The first half of the main card of UFC Fight Night 98 is all wrapped up, and we have a new TUF Latin America champion crowned in Martin Bravo. Meanwhile, Beneil Dariush kept his quest for a lightweight title shot going, and Alexa Grasso got a victory in her highly anticipated Octagon debut. Here's how those fights played out.
Martin Bravo def. Claudio Puelles via TKO (punches) at 1:55 of round 2 - TUF Latin America 3 lightweight final
Bravo had early success with his striking, however lacking in technique his right hand may be. Puelles was unable to get a single-leg on Bravo midway through the 1st, but completed it on his next attempt. Bravo didn't take long to get back to his feet. Bravo egged on Puelles to trade with him and he obliged. Mexico's Bravo was easily outlanding Peru's Puelles and just working him over with pressure.
Round 2 kept up the same theme of Bravo outstriking Puelles, with Puelles' single-leg efforts increasingly futile. Brutal combinations by Bravo froze up Puelles. Multiple left hooks to the liver collapsed Puelles and he was hurt both to the body and the head. Referee Keith Peterson stopped the fight, signifying that Team Forrest Griffin's Martin Bravo is The Ultimate Fighter Latin America 3 lightweight champion.
Beneil Dariush def. Rashid Magomedov by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28) Lightweights
Dariush through several kicks at distance and then knees in the clinch, neutralizing Magomedov's striking from range. An early takedown attempt by Dariush failed and he wound up having Magomedov control his back. Dariush got hit in the groin and the fight stopped for a few seconds. Magomedov scored with a solid straight right, while Dariush kept throwing his body kicks with serious conviction, and also going with high kicks and then overhand lefts. Late takedown by Magomedov (rather surprisingly) on the BJJ specialist, but nothing else of note came about after that.
Powerful left hand by Dariush kept Magomedov off balance, then he kicked the Dagestan fighter back after Rashid landed a kick of his own. Hard body kick by Magomedov on Dariush. Quality knees to the body and (partially blocked) to the head by Dariush in the clinch. Dariush had much of his striking success in close quarters. A struggle for a takedown ensued against the fence. Magomedov landed some decent shots before Dariush initiated another clinch to end the 2nd.
Big body kicks by Magomedov consistently and early in the final round, but Dariush answered with a good leg kick. Rashid snuck in a left hook and then Dariush got the Muay Thai clinch again and delivered some more knees to the body before Magomedov rotated and broke free. Beneil got the double-collar tie again and continued with the knees to the body. Dariush had the trip takedown attempt but Magomedov stopped it, with help from the cage. Herb Dean separated them with 2 minutes left in the 3rd. The body kicks by Magomedov ramped up, as did the left hooks. Offensively, it looked to be Magomedov's best round, and Dariush was fading and throwing sloppier power punches.
Clark was the more active striker in a rather tepid opening 2 minutes. A big knee on the way up from a scramble and then a high kick appeared to hurt Clark. Big combinations by Grasso against the fence to the head and to the body got through, but Clark did well to survive and fire back. Clark's face was busted up from the heavy and precise punches of the 23-year-old. Two right hands and a head kick jarred Clark's noggin some more, and Grasso thoroughly dominated the latter stages of the opening round.
During the break, Clark said she couldn't see, but her cornerman didn't see any issues with her eye and the fight continued. In round 2, Clark closed the distance but was unable to get a takedown off a kick, and a clinch battle ensued. It was definitely a less offensive round for Grasso, but Clark produced virtually no meaningful offense of her own. Clark with the takedown late in the 2nd but Grasso threw her legs up for an armbar, which she didn't secure. She quickly got back to her feet and tagged Clark with a left hand to end the round.
With Clark trying to make the fight "ugly," Grasso used her counterpunching skills to full effect and hit Clark with a thudding right hand as she came in. Clark's lateral drop attempt backfired and she wound up on the bottom for a fleeting second before they returned to striking. Clark's landed strikes were few and far between, and Grasso chipped away with her boxing and her leg kicks. Big slam and a body kick on the way up by Grasso to end the fight, which was hers all the way.