A week after WEC veterans won in every bout on the main card of UFC on FOX, three Strikeforce alumni – two of them oddsmakers’ underdogs -- showed their own pedigrees. All three debuting fighters from the recently-absorbed organization delivered, giving fans one hard-fought decision win, a gritty submission and a blistering knockout.
Gleison Tibau vs. Evan Dunham
In the night’s featured prelim televised bout, lightweight BJJ black belts Gleison Tibau and Evan Dunham stood and traded in a close bout that eventually went via split decision to Vegas’ own Dunham.
The fight started with big punches, Tibau connecting with powerful hooks and Dunham sneaking in long jabs. Tibau got one quick takedown, and when Dunham popped up, Tibau positioned for a guillotine and pulled guard. Dunham rolled and survived, making his way back to the feet. When Dunham went for a takedown of his own, Tibau stuffed it, and the two spent the round from there on struggling mightily against the fence. Though they broke as the round wore on, they stayed in the clinch and traded knees.
Round two was more standup from the ground specialists, with both men generally standing outside the pocket and darting in for strikes (plus carried kickes from . This produced both exciting exchanges – many successfully capped by Tibau’s left hand -- as well as frequent lulls. Dunham came forward throughout, trying for two takedowns -- one was successful, and this round Dunham was on the outside of the struggle on the fence.
The pace picked up in the third, with both men throwing more of the in-and-out punches, Tibau using more and more of his body each time. They also both heaved for big takedowns, with Tibau landing one and Dunham unable to take down the massive Tibau. Dunham landed high kicks and a knee in the last few seconds, and the two stood and traded as the bell sounded and the crowd cheered.
Dunham got the judges’ nod with scores of 29-28, 29-28 and 28-29 and sees his record move to 14-3; Tibau is now 35-9. "Gleison was very strong," said Dunham. "It took me a few shots before I really started getting into a rhythm out there. He’s a very muscled guy and it takes a lot to feed those muscles. Going into the third I think he tired a lot and I was pretty sure I had him."
Tibau agreed, saying, "I think he was able to edge out the end of the rounds and that’s what cost me the fight. I could’ve performed better in the last minute and a half of each round but I got a little lazy and thought I had the rounds."
Tyron Woodley vs. Jay Hieron
Powerhouse welterweight Tyron Woodley made a short and not-at-all sweet statement in his UFC debut, dropping and finishing the experienced Jay Hieron in 36 seconds.
The former Strikeforce title contender landed an overhand right that dropped Hieron. Hieron fell and turtled, with Woodley hailing down blows from the back. As Hieron rolled to his back, Woodley was merciless with ground-and-pound, rocking and then knocking out “The Thoroughbred.”
Woodley improves to 11-1 with the win; his only loss coming at the hands of Nate Marquardt in their Strikeforce welterweight title fight. “I’m declaring war on the division,” he said. “People in the welterweight division need to know that I’m here. My last few fights have been wars so I was due for a knockout.” Hieron, who has fought for every major MMA organization, is now 23-7 and has yet to taste an Octagon victory in his two UFC stints and four fights.
Jacob Volkmann vs. Bobby Green
After Isaac Vallie-Flagg’s long-odds win, fellow Strikeforce adoptee “King” Bobby Green followed up with his own huge underdog victory over relentless grappler Jacob “Christmas” Volkmann. After two rounds that ended with Volkmann trying to sink a rear-naked choke, lightweight Green reversed the roles in the third and finished his at 4:25.
Volkmann started in a wide stance and threw kicks, but Green scored first with a body kick. Soon after, Volkmann went for a single-leg, got the backward trip, and wound up in top position. He ground away, posturing up and stacking Green, who briefly kicked his way free, only to be dragged back down with Volkmann on his back. Volkmann had his hooks in and spent over a minute working for the rear-naked, but was unsuccessful as the round ended.
Early leg kicks from Green were rewarded by Volkmann shooting in. Green bounced back up but Volkmann shot again, this time getting things against the fence. Volkmann dove yet again for a takedown and wound up on his back, goading Green into his guard. Green obliged by diving in with a giant fist to Volkmann’s head. He then scored consistent ground-and-pound from Volkmann’s guard until a seemingly inexplicable standup from referee Kim Winslow. Volkmann was intent on getting a takedown, eventually getting a bodylock from behind and dragging Green down to work again for the rear-naked as the round finished.
Green shook off a number of takedown attempts in the third round, and got a brief break to recover from an accidental low blow. Green got an outside trip of his own and wound up back in top position, where he threw more elbows from top position. Volkmann made his way up and caught a Green kick for a takedown, but Green rolled through and again wound up in top position. As they scrambled back to the feet, Volkmann got his beloved bodylock from the back and dragged Green down, but this time Green twisted away and wound up in mount. He threw heavy punches and elbows, then shoulder shots when Volkmann tried to control him. As Volkmann tried to escape, it was Green who took the back and locked in a rear-naked so deep that Volkmann tapped emphatically with both hands.
"Jacob is tough and he has great wrestling and control so I knew I would have to make my shots count," said Green. "I knew he’d tire trying to hold me down and it would get easier to slip those shots in. Just very glad to get the finish.” Green’s UFC debut extends his win streak to five with a total record of 20-5; Volkmann is now 15-4; 6-4 in the UFC.
Bobby Green talks about "poetry in motion" post-fight.
Yves Edwards vs. Isaac Vallie-Flagg
Strikeforce import Isaac Vallie-Flagg got a big step up in competition against dangerous veteran Yves Edwards, but the lightweight workhorse showed he was up to the task, earning a split decision win.
Vallie-Flagg was the aggressor in the first, coming forward with body kicks and left jabs. Edwards fired back as expected, as the two traded body kicks throughout. Throughout the round, Vallie-Flagg utilized the clinch – both on the fence and in the center -- to wear down Edwards, keep himself out of opponent’s dangerous pocket and do short-distance damage. Edwards’ kicks were effective, with punctuating head kicks and one low kick that took Vallie-Flagg’s legs out from under him. Edwards also scored with the crowd with an Anthony-Pettis style improvisation: When Vallie-Flagg caught one of his legs off a kick, Edwards jumped up to kick Vallie-Flagg in the head with his free knee.
Vallie-Flagg again came forward in the second, caught an Edwards kick and pushed things to the fence. He issued body shots in the clinch there and again in the center of the cage. About two minutes in, Edwards began putting together punches and backed Vallie-Flagg up, then got a single-leg and passed from half-guard to side control to mount. He tried and lost two arm triangles, then took Vallie-Flagg’s back with both hooks in and worked for nearly a minute for the rear-naked choke.
Edwards turned it up with shots and a high kick in the third. His shots, particularly a high kick and some uppercuts, were crisper, but Vallie-Flagg refused to let Edwards breathe, coming forward over and over with messy punches that stuck Edward on the cage, where Vallie-Flagg unloaded body shots with elbows thrown in. The tiring Edwards went for a single-leg but couldn’t complete it, and Vallie-Flagg stayed on him.
Judges scored the bout 29-28, 29-28 and 28-29 for the underdog, who rises to 14-3-1 in his Octagon debut and remains unbeaten in his last 12 bouts; Edwards departs 42-19-1.
Chico Camus vs. Dustin Kimura
With a name like Dustin Kimura, there’s pressure to perform in the armbar department, but it was actually a choke that ended the night’s second fight and earned Kimura a win in his UFC debut. The bout between Kimura and Chico “The King” Camus – booked at bantamweight -- lasted into the third round and featured a wide array of submission attempts.
After some feinting from both men, a fast right from Camus dropped Kimura 30 seconds in. Kimura answered with one of his own, and after another swing and a miss, Camus used the opening to earn a takedown. The rest of the round was spent on the mat, with Kimura staying busy with triangle attempts, a convincing omoplata setup and several armbar attempts. Only in the last minute or so did Camus open up with hammerfists to the body and face.
Round two was mostly spent standing, with Camus scoring consistently with low kicks. Camus got a bodylock and used it to tie things up on the cage, but Kimura weathered the pressure and moved things back to the center of the cage. His guard down, though, he was taken down by an effortless single-leg from Camus in the final moment. Kimura again showed his danger on the ground, transitioning from an omoplata to an armbar to a triangle attempt, which he held until the buzzer sounded.
Judges had the bout scored 20-18, 18-20 and 19-19 after two, but there would be no tiebreaker needed, as the third round was the charm for Kimura. Camus started by dropping for a single leg, but Kimura defended. Camus scored the second takedown he tried, but in doing so, found himself mounted. Kimura hailed down punches, and as Camus spun away, Kimura took the back with both hooks in. He quickly secured the rear-naked choke and the tap 1:50 in.
“I’m on cloud nine -- I’ve been dreaming about this since the first day I started training in mixed martial arts,” said the 23-year-old prospect. “I’ve never been nervous for a fight but those UFC jitters are for real because I was shaking out there. My first round was terrible and by the second I thought I was behind two rounds and needed to get a finish.” Kimura keeps his undefeated record with the win, as he now stands at 11-0, but he will have to share his win bonus since he was fined 20% of his purse for missing weight. Camus drops to 12-4, 1-1 in the UFC.
Watch Kimura's post-fight interview
Edwin Figueroa vs. Francisco Rivera
In a battle between two bantamwmeights with big right hands, Francisco “Cisco” Rivera continued his run of KOs with a finish of Edwin Figueroa in the second round.
Round one was a fast-paced, crowd-pleasing duel. Rivera started out with low kicks while Figueroa came forward with fast combinations. Both men connected early and often, and a short left following a big right from Figueroa dropped Rivera straight. (“I didn’t know what happened, I just woke up on the ground,” said Rivera post-fight.) But Rivera survived and tried to secure a triangle. Figueroa pushed him over and as the two made their way back to their feet, the crowd erupted. The two continued their fistic fireworks for the rest of the round, with Rivera starting to gain momentum as he mixed in body shots and body kicks with his hand assaults. Rivera then scored with a trip takedown, and wound up in top position twice before the end of the round.
In the second, it was Figueroa who came out with leg kicks, then a big right-left-right. He charged forward and the grounded Rivera again went for a triangle. This time Figueroa remained in top position as Rivera slowly worked his way back to his feet. Once he did, however, it was all downhill, as Figueroa telegraphed his tiredness with low hands and slower shots. Rivera hurt “El Feroz” against the cage, then poured it on with body shots and more nasty rights. As Figueora covered and then tried to ran, Rivera chased him with a winging backfist, then two more rights, the last of which finally dropped Figueroa and ended the fight at 4:20 of the round. After the stoppage, Figueroa stayed down to be checked on by physicians, and Rivera dropped from exhaustion and relief.
Rivera is now undefeated in his current stint in the UFC and boasts a 9-2 (1 NC) record; Figueroa is now 9-2 as well, with his only losses being this and a March 2011 Fight of the Night-winning scrap with current bantamweight contender Michael McDonald.
Watch Rivera's post-fight interview