The UFC 257 preliminary card was heavy on the decision, only producing one lone finish, but did close out with a stellar performance from lightweight prospect Arman Tsarukyan. He outclassed short-notice opponent Matt Frevola on the feet as well in the grappling department. It should also be noted that Tsarukyan missed weight for this bout, although it did not appear to affect his performance, just his paycheck. Regardless, Arman looked fantastic tonight and did so everywhere.
Before that, the UFC’s #14 rated middleweight, Brad Tavares, shut down the takedown advances of “Shoeface” Antonio Carlos Junior to earn a unanimous decision. Tavares was able to stay vertical and land his offense when he wasn’t being stifled against the fence. This victory breaks up a two-fight losing skid for Tavares and marks his first win since April of 2018.
The UFC’s women’s bantamweight division got some top-ten action on the prelims when the #7 ranked, Julianna Pena, met the #9 ranked, Sara McMann. McMann got off to a strong start with her wrestling, but the final round saw Pena find top position, take the back, and then sink a rear-naked choke. Looking to make a power move, Pena used her post-fight interview to call out champ-champ Amanda Nunes! “The Lioness” is currently booked to defend her featherweight crown against Megan Anderson at UFC 259 on March 6th.
The light heavyweight division got a standup affair between Khalil Rountree and Marcin Prachnio. Despite being hurt badly in the second act, Prachnio did enough in the first and third rounds to sway the judges. This win snaps a three-fight losing skid for Prachnio.
Earlier on the prelims, Movsar Evloev took a split decision over longtime veteran Nik Lentz. The first-two rounds saw a ton of grappling scrambles and guillotine attempts, with the final frame seeing Evloev take off with his striking. This win extends Movsar’s perfect record to 14-0, with four of those now taking place under the UFC banner.
**See complete results below
Arman Tsarukyan def. Matt Frevola by unanimous decision (30-27 x2, 30-26): Lightweight
Tsarukyan quickly got a takedown, but Frevola slickly up to his feet. Tsarukyan stayed attached and forced Frevola to carry his weight against the cage. They broke free and Tsarukyan was pumping his jab and staying light on his feet. Frevola did his best to make it ugly, but the strike count favored Tsarukyan.
Tsarukyan got himself a takedown early in the second act, starting a lengthy grind. Any time Frevola would gain back some ground, Tsarukyan would make an adjustment and find a way to maintain control. Tsarukyan lightly threatened with an anaconda and arm triangle, but opted to maintain position instead of fully committing to the subs.
Tsarukyan went right back to the takedown right away in the final frame, but Frevola quickly scrambled right back up. It was a lot of jabs and straights from Tsarukyan on the feet, until he decided to shoot back in for another takedown. Frevola was getting outclassed everywhere.
Brad Tavares def. Antonio Carlos Junior by unanimous decision (30-27 x2, 29-28): Middleweight
Shoeface worked hard trying to get the fight to the floor to get things going, but the takedown defense of Tavares was there. He stayed vertical, but spent quite a bit of time in the clinch with his back on the cage. Back in open space, Tavares lit up the leg of his opponent, but couldn’t maintain the range. Shoeface clinched back up against the fence, and again struggled to get a takedown. A brutal knee to the cup from Shoeface halted the action just before the bell.
Just as Tavares started to score in the second round, Shoeface blasted a takedown. Tavares stood right back up, but found himself back in that position with his back to the cage. Once Tavares broke free, he got back to tagging up his opponent and was able to stay in open space for a bit. With less than 45-seconds remaining in the round, Tavares staggered Shoeface with a piston of a right hand. Then, Tavares accidentally kicked Shoeface in the cup, resulting in an expected extended break.
The final frame experienced more of Shoeface pressing Tavares against the fence without a takedown ever materializing. Shoeface was throwing strikes, but he just isn’t nearly as polished as Tavares on the feet. We got more clinching against the cage, but that too was fruitless for Shoeface.
Julianna Pena def. Sara McMann by submission (RNC) at 3:39 of round 3: (W) Bantamweight
After a little back and forth on the feet, McMann shot in and got a takedown. She worked her way to the back, but Pena eventually worked up to her feet. It wasn’t long before McMann went back to the takedown where she locked down top position from the full guard until the bell.
The second round saw McMann go right back to her wrestling. She planted Pena on her back, had to eat a couple of ground strikes despite being on top. Pena threw up a couple of triangle attempts, but McMann managed to move to the back. Pena scrambled out of the bad position, but got stuck with her back to the cage. The round ended with a set of strong knees to the body from Pena.
Pena went right for the clinch in the final round. After a couple of knees to the body, she hit a trip to put McMann on her back. McMann struggled to improve her position as Pena was all over her. Pena took the back and attacked with a rear-naked choke. McMann didn’t have much in terms of defense and opted to tap out.
Marcin Prachnio def. Khalil Rountree by unanimous decision (29-28 x3): Light Heavyweight
The fighters started launching combos back and forth right away. They exchanged leg kicks, both inside and outside, with both sides scoring. Prachnio seemed to be just a step ahead, landing more of the strikes, but it was a highly competitive round that took place on the feet.
Rountree started the second round with some urgency. He started tagging Prachnio and backing him up. Prachnio responded by throwing variety with his strikes. He was kicking the leg and body, as well as throwing different boxing combinations. Then, a big check hook from Rountree buckled Prachnio. Rountree connected with a kick to the face and then to the liver, but Prachnio survived to the bell.
Prachnio attempted an early takedown to start the final round, but Rountree was having none of it. Prachnio then started to pressure behind punches in bunches. A well-timed uppercut from Rountree wobbled Prachnio, but there was no followup. Prachnio got back to throwing volume, trying not to get clubbed on his exits.
Movsar Evloev def. Nik Lentz by unanimous decision (29-28 x2, 28-29): 150-pounds
Lentz attempted to get the fight to the ground right away, but Evloev defended well and ended up on top. Lentz threatened with a guillotine and used the hold to better his position. Evloev used some slick tricks to put Lentz right back on his back. Evloev had to defend another guillotine attempt, but was able to do so this time without giving up position.
Evloev was able to score on the feet at the beginning of the second round. Lentz threatened with a couple more guillotine attempts, but Evloev was hip to them. Neither man was able to get top position. Lentz kept jumping guillotines and Evloev was stuffing Nik’s shots. It was quite a scrambly round.
The final frame saw Evloev come alive with his hands. A lot more of the fight took place in open space, with Evloev pressing forward and making Lentz wear it on his face. Single, double, and triple jabs were routinely landing and doing damage. It was quite a dominant round for the young-gun.
Amir Albazi def. Zhalgas Zhumagulov by unanimous decision (29-28 x3) : Flyweight
The flyweights went toe to toe on the feet right away. Zhumagulov was using his jab to set up his right hand, with Albazi pressuring forward. Albazi changed levels and hit a short-lived takedown, and Zhumagulov returned the favor with a late takedown of his own.
Albazi brought the pressure again in the second round, backing up Zhumagulov to the fence. Zhumagulov was fighting off the aggression with hard counters, but spent a lot of time looking somewhat uncomfortable. Those counters resulted in Zhumagulov getting some breathing room.
Albazi pressed forward behind his lead thrust knee. He put his foe against the fence and snagged a single leg takedown. He locked down top position, dropping strikes as he transitioned his way to the back. Albazi did a fantastic job of hooking the leg to prevent Zhumagulov from getting up. Ultimately, Zhumagulov found a way to his feet and launched urgent bombs until the bell.