LAS VEGAS - As up-and-coming fighters like Erik Perez, Myles Jury and Max Holloway made their marks on the UFC 155 undercard at the MGM Grand Garden Arena Saturday night, veterans like Eddie Wineland and Jamie Varner (both former WEC champions) showed that they’re still in prime form.
Brad Pickett vs. Eddie Wineland
In the featured bout on the FX prelims, bantamweights Eddie Wineland and Brad Pickett put on a three-round stand-up fight that earned Wineland a split decision win with scores of 30-27, 29-28 and 30-27.
Pickett, who started training as a boxer, landed several body shots and right hands in the first round, but it was Wineland’s dynamic combinations that did more damage. Though their height difference is slight on paper, Pickett’s disadvantage seemed to put him squarely in range of Wineland’s fists, and while both men possess KO power, it was Wineland who connected more, dropping “One Punch” once with an uppercut and then twice more with fast right hands. Pickett responded with a takedown, but by and large, round one took part on the feet as a battle between Wineland’s hand speed and Pickett’s foot speed.
The rest of the fight was mostly a boxing match, save a few leg kicks from Pickett. Pickett worked to hunt down Wineland, pressing forward and looking to land left hooks and overhand rights, but Wineland stayed evasive, strategically placing long jabs and counter rights. Wineland cruised to a victory, the 20th in his career (now 20-8-1); Pickett drops to 23-7.
Watch Wineland's post-fight interview
Erik Perez vs. Byron Bloodwoorth
The owner of the fastest knockout in bantamweight history, Erik Perez walked out in a signature luchador mask and then wowed with another first-round finish, dispatching Byron Bloodworth in under four minutes.
Bloodworth swung early, and Perez pushed things to the fence, where he dirty-boxed before dropping Bloodworth with a knee to the body and punishing him with fists and elbows from inside the guard. With just over a minute left, Perez stood above Bloodworth, then dove in with a huge right hand followed by hammerfists that ended the fight at 3:40.
Watch Perez' post-fight interview
Perez’ win streak extends to eight in a row, as the 24-year-old’s record rises to 13-4; Bloodworth slides to 6-3 in his pro career, 0-2 inside the Octagon.
Melvin Guillard vs. Jamie Varner
Two weeks after their TUF 16 Finale match-up was scrapped due to Varner’s illness, lightweights Jamie Varner and Melvin Guillard finally delivered, with Varner’s takedowns giving him the edge and the judges’ split decision.
The first round was mostly a one-for-one feeling-out process, with leg kicks making up most of the offense between both well-rounded fighters. As the men bounced and kept one another at bay, Guillard’s leg kicks landed with thuds as Varner worked to change levels and fire body shots. Varner began putting together combinations, but Guillard’s speed helped him avoid danger. In the round’s final minute, however, Varner pressed Guillard against the fence, wobbled him with a series of shots and sealed his takedown.
With Varner’s confidence up, he quickly pushed the action to the cage and took Guillard down to start the second. Guillard worked his way back up and Varner took the back standing, but Guillard tossed him off over the top and Guillard worked for a guillotine as Varner stood. Varner was more aggressive with his punches, especially his trademark right hand, and used them to bully Guillard back to the fence for another takedown. Back on the feet, Guillard seemed to stun Varner with a pair of punches, but he quickly recovered and began reapplying pressure before an accidental low kick to Guillard gave both guys a break.
Guillard launched a flying knee to open the third, but Varner quickly returned things to the fence and got another takedown. He used guillotine and armbar attempts to try and keep Guillard down, but wound up with Guillard in his guard. Varner pushed his way to his feet, only to return Guillard to his spot on the mat with a running-start takedown Guillard seemed unable to control. Guillard worked his way up briefly, but before he could even throw a shot, Varner planted him back on the mat, this time in the center of the mat. Guillard briefly surged with an armbar and then a sweep, but with one minute left, Varner was back in top position in Guillard’s closed guard. As Guillard worked for a zero-hour inverted triangle, Varner stood and arced backward, slamming Guillard on his head as the audience gasped.
The judges saw the bout as one-sided, though not the same way: Varner’s scores were 30-27, 30-27 and 27-30. Regardless, the win bumps Varner’s record to 21-7-1 (2 NC) as Guillard slides to 47-13-3 (1 NC).
highlights from Varner's win
Michael Johnson vs. Myles Jury
Another young prospect announced himself to fans on the FX card opener, as undefeated TUF Live standout Myles “Fury” Jury, 24, utterly controlled TUF 12 finalist Michael Johnson for three rounds en route to a decision win.
The first minute was quiet between the two lightweights, but Jury took control and started his round of domination with a double-leg. Though Johnson locked his legs in half guard, Jury was able to twist “The Menace’s” body and essentially pin him in that position, punching away at will as Johnson struggled to do anything but survive. As Johnson maneuvered for any position, Jury used the last 30 seconds of the round to pass into side control, then mount, then taking the back.
Back on the feet for the second, Johnson was more wary and connected on several exits. Both men kept their distance, popping in and out, until Jury caught a kick and used it for a takedown midway through. From there, Johnson slapped on a tight guard and did what he could to control Jury’s hands for the next several minutes, as Jury postured up and did damage with his elbows.
With nothing to lose, Johnson pushed forward with bad intentions at the beginning of the third, sprawling out of danger on at least the first two takedown attempts before being tripped backward into half guard again, this time against the Octagon fence. Jury’s long limbs and flexibility allowed him to use his knees and elbows, even with one leg trapped. Though Johnson worked to get back to his feet by round’s end, Jury threatened with a guillotine and punctuated the bout with another takedown.
Judges gave the bout to Jury with a trio of 30-27 scores, making it his 11th win on a perfect record; now 13-7, Johnson’s three-fight win streak is snapped in his fourth 2012 outing.
Highlights from Jury's win
Phil De Fries vs. Todd Duffee
The last of three UFC 155 fights aired on Facebook featured a classic striker vs. grappler match-up on a larger scale than usually seen, as heavyweights Todd Duffee and Phil De Fries put on a short bout that marked Duffee’s return to the Octagon via first-round TKO.
Duffee – who once held the UFC record for fastest knockout at seven seconds – clipped the British BJJ expert within the first five seconds, then pinned his quarry against the fence, punishing him with knees and dirty boxing. De Fries recovered enough to score a takedown against the cage. As Duffee worked to get back up, De Fries pinned one arm and was able to land several blows.
Back on the feet, however, it was all the striker’s game: Duffee stunned De Fries with a massive uppercut, then followed him with a half-dozen right hands that had De Fries out on his feet before the ref waved things off at 2:04 of the round. The finish is Duffee’s eighth win (with 2 losses); De Fries departs 9-2 (1 NC).
Watch Duffee's post-fight interview
Leonard Garcia vs. Max Holloway
Fan favorite and three-time Fight of the Night winner Leonard Garcia was seeking a career comeback, but three rounds weren’t enough time to get it done as he lost a split decision to 21-year-old striker Max Holloway, a late-notice replacement for his original submission-specialist opponent, Cody McKenzie.
Then featherweights took turns as aggressor in round one, with Garcia scoring particularly well with low kicks and overhand rights; Holloway doing more work with kicks. Both men stood readily in the pocket and ate shots to give shots, and it was Holloway who scored the first knockdown. Though the two have similar reach measurements, Holloway put his longer legs to use, pushing Garcia backward several times with spinning back blows. The first round ended with Garcia chasing Holloway, who moved backward as he sought to land a pinpoint uppercut.
Holloway found his range and landed jabs to open the second, and the increasingly battered Garcia answered with a big takedown. Though his all-out, swinging arms, no-fear stance pleased the crowd, Garcia’s low hands left his face open to Holloway’s precision striking, and he appeared to be losing steam – if not heart – by the middle of the second round.
Garcia’s combinations got crisper and more frequent early in the second, though Holloway bought himself space with counter rights and a nasty knee. Garcia’s aggression paid off and by mid-round, he was landing with and more success as the crowd showed their appreciation. He scored another takedown, then, wary of Holloway’s submission attempts on the ground, scored with a knee to the head on the way back up. With one minute left, the crowd cheered as both men swung, Garcia holding Holloway’s head and lobbing uppercuts. Holloway tried a flashy kick as the clock wore down that ended with Garcia in a danger of a triangle choke; Garcia sealed the fight by escaping via crowd-pleasing slam.
Though both men raised their hands in victory and Holloway hoisted Garcia into the air to celebrate, judges could only name one winner, and it was Holloway who scored the close nod with a split decision (29-28, 29-28 and 28-29). The loss was Garcia’s fourth in a row, dropping him to 19-10-1. The youngest fighter in the UFC, Holloway’s prospect status rises as his record climbs to 7-1.
Holloway claimed his victory as a win for all strikers, saying "I’m tired of wrestlers getting victories that way. They get takedowns and do nothing with it and somehow they still get points for that, so I feel very vindicated with this win."
Watch Holloway's post-fight interview
Chris Cariaso vs. John Moraga
UFC 155’s first bout took place between Arizonan flyweights John Moraga and Chris Cariaso, as Moraga racked up his 12th career win with a third-round tapout.
Cariaso started with his signature high kicks, but found more success landing feet to the body. As Moraga got a feel for his opponent, he found more success with body punches and right hands that reddened the left side of Cariaso’s face early. Moraga seems to have the edge in composure and control in round one, as he wobbled Cariaso multiple times, earned one big takedown mid-round and only slipped himself when a high kick of his own completely went over Cariasio’s head.
The second round opened much more aggressively, with Cariaso moving forward with punches and kicks in combinations. Before long, they slowed back to their more measured pace from round one. After a tie-up on the fence, they exploded free, trading fists in a a crowd-pleasing flurry. Cariaso connected more in the second stanza – particularly with one head kick -- but the bout remained competitive as Moraga landed solid counters. A late-round exchange sent Cariaso backward onto the mat, and Moraga flirted with diving into guard before moving out of danger and allowing Cariaso back to his feet. Cariaso recovered by controlling a tie-up and tripping Moraga, ending the round in Moraga’s guard.
Cariaso came out more aggressively in the third, and paid for his forward motion with more solid shots from Moraga. The exchange left Cariaso with his back against the fence. Moraga pounced, locking in a guillotine choke that forced Cariaso to tap at 1:11 of the round.
The win brings Moraga to an impressive 12-1 record; the loss put the skids on Cariaso’s three-fight win streak as he falls to 14-4.