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UFC Fight Night: Aldo wins physical battle vs. Rob Font, Fiziev scores highlight reel KO of Riddell

LAS VEGAS — In a matchup between two up-and-coming UFC lightweights, Kyrgyzstan’s Rafael Fiziev came out on top. Emphatically.

Fiziev (11-1) knocked out Brad Riddell (10-2) with a spinning back kick to the head at the 2:20 mark of Round 3 in their 155-pound contest. The highly anticipated matchup co-headlined a UFC Fight Night headlined by Rob Font and Jose Aldo on Saturday inside the UFC Apex. (Watch this fight on ESPN+)

Fiziev and Riddell, who fights out of City Kickboxing in New Zealand, actually trained with one another earlier in their careers. Everyone expected a high-level striking battle between them, and that’s exactly what happened. The entire fight was a chess match, with Fiziev largely staying just one step ahead.

“I love him, when I met him I loved him from the first second,” Fiziev said. “He’s a very nice person. I learned from him before and today, also. I hope he comes back.”

Despite the friendly relationship, the finishing shot was vicious. Fiziev caught Riddell with the spinning kick as Riddell circled to his right near the fence. Riddell didn’t fall down from the shot, but his entire body froze and it appeared he made a gesture to wave it off himself. Referee Herb Dean stepped in to stop the fight quickly.

“I waited for this moment,” Fiziev said. “When he goes this way, he drops his hands down and forgets about spinning back kicks.”

According to unofficial UFC Stats, Fiziev landed 66 total strikes to 62 for Riddell, illustrating how competitive the bout was. Both fighters bloodied the other over the left eye. Fiziev’s best work came in his right hand counters and body kicks.

Fiziev has now collected five wins since the start of 2019. That’s the second-most in the division during that time, trailing only current champion Charles Oliveira and. Beneil Dariush. Immediately after, he called out actor Vince Vaughn, who was sitting cageside inside the Apex. He politely declined.


Men’s bantamweight: Jose Aldo (30-8, 13-6 UFC) def. Rob Font (19-5, 9-4 UFC) by unanimous decision | Watch this fight on ESPN+

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Jose Aldo extends his winning streak to three with a unanimous decision win over Rob Font.


Light heavyweight: Jamahal Hill (9-1, 1 NC; 3-1, 1 NC UFC) def. Jimmy Crute (12-3, 4-3 UFC) by first-round KO (punches) | Watch this fight on ESPN+

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Jamahal Hill is going to need to update his highlight reel after this incredible knockout of Jimmy Crute.

Hill’s nickname is “Sweet Dreams,” and he lived up to it — twice — in just 48 seconds of fighting.

The 30-year-old from Grand Rapids, Michigan, dropped Crute with a short right hook in one of the fight’s first exchanges, and after the Australian got back to his feet and came at him again, Hill finished the fight with another short right hook — getting himself back on track after he’d suffered his first career defeat in June.

In less than a minute, Crute was left with a dazed and bloody face, complete with a purple mouse that swelled his left eye closed.

What Hill had after the fight was a chip on his shoulder, as he noted, “Everybody just doubted me for — I don’t know why? What are y’all seeing?”

Crute, a 25-year-old from Australia, has lost two in a row.


Lightweight: Clay Guida (37-18, 17-15 UFC) def. Leonardo Santos (18-6-1, 7-2-1 UFC) by second-round submission | Watch this fight on ESPN+

Santos is an accomplished Brazilian jiu-jitsu player. He’s made the biannual ADCC tournament and gone to the finals of the IBJJF world championships. Santos was once the grappling coach for Jose Aldo, the former UFC featherweight champion.

Yet, all those accolades don’t help too much when an athlete is exhausted. And that is how Guida was able to secure a submission (rear-naked choke) victory at 1:21 of the second round against the top-tier ground artist.

“One word: wrestling, baby,” Guida said in his postfight interview. “It saved my life and it’s the reason I’m in here now.”

Santos hurt Guida with a body kick in the first round and proceeded to throw everything but the kitchen sink at him — tons of punching combinations to the head and body, ground and pound and some knees from the Thai clinch. One even dropped Guida, who was in huge trouble on a number of occasions.

“He had me hurt real, real bad, man,” Guida said.

But Santos got tired throwing all those blows and Guida was able to rally with his wrestling. He picked Santos up and planted him to the mat with a slam, then did some damage from top position at the end of Round 1. Guida went back to his wrestling to start the second round, took Santos’ back and then cinched in the choke for the win.

Guida, 39, picked up his first finish since a TKO over Joe Lauzon in 2017. The Illinois native is already in the UFC Hall of Fame, as his epic 2009 fight with Diego Sanchez was enshrined in 2019. “The Carpenter,” who has been in the UFC for 15 years, has won two of three.


Middleweight: Chris Curtis (28-8, 2-0 UFC) def. Brendan Allen (17-5, 5-2 UFC) by second-round TKO (punches) | Watch this fight on ESPN+

Santos, a 41-year-old Brazil native, has dropped two straight following a 13-fight unbeaten streak from 2010 to 2020.

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Chris Curtis knocks out Brendan Allen as a heavy underdog in only his second UFC fight.

It took the 34-year-old Curtis a long time to get into the UFC. It has taken him almost no time at all to make a name for himself now that he’s here.

The veteran journeyman stunned Allen with a right hand midway through the second round and followed up with knees and punches along the fence to earn a TKO finish at the 1:58 mark. Curtis has now recorded back-to-back knockouts over two of the more promising prospects in the division: Allen and Phil Hawes, whom he defeated last month at UFC 268 in New York.

All of this comes more than 12 years into Curtis’ pro career.

“I’ve been in this for a long time,” Curtis said. “I don’t have a sterling record. I’m a dog. Everybody dismissed me. Brendan did. Phil did too. It’s fine. I don’t need you guys to believe in me. I believe in me.”

Allen, of Louisiana, looked good in the opening round, especially on the feet. He scored one slam takedown early on and quickly took Curtis’ back, but after losing the position, Allen went to work with punches, knees and a few effective standing elbows. Curtis turned the tide in a big way in the second round, however, thanks to a piston right hand.

Fighting out of Las Vegas, Curtis has now won seven in a row and is 6-0 overall in 2021. Allen suffered his first loss in the UFC’s middleweight’s division.


Welterweight: Alex Morono (21-7, 1 NC; 10-4, 1 NC UFC) def. Mickey Gall (7-4, 6-4 UFC) by unanimous decision | Watch this fight on ESPN+

Morono, who has been known to get wild at times, put on a disciplined performance in a standup battle that produced his third straight victory. Judges scored the fight 30-27 across the board, and while it wasn’t spectacular, the 31-year-old fighter from Houston stayed out of trouble and remained in control throughout.

Gall, 29, of Green Brook, New Jersey, has had seven wins in his career, six of which have come by submission. But he was never close to getting this fight to the canvas. While he did land his share of punches, Gall was mostly a step behind, and he lost for the second time in his past three bouts.


Middleweight: Dusko Todorovic (11-2, 2-2 UFC) def. Maki Pitolo (13-9, 1-5 UFC) by first-round TKO (punches) | Watch this fight on ESPN+

Todorovic came out of the gate firing kicks to the legs, body and head, as he and Pitolo exchanged on the feet for the first 90 seconds of the fight. Todorovic shot in for a double leg takedown, but as they went to the ground, Pitolo briefly caught Todorovic in a guillotine choke.

Todorovic punched his way out of Pitolo’s grip and got on top of Pitolo. And while Pitolo was able to counter Todorovic’s strikes for a stretch, forcing Todorovic to advance slowly, eventually Todorovic passed guard and trapped Pitolo’s right arm under his left leg. Todorovic then transitioned into a full guard and took Pitolo’s back — and after a barrage of lefts and rights, referee Mark Smith stepped in and stopped the fight at 4:34 into Round 1.

It was the end of a two-match losing streak for Todorovic, a 27-year-old Serbian fighter. Pitolo, 31, from Hawaii, lost his fourth in a row — a skid during which he has been finished three times.


Men’s flyweight: Manel Kape (17-6, 2-2 UFC) def. Zhalgas Zhumagulov (14-6, 1-3 UFC) by first-round TKO (punches) | Watch this fight on ESPN+

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Manel Kape uses a flurry of punches to finish Zhalgas Zhumagulov in the first round of their bout.

Kape took a few minutes to find his rhythm, but once he did, he used a crisp left-right combination to floor Zhumagulov. And while the 33-year-old fighter from Kazakhstan got right back to his feet, the bout did not last much longer.

Kape, who is 28 and has moved his training from Thailand to Las Vegas, proceeded to trap his opponent against the cage and unleash a barrage of punches until referee Keith Peterson jumped in to wave off the bout at 4:02, giving Kape his second straight win.

Zhumagulov started well but could not build momentum, and he suffered his second loss in his past three fights.


Welterweight: Bryan Barberena (16-8, 7-6 UFC) def. Darian Weeks (5-1, 0-1 UFC) by unanimous decision | Watch this fight on ESPN+

Barberena knew he was going to have to dig deep on this night. After all, he originally was slated to face the rugged Matt Brown. But that fight fell apart, and instead Barberena got a short-notice replacement who came into his UFC debut undefeated.

Weeks, a 28-year-old from Missouri, is unbeaten no more. But he’ll likely see the Octagon again after giving Barberena all he could handle in a slow-paced but rough three rounds, after which Barberena got the 29-28 nod from all three judges.

Weeks got takedowns in all three rounds and landed with power while the fighters were on their feet, but Barberena got stronger as the fight went on, especially with his attack of body punches. The 32-year-old has won two of his last three.


Strawweight: Cheyanne Vlismas (7-2, 2-1 UFC) vs. Mallory Martin (7-5, 1-3 UFC) by unanimous decision | Watch this fight on ESPN+

As you read these words, realize that Vlismas is probably still moving. Does she ever stop? She surely didn’t stand still during the 15 minutes she spent inside the cage with Martin. And the relentless movement was not to disengage; it was to put Vlismas in position to throw strikes with frequency and accuracy.

It all added up to a pair of 29-28 scorecards in her favor, to go with a 30-27. Vlismas has now won two in a row and six of seven.

Vlismas, a 26-year-old who fights out of Las Vegas, had a clear advantage when the bout was contested at boxing range. When Martin closed the distance and tried to take the fight to the canvas, Vlismas was a step ahead there too, fending off five takedown tries.

Martin, 27, of Denver, has lost three of four.


Light heavyweight: William Knight (11-2, 3-1 UFC) def. Alonzo Menifield (11-3, 4-3 UFC) by unanimous decision | Watch this fight on ESPN+

Knight’s coaches might want to invest in a pair of those blocks that cageside officials use to signal there is just 10 seconds left in a round. Because every time Knight heard that sound, he turned up the aggression — and in two of the three rounds, he did damage. That was enough for him to eke out the unanimous decision win over Menifield, as all three judges scored it 29-28 in Knight’s favor.

Knight, 33, of East Hartford, Connecticut, did not do a lot during the first 4½ minutes of the fight, but in the closing seconds of Round 1, he badly hurt Menifield. The Dallas fighter bounced back well in Round 2, before getting caught late. And in the final round, Menifield controlled a seemingly endless clinch against the cage before Knight finally got away, with just enough time for Knight to once again turn up the heat and secure his second straight win.

Menifield, 34, saw a two-fight winning streak come to an end.


Lightweight: Claudio Puelles (12-2, 4-1 UFC) def. Chris Gruetzemacher (15-5, 3-4 UFC) by third-round submission (knee bar) | Watch this fight on ESPN+

Gruetzemacher has the wrestling acumen to dictate where a fight will take place, but he continually played with fire by engaging in a grappling contest against Puelles — and it eventually caught up with Gruetzemacher. Puelles locked in a knee bar with less than two minutes left in the fight then got the tapout at 3:25 of Round 3.

Puelles, a 25-year-old Peruvian fighter who trains at Sanford MMA in South Florida, got the fight to the canvas early and controlled the action. But Gruetzemacher did not shy away from going to the mat again in the second and third rounds. While he escaped trouble a couple of times, Gruetzemacher eventually paid the price.

It was Puelles’ fourth straight win. Gruetzemacher, 35, from Arizona, has dropped two of his past three bouts and four of six.

Men’s bantamweight: Vince Morales (11-5, 3-3 UFC) def. Louis Smolka (17-8, 8-8 UFC) by first-round KO | Watch this fight on ESPN+

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Vince Morales stuns Louis Smolka with an incredible right hand early in their bout.

Morales found himself locked in a clinch midway through the first round in the opening bout of the night on Saturday, and while he was pulling away, that did not ease up his attack. The 31-year-old from Oregon unloaded a right hand from in tight and sent Smolka crashing to the canvas.

The end came at 2:02 of the round, giving Morales his second win in a row.

Smolka, a 30-year-old Hawaiian fighter who trains out of Irvine, California, has lost two of his past three.

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