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Beyond the Octagon: TUF 16 winner rebounds, UFC vets turn in mixed results

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TUF 16 winner Colton Smith returns to competition for the first time since his UFC release, plus UFC vets Jeff Monson, David Mitchell, Keita Nakamura, and Anthony Smith, among others, take to the ring.

It was a busy weekend outside of Las Vegas, with fight results coming in from the American South, the West Coast, Appalachia, as well as Finland, England, Japan, and, of course, Russia. Let's jump in.

First up is Friday's Legacy FC 39 where, in the co-main event spot, UFC vet Daniel Pineda (20-11, 3-4 UFC) followed up his November kimura of Leonard Garcia with a triangle choke of Thomas Webb (8-3-0). It took less than a minute of the opening round for him to lock up the submission. Pineda, who opened up his UFC career with two first-round submission victories but then entered a 1-4 slump that saw him out of the organization, is undefeated in his post UFC career at 2-0. Those victories came within a combined four minutes.

Also on the card, Bellator Fightmaster finalist Mike Bronzoulis (17-8-1, 0-1 Bellator) won consecutive bouts for the first time since 2012 thanks to a first-round TKO of Jonathan Harris (9-5-0). The pairing was a rematch of a 2010 bout, which Bronzoulis also won by first-round TKO. "The Greek" improves to 2-2 since his stint with Bellator.

Highlights from Legacy FC 39 can be seen here. Bronzoulis vs. Harris starts at 0:45, Pineda's finish comes right after.

And on Saturday, at DEEP 71 Impact, JMMA pioneer Ryuta Sakurai--who this month is celebrating the 19th anniversary of his pro MMA debut--took on the undefeated Ken Hasegawa in a middleweight affair. Sakurai's appreciable experience would fail to give him an edge in the contest, however, with Hasegawa putting the former DEEP champion away via keylock in Round 1. Sakurai, who has now lost three straight, sees his overall record fall to 24-20-6. Hasegawa improves to 10-0-1.

In the night's co-main event, Keita Nakamura (29-6-2-NC, 0-3 UFC) extended his win-streak to three with a first-round rear-naked choke of Yoshiyuki Katahira (9-2-2). Nakamura is 8-2, 1NC since his last appearance in a major MMA organization--a fight with Yasubey Enomoto in Sengoku, which Nakamura won by submission to become the now-defunct organization's welterweight champion.

Meanwhile, in Russia, Lew Polley (12-6, 1-0 Bellator, 0-1 IFL) returned from a long layoff for what wound up being a short appearance at Absolute Championship Berkut 14--the American succumbed to the strikes of Michal Andryszak mid-way through Round 1. Polley--who perhaps most famously served as the wrestling coach on Team Dos Santos for TUF 13, during which time he clashed with, and was ultimately dismissed by, Junior Dos Santos--has lost two in a row. As for Andryszak, he pulls himself out of a two-fight slump and improves to 13-5-0.

Also in Russia, at Octagon Fighting Sensation 3, the oft-featured Jeff Monson (54-20-1, 4-3 UFC, 1-0 PRIDE, 0-1 Strikeforce) notched his second win in as many weeks, putting the north-south choke to Alexander Stolyarov (7-3-0) in Round 1. Monson, whose last four victories have come by submission, and three of those by north-south choke, is enjoying a three-fight surge. Stolyarov, conversely, sees his three-fight win streak halted.

Monson vs. Stolyarov is here.

And at Cage 29 in Helsinki, Finland, Anton Kuivanen (21-8, 1-2 UFC) rebounded from his TKO at the hands of Dakota Cochrane last summer with a unanimous decision victory over Sergej Grecicho (20-6-1), who was riding a nine-fight win streak into Saturday's bout. Kuivanen improves to 4-2 since his release from the UFC two years ago.

And in England, at Made 4 The Cage 16, former UFC heavyweight Phil De Fries (11-5-1NC, 2-3 UFC) succumbed to the strikes of journeyman Thomas Denham (6-6-0) a minute into Round 1. De Fries, who earned a submission victory last October, hasn't been able to win consecutive bouts since 2011, when a submission of Stav Economou gave way to a unanimous decision victory over Rob Broughton in De Fries's UFC debut. He's 2-2 since his release from that organization.

Speaking of Stav Economou, "The Crazy Bear" also took to the ring last weekend for his first fight in a year. The British MMA mainstay--who's beaten the likes of Ricco Rodriguez, Bob Sapp, and recent Bellator contender Linton Vassell--made short work of opponent Kamil Bazelak (1-4-0), taking him out in the first with a kimura. Economou improves to 16-4-1.

Stateside, recent UFC castaway Aaron Phillips (5-3, 0-2 UFC) looked to make a quick return to the win column in his fight with Chris Gutierrez (7-1-1) for the vacant WFC bantamweight title. Phillips would, however, stumble in his return to the regional circuit, losing by TKO after he was unable to answer the bell for the third.

TUF 16 winner Colton Smith (4-4, 1-3 UFC) fared better in his return to competition on Saturday, topping Bellator Fightmaster quarterfinalist Evan Cutts (5-2-0) on the judges' scorecards. Smith employed a stifling top-control game which culminated in a victory over Mike Ricci at the TUF 16 finale. His single-minded approach would wind up being his undoing, though, as Smith was finished in his three subsequent UFC performances. The win over Cutts is his first in two years. Cutts, meanwhile, experiences the first losing streak of his career.

And in the main event of CFFC 46, Anthony Smith (20-12, 2-0 Bellator, 0-1 UFC, 2-2 Strikeforce) extended his win streak to four with an inverted armbar of two-time TUF hopeful Tim Williams (11-2-0). With his victory, Smith captures the CFFC middleweight title and upends a three-fight surge for Williams.

Last but certainly not least, we have former UFC welterweight David Mitchell stepping up to heavyweight to take on WSOF vet Dave Huckaba in the main event of West Coast FC 13.

Mitchell went a disappointing 1-4 in the UFC but, since his release in late 2013, he's been on an absolute tear, submitting or TKO-ing six opponents in a row, all of them recognizable journeymen with records above .600. Despite an appreciable size disadvantage, Mitchell added Huckaba to the list, putting him away with a rear-naked choke in Round 2. As a result, Huckaba falls to 22-8-0. Mitchell, meanwhile, remains undefeated outside the UFC, improves to 19-4-0, and should have a return to one of MMA's bigger stages in the near future.