choke attacks, triangles and armbars.
In the end judges scored it 28-27, 28-27 and 27-28 for Figueroa, now 9-1. Caceres fell to 6-5. Hear what "El Feroz" had to say after the fight
CHRIS COPE VS. MATT BROWN
A right-hand missile from Matt Brown put Chris Cope on the deck in their welterweight bout, and four blistering ground and pound shots sealed the deal at 1:19 of the second round.
The right hand that rocked Cope (5-4) caught him behind the ear.
“That’s exactly what I need to be doing,” Brown said of his knockout. “I got away from who I am. I’m back. I had always been trying out new things and this ain’t really the place to be trying them out. So enough of that. I got a right hand that will knock out anybody so I believe you’ll see more of that.” Watch Brown's post-fight interview
MATT RIDDLE VS. HENRY MARTINEZ
Sometimes you have to think that Matt Riddle just doesn’t give a damn about strategy and doing whatever it takes to win. Foremost for the free-spirited welterweight, is to put on a show for fans, snatch a Fight of The Night bonus and be involved in the bloodiest battle possible. The more damage, the better – even if Riddle is the punching bag. And that he was for most of the first round, when the much speedier Henry Martinez repeatedly cracked him with hard punching combinations, bloodying Riddle’s eyes, ears and nose.
Interesting to note is that Riddle is the much larger fighter, 6’1” to Martinez’s 5’7”. While Riddle is eating punches – and apparently enjoying it – you can’t help but wonder, “Why not throw more kicks?” “Why not mix it up with a little Muay Thai clinch or even some wrestling?” Why not put that much bigger body on the smaller fighter and make him carry your weight and maybe get tired down the stretch?”
Well, Riddle did adapt in round two, unloading with a much greater volume of hard kicks to Martinez’s body and head. Finally the Las Vegas transplant had broken the groove of Martinez, a very crisp boxer, who countered punches very well but could not stop the array of kicks coming his way. As a now-bleeding Martinez began to tire, Riddle amped up his assault and the two southpaws treated fans to toe-to-toe exchanges as the second round ended. Riddle did his best Ray Lewis impersonation on the way to his stool between rounds, screaming at the top of his lungs and imploring fans to get fired up.
In the third round, Riddle suddenly employed strategy, whacking Martinez with hard kicks to the leg and liver. Then he finally decided to put that big body on Martinez, taking him down and taking his back. Riddle would score another takedown and rain down with ground and pound as time expired, earning a split decision from judges by scores of 29-28, 29-28 and 28-29. Watch the post-fight interview here
MICHAEL KUIPER VS. RAFAEL NATAL
There were moments when Rafael Natal, a BJJ black belt, repeatedly outstruck newcomer Michael Kuiper, popping The Netherlands’ standup specialist with some solid right hands, scoring with leg kicks and even a spinning backfist. But it was Natal’s bread and butter – grappling – that cemented his unanimous decision victory and dealt Kuiper (11-1) his first professional loss.
The first round wasn’t a barnburner, but Natal scored five takedowns. He was reversed late in the round and ate a few shots on the bottom, but seemed to have done enough to win the round. In round two, fatigue seemed to afflict both fighters in what was mostly a standup battle that saw Natal possibly get the better of the exchanges (Kuiper just kept coming forward, with little head or lateral movement, and ate quite a few right hands as a consequence).
Seconds into the third, a Kuiper uppercut dropped the New York transplant to his knees. Kuiper swarmed on top but could not find the shots that would put away his woozy adversary. The second half of the round belonged to Natal, who somehow mustered the strength for an explosive slam, dominated with top position and threatened with an arm triangle as time expired.
After the fight, Natal spoke of the wicked right uppercut that rocked him.
“It was bad because it was the beginning of the round. I felt everything was dark,” said Natal, a Brazilian native who is now 14-3-1 and has won two straight in the UFC. “But my jiu-jitsu saved me again (when) I got him in the half-guard.” More from "Sapo" Natal
STEPHEN THOMPSON VS. DAN STITTGEN
For one fight at least, Stephen Thompson was as good as advertised. The highly-touted kempo karate and kickboxing ace showed remarkable poise and grace in his UFC debut, essentially toying with Dan Stittgen before putting him out cold with a roundhouse kick to the jaw. Unorthodox throughout, the lanky South Carolinian (6-0) patiently picked Stittgen (7-2) apart with a wide variety of kicks. Most interestingly, Thompson held his hands very low, almost daring Stittgen to be aggressive so he could counterattack. Yet Stittgen maintained a low punch volume. When the Illinois fighter did attack, he threw a left hook and stepped to his left – unwittingly walking right into a perfectly placed roundhouse to the jaw.
At 4:13 of round one, it was a wrap.
“No words can really describe it,” said the 28-year-old Thompson, unbeaten in 50-plus kickboxing fights as well. “Those round kicks, we use them a lot in Karate. They can pack a lot of power and people don’t see ‘em.” Watch Thompson's post-fight interview
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