UFC Fight Night: Dos Anjos vs. Alvarez delivered some highly entertaining preliminary card action from top to bottom. The first five fights of the night ended in submissions, and it was a good haul for Brazilian fighters, who were responsible for four of them. At the top of the prelim bill was a welterweight showdown between 40-year-old Mike Pyle and Alberto Mina. Here's how they all played out.
"Quicksand" didn't have the best of starts, as Mina was aggressive early and often with big lumbering punches. Mina hit a power double that put Mike on his back, but they were stood back up. Pyle was rocked with a left hook and Mina swarmed on him but couldn't get the finish. Mina's top control was the story of the 1st, although Pyle got away with a cage grab as he got back to his feet. Pyle was taken down again, went for a guillotine, and Mina finger-wagged him as the 1st ended. The 2nd round didn't last long, as Mina annihilated Pyle with a huge flying knee, then a couple of ground strikes, and that was that. Huge KO for Mina, who remains unbeaten in his pro MMA career.
As expected, this was a striker's matchup. Baghdad seemed the more effective of the two, especially with the right hand over the top. Makdessi moved in a straight line when pressuring Baghdad and had some success on the inside. Baghdad scored with combinations, and in the 2nd round he finished off a nice one with an outside leg kick. Makdessi threw a spinning back kick to the leg just as Baghdad threw a spinning back fist, which missed. The Canadian used his jab to keep Baghdad at bay, while Baghdad was more active with his leg kicks. Makdessi slipped a punch and threw a tight combination of punches on Mehdi in what was a closely contested battle. John turned on the pressure and Baghdad's output waned towards the end of the 2nd. Baghdad drilled Makdessi with a hard knee and a punch early in the 3rd, and John was down and badly hurt. Huge strikes by Baghdad somehow didn't put Makdessi away. For reasons unknown, Baghdad went for a flying armbar, which didn't work. It eventually cost him dearly on the scorecards. Baghdad got back to his feet later in the round and they continued to strike in a back-and-forth scrap. A desperate Makdessi went on all-out attack and had Muhammad scrambling and hurt. Makdessi finished the round on top but couldn't finish Baghdad, but he was the victor on the night. Makdessi snaps a two-fight losing skid at the expense of Baghdad, who was making his UFC debut.
Round 1 was fought at a hellacious pace. Lopes was active in pursuing the takedowns, and there was a moment where Birchak wore Lopes like a backpack for an extended period of time. Lopes was shucked free and then dumped on the mat. Birchak pounded Lopes with punches on the ground and when they exchanged on the feet, it was mayhem. Birchak was wobbled by a big left hand, Lopes ate some heavy strikes in return, but Birchak backed away instead of getting into a firefight. In round 2, Birchak was wobbled in the clinch but cracked Lopes with a big left hook that had him momentarily on unsteady legs. Lopes retreated as Birchak, still hurt, went forward to attack. Lopes weathered the storm but struggled mightily to get the takedown, and was unable to deal with Birchak's clinch striking. Round 3 was primarily a Birchak one, as he threw and landed more, but was on the receiving end of some Lopes counters. Lopes was clearly more exhausted than Birchak, but the fight ended with both men with hands on their hips for 5 seconds solid. Bizarre finish to an otherwise action-packed fight. 30-27 Lopes by Lester Griffin was an inspired bit of judging.
The 5th fight of the night produced the 5th submission of the card, and it wasn't an easy win for Munhoz. Doane looked terrific with his striking, particularly with his body kicks, hard knees, and stiff punches. Munhoz was hurt with a big left hook and also a right hand, but the Brazilian answered back with his own shots, and both men were throwing with bad intentions. Munhoz got the trip takedown and scrambled to get Doane's back. Out of nowhere, Munhoz jumped on an arm-in guillotine, pulled guard, and forced the tap. That was a superb finish to a superb 2 minute fight.
Arantes wasted no time throwing heavy strikes, and he dropped the Oklahoma State wrestler with a knee that had Sanders instinctively looking for a takedown. In a scramble, Arantes briefly had Sanders' back but slipped out and lost control, giving Sanders the opportunity to be on top. Sanders later gained full mount after Arantes failed to spin his way back to his feet. Arantes didn't really take much damage while mounted, and eventually got himself into half-guard. Sanders ended the round with a short burst of offense, but the final 3 minutes of the 1st weren't exactly eventful. Sanders got the takedown to start round 2, but Arantes was working for a submission off of his back. He worked on the right arm from his guard, Sanders tried to yank his arm out but was stuck and verbally tapped out. A great win for the Brazilian, now 2-0 at bantamweight.
This was an incredibly fun fight. Sajewski started off brightly with his counterpunching, keeping Burns a bit off of his gameplan. Burns kicked Sajewski in the groin and the fight was momentarily stopped. They resumed shortly thereafter, and Burns turned the fight in his favor with a right hand that had Sajewski on unsteady legs. To Sajewski's credit, he stayed on his feet and defended the trip attempts by Burns. He wouldn't be so fortunate just a minute later, as Burns unleashed hard punches and kicks on a wobbly Sajewski before shooting for the takedown. Burns had Sajewski in a body triangle, but released from that and beautifully transitioned to the armbar, straightened out Sajewski's right arm, and had him tapping and screaming at the same time. It's the 3rd armbar win for "Durinho" in the UFC.
The TUF Brazil 4 winner Vieira got a takedown just a minute into the 1st round, but Beltran did well to get back to his feet, only for Vieira to get him down again. Beltran proved to be hard to hold down, and they were back to their feet, where Beltran held the advantage. A hard left hook backed Vieira up, and a big knee in the clinch also had Vieira buzzed. Round 2 was wild, as both men hurt each other with huge shots and started swinging for the fences. Vieira somewhat weathered the storm with a takedown away from the cage. After landing some ground-and-pound, Vieira stood up and postured up, but was rocked by one upkick, then another one sent him backwards and badly hurt. During a scramble, Vieira went for an ankle lock, which was an ill-fated decision. Beltran attacked and then Vieira flagrantly grabbed the fence as he had his back taken. The referee intervened to slap the hand off the fence, but it didn't matter for Beltran. He had the rear-naked choke locked in and that was a wrap. The TUF Latin America 1 alum is 3-0 in the UFC, with another fun fight under his belt.
Round 1 was a fairly comfortable one for Brazil's Luque, who scored three takedowns in the opening frame. He worked from half-guard and full guard, landing good punches and elbows on the ground. Herrera escaped to his feet and scored with a body shot and a partial spinning elbow, but found himself down again to end the round when Luque went deep on a double leg. Luque pressed the action in the 2nd, making Herrera visibly grimace with a solid body kick. Herrera was breathing heavily and Luque once again was in on a takedown and completed it. Herrera was exhausted and his takedown defense was lacking. He got back to his feet after avoiding the back mount attempt, but provided no resistance against Luque's takedown game, and this time Luque was able to lock in a d'arce choke and force the tap. Luque now has back-to-back submission wins, one by anaconda choke, and now one via d'arce.