The UFC 259 prelims just concluded with former bantamweight champion, Dominick Cruz, taking a split decision over a quite game Casey Kenney. Both men came to bang, but it was the Cruz utilizing his patented footwork and clever angles to avoid the big strikes while returning fire. This is Cruz’s first win since June of 2016, and used his post-fight interview to call for a charity fight with Hans Molenkamp of Monster Energy. Who saw that coming, not the win but the call out?
Before that, Kyler Phillips picked up a hard-fought decision over the promotion’s #14 ranked bantamweight, Yadong Song. Phillips got ahead early by using active footwork and striking from crafty angles. Song went for it down the stretch, but the defense of Phillips held out. This makes three-straight wins for Kyler in the UFC.
In the biggest win of his career, the UFC’s undefeated #3 ranked flyweight, Askar Askarov, dominated longtime contender Joseph Benavidez on the feet and on the mat to earn a unanimous decision. Askarov was landing mean kicks to the body, harder punches, and then had his way with Benavidez in the grappling department. Although he missed weight for this match, Askarov moves to 14-0-1 (3-0-1 UFC), which should have him knocking on the deal to a title shot.
Opening up the prelims, Kai Kara-France and Rogerio Bontorin came in being tied for #8 at 125-pounds, but KKF was the one that pulled out the first-round walk-off finish. Bontorin was owning the grappling exchanges and came pretty close on a few RNC attempts, but KKF managed to scramble up and land some heaters to get the finish with just five-seconds to go in the first. In his post-fight interview, Kai called out everyone at the top of the flyweight division.
**See complete results below
Dominick Cruz def. Casey Kenney by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 28-29): Bantamweight
Cruz shot in right away, but Kenney was ready for it and sprawled hard. Kenney connected with a hard spinning back kick to the mid section, and Cruz responded with a kick to the head. Cruz was using his patented footwork to avoid what was coming his way, and threw his strikes from some funky angles. Both men were attacking the calf by the end of the round.
Cruz landed a couple of punches before attempting a shot, to which Kenney defended well against. Cruz was landing the punches and Kenney was scoring with leg kicks. Cruz was still doing a solid job of moving and cutting angles to make his adversary miss with punches, despite the low kicks of Kenney getting through.
After scoring with a couple of punches, Cruz shot in and found himself fighting off a guillotine attempt. The former champ worked out of harms way, but was unable to keep top position. back on the feet, both men went for it. Both were throwing and both were landing. Cruz got back to making Kenney miss, and then blasted a takedown with just over 30-seconds to go. Like a true veteran, Cruz ended the round on top.
Kyler Phillips def. Yadong Song by unanimous decision (29-28x 3): Bantamweight
Phillips started tagging Yadong early in the opening round, landing a head kick and some spinning attacks. Song ate them all well and remained composed, but Phillips was the one landing more. Song responded with a flying knee and a couple of hard hooks, then stood right back up after being taken down. He also clipped Phillips with an uppercut that got his attention just before the bell.
Yadong came out more aggressive in the second round. He was throwing head kicks and punching in three’s and four’s. Phillips would not be out-done and returned fore with kicks of his own. He was flowing with his footwork, making Song miss. Then, Phillips changed levels and put his foe on the floor, even if it was just for a bit.
Song pressed forward in the final act, trying top push the action and find a finish. Phillips stayed with his footwork and remained elusive. Yadong was throwing and landing, with the focus from Phillips seeming to be on staying defensively sound. With about 90-seconds to go, Phillips blasted a takedown, but Song spun around on top.
Askar Askarov def. Joseph Benavidez by unanimous decision (30-27 x2, 30-26): Flyweight
The flyweights were content to strike it out to get the opening act going. Benavidez was throwing a lot of up kicks with Askarov attacking the body with kicks of his own. Askarov began connecting with some big punches, forcing Benavidez to backpedal. Then, Askarov shifted gears and started to out-grapple his opponent.
Benavidez blitzed his foe with a flurry of punches, but got clipped with a hard counter that sent him stumbling. Askarov then closed the distance and took Benavidez for a ride. Benavidez would stand up but was stuck in a rinse and repeat cycle. Askarov was just a step ahead the entire time, and even landed a thudding punch on the feet just before the bell.
The doctor checked on Benavidez before the start of the final round and allowed the fighter to continue. Benavidez was looking for head kicks and other fight-ending strikes, but Askarov was seeing them coming and defended well.
**It should be noted that Kara-France missed weight for this match by one-pound
Kai Kara-France def. Rogerio Bontorin by TKO at 4:55 of round 1: Flyweight
Bontorin went right at KKF, and was able to take the back early in the first-round. He threatened with a couple of RNC attempts as he maintained control. KKF managed to stand to his feet, but Bontorin stayed on his back. Bontorin attacked again with a RNC, but KKF somehow managed to survive and scramble up to his feet. Then, KKF unleashed some heat, cracking Bontorin with some heavy hands. Bontorin went down and KKF elected to stop his own fight and walked away. The ref then stepped in and called it off just before KKF landed an unnecessary blow.