The first three UFC Fight Night 36 preliminary card fights ended in decisions, repeating the theme of UFC 169, which set a record for decisions on a UFC card. Would these four prelims be any different? Spoiler: No.
A match between two BJJ black belts lived up to its promise to be one filled with exciting grappling exchanges. The referee questionably stood them up early as Reis reversed to top position on Alcantara, and the brief striking battle saw Alcantara catch Reis with a right hand as he was coming inside. Towards the end of the round Alcantara was taken down by Reis, only for Reis to be taken down himself and for Alcantara to take his back and work for a rear-naked choke. The round ended before anything serious could be set up, and Reis defended properly anyway.
Reis was floored again with a vicious left hand, but he recovered well and was able to mount Alcantara shortly thereafter in an incredible sequence. Alcantara used the cage to push himself off and buck out of the bad spot and get on top of Reis. He landed some excellent ground-and-pound but Reis got a double leg takedown and landed some ground-and-pound of his own. Pinned against the mat, Alcantara was unable to escape in the closing seconds.
After the first two minutes of predominantly striking, Reis completed a takedown against the cage and effectively controlled Alcantara from guard. Alcantara did escape with under a minute remaining in the fight, and delivered a beautiful trip takedown with 30 seconds left and finished the fight strongly with elbows and punches. Great back-and-forth fight, particularly the high-level jiu-jitsu on display. The scores do not reflect how close this bout was. Yuri Alcantara (29-5, 1 NC) def. Wilson Reis (17-5) by split decision (30-27, 30-27, 28-29).
The two men coming off of tough losses started off trading leg kicks, and while Ronson was advertised as the better striker, Trinaldo was landing the harder shots, particularly guard-splitting uppercuts that had Ronson stunned but not too hurt. Ronson shot for a takedown to no avail after Trinaldo let go of the Thai plum. The southpaw Trinaldo closed the round strong with an overhand left.
Trinaldo had plenty of success with the leg kick in the 1st and continued in the 2nd. Ronson scored with a short left hand but otherwise found it hard to engage in sustainable output. Trinaldo finally shot for a takedown with 90 seconds remaining in the round but Ronson sprawled and stayed upright. Ronson fired away a wheel kick which partially landed but certainly caught the crowd's attention. Trinaldo did trip Ronson at the very end but wasn't able to capitalize due to the limited time.
Ronson opened up a bit in round 3 and landed a crisp right hand in the first minute, and Trinaldo showed signs of tiring. The Canadian was the aggressor and Trinaldo seemed to content to fight conservatively and pick his shots when necessary. Trinaldo attempted to take Ronson's back and in the process threw some vicious knees to the thigh and body. Ronson got out of it, but Trinaldo found a second wind, finished strongly and took Ronson down to close out the fight. Francisco Trinaldo (14-3) def. Jesse Ronson (13-4) by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 30-27).
Damm's return to 155 got off to an uneven start, as Jorge, not known as a striker, pressed forward early and often. Jorge threw some solid combinations but Damm slipped in a few punches of his own. It wasn't a thrill-a-minute round but it was definitely close.
Jorge was poked in the eye by Damm, resulting in a temporarily halt to the proceedings. Seconds later it was Damm whose eye was poked, but after that Damm started to get into a groove with his boxing. He landed a good left hook that caused Jorge to back up. Jorge attempted a head kick but Damm slipped away from it and continued to punish Jorge with combinations and the left hook.
Shockingly, two grapplers kickboxing produced little entertainment, but Damm took it to the ground where he had Jorge in a crucifix, but Jorge escaped and had a tight d'arce choke on Damm but was unable to force the tap. They fired away heavy and winging shots when they restarted the striking, and there was a clear sense of urgency from both men to finish the fight. Damm was clearly tiring, and threw an inadvertent groin kick to prolong the suffering of a bad bout. The final minute was sloppy as can be and it felt like watching two gassed heavyweights futilely slug it out. Rodrigo Damm (12-6) def. Ivan Jorge (25-4) by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28).
The TUF 15 cast members closed out the decision-laden prelims. Marcello, a BJJ black belt, was able to fend off an arm-in guillotine and get Proctor to the mat. After a little bit of ground-and-pound from guard, Marcello moved to half-guard and then went for a foot lock, which Proctor successfully avoided and got back to his feet and away from Marcello's dangerous (and underused) grappling. Proctor once again tried for a standing guillotine to no avail before the round ended.
Proctor's corner implored for more striking and he obliged. He cracked Marcello with a right hand about halfway through the 2nd and had him hurt, but Marcello survived the ensuing onslaught. Round 2 was clearly Proctor's as Marcello was unable to implement his grappling and was always going to be outmatched as a striker.
Round 3 was all Proctor again, as he buckled Marcello with his right hand over and over again, but as is expected from this card, the actual finish was hard to come by. Alas, Proctor was unquestionably the winner. Joe Proctor (9-2) def. Cristiano Marcello (13-6) by unanimous decision. (30-27, 29-28, 29-28).
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