The prelim card of UFC on ESPN+ 14: Shevchenko vs. Carmouche 2 just wrapped up in Montevideo, Uruguay.
The headline for this portion of the card goes to Gilbert Burns, who impressed in a short-notice welterweight contest versus the highly-rated Russian Alexey Kunchenko. Burns stifled Kunchenko with a mix of leg kicks, takedowns, and heavy top control. The crowd didn’t like the gameplan versus the exciting, and previously undefeated, Kunchenko, but Burns didn’t care. The veteran picked up a win in the welterweight decision on just two weeks notice.
After that, one of the most meaningful results was the upset victory of non-ranked Marina Rodriguez over 8th ranked Tecia Torres in the strawweight division. Rodriguez moved her record to 12-0 and picked up a signature win that should springboard her into the 115 lb rankings and may lay the groundwork for future status as a title contender.
Also on the card Veronica Macedo picked up her first UFC win with a first round submission of Polyana Viana and Rogerio Bontorin earned a TKO win after opening up a Marvin Eastman-esque cut on Rualian Paiva.
Gilbert Burns def. Alexey Kunchenko by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28): Welterweight
Burns started the fight brightly landing some noisy kicks on Kunchenko. After landing kicks on the legs, and glancing off the shoulder, Burns shot for a takedown and got the Russian down against the fence. Kunchenko defended well against the vaunted BJJ black-belt, but conceded almost complete control of the round.
Kunchenko used some craft to keep the fight standing in the first half of the second round, sprawling on a Burns takedown attempt and then scoring with a delicate foot sweep. Even though Burns would have likely preferred the fight on the ground, he looked game on the feet and was able to add more damage to Kunchenko’s reddened right leg on route to a takedown. On the ground Burns was composed in delivering ground and pound and attempting a guillotine choke.
In the third Kunchenko knew he had to end the fight and he started the round the aggressor, landing heavy kicks and combos. Burns looked tired, reeling back from the punches and then falling from a low kick. Kunchenko had no interest in following the BJJ player to the ground, though. Despite suffering from a bum leg, Burns was able to summon the strength to charge down Kunchenko and drag him to the ground. Kunchenko was able to work his way to a clinch, where he peppered the Brazilian with short punches and elbows. But those weren’t enough to put Burns away, who survived to ensure the decision victory; spoiling Kunchenko’s 20-0 record.
Ciryl Ganè def. Raphael Pessoa by submission (arm triangle), round 1 (4:12): Heavyweight
Undefeated heavyweights collided in the centre of the Octagon in Uruguay and it ended up being Pessoa’s 0 that had to go.
Ganè, a product of Paris’ MMA Factory, stalked Pessoa for the majority of the first round, threatening the Brazilian with a polished kickboxing game. Pessoa looked dangerous, though, with a heavy right hand always ready to fly. A clumsy clinch and scramble took the big men to the ground, where Ganè surprised us all with a fight-ending head and arm choke submission.
Marina Rodriguez def. Tecia Torres via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27): Strawweight
The first round featured a display of kickboxing from both women, other than one failed takedown attempt from Torres. Both women threw combos, with punches leading to leg kicks. Neither was able to catch the other with a tremendous amount of power. In the clinch Rodriguez used her size advantage to control Torres and throw mean knees to the body and head.
In the second round Rodriguez showed off a varied kicking arsenal, which succeeded in keeping Torres at range. When she chose to rush in, Torres did well at countering and forcing the Brazilian to back off. Rodriguez was still able to get in on the clinch, though — and throw more hard shots to the body. Torres offered some offense of her own in close, but Rodriguez seemed to be packing more venom into her strikes. Rodriguez also did well at avoiding each one of Torres’ takedown attempts in the stanza.
In the third, Rodriguez continued to look the better fighter on the feet, while avoiding Torres’ attempts to take the fight onto the ground. Rodriguez actually found success in taking Torres down on three occasions, once from a brief takedown off of a caught kick from Torres, once from a standing d’arce attempt that she used to drag the Tiny Tornado down, and once from a sneaky trip. Ultimately it was Rodriguez’s diversity and crushing clinch work that sealed her a unanimous decision victory.
Rogerio Bontorin def. Rualian Paiva via TKO (doctor’s stoppage — cut), round 1 (1:09): Flyweight
Paiva landed the first meaningful strike of the fight, a short counter hook that made Bontorin pause. Bontorin then went into wrestle-mode and eventually got Paiva to the ground. Paiva was able to get back up, though. Some wild exchanges followed, both on the feet and in the scramble. The wildness of the fight was tempered some by a handful of referee stoppages to check on cuts. One of those stoppages resulted in the fight being called off, thanks to a huge slash across Paiva’s face (caused by a Bontorin knee).
Chris Gutierrez def. Geraldo de Freitas via split decision (29-28, 30-27, 29-28): Bantamweight
It was a tepid start to round one, with both men sizing each other up on the feet. De Freitas took the centre of the cage, whereas Gutierrez appeared content to let the Brazilian come to him and hope to catch him on the counter. De Freitas also mixed up his offense with a nice foot sweep and an occasional takedown attempt.
Second round was much of the same, but with Gutierrez finding success with low leg kicks, some of which actually dropped de Freitas. In response the Brazilian landed a takedown half-way through the round. De Freitas threw a little ground and pound before being reversed by Gutierrez, who wasn’t able to do much damage with the position.
In the final round de Freitas swung wild at Gutierrez, but he left himself wide open for more leg kicks. Gutierrez landed some good ones that sent the Brazilian down again. Each time de Freitas collapsed to the ground off of a leg kick, Gutierrez refused to follow him. However, that passivity didn’t matter to two of the judges, who gave the American the split decision victory.
Alex da Silva def. Rodrigo Vargas via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27): Lightweight
Vargas came out swinging, literally — he refused da Silva’s invitation to touch gloves. In response da Silva took the Mexican down and had a fairly easy time keeping him there. The crowd didn’t like it, but da Silva spent 90% of the opening round patiently hunting for a choke until Vargas managed to get on top and land some ground and pound in the dying seconds.
In the second both men opened up more on the feet, but neither landed anything with authority. But a poorly timed Vargas takedown attempt resulted in the action going back to the mat, with da Silva in top position. Vargas had nothing for da Silva on the ground. He ate punches there and was unable to threaten with any offense of his own.
In the third Vargas hit the canvas off of a flurry from da Silva. From there it was rinse and repeat; da Silva comfortably rode out the remainder of the fight, earning a shutout on the judges’ scorecards.
Veronica Macedo def. Polyana Viana via submission (armbar), round 1 (1:09): Flyweight
The fight didn’t start well for Macedo, after she was taken down by Viana right off the opening bell. But the Venezuelan seemed to like bottom position just fine. Within a minute she was able to secure a deep armbar that had Viana tapping, possibly after causing some serious damage to the Brazilian’s arm.