UFC 266 is chugging right along, and the preliminary portion just closed out with one of the craziest comebacks you will ever see! The UFC’s #11 ranked bantamweight, Merab Dvalishvili, was dropped and badly hurt by the #6 ranked, Marlon Moraes, early in the opening round, before turning the tide and puling off a stunning TKO. It was the patented takedown that allowed Merab to get on top to recover and deliver a ton of punishment on someone in Marlon who just emptied his gas tank going for the finish. Somehow Moraes made it out of the first, just to take more ground strikes en route to being stopped in the second. Is that title contention calling Dvalishvili’s name?
Before that, the UFC’s #8 ranked lightweight, Dan Hooker, was in full form en route to a unanimous decision victory over Nasrat Haqparast. His nasty knees did work in the clinch, and then he also hit some slick level changes to put Haqparast on his back. Hooker earned himself two 30-27’s, and then one scored of 30-26. This was an excellent way to bounce back from consecutive losses to the division’s elites, and to keep his spot in the rankings. In his post-fight interview, Dan called for a fight with the #3 ranked, Beneil Dariush.
Also on the prelims, the promotion’s #10 ranked heavyweight, Chris Daukaus, used his striking to score a second-round TKO on the #7 ranked, Shamil Abdurakhimov. Daukaus dropped Shamil with his left hand in the opening round, and then again with the right hand in the second round to set up the finishing sequence. The end came when an unanswered barrage of ground strikes was halted by the referee. Chris has produced a knockout finish in all-four of his UFC appearances, and expressed that he’d like some smoke with Stipe Miocic, the winner of Curtis Blaydes and Jairzinho Rozenstruik, or the victor of Alexander Volkov vs. Marcin Tybura.
Opening up the UFC 266 prelims, the promotion’s #12 ranked women’s flyweight, Taila Santos, earned a solid unanimous decision over the #9 ranked, Roxanne Modafferi. Not only did Santos score a knockdown with her hands, she was also dominant on the ground against a highly dangerous grappler in Roxy. This makes three wins in a row for Taila, who should break the top-10 come next week.
**See complete results below
Merab Dvalishvili def. Marlon Moraes by TKO at 4:25 of round 2: Bantamweight
Moraes was attacking with calf kicks early in the fight, but Dvalishvili used one of them as his opportunity to hit a takedown. Moraes was actually quick to get back to his feet, and even returned to open space. Marlon clipped his opponent with a left hook over and over and over again... dropping Dvalishvili but somehow not putting him away. Dvalishvili then grabbed ahold of Moraes and put him on his back. Not only did he recover, but he was throwing a ton of strikes to boot. Several punches landed flush, seeming to daze Moraes, but somehow he survived and made it out of the round. WHAT A ROUND!
Dvalishvili rocked Moraes right away to start the second act, and then took him right to the ground. From there, he kept blasting Marlon with all sorts of ground strikes. Not much was being offered up from Marlon and he was doing a lot of face blocking. Just as he allowed Merab a chance to work to improve himself, the ref awarded Moraes the same opportunity. When the referee did warn Marlon, he went for a takedown of his own, but Dvalishvili countered and pinched away until the referee stepped in.
Dan Hooker def. Nasrat Haqparast by unanimous decision (30-27 x2, 30-26): Lightweight
Hooker took the center right away, leaving Haqparast playing the outside. Haqparast was connecting with leaping hooks that snuck around the guard of Hooker. He did this a couple of times, too The strikes from Dan were really calculated, with low output, but he was commanding the cage. Hooker then shot in on a single and went to the clinch, and then he was able to land a knee to the head before Nasrat escaped.
Hooker pressed his way into the clinch to begin the second stanza. He worked for a takedown while also attacking with knees to the midsection. Then a big knee the face knocked out the mouthpiece of Haqparast, which was put back in only once Nasrat freed himself from the bad position. The knees kept coming from Dan, both to the he'd and body. He was really turning it on and Haqparast seemed to be wilting. Hooker then hit a lifting takedown with about a minute to go in the round.
Haqparast started the final round with some urgency, launching heaters at Hooker, but an accidental cup kick brought a momentary pause to the action. Upon the restart, Hooker started to launch his range weapons, while Haqparast kept pressing forward winging his haymakers. Hooker hit a nasty level change to put Nasrat on his back, and rode him for a bit before Haqparast was able to get back up. Even then, Dan went right back to a duck under takedown to finish up the round punching away from the top.
Chris Daukaus def. Shamil Abdurakhimov by TKO at 1:23 of round 2: Heavyweight
Daukaus was working his boxing early, launching hooks and uppercuts at an advancing opponent. Abdurakhimov took control of the center of the cage and started to let his own hands go. He was sneaking through the guard of Daukaus, but then Chris started pressuring Abdurakhimov. He even landed a leg kick that briefly knocked Shamil to the canvas. Then Daukaus scored a big knockdown towards the end of the round off the strength of a huge left hook. The round ended with Daukaus in full mount dropping some mean ground and pound.
The second round saw Chris flip the bird to Shamil to get things going. Daukaus stayed pressuring his opponent and dropped Abdurakhimov again with a right hand. He took top position and dropped all sorts of punishment until the referee had seen enough. Wow!
Taila Santos def. Roxanne Modafferi by unanimous decision (30-27 x3): (W) Flyweight
Santos was letting her hands go right away here, and then hit a bodylock takedown to get on top. From her back, Modafferi methodically worked for an armbar, but Santos stayed wise to it and remained safe. Roxy stood back to her feet, and put Santos’ back on the fence. Santos ended up hitting another takedown, but again Modafferi stood back to her feet. Just before the bell, Santos scored a bunch of knees to the body from the Thai clinch.
Modafferi immediately closed the distance in the second act, pressing her opponent up against the fence. Santos went back to the Thai clinch, which caused Roxy to disengage. That’s when Santos unleashed a flurry of punches that cut open Modafferi at the hairline. She then hit another takedown, and once Modafferi stood up, she hit another one. The round ended with Modafferi on the bottom
Modafferi bit down on her mouthpiece and shed out a flurry in the pocket, with Santos willing to engage. They broke apart, and when they they went back in for another exchange, Taila dropped Modafferi with an uppercut at the end of a wild combo. Santos followed Roxy to the floor, and that’s where the fight stayed until time ticked to zero.