UFC on FOX 7 Prelims: San Jose is KO City
Chad Mendes vs. Darren Elkins
Chad Mendes made it a hat trick for Team Alpha Male members in the UFC on FOX prelims, as he and teammates Joseph Benavidez and TJ Dillashaw all won their bouts via TKO. Featherweight Mendes needed only 68 seconds to halt the five-fight win streak of Darren Elkins in the featured bout of the FX prelims.
Mendes moved forward early and often, darting in and out with low kicks. He then landed a big right hand that clearly wobbled Elkins, who staggered backward but managed to temporarily recover. Mendes, gave Elkins no chance to breathe, as he came forward again with a right to the temple that dropped Elkins in seeming slow motion.
Mendes, a powerhouse wrestler who’s now rattled off three brutal knockouts in a row, has his record improve to 14-1, with his only loss coming to champion Jose Aldo in their January 2012 title fight. Elkins’ first defeat at featherweight drops the former lightweight to a still-impressive 17-3.
"After the Aldo fight, I really worked on my standup," said Mendes, who has had three planned opponents withdraw due to injury since December. "I'm just starting to find myself in the standup world. Props to Darren for taking the fight on short notice."
Francis Carmont vs. Lorenz Larkin
Middleweights Francis Carmont and Lorenz Larkin engaged in a slow-paced, tit-for-tat bout that saw Carmont’s prolonged single-leg attempts matched by Larkin’s solid leg kicks, with neither man finding a real rhythm or range. Judges gave the win to Carmont, a training partner of Georges St-Pierre at Montreal’s Tristar, ruining Larkin’s UFC debut and his perfect record.
The action on the feet consisted mainly of Carmont stalking forward, throwing occasional strikes or kicks. Knockout artist Larkin struggled to get inside, his six-inch reach disadvantage clear. After a minute or so of standoff, Carmont backed up Larkin and went for a single-leg. Larkin threw elbows and used his flexibility to defend, even as Carmont held the leg. At one point, Carmont dragged Larkin into the center of the cage, but Larkin popped back up and they returned to the cage, where eventually Carmont gave up the attempt.
Larkin earned more leg kicks in the second – including some flashy spinning kicks to the pins -- and started to find his range, but then Carmont got another takedown against the fence. Back on his feet, Larkin dropped heavy elbows to stave off a second takedown and get things back to the center, but a double-leg at the end of the round may have sealed it for Carmont.
The two traded body kicks in the third, but again it was Carmont’s single-legs, trips and struggles against the fence that took up most of the time. One of Carmont’s throws landed him squarely in a triangle, but the two were slippery enough that Carmont escaped danger. Reality staved off Larkin’s gogoplata attempt, and Carmont rolled through the deep kimura Larkin tried next. Though the Frenchman wound up on bottom, he quickly stood and raised his hands tauntingly in front of Larkin.
All the judges gave the bout to Carmont with scores of 29-28, though the crowd booed his entire walk back to the locker room. Carmont is 21-7 and has now won his last 10, the last five of those fights coming inside the Octagon. “He tested me to the fullest," said Larkin. "Out of all my fights, I learned the most from this one. I also think it was my best fight technical-wise, even though it didn’t go my way.” Larkin now finds himself at 13-1 (with one no contest after his loss to Muhammed Lawal was overturned due to Lawal testing positive for banned substances).
Ramsey Nijem vs. Myles Jury
TUF 15’s Myles Jury, forced to leave TUF 13 due to injury, remained undefeated with a dramatic knockout of eventual TUF 13 finalist Ramsey Nijem. Despite a first round spent scrambling on the ground, the bout ended early in the second via knockout – making it the fifth fight out of the first six UFC on FOX prelims to end via knockout or TKO.
Nijem moved forward in the first, with Jury using the momentum for a takedown. Jury took side control and back control in the scramble, trying for an armbar and crucifix. Nijem pushed his way back to his feet, but Jury got another takedown on the fence and took Jury’s back. Without any hooks in, Nijem stood, but was immediately threatened with a triangle. Eventually Nijem pulled his arms out and stood, getting back control of his own against the cage. But Jury reversed and this time threatened with an inverted triangle before the round ended.
It was a more spacious affair in the short second round, with both men coming in with long punches and then racing back out of range, plus a brief break due to an accidental eye poke to Nijem. Nijem continued playing aggressor and soon paid the price. Nijem moved forward swinging, and an overhand right counter from Jury knocked him out cold, sending him to the mat with his arms overhead. Jury dove in for one soaring and altogether unnecessary punch, the official time of the finish 1:02.
The 24-year-old Jury, who trains with Alliance alongside Dominick Cruz and Ross Pearson in San Diego, sees his record improve to 12-0; Nijem’s three-fight win streak ends as his record moves to 8-3.
Watch Jury's post-fight interview
Joseph Benavidez vs. Darren Uyenoyama
Sacramento’s Joseph Benavidez dominated San Francisco’s Darren Uyenoyama on the feet, winning NorCal’s own flyweight battle by TKO in the second round.
Both came out bouncing, with Benavidez bullying Uyenoyama around the cage throughout. Though his early kicks and punches didn’t drop Uyenoyama, they did keep him off balance and backing away. Twice during the round, Benavidez caught a kick from Uyenoyama and used it to dump him onto his back, then kicked his legs until deciding to allow the BJJ black belt back to his feet. Benavidez also got one takedown in the first and dropped his opponent with a headkick as well.
Benavidez knocked Uyenoyama backward five times in the first 75 seconds of the second. After eating a big body kick against the fence, Uyenoyama threatened with a takedown from back control. But when Uyenoyama tipped backward for the points, Benavidez wasn’t in his grasp – instead, Benavidez dove in with big punches from the top before again moving things to the feet. From there, Benavidez fired at will, finding his opponent’s face with nearly every imaginable strike. With seconds left in the round, it was a right hand to the body that finally sent Uyenoyama to the mat, and the followup punches earned him the TKO at 4:50.
Already ranked as the top flyweight contender despite losing in the UFC’s first title fight in that weight class last September, Benavidez (now 18-3) sits squarely at the top of the list of 125-pound challengers with a record of 18-3. “I felt good everywhere,” said Benavidez. “I was able to go to the ground with an elite grappler and I actually felt stronger, especially from the top. I faked the big right hand and was able to connect. My awesome coaches were yelling that he was hurt so I went in to swarm him.”
“In my opinion Joseph is the best and most well rounded 125-pounder in the world, whether he has the belt or not,” said Uyenoyama. “I got caught looking and I have to work harder. Hats off to Joseph on a great fight.” Uyenoyama, who was ranked as #8, has his record slip to 8-4.
Watch Benavidez's post-fight interview
Tim Means vs. Jorge Masvidal
Aggression and takedowns led lightweight Jorge Masvidal to victory in his first UFC fight, as the one-time Strikeforce title contender picked up a unanimous decision over Tim Means.
Means took the center of the Octagon in the first, throwing kicks and jabs to find his range. Despite being significantly taller than Masvidal, the reach advantage was only an inch, and Masvidal crowded Means throughout. Both landed solid hooks, while Masvidal peppered his opponent with body shots. Near the end of the first, Masvidal got a big takedown from back control and then took the bout to the cage; Means responded once back in the center with a single-leg attempt that Masvidal ignored.
Masvidal got another single-leg in the second, but Means came alive on his back, throwing elbows and upkicks that inspired Masvidal to get back on the feet. But Means was wobbled in the exchange, and Masvidal easily dumped him back on his butt, then rained punches until taking Means’ back with one hook in. Another takedown from Masivdal saw him throwing heavy elbows from the guard. Once he regained his compsure, Means tried for a triangle, then threw more elbows from the bottom. Though grounded, the striking war was plenty active, leaving both men bloodied by the end of the second.
Means landed a solid hook early in the third, then used Masvidal’s single-leg attempt to throw a knee. Masvidal eventually got the takedown (and then another) against the fence, but Means’ busy elbows opened Masvidal’s cut. Masvidal answered with furious blows and elbows from the top, and the two exchanged from this position for much of the round. Means did his best to control Masvidal’s arms, managed to position for a kimura, swept, and landed ground-and-pound from top as the clock expired.
All three judges gave scores of 29-28 to Masvidal, now 24-7, whose only loss during his Strikeforce tenure came in his title fight against FOX headliner Gilbert Melendez. “The plan was to strike with him and expose his weaknesses but the wrestling worked out,” said Masvidal. “It was awesome being able to sit out in guard and throw shots.”
“I really didn’t expect him to shoot as many takedowns as he did,” said Means (18-4-1), who was upbeat despite having his nine-fight win streak snapped. “I thought we would go in there and slug it out. I should’ve defended much better. I don’t look at this as a huge disappointment because the crowd was in it the whole time and we really gave them what they came to see.”
TJ Dillashaw vs. Hugo Viana
Sacramento’s TJ Dillashaw made it two KOs in a row in his second bout as a late-notice replacement in a row, finishing TUF Brasil’s Hugo Viana in a one-round bantamweight barnburner that opened the televised prelim card on FX.
Dillashaw was tagged early as he dove for a takedown, then took Viana’s back in the scramble. Viana got up – thanks in no small part to the fence – and rebuffed collegiate wrestler Dillashaw’s ensuing takedown attempts. Viana, trained in tae kwon do since the age of 12, landed a knee on the break that left Dillashaw’s nose bloodied. Dillashaw scored the second knockdown of the fight, and from then it was a back-and-forth striking battle that saw both guys hit the canvas and bounce back up. Dillashaw’s victory came after a series of shots that started with a right straight from Dillashaw. From there he followed with an uppercut, a body shot that brought the crowd to its feet, and hammerfists that spelled out the end at 4:22.
The win lifts Dillashaw’s record to 9-1, with his only loss coming to Diego Brando in the TUF 14 finals. “I knew I had a fast opponent, I knew Hugo was tough,” said Dillashaw. “I just tried to keep it fast paced.” Viana falls to 7-2, losing for the first time in three UFC outings.
Watch Dillashaw's post-fight interview
Anthony Njoukani vs. Roger Bowling
After beginning his UFC career with five straight decisions, Anthony Njoukuani got back to his flashy knockout ways with a second-round stoppage of Strikeforce import Roger Bowling in the first of four lightweight bouts on the FOX card.
Most of the first round was spent on the feet, with Njokuani staying light on his feet and forcing Bowling to come forward to close the distance. Despite a reach disadvantage of more than seven inches, it was Bowling who scored more, landing body shots, leg kicks and a deadly-looking left hook. Though Bowling’s left never hit flush, he did clip Njoukani and threaten him at times against the fence. Njokuani stayed fast and feinting on his feet, even as he appeared to paw at his right eye. With a little more than a minute left in the first, Bowling landed a clean double leg , then attempted body shots from Njokuani’s guard. The lanky Njokuani stayed calm and worked his way back to his feet, then seemingly found his range, landing a knee, a head kick, a straight, and a right elbow before the end of the round.
In the second, Njokuani announced that the momentum of the fight had changed by catching a kick from Bowling and tossing him to the mat. From there, Njokuani landed a variety of highlight-reel kicks and the two both fired more freely in the close-up exchanges. But Bowling – making his lightweight debut after a welterweight career – wasn’t as fast as before, and he was forced to continue chasing his taller opponent. Midway through the round, Njokuani fired off a perfect left hook that dropped Bowling to his knees, then his face, as Njokuani walked off, then celebrated via breakdance.
The knockout was called at 2:52 of the second and marks the WEC bonus-collector’s first finish since 2010. Las Vegas’ Njokuani is now 17-7 overall, having alternated wins and losses since joining the UFC. “That felt so good,” he said. “I lost the last three times I was in California, and I made it clear I was going to end that streak.” Ohio’s Bowling slides to 11-4.
Watch Njokuani's post-fight interview
Clifford Starks vs. Yoel Romero
Wrestler vs. wrestler is often settled on the feet, as was the case in the first fight inside San Jose’s HP Pavilion, a short and vicious middleweight affair. Yoel Romero, a silver Olympic medalist in wrestling for Cuba, wasted no time in his UFC debut, knocking out fellow grappler Clifford Starks in 92 seconds.
The two massive middleweights started off at long range, testing with heavy leg kicks and long punches. Then Romero launched a flying knee that landed flush and send Starks crashing to the mat. Romero’s follow-up punches bounced Starks’ head off the canvas but weren’t necessary, and bout was halted.
The ATT-trained Romero picks up his first win under the Zuffa banner (he went 0-1 in Strikeforce). His 5-1 record now includes all five wins by knockout. Starks drops his second in a row, slipping to 8-2 overall, 1-2 in the UFC.
Watch Romero's post-fight interview