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Walking into right hands from former World Series of Fighting champion Justin Gaethje does not lend itself to successful outcomes. Exhibit A: Donald Cerrone.
Gaethje disposed of his longtime friend with a chopping counter right hand and follow-up punches in the UFC Fight Night 158 headliner on Saturday at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia. Cerrone (36-13, 23-10 UFC) succumbed to blows 4:18 into Round 1, perhaps stepping aside for the next No. 1 contender in the Ultimate Fighting Championship lightweight division.
The 30-year-old Gaethje (21-2, 4-2 UFC) met straight punches and front kicks to the body from “Cowboy” with heavy uppercuts and hooks, as the two men fought to a virtual standstill four roughly four minutes. Late in the first round, he caught Cerrone coming forward with his hands low and connected with a devastating right hand to the side of the head. Gaethje engaged his loopy counterpart at close range, cut loose with right uppercuts and dropped him to his knees with another right hook. A few more punches on the kneeling Cerrone forced referee Jerin Valel’s hand and gave “The Highlight” his third consecutive first-round finish.
Ageless Teixeira Sinks Krylov
Former Shooto Brazil champion Glover Teixeira pushed his latest winning streak to three fights with a contentious split decision over Nikita Krylov in the three-round light heavyweight co-main event. All three cageside judges struck 29-28 scorecards: Sal D’Amato and Dave Hagen for Teixeira, Michael Bell for Krylov.
A back-and-forth first round saw Teixeira (30-7, 13-5 UFC) secure a high-crotch takedown, advance to the back and flatten out the Ukrainian. Krylov ultimately stood, shook free and assumed top position before climbing to full mount and later sneaking in an attempted rear-naked choke. Teixeira snapped back the onetime Fight Nights Global titleholder’s head with a multi-punch volley at the start of the middle stanza but conceded a takedown and squandered a brief window of momentum by spending much of the round pinned to the canvas.
With the outcome still in doubt, the 39-year-old Teixeira did not take his foot off the gas in the third round. There, he threatened Krylov with a guillotine and an armbar, scored with clinch elbows while defending a takedown and executed a sweep into top position in the waning seconds.
Duffee-Hughes Ends in No-Contest
A featured heavyweight tilt pairing Todd Duffee with Jeff Hughes ended in a no-contest after an inadvertent eye poke in the final minute of the first round. In his first appearance since July 2015, Duffee informed the cageside physician that he was seeing double and could not continue, necessitating the stoppage 4:03 into Round 1.
The encounter was filled with wild exchanges in which both men were shaken by power punches. Duffee (9-3, 3-2 UFC) floored the former Legacy Fighting Alliance titleholder with a thudding right hand, blitzed for a potential finish and wound up with his back to the cage. From there, Hughes (10-2, 0-1 UFC) attempted to create some distance and accidentally thumbed his clearly fatigued opponent in the left eye.
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Replacement Connelly Upsets Pereira
Former CageSport MMA champion Tristan Connelly made quite the splash in his first UFC appearance, as he took a unanimous decision from the heavily favored Michel Pereira in a three-round welterweight attraction. A short-notice substitution for Sergey Khadozhko, Connelly (14-6, 1-0 UFC) swept the scorecards with 29-28, 29-27 and 29-27 marks from the judges.
Pereira (23-10, 1-1 UFC), who missed weight for the fight, wowed the crowd with his acrobatic antics -- he attempted a rolling axe kick, performed two backflips and tried a Showtime Superman punch in the first round -- but they came at a price. By the time he reached the middle stanza, the Brazilian’s pace had slowed to a crawl and his breathing had become labored. To his credit, he secured a takedown, maintained top position and neutralized his opponent, affording him what amounted to a five-minute respite. Still, the arrow remained on empty. Connelly did his best work in the third round, where he nearly finished it with a guillotine choke, forced a frenetic scramble that further depleted “Demolidor” and stuffed a subsequent takedown. He then moved into top position, settled in half guard and battered Pereira with steady ground-and-pound.
Connelly, 33, will carry a five-fight winning streak into his next assignment.
Hall Outstrikes, Holds Off Carlos Jr.
Two-time Ring of Combat champion Uriah Hall won for the third time in four fights, as he eked out a split decision over “The Ultimate Fighter Brazil” Season 3 winner Antonio Carlos Jr. in a three-round middleweight showcase. All three judges scored it 29-28: Michael Bell and Derek Cleary for Hall, Sal D’Amato for Carlos Jr.
Now operating out of the Fortis MMA camp, Hall (15-9, 8-7 UFC) exploited his considerable speed and skill advantages on the feet. The 35-year-old bloodied Carlos Jr.’s nose with a punishing jab, staggered him with a right hand in the first round and floored him with a clean two-punch combination in the second. However, Hall was not allowed to cruise to the finish line. Carlos Jr. (10-4, 7-4 UFC) dragged him to the canvas in the third round and consolidated back mount with a tight body triangle. From there, he hunted rear-naked chokes and cranks, though Hall was wise to his advances and managed to steer clear of danger.
Carlos Jr. has suffered back-to-back defeats for the first time in his career.
Cirkunov Necktie Submits Crute
Xtreme Couture’s Misha Cirkunov submitted former Hex Fight Series champion Jim Crute with a Peruvian necktie in the first round of their featured heavyweight clash. Crute (10-1, 2-1 UFC) conceded defeat 3:38 into Round 1, the promising Aussie beaten for the first time in his 11-fight career.
Cirkunov (15-5, 6-3 UFC) was the aggressor from the start, landed a takedown inside the first 30 seconds, applied his ground-and-pound from the crucifix position and eventually achieved full mount. However, Crute scrambled on top after dodging an armbar and appeared to be on the verge of a hammerfist-induced finish before being swept. Cirkunov caught the choke on the transition, rolled to a mounted position and elicited the tapout.
The 32-year-old Cirkunov has won twice in his last three appearances.
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