The UFC Vegas 37 preliminary card just wrapped up with a couple of TKO’s, a few decisions, and even an armbar to get things going. Closing out this portion of the event, Tafon Nchukwi returned to the light heavyweight division to earn a unanimous nod over Mike Rodriguez. Nchukwi was the aggressor the whole time. He was either launching big bombs in the pocket, or looking to maul from the clinch. Tafon at 205-pounds has a much better gas tank he seemed to have at middleweight, so perhaps this will be a permanent home for “Da Don.”
Before that, we got a war in the UFC’s women’s bantamweight division when Raquel Pennington earned a unanimous decision over the #12 ranked, Pannie Kianzad. This was a grueling war of attrition, with the fighters battling it out in the clinch for most of the fight. The former title challenger in Pennington has just won back to back fights for the first time since 2016.
At only 21-years-old, lightweight prospect Zhu Rong stopped Brandon Jenkins with ground strikes late in the third round. The exchanges were rather fun on the feet, but once the fight hit the floor, Rong really showcased his dominance. Be sure to keep an eye on this guy.
Montel Jackson dropped JP Buys four-times en route to a unanimous decision victory. Buys was game and threatened with various submission attempts, but Jackson’s defense was too good and he was able to maintain dominant positions. With this win, Jackson improves his UFC record to 5-2.
In the women’s flyweight division, Erin Blanchfield made good on her UFC debut by running away with the scorecards on Sarah Alpar. Blanchfield owned the standup, controlled on the floor, and landed all of the punches along the way. It was definitely a strong showing for the 22-year-old up and comer.
In the 170-pounds division, Carlston Harris took out Impa Kasanganay with a brutal barrage of punches in the first round. Harris was willing to bite down and let his hands go, and boy did it work out for him. Kasanganay hit the deck and Harris finished him off with a nasty onslaught of ground strikes. This makes five-straight finishes for Harris, who seems to be quite the violent addition to the UFC’s welterweight division.
We got a draw on the preliminary card after Alatengheili lost a point in the third round for repeatedly grabbing the cage to avoid a takedown from Gustavo Lopez. Alatengheili seemed to take the first-two frames, but Lopez came alive in the third to fight his way to a draw. Opening up the show, Hannah Goldy pulled off a first-round armbar on Emily Whitmire. It was actually Emily who wanted to fight on the ground, but Hannah was ready to fight off of her back. This is Goldy’s first official UFC win.
**See complete results below
Tafon Nchukwi def. Mike Rodriguez by unanimous decision (30-27 x3): Light Heavyweight
Nchukwi closed the distance to get things going, pressing Rodriguez against the fence and looking to maul him. With his back to the cage, Rodriguez delivered a couple of hard elbows on the inside. Nchukwi responded with some knees to the body, but Nchukwi didn‘t appear to enjoy being on the inside. After a reset, Nchukwi closed the distance again, but this time threw Mike to the floor. Rodriguez worked to his feet, but ate some elbows in the clinch.
The second round spent much more time in open space. Nchukwi would blitzed forward with a series of punches, and then it was Mike’s turn. Then, Nchukwi used a blitz to close the distance, but the fight didn’t stay on the inside for very long. Tafon was going to the body with his combinations, which really opened up the head. Nchukwi even landed a spinning elbow. Nchukwi took the center to open the final round. He was landing big punches, over and over, but somehow Rodriguez kept standing. The rest of the round looked like the previous-two.
Raquel Pennington def. Pannie Kianzad by unanimous decision (29-28 x3): (W) Bantamweight
Pennington clinched up right away and pressed Kianzad against the cage. The fighters jockeyed for position, taking turns pressing the other against the cage. The big difference was that Kianzad was delivering stinging knees to the body, whenever she was able to create enough space to let one go. Both fighters seemed to want to fight in the clinch, as neither decided to disengage when the chances manifested.
Pennington opened up the second act with a superman punch, and then by moving straight into the clinch. Rocky started to let her hands go, and then Kianzad responded by throwing her own leather. Back into the clinch they went, with Pennington pressing her opponent against the cage. Pannie would punch her way out, but couldn’t keep Pennington from pushing her back into the cage. Rocky pulled off a single leg takedown, and after fighting of a triangle attempt, she was able to take the back. Pannie eventually worked back to her feet, but it was a better round for Rocky.
It didn’t take very long for Rocky to enter the clinch in the final frame, but Kianzad reversed her. Pannie delivered some nice knees to the body, but Pennington broke free and started to unload some leather. She clocked Pannie with a couple of crosses, and then started to dish out a bunch of dirty boxing. Kianzad kept throwing back, but Rocky was being just a bit more aggressive and was landing the better strikes.
Zhu Rong def. Brandon Jenkins by TKO at 4:35 of round 3: Lightweight
The fighters came out exchanging crafty combinations back and forth. Jenkins was being a little more flashy, mixing in an ax kick for style points. Rong was throwing more fundamental strikes, and slowly but surely he started to land big. He first staggered Jenkins with a big punch, and then dropped Brandon with another beautiful counter. That’s when Rong followed his opponent to the ground and established further dominance.
Rong closed the distance in the second act, forcing Jenkins to wrestle from bad positions. He stayed one step ahead of Jenkins, surfing atop him and maintaining control. It wasn't until there was about 30-seconds to go in the round that Jenkins finally hit a move to get up. From there, Rong landed several hard punches to the face, to the point where the referee asked Brandon to ‘show him something.’ Jenkins responded with a flying knee to show the ref that he was still in it.
The final frame saw Jenkins botch a spinning elbow and slip to the canvas, to which Rong jumped into top position. From there, Zhu out-grappled his adversary. Whenever Jenkins would work to stand up, Rong would just take him right back down. Towards the end of the round, Rong started to land some heavy punches, one calculated blow at a time. The referee had seen enough and stopped the fight before any unnecessary damage was delivered.
Montel Jackson def. JP Buys by unanimous decision (30-27 x3): Bantamweight
Buys hit an early clinch takedown to put Jackson on his back in the middle of the Octagon. Jackson exposed his back and JP took full advantage. Jackson was able to scramble out, and then worked his way to the back of Buys. Another scramble ensued and JP jumped a guillotine. Montel escaped and effectively fought off an armbar attempt with a series of hammerfists. The round ended with Jackson pressing Buys against the cage.
Jackson dropped Buys with a set of left hands to start the seocnd round. Buys recovered and threatened with a couple of standing submission attempts to counter the clinch of Jackson. The fight stalled out for a bit with JP holding a Kimura, and Jackson staying safe. In open space, Jackson knocked Buys over while he was throwing a kick, and then landed on top of his opponent. Buys went back to the Kimura hold as time ticked away.
A laser left hand from Jackson dropped Buys right away in the third round. JP recovered and stood to his feet, and that’s when Jackson accidentally hit him in the cup. After a short pause, the fight got back underway and Jackson dropped Buys with another left hand. JP recovered and essentially pulled guard. He grabbed ahold of the Kimura and that’s where the fighters stayed for the rest of the fight.
Erin Blanchfield def. Sarah Alpar by unanimous decision (30-25 x2, 30-26): (W) Flyweight
Blanchfield was all over Alpar right away. She was peppering Alpar with a variety of punches, backing up her opponent and landing flush. The head movement for Alpar was nonexistent and she was getting wrecked. Then, Blanchfield hit a takedown, just to further run away with the strike count. Blanchfield continued to score on the feet to get the second round going. She the returned to the takedown, landing tons of ground and pound as she controlled her foe. Alpar seemed to have very few answers for... well quite frankly anything. Whatever Blanchfield wanted to do; she did. I will say that the toughness of Alpar is noteworthy. The third round looked exactly the same as the first-two.
Carlston Harris def. Impa Kasanganay by TKO at 2:38 of round 1: Welterweight
Harris looked for a takedown right away, but Kasanganay was hip to it and remained in open space. When the fighters would come together, both were throwing, but it was Harris who was landing the better punches. It was only a matter of time before one of the exchanges ended badly for someone, and that was Kasanganay. Harris connected with a flurry that hurt Impa, and then he surged with another combo to put him down. He did land an illegal hammerfist to the back of the head before unleashing a swarm of ground strikes. That was it.
Gustavo Lopez draws even with Alatengheili by (28-28 x3): Bantamweight
The fighters got right to work, both trying to be the aggressor. It was Lopez who landed the first clean combo to get the attention of Alatengheili. Lopez was really loading up on his shots, looking for the kill shot. Alatengheili was still pressing forward, willing to wade into the fire to land his own boxing combinations.
Alatengheili took the center of the Octagon in the second act, with Lopez launching calf kicks from the outside. Not many strikes were being landed on either side. Lopez then switched gears and started moving forward. He closed the distance and shot in for a takedown, but Alatengheili was able to spring right back up to his feet.
Alatengheili was finding success with his boxing combos in the final frame, until Lopez turned it up. Lopez started to blitz with an endless barrage of punches until the opening for a takedown presented itself. Alatengheili stood to his feet, but then used the cage several times to stop any further takedown advances. This is a foul, so the referee called time out to deduct a point from Alatengheili. Upon the restart, Lopez stuck with his aggression and continued to take it to Alatengheili until the final bell.
Hannah Goldy def. Emily Whitmire by submission (Armbar) at 4:17 of round 1: (W) Flyweight
Whitmire hit an early takedown in the opening round, but was only able to dish out a couple of punches before Goldy stood back up. Goldy struggled to stay on her feet, and she gave up another takedown. This time, Whitmire was able to hold the position for much longer. Just when it seemed as Whitmire was in control, Goldy threw up an armbar and made all of the proper adjustments to get the verbal tap.