Courtesy: ESPN

Essential Recap: UFC on ESPN: Woodley vs Burns

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The UFC returned to its old stomping grounds in Las Vegas, with an 11-fight card taking place at the UFC APEX Saturday night. UFC on ESPN: Woodley vs Burns marked the first of what will end up being several cards at the APEX facility and the event delivered a night full of highlight-reel finishes. 

 

 

Photo Credit: CBS Sports

In the main event, Burns came out swinging, looking to bring the fight to Woodley. He launched a big haymaker that knocked Woodley down and gave him a gash over his left eye. Burns immediately rushed to the mat and mounted Woodley, looking for a submission and mixing in some ground and pound. After they made their way back up, the cut on Woodley’s eye was visibly distracting him, and Burns was working the lead left hook to set up bigger combinations.  

Woodley came out more cautious in the following rounds, looking for openings to counter Burns, but he had a hard time finding his timing.  Burns continued to push forward, but his striking output slowed down in the middle rounds as Woodley backpedaled effectively and became elusive. 

In the 4th round, Burns came out more aggressive, and his left hook was once again opening the combinations for him. A big right hook from Burns eventually found its target and knocked Woodley to the ground for the second time. Burns again went for the submission attempt, but Woodley defended and got back on his feet.

It was a complete performance from Burns, who won every round and even mixed in some effective takedowns on the former welterweight champion. The win now marks six in a row for Burns and four since moving up to 170 pounds. A big win over a former champion is sure to make some noise as he guns for the top guys in the division. 

 

 

The co-main event of the night was a heavyweight bout between Blagoy Ivanov and Augusto Sakai.

 

Ivanov initiated the aggression, walked down Sakai, and pushed him against the cage with heavy punches.  Sakai did some work with counterpunches as he backpedaled, but Ivanov’s forward movement eventually got him the clinch against the cage. Sakai pushed back and took control of the fight as it went back to kickboxing range. 

In the 2nd round, Sakai turned the tides by walking forward and controlling the fight against the cage.  Ivanov landed the occasional strike, but fatigue started to creep in, which carried over into the final round.  By the end of the fight, Ivanov’s output was nearly non-existent, and he huffed for air with his hands by his waist. Sakai got the split decision victory in a match where both fighters had their moments, and both looked for the knockout punch. In the end, it was probably the better cardio that got Sakai the nod. 

 

 

Billy Quarantillo and Spike Carlyle faced off in a catchweight fight of 150 pounds. 

 

Photo Credit: MMA Junkie

Immediately, Carlyle rushed Quarantillo and ran across the Octagon, leading with a front kick. This crazy start would foreshadow an intense back-and-forth brawl that turned out to be a highlight reel.  After a wild scramble in the fight’s opening seconds, the match went to the ground, and Carlyle relentlessly looked for multiple submissions. He transitioned from back mount to armbar attempts, but Quarantillo weathered the storm and eventually got the sweep to go on the attack. Yet another scramble ended with Carlyle on top once again, and he showed another great display of ground transitions.

Round 2 once again started with a wild series of scrambles, and Carlyle gained top position. Quarantillo played a good offensive guard and threw his legs up for a triangle choke that came close to being cinched in. Carlyle escaped before the end of the round.

The 3rd round started, and somehow, both men kept the same incredible pace through the end, looking for a finish. Carlyle often saw himself ending on top, but Quarantillo’s offensive guard kept allowing him to regain dominant positions and attack Carlyle’s limbs.  They came to their feet once again and ended the fight with a crazy, high-octane exchange. Both men were looking for the knockout punch until the final buzzer.   Quarantillo won the unanimous decision in a wild barn burner that could have gone either way. 

 

 

Roosevelt Roberts and Brok Weaver met at a catchweight of 157.5 pounds after Weaver failed to make weight Friday.

 

Photo Credit: Newsday

Roberts came out looking for good combinations in space, doing a good job mixing the head strikes, and going for body shots and leg kicks. Weaver, however, gained better control when he clinched Roberts against the cage and worked the dirty boxing exchanges. 

Roberts then took Weaver’s neck, going for a standing guillotine, but Weaver scrambled and took the turtle position on the mat. Roosevelt hunted for the rear-naked choke but ran out of time before he could secure the submission.

Roberts opened the 2nd round with another takedown and continued his work looking for the submission. He got control of Weaver’s back once again, and, with enough time to work this time, he sunk in the rear-naked choke to get the submission victory at 3:26 of the 2nd round. 

 

 

The main card kicked off with a strawweight fight between jiu-jitsu specialist Mackenzie Dern and Hannah Cifers.

 

 

Photo Credit: Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

They met in the center of the Octagon and started trading strikes. Cifers initially showed a more dominant clinch, controlling where the fight took place, but Dern managed to make space and take the clinch on her terms.  

 

Dern was surprisingly willing to strike with Cifers and landed enough to set up her grappling. Dern eventually looked to take the fight to the ground and took Cifers down with a hip toss and, in a scramble, managed to get a hold of Cifers’ leg for a beautiful kneebar submission at 2:36 of the opening round.  It was an impressive performance for Dern, who made quick work of Cifers and yet she still managed to show a new wrinkle to her game in the striking department to set up the grappling. 

 

 

Strawweights Kaitlin Chookagian and Antonina Shevchenko faced off in the featured preliminary fight. 

 

Immediately, Chookagian took the decorated striker to the canvas and took her back.  Chookagian fished for the rear-naked choke and got close a few times, but Shevchenko survived the endless choke attempts. The two fighters spent the rest of the opening round with Chookagian transitioning well from back mount to full mount and ground out a dominant round.

In the 2nd round, Chookagian immediately clinched once again and mounted Shevchenko, making for another round that was lopsided in her favor. Chookagian spent the whole round in top mount hunting for submissions and raining down punches.

In the closing round, Shevchenko managed to keep the fight standing for a majority of the time but didn’t get enough offense going to get back in the contest.  A poorly set up kick by Shevchenko was caught by Chookagian at the end of the round, and Shevchenko once again ended the round mounted.  Chookagian won a dominant unanimous decision with every judge scoring it 30-25.

 

 

Former flyweight title contender Tim Elliott welcomed UFC newcomer Brandon Royval to the promotion.

 

Photo Credit: MyMMANews

This was yet another high-paced fight that seemed to happen in one long scramble. Elliott started with a relentless pace and aggressive wrestling gameplan that looked for one takedown after the other. And while he did manage to take the fight to the ground on a few occasions, the newcomer’s scrambling ability allowed him to get up and provide offense of his own. 

They made it into the 2nd round, but Elliott’s aggressive wrestling gameplan in the 1st began to take its toll. Still, he ended in a dominant position after yet another takedown, and a half-nelson hold led to a guillotine attempt for Elliott. But Royval slipped his head out and now, from the top position, managed to hunt for a submission of his own. He secured the head in arm triangle for the submission victory at 3:18 of round 2. The fight won Fight of the Night honors. 

Saturday was an excellent way for the UFC to return to its home turf and set the pace for the APEX era, which may last for quite a while along with the legendary Fight Island

 

 

They return to the APEX next Saturday for UFC 250, headlined by a women’s featherweight championship fight between Amanda Nunes and Felicia Spencer. 

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Leo Schauer 

@schauerleo

 

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