For a few days, it looked like the UFC Fight Night 83 preliminary card would lose multiple fights due to injury, but to the UFC's credit, they were able to find multiple late-notice replacements to keep it at seven fights. The prelims started with heavyweight action between Shamil Abdurakhimov and Anthony Hamilton and concluded with welterweights Alex Garcia and Sean Strickland. Here's how the fights went down in Pittsburgh:
Shamil Abdurakhimov def. Anthony Hamilton via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28) - Heavyweights
Abdurakhimov largely outstruck Hamilton in a fight that was contested mostly on the feet. Hamilton was jarred by uppercuts on multiple occasions whenever they fought on the inside, and Abdurakhimov scored with quality counterpunching at range. Hamilton did up his volume striking in the 3rd round as Shamil was bloodied from an accidental headbutt, but he couldn't do enough to hurt Abdurakhimov or dramatically change the course of the fight. Neither man was able to complete a takedown, which worked to the Dagestani's advantage as he picked up his first UFC win.
Lauren Murphy def. Kelly Faszholz via TKO (strikes) at 4:55 of round 3 - Women's Bantamweights
In an incredibly entertaining fight, Lauren Murphy avoided the possibility of a 3rd straight split decision inside the Octagon by rallying to stop newcomer Kelly Faszholz in the dying seconds of the final round. Murphy was outboxed and repeatedly tagged by the crisp boxing of Faszholz, who took the fight on just a week's notice. Lauren closed the 1st round strongly and bloodied up Faszholz's face. The 2nd round was closer with both women landing solid strikes, but Murphy appeared to settle down after a nervy start. It was all Murphy in the 3rd round as she took Faszholz down early and controlled her opponent beautifully, all while continuing to bust up her face with ground-and-pound. Murphy poured on the pressure and the punishment in the final minute, securing full mount and firing away fight-finishing punches. With Faszholz stuck, Murphy sought the stoppage and got with just 5 seconds left in the fight. A great showing by both women, with Murphy getting her 1st UFC win after suffering two controversial losses, while Faszholz put in a great effort on short notice.
Ashlee Evans-Smith def. Marion Reneau by split decision (30-27, 28-29, 29-27) - Women's Bantamweights
A controversial decision went in Evans-Smith's favor, including a 30-27 despite being badly hurt in the 1st round with a right hand and then nearly tapped out with a guillotine choke before the horn sounded. Evans-Smith threw a higher volume of strikes and had great success throwing body kicks, but Reneau answered with thudding leg kicks that made Evans-Smith switch stances at times. The 2nd round was closer than the 1st, as the two combatants were more than content to only strike. Reneau closed up Evans-Smith's right eye with hard left hooks but wasn't exactly throwing at a high rate. Evans-Smith caught a kick in round 3 and momentarily seized the opportunity for a few ground strikes before the referee bizarrely stood Reneau up, much to the crowd's displeasure. The fight ended with both women throwing good strikes off the clinch. It's really hard to fathom how 30-27 and 29-27 for Evans-Smith were concocted. A 29-28 for Evans-Smith wouldn't have been terrible, but 30-27 will go down as a puzzler.
Nathan Coy def. Jonavin Webb via unanimous decision (29-28 x3) - Welterweights
In a scramble-heavy contest, Coy picked up his first UFC win by outgrappling and wearing down Webb in rounds 2 and 3. Webb came out strong and landing big strikes, but gradually faded as the contest wore on. He took Coy down in the 2nd round and went for an armbar, which Coy got out of. Later in the round, Webb fended off a takedown and had a headlock but Coy took him down and eventually mounted him. No serious danger occurred after that but in the 3rd round it was all Coy, who easily shrugged off a kneebar by Webb and otherwise proved to be far too much on the ground, in addition to being the more well-conditioned athlete. Webb drops to 0-2 in the UFC.
Anthony Smith def. Leonardo Augusto Leleco (29-28 x3) - Middleweights
This was a bizarre contest from start to finish. Smith, who took this fight only a few days ago, connected on any power shot he felt like throwing -- punch, kick, knee, you name it -- against a defensively porous Leleco. He repeatedly hurt Leleco but couldn't get the finish in round 1, and Smith ended up being hurt with a big punch in round 2. Smith desperately dropped for a takedown, which he would complete, spend much of the round controlling Leleco and beating him up with punches, only for Chip Snider to randomly stand them up with Smith in back mount. Leleco went to work on Smith's body at the end of the 2nd and into the 3rd, which had Smith doubled over in pain. The Brazilian newcomer had his way with Smith on the ground before another ridiculous stand-up by the ref at the end of the 3rd. Leleco couldn't land the KO blow and couldn't do enough to get a 10-8 to earn himself a draw, so Smith was crowned the victor by the skin of his teeth.
Oluwale Bamgbose def. Daniel Sarafian via KO (head kick and punches) at 1:00 of round 1 - Middleweights
"The Holy War Angel" absolutely wrecked the TUF Brazil 1 alum in impressive fashion. Bamgbose dropped Sarafian with a head kick powerful enough that Daniel blocked the kick with his arm and still fell down. An uppercut decked Sarafian again as he tried to get up and that was the end of that. An impressive performance by the New Yorker, who picks up his first UFC win.
WOW! One minute into the 1st round was all @HolyWarAngelMMA needed to KO Daniel Sarafian! #UFCPittsburgh https://t.co/Ddm2kfOgHj— FOX Sports: UFC (@UFCONFOX) February 22, 2016
Sean Strickland def. Alex Garcia via TKO (punches) at 4:25 of round 3 - Welterweights
"Tarzan" started out strong with heavy ground-and-pound after countering Garcia's takedown attempt and sweeping his way to the top. Strickland nearly got a stoppage but Garcia survived, hit Strickland with several upkicks along the way, and turned things around by getting a takedown and winding up on top. He didn't inflict much damage while on top, but did connect with heavy power punches in the 2nd round. Strickland didn't get wobbled but he was getting hit. The American answered with controlling the distance with his lead left hand, jabbing Garcia until he was bloodied. Garcia secured a late takedown in the 2nd but didn't do much with it. In round 3, Garcia did get another takedown but didn't hold Strickland down. From there, Garcia's output waned and Strickland put the pressure on the Dominican-Canadian. A jab staggered Garcia and Strickland swarmed with an onslaught of jabs, straight punches, and uppercuts. Strickland capped things off with a thudding right that decked Garcia to end the fight. He's now 4-1 in the UFC while Garcia drops to 3-2.