Marvin Vettori’s patience pays off; Andre Fili rebounds

LAS VEGAS — After months of frustrating setbacks and cancellations, UFC middleweight Marvin Vettori finally got to fight — and he looked pretty good doing so.

Vettori (15-3-1) submitted Karl Roberson (9-3) via rear-naked choke at 4:17 of the first round Saturday night in the co-main event of Fight Night: Jessica Eye vs. Cynthia Calvillo at the UFC’s Apex facility.

Vettori, of Italy, was originally scheduled to fight Darren Stewart on March 21 in London; however, that event was ultimately canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. Vettori was rebooked to fight Roberson on April 25, and then again on May 13, but both were scrapped. The April 25 date was again postponed because of the coronavirus, and the May 13 date fell apart when Roberson became ill during his weight cut.

The 26-year-old even confronted Roberson in a hotel lobby in Jacksonville, Florida, after Roberson was forced to pull out of the May 13 meeting. Ultimately, it was worth the wait for Vettori, as he arguably delivered his best UFC performance yet.

After a feeling-out process on the feet, Vettori took Roberson down and punished him with ground-and-pound before eventually securing the submission.

All told, Vettori outstruck Roberson 60-to-4, according to UFC Stats. It was his first finish since 2016.

“This was six months of hard work,” Vettori said. “I couldn’t even have a beer since January. I just tried so hard and this was my reward. I was so hyped up before the fight that I wanted to cry, because this is was I love to do. I just wanted to fight. I’m on a mission and wanted to keep going. I showed up and did my job. That’s what it’s all about — being professional.

“I don’t care who I fight, but I need a ranked opponent to keep climbing. I deserve this and I will get it. A lot of people have been dodging me. No one will step over me and I will get in the mix soon.”

Roberson, who fights out of Neptune, New Jersey, saw a two-fight win streak snapped. He is now 5-2 in the UFC.

— Okamoto

Watch this fight on ESPN+.


Women’s flyweight: Cynthia Calvillo (9-1-1, 6-1-1 UFC) defeats Jessica Eye (15-8 1NC, 5-7 1NC UFC) by unanimous decision

Calvillo is a UFC women’s flyweight contender after just one fight in the division.

Calvillo rolled in a unanimous-decision (49-46, 49-46, 48-47) win over Eye in the main event of UFC Fight Night in Las Vegas. Calvillo took Eye down in four out of five rounds and outstruck the bigger Eye on the feet.

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Lightweight: Charles Rosa (13-4, 4-4 UFC) vs. Kevin Aguilar (17-4, 2-3 UFC) by split decision

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Charles Rosa and Kevin Aguilar trade punches at the end of the second round of their bout at UFC Fight Night.

The call came out from Rosa’s corner: “Wonderboy!” Just like that, Rosa bounced into a southpaw stance and landed a hard left hand in the third round.

That was how the back half of the fight went. Rosa was able to land strikes — especially that left hand and left body kick — from the karate-style stance for a split-decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28) win over Aguilar. That stance is notably used by welterweight contender Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson.

Aguilar landed some hard right hands in the first round, including some shots while Rosa was in a single-leg takedown against the cage. Things really heated up toward the end of the second round. Rosa cracked Aguilar with a big left hand, rocking him. Rosa then landed a right hand, but he ended up bleeding from a cut on his forehead, courtesy of a clash of heads. The third round featured Rosa landing more strikes from the karate stance and then switching back to orthodox to land outside leg kicks with his right leg.

“I went in for the kill the whole time,” Rosa said afterward. “He was able to last. … I got the win and that was the mission. So, mission accomplished.”

Rosa, 33, was coming off a unanimous-decision loss to Bryce Mitchell last month in Jacksonville, Florida. The Massachusetts native, who lives and trains in Florida, has alternated wins and losses since his UFC debut in 2014.

Aguilar, a 31-year-old Texan, has dropped three straight since winning his UFC debut in March 2019.

— Raimondi


Men’s featherweight: Andre Fili (21-7, 9-6 UFC) vs. Charles Jourdain (10-3, 1-2 UFC) by split decision

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Andre Fili manages to survive Round 1 after getting knocked down by Charles Jourdain.

It was a nail-biter of a split decision after three hard-fought rounds.

Fili, 29, moved to 9-6 in the UFC — barely. Two judges scored the 145-pound fight 29-28 in his favor, while a third had it 29-28 for Jourdain.

According to UFC Stats, Fili out-landed Jourdain by a thin 79 to 66 margin, although Fili also added five takedowns. The takedowns very well might have secured the win, even though Fili did not generate much offense on the floor.

Jourdain landed the most significant blow of the fight in the opening round, as he dropped Fili with a left hand. Fili managed to bounce back quickly, however. Jourdain appeared to land the harder shots as the fight unfolded, while Fili stayed a little more active and mixed in his wrestling. Fili also targeted Jourdain’s head with the high kick and was more of the aggressor, while Jourdain was comfortable to sit back and counter.

It’s a big win for Fili, who had won four of five until he ran into another surging featherweight in Sodiq Yusuff in January.

Jourdain falls to 1-2 in the UFC.

— Okamoto

Watch this fight on ESPN+.


Men’s bantamweight: Jordan Espinosa (15-7, 2-2 UFC) defeats Mark De La Rosa (11-5, 2-5 UFC) by unanimous decision

In a must-win fight for both men, Espinosa put on a comprehensive performance.

Espinosa stopped all of De La Rosa’s takedown attempts, landed solid shots on the feet and even did damage to De La Rosa on the ground for a unanimous-decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26) victory.

Some of Espinosa’s best offense came in the first round. De La Rosa was working on a single-leg takedown attempt against the cage, but Espinosa landed hard downward elbows to the side of De La Rosa’s head. One of them wobbled De La Rosa, but he survived until the end of the round. Espinosa landed more than 100 strikes in the first round, per UFC Stats.

Espinosa has competed twice on Dana White’s Contender Series at the UFC Apex. He said that eased his nerves once he got into the cage on Saturday for this bantamweight bout.

“I wasn’t nervous at all,” Espinosa said. “I could hear everything. … The Contender Series definitely helped me with that.”

In the third round, Espinosa turned the tables and took De La Rosa down. There, Espinosa landed hard right hands and a knee to the body as De La Rosa began getting up.

Espinosa, 30, had a two-fight losing streak snapped. The 30-year-old New Mexico native notched his first win since his UFC debut in March 2019.

De La Rosa, a 25-year-old Texan, has dropped four in a row.

— Raimondi

Watch this fight on ESPN+.


Women’s flyweight: Mariya Agapova (9-1, 1-0 UFC) defeats Hannah Cifers (10-6, 2-4 UFC) by first-round rear-naked choke

Less than one year ago, Agapova left the Dana White Contender Series empty-handed, thanks to an upset defeat at the hands of Tracy Cortez. My, how things have changed since.

Agapova, 23, delivered a standout performance on Saturday, submitting Cifers via rear-naked choke at the 2:42 mark of the opening round. The 125-pound fight did not last long, but it still offered plenty of evidence as to why the UFC was high on Agapova even after she failed to earn a contract last year.

The American Top Team product put Cifers on the end of her looping left hand, and hurt her multiple times with kicks and knees to the body. Cifers eventually went to the ground on her own, after taking so much damage on the feet, and Agapova seemed more than content to follow her there and finish the job. It marked Agapova’s third consecutive finish.

Cifers has been finished in each of her past three UFC bouts. She suffered a submission loss to Mackenzie Dern just two weeks ago at a UFC Fight Night event.

— Okamoto

Watch this fight on ESPN+.


Catchweight (140 pounds): Merab Dvalishvili (11-4, 4-2) defeats Gustavo Lopez (4-4, 0-1 UFC) by unanimous decision

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Merab Dvalishvili lands a big right hand and then a massive takedown of Gustavo Lopez early in the second round of their bout at UFC Fight Night.

Look out, Khabib Nurmagomedov, there’s another Eastern European takedown artist who has now cemented himself as a UFC stalwart.

Dvalishvili landed a UFC bantamweight-record 13 takedowns en route to a unanimous-decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-25) win over Lopez in the featured preliminary fight of UFC Fight Night: Eye vs. Calvillo. Dvalishvili was absolutely relentless with his pressure and wrestling. Lopez, who accepted the fight just two days ago, somehow lasted until the end, but he was dominated.

The previous bantamweight takedown record was also held by Dvalishvili (12). He and Demetrious Johnson are the only two fighters in modern UFC history with three fights notching 10 or more takedowns. Georges St-Pierre and Colby Covington both have two fights of 10 or more takedowns. All of the aforementioned names besides Dvalishvili have won UFC titles.

Afterward, Dvalishvili called out bantamweight prospect Sean O’Malley.

“Let’s show everyone a real fight,” Dvalishvili said.

Dvalishvili, 29, has won four straight, all by unanimous decision. The 29-year-old Republic of Georgia native, who lives and trains in New York, is a former Ring of Combat bantamweight champion.

Lopez, a 30-year-old Las Vegas resident, had a three-fight winning streak snapped. He is the most recent Combate Americas bantamweight champion and had to be cleared by the promotion to sign with the UFC on Thursday when Ray Borg, Dvalishvili’s original opponent, withdrew due to personal reasons.

— Raimondi

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Women’s bantamweight: Julia Avila (8-1, 1-0 UFC) defeats Gina Mazany (6-4, 1-4 UFC) by first-round TKO

Avila traveled a long road to her second UFC appearance, but the fight itself sure went quickly. Avila scored a TKO finish in just 22 seconds. It was Avila’s first bout since she won her UFC debut last September.

She was scheduled to fight in October, April and May, only to see all those fall through for various reasons. Fighting out of Oklahoma City, Avila has recorded four first-round finishes in her career. The 22-second finish is the fourth fastest in women’s UFC bantamweight history.

Mazany, who fights out of Las Vegas, was cut by the UFC last year after getting off to a 1-3 record in the promotion. She managed to get a second shot in this short-notice bout, only to have it result in the quickest loss of her career.

“I knew I hurt her with that knee up the middle,” Avila said. “I saw my prey and went in for the kill. My right cross is nothing to mess with. When I felt it land, I heard my corner say, ‘Attack.’

“I think the division has known about me. I’m that annoying fly in the background, but now I’m starting to make a couple waves. They’re starting to see what I’m capable of. I still have a lot to show. I have to earn my stripes. I look forward to that journey.”

— Okamoto

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Men’s bantamweight: Tyson Nam (19-11-1, 1-2 UFC) defeats Zarrukh Adashev (3-2, 0-1 UFC) by first-round KO

With his UFC job potentially on the line, Nam blasted Adashev with a one-punch knockout at just 32 seconds of the first round.

Adashev went for a leg kick in the opening seconds and Nam countered with a huge right hand. Adashev was out on impact. Nam was emotional afterward. It was his first UFC victory.

“His only chance was to come in hard from the start,” said Nam, who added he could fight again next week. “I’m gonna fight fire with fire. Even though these guys can hit hard, I feel like I can always hit harder.”

Nam, 36, was on a two-fight losing streak. This was the Hawai’i native’s first win since July 2019, which came under the X-1 World Events banner. Nam has been a pro MMA fighter for 14 years with stops in Bellator, World Series of Fighting and Russia’s Fight Nights Global promotion.

Adashev, 27, was on a three-fight winning streak coming in, all in Bellator. The Uzbekistan native, who lives and trains in New York, missed weight by 1.5 pounds Friday for this bantamweight bout. Adashev was an accomplished pro kickboxer prior to transitioning to MMA, having competed for such promotions as Glory.

— Raimondi

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Welterweight: Christian Aguilera (14-6, 1-0 UFC) defeats Anthony Ivy (8-3, 0-1 UFC) by first-round TKO

Aguilera added another quick knockout to his resume, as he finished Ivy in just 59 seconds with a flurry of right hands. Aguilera, 28, has now recorded six sub-minute knockouts in his career.

Aguilera’s power was evident from the first blow, as it instantly forced Ivy to retreat to the fence and cover up. Ivy was never knocked down by any of the right hands, or knocked out, but his defensive posture prompted referee Dan Miragliotta to wave it off quickly.

It was Aguilera’s first UFC appearance. The California native has fought former UFC talent in David Michaud and Matt Sayles.

It was Ivy’s first loss via knockout.

— Okamoto

Watch this fight on ESPN+.