The UFC Vegas 44 prelims are in the books and saw some scrappy decisions and some pretty darn cool finishes — including a possible Submission of the Year candidate. Closing out this portion of the show, Dusko Todorovic got himself back into the win column with a first-round TKO of Maki Pitolo. It took just one takedown for Todorovic to make his way to the back and unload some devastating ground and pound to get the stoppage. This breaks up back to back losses for Dusko, who just reminded everyone of how truly dangerous he is from top position.
Before that, Manel Kape pulled off what resembled a Mortal Kombat 3 Brutality finishing sequence on Zhalgas Zhumagulov in the opening round. After Zhumagulov got off to a strong start, Kape found his timing and began landing his right hand. He dropped Zhumagulov with a 1-2, and then once Zhalgas stood to his feet, Kape served up one of the fastest series of punches that you’ll ever see in an MMA match. Miguel has now posted up back to back first-round highlight reel finishes.
Bryan Barberena pulled a classic Bryan Barberena and took another ‘0’ from an undefeated fighter Darian Weeks. Barberena made it ugly, pushed the pace, and refused to fight on the floor for very long. Bryan is still the prospect eater. Cheyanne Vlismas let her strikes go against Mallory Martin to pick up a unanimous decision and her second UFC victory. Vlismas fought off of her back foot for a lot of the fight, meeting the advancing Martin with a variety of punches and a couple of kicks. She kept the same energy from bell to bell, and really seems to be a bit of a problem on the feet.
William Knight took a unanimous decision tonight over Alonzo Menifield in what was an explosive yet exhausting affair. Knight scored a knockdown in the first, with Menifield having a much more composed second. The third was basically Menifield leaning on Knight against the cage, until William exploded free and flurried in the closing seconds. How did you score this one?
We got an insane kneebar on the prelims courtesy of Claudio Puelles and Chris Gruetzemacher’s willingness to fight on the ground. It was a gritty fight that came to an end in the third when Puelles rolled for a kneebar, and was also able to trap one of the hands of Gruetzemacher inside it, too. NASTY! NASTY! NASTY! This is Puelles’ SECOND kneebar in the UFC, which is why I have to credit Gritz’s low Figh-Q along with Claudio’s submission prowess. This makes four in a row for the 25-year-old Puelles, and this sub should really be considered for SOTY.
UFC Vegas 44 started with a bang when Vince Morales scored a sensational first-round knockout of longtime UFC veteran Louis Smolka. It was a right hand on the exit of a Thai clinch that put Smolka down, and then a few ground strikes made it official. In his post-fight interview, Vince asked for a match with Nathaniel Wood on the upcoming England card.
**See complete results below
Dusko Todorovic def. Maki Pitolo by TKO at 4:34 of round 1: Middleweight
Punches were flying early and often in this one. Pitolo went after Todorovic with heavy punches, and Dusko was willing g to engage him. Todorovic ended up shooting in, and after fighting off a guillotine attempt, he was able to dish out some punishment from the top. Todorovic worked his way into full mount, and then took the back. That’s where the ground and pound quickly put Pitolo in all sorts of trouble, causing the referee to mercifully step in.
Manel Kape def. Zhalgas Zhumagulov by TKO at 4:02 of round 1: Flyweight
Things heated up quickly here. Kape exploded after his foe with flying knee, but Zhumagulov came to throw. He tagged Kape early with a blistering right hand, and kept trying to set up the same punch. Zhumagulov was also mixing in cracking leg kicks. As the round grew long, Kape was started to find a home for his right hand. Then a lightening quick jab to right hand ended up dropping Zhumagulov for a moment. Kape went in for the kill, stepping on the gas with a fast and accurate barrage of punches that caused Zhumagulov to wilt.
Bryan Barberena def. Darian Weeks by unanimous decision (29-28 x3): Welterweight
Some feeling out took place to get this one going. Weeks earned a short-lived takedown, but it really didn’t accomplish anything of value. Back in open space, Barberena started to attack the leg of Weeks. Barberena kept going to well as Weeks didn’t seem to have an answer for them. Weeks tried to wrestle again, but Barberena wasn’t having it.
Weeks wasted no time in going to the takedown in the second stanza. Barberena quickly threatened with an armbar, and although he didn’t get it, he was able to use the situation to stand up. Barberena was landing the better strikes, and Weeks was unable to maintain his takedowns for any real amount of time.
The third round was a big ol’ brawl. The fighters just stood in front of one another trading punches. Both were throwing, and both were landing. Barberena was mixing things up by going to the body. At the end of the round, Weeks hit a sweet takedown, but Barberena scrambled up and rocked Darian with just seconds on the clock.
Cheyanne Vlismas def. Mallory Martin by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28 x2): Strawweight
Martin took the center right away, looking sharp with her hands and taking the lead. Vlismas settled in and fought off of her back foot with stinging counter combinations of her own. Martin was doing a great job of setting up her right hand with half-beats with her left hand. It was a pretty competitive round.
Martin took the center again in the second round and was pressing forward, but Vlismas was meeting her with various counters. She was struggling to get her own offense off because by the time she was in range, she was eating something that disrupted her timing. Martin did finally crash in and press Vlismas against the cage. From there she landed several knees to the body. Back in open space, Vlismas went right back to launching her punches and kicks, connecting and still looking sharp.
Vlismas continued to have the same pep in her step in the final act. Martin clearly did not want to be in open space any longer, and found a way into the clinch. She went back to neutralizing Vlismas against the cage, and landed a few chipping knees to the body. The fight returned to open space and Vlismas let her hands go down the stretch, vocalizing her desire to bang.
William Knight def. Alonzo Menifield by unanimous decision (29-28 x3): Light Heavyweight
Knight shot in right away for a takedown, but was instantly reversed by Menifield. After a little bit of time, Knight exploded out and scrambled to the back. Then Menifield exploded on top, which prompted Knight to explode to his feet. Menifield pressed William against the fence, leaning on him and trying to stay out of a guillotine. In open space, Menifield rushed in and got clipped with a left hook that dropped him. Knight went after him trying to capitalize on the situation with ground and pound, but Alonzo held on until the bell.
After that explosive opening round, the output from both guys was low in the second, with few grappling advancing from either man. Knight was pawing with his jab, while Menifield was looking to land one big right cross. Menifield was the more composed fighter out there, with Knight reacting to just about everything Alonzo was doing. It was a much better round for Menifield, but it did with a violent burst from Knight.
The final frame saw a lot of Menifield pressing Knight against the cage for a long time. He was working for a takedown with a steady pace, but wasn’t really close to ever achieving one. With less than a minute left, Knight escaped with a flying knee that missed. He had little time to work from open space, and appeared to be unable to land a major blow to swing the round in his favor.
Claudio Puelles def. Chris Gruetzemacher by submission (Kneebar) at 3:25 of round 3: Lightweight
Gruetzemacher gave up a takedown within the first-minute of the fight, and from there Puelles stayed on him. Puelles surfed atop of Gruetzemacher, dropping strikes along the way. Gruetzemacher did not make it back to his feet. Gruetzemacher stuffed the initial takedown attempt in the second round, and took top position. Puelles attacked with a triangle that wasn’t that close, and Gruetzemacher took his time escaping it. Back on the feet, they exchanged kicks at range before clinching up. That’s where Puelles landed some meaningful elbows towards the end of the round.
Gruetzemacher kicked Puelles in the pills within the first 30-seconds of the third round. After a brief pause, Gruetzemacher unleashed some elbows of his own from the clinch and began applying pressure. Puelles shot in for the takedown, but Gruetzemacher sprawled and hit a gorgeous acrobatic spin to maintain top control. The fight went back to the clinch against the fence, with Puelles grinding with foot stomps. Gruetzemacher hit a trip and took top position, but Puelles quickly attacked with a leg lock. Gruetzemacher freed himself and took a wrestlers ride, but Puelles for a kneebar again AND HE GOT IT!
Vince Morales def. Louis Smolka by KO at 2:02 of round 1: Bantamweight
Morales was popping Smolka with his jab early, and was putting money in the bank with body shots. Smolka responded with forward pressure, trying to push the pace and keep Morales moving backwards. Then, as Smolka landed a knee to the body from the Thai clinch, Morales uncorked an explosive right over the top that knocked Louis to the ground in daze. Morales pounced with a couple of strikes and that was that.