The ESPN2/ESPN portion of the UFC Fort Lauderdale prelims have just finished up with UFC newcomer Takashi Sato stopping UFC veteran Ben Saunders with strikes in the second round. After arguably dropping the first round, Sato pulled out a slick one-two to score a knockdown, which ultimately set up the finishing sequence. Before that, Augusto Sakai made good on his second UFC outing by picking up a tough split decision over the UFC’s #15 ranked heavyweight Andrei Arlovski. This is without a doubt the largest career win for Sakai, who could potentially replace Arlovski in the rankings. Also on the prelims, the UFC’s #9 ranked strawweight Carla Esparza found herself in a highly competitive matchup Virna Jandiroba. The bout was high on grappling, yet low on damage. At the end of the fight, it was Esparza who took home the unanimous decision.
Kicking off the ESPN prelims, Gilbert Burns and Mike Davis traded some quality strikes on the feet in the opening round, before Burns took the match to ground in the second. Davis survived the grappling assault at first, but eventually fell victim to a Burns rear-naked choke. Of his eight UFC victories, six of them occurred inside of the distance for the 15-3 Burns. Closing out the ESPN2 prelims, Jim Miller made quick work of Jason Gonzalez, pulling out the first-round submission. Miller has now won 19-fights inside of the UFC, which is the fifth most wins by any fighter in the promotion’s history. He has also competed in 32-UFC bouts, which is equally as ludicrous.
Also on the early prelims, Angela Hill and Jodie Esquibel traded blows for the bulk of 15-minutes. Hill did a great job of fighting long and answering her opponent’s pressure with stinging counters to ultimately earn the unanimous nod. Opening up the event, Court McGee and Dhiego Lima went the distance, with Lima winning most of the fight and McGee scoring a knockdown in the final minute of the round. When the results were read, it was Lima who walked away with the split decision win.
Takashi Sato def. Ben Saunders by TKO at 1:18 of round 2: Welterweight
Saunders found success with his clinch knees early in the fight, and then rocked Sato with a short hook. Saunders did a solid job of phase shifting. He floated from kicking range, to punching range, and then into the clinch where his knees were waiting. The opening round finished up with Saunders pressing his foe up against the cage while chipping away with more knees. Sato found his moment in the second frame. He floored Saunders with a clean jab-cross, and then went in for the kill. Sato flooded his foe with a barrage of elbows, cutting opening up Saunders. The referee had seen enough and prevented Saunders from any unnecessary punishment.
Augusto Sakai def. Andrei Arlovski by split decision (29-28 x2, 28-29): Heavyweight
Arlovski got busy right away, clipping Sakai with a series of right hands. A one-two scored for Arlovski and then he immediately protested to the referee about being poked in the eye. Sakai landed a mean jump knee to the belly of Arlovski, and few other blows here and there, but wasn’t throwing much volume.
Sakai started the second round by blitzing his opponent, landing several punches as Arlovski’s back was to the cage. Arlovski escaped harms way and and regained control of the fight and Sakai went back to throwing solo strikes. An accidental groin strike to Sakai caused a brief break in the action, but there was less than a minute left in the round, and nothing really happened for those remaining moments.
Arlovski continued to be the busier fighter into the third round. He was the one throwing leg kicks, inside and out, as well as the one throwing more punches. Sakai struggled to exit his one-punch-at-a-time mentality and seemed to allow his opponent to get ahead on the cards. He even deployed a wall-and-stall tactic down the stretch, but plot twist, Sakai won the split decision.
Carla Esparza def. Virna Jandiroba by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28 x2): Strawweight
Esparza realized a takedown within the first-ninety-seconds of the match. Jandiroba remained safe and returned to her feet, but Esparza was able to get the fight right back down to the floor. Jandiroba again stood back up, and ate a mean elbow up against the cage, which was probably the best strike of the round.
Jandiroba was the one who found a takedown early in the second act. It was Esparza’s turn to remain calm and find her way to her feet, and she did just that. Neither fighter was really able to take over. Their grappling games were nullifying each other, which led to quite a bit of jockeying for position. Esparza found top position within the first minute of the final round, and was able to rack up some control time. Jandiroba made it up to her feet and then started looking for a takedown of her own. Esparza tried to jump on the back, but ended up underneath Jandiroba. More scrambles took place in a pretty competitive matchup.
Gilbert Burns def. Mike Davis by submission (RNC) at 4:15 of round 2: Lightweight
The athletes traded on the feet for about the first 90-seconds of the opening round, until Burns scored a takedown. Davis remained calm and worked his way back to his feet and started landing some hard punches. Burns was more than willing to stand and trade, landing some stinging punches of his own. In a savvy veteran move, Burns pulled out a late takedown to finish the round on top.
Burns was quick to put his opponent on the ground in the second act. He quickly took the back and began to control Davis, surfing from position to position just to find himself back on the back. Davis did a pretty descent job of protecting his neck for as long as possible, but the grappling prowess of Burns was just too much. Burns slid in a rear-naked choke and Davis was forced to tap.
Jim Miller def. Jason Gonzalez by submission (RNC) at 2:12 of round 1: Lightweight
Gonzalez came out a bit jerky jerky with his stance, and ate a hard shot right off the bat because of it. He recovered quickly and started to settle in, but that’s exactly when Miller switched things up and initiated a grappling exchange. Miller took the back of Gonzalez and it was only a moment of time. Miller cinched up a rear-naked choke and Gonzalez was toast.
Angela Hill def. Jodie Esquibel by unanimous decision (30-27 X2, 29-28): Strawweight
The strawweights went right at it, standing in front of one another and trading punches. Hill was a little more creative with her entries, where as Esquibel was more trying to hunker down and trade. Each fighter got in some quality shots before the round ended. Hill continued to fight long off of her back foot in the second round. Esquibel would continue to advance, but Hill was disrupting her with knees and long punches. The nose of Hill began to bleed, courtesy of one of the Esquibel haymakers, but it didn’t seem to affect her in the least bit.
Hill started strong in the final round, cracking Esquibel with hard counters. An elbow from Hill opened up a cut around the left eye of Esquibel. A huge right hand from Esquibel briefly dropped her opponent, but it didn’t really seem to phase Hill all that much. The rest of the round saw Hill continue to stay long and out of range for Esquibel, with both fighters swinging away for the closing seconds of the fight.
Dhiego Lima def. Court McGee by split decision (30-27, 29-28, 28-29): Welterweight
Lima wobbled his foe early in the opening act with a clean check hook, but McGee was quick to recover. McGee failed to achieve a standard takedown, but did hit a beautiful throw, even if he wasn’t able to solidify top position. Lima landed a few more of those left hands before the round ended. The second round saw Lima get back to his striking, landing his hands. McGee wore the shots rather well, showing off a strong beard, and continued to throw back some volume. Neither man was really rocked that round, and neither man was able to really put a stamp on the round.
The left hook of Lima continued to find a home in the final round. McGee ate the punches and pressed forward, throwing his strikes and backing up his opponent. Lima’s takedown defense held up. He was able to fend off the attempts of McGee. In the closing moments of the round, McGee dropped Lima with a heavy punch, but was unable to find a finish before time ran out.