Unbeaten former Ultimate Fighter winner Tatiana Suarez continued her tear through the strawweight division in UFC 228 prelim action at Dallas’ American Airlines Center, as she stopped former world champion Carla Esparza in the third round.
Suarez wasted no time getting a takedown in the first 30 seconds, and she proceeded to deliver a series of punishing strikes, marking up Esparza’s face and keeping her grounded until the closing moments of the opening round.
Esparza got grounded seconds into round two as well, and while she got up, the former Olympic hopeful put her back on the mat moments later. Refusing to give in, Esparza scrambled her way back to her feet with a little over a minute left, but Suarez’ relentless pressure resulted in another takedown.
The third round was more of the same for Suarez, who dominated the action until a late charge of unanswered strikes forced referee Kerry Hatley to stop the one-sided fight at 4:33 of the final frame.
With the win, the No. 9-ranked Suarez moves to 8-0. The No. 6-ranked Esparza falls to 14-6.
STERLING vs STAMANN
New York’s Aljamain Sterling ended his grudge match with fellow bantamweight contender Cody Stamann with style, submitting his foe in the second round.
The first round was nip and tuck throughout, with both fighters having their moments, but Sterling clearly had more weapons at his disposal on the feet and the mat, and by the end of the round, Sterling had to be feeling good about the way things were going.
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In the second, Sterling pulled away, and when he got the back mount on Michigan’s Stamann, it was just a matter of time before the “Funk Master” closed the show, and at 3:42 he did just that, locking in a “Suloev Stretch” kneebar that forced Stamann to tap out.
The No. 8-ranked Sterling moves to 16-3 with the win. The No. 10-ranked Stamann falls to 17-2.
NEAL vs CAMACHO
Geoff Neal was impressive in his first UFC win, but he took things to another level the second time around, halting Frank Camacho in the second round of their welterweight matchup.
Neal’s speed and accuracy were on point in the first round, and Camacho was having a tough time getting out of the way of the Texan’s straight punches. Just before the end of the frame, the bloodied Camacho was dropped with a left hand and was in deep trouble, but he was able to make it out of the round.
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Camacho looked for a takedown to start round two, but Neal shook it off and went back on the offensive. And while Camacho swung back with abandon, Neal was simply picking him apart, with a left kick to the head ultimately putting Camacho down and out at 1:23.
Neal moves to 10-2 with the win. Camacho falls to 21-7.
STEWART vs BYRD
After going winless in his first four UFC bouts, British middleweight Darren Stewart has now won two in a row, the latest being a come from behind knockout victory over Dallas’ Charles Byrd.
Despite submissions in his last three wins, Byrd showed off why he is nicknamed “Kid Dynamite” in the opening round, as his striking game was on target against the increasingly tentative Stewart.
Things didn’t improve for Stewart early in round two, as Byrd rocked him with a right hand in the second minute. But just as soon as Stewart shook off the effects of the blow, he returned the favor and hurt Byrd. With momentum swinging back in his favor, the Brit refused to let his window of opportunity close, and a right elbow dropped Byrd to the mat and brought in referee Jacob Montalvo to halt the bout at 2:17 of the second stanza.
With the win, London’s Stewart moves to 9-3 with 1 NC. Byrd falls to 10-5.
SANCHEZ vs WHITE
Welterweight veteran Diego Sanchez delivered a vintage performance against England’s Craig White, as he pounded out a three-round unanimous decision victory.
Sanchez went after White as the bout began, and while White looked for a guillotine choke, Sanchez slammed his foe and settled into the top position. With under two minutes left, Sanchez landed several hard blows and then moved into side control, where he continued to fire off shots at his grounded foe, wrapping up an impressive first round.
White stuffed Sanchez’ first takedown attempt of round two, but after White landed a hard knee to the head, the “Nightmare” dropped the Brit to the mat again and kept him there for the rest of the frame.
Sanchez got rocked early in the final round, but after another takedown, the Albuquerque native regained control once more and when the final horn sounded, it was no surprise that three scores of 30-27 were delivered in favor of Sanchez, who improves to 30-11 with the win. Exmouth’s White falls to 14-9.
MILLER vs WHITE
On the night Jim Miller became the fighter with the most bouts in UFC history with 30, the lightweight veteran turned back the clock and snapped a four-fight losing streak, submitting Alex White in the first round.
On target from the start, Miller stunned and dropped White with a left hand in the second minute, and from there, the New Jersey native swarmed his opponent, sinking in a rear naked choke that prompted a tap out at 1:29 of the opening frame.
With the victory, Miller moves to 29-12 with 1 NC and also holds the record for most wins in UFC lightweight history with 17. White falls to 12-5.
ALDANA vs PUDILOVA
For 15 minutes, bantamweight contenders Irene Aldana and Lucie Pudilova went to war, never letting up in an action-packed striking showdown ultimately won by Guadalajara’s Aldana via split decision.
Scores were 29-28 twice and 28-29 for the No. 12-ranked Aldana, now 9-4. The No. 13-ranked Pudilova falls to 8-3.
Perpetual motion from the start, the 135-pound standouts traded throughout the fight, with the Czech Republic’s Pudilova surging to an early lead thanks to a stiff jab and some well-placed kicks. Slowly but surely, Aldana evened the score with hard right hand counters and leg kicks, with the punches upstairs bloodying her foe. The pace didn’t let up in the final round, much to the delight of the crowd, which gave both battlers a well-deserved ovation as the bout concluded.
BROOKS vs SANCHEZ
Short notice was no issue for Detroit’s Jarred Brooks, who jumped in for the injured Ryan Benoit and won a hard-fought three-round split decision over Houston’s Roberto Sanchez in the flyweight opener.
Scores were 29-28 twice and 28-29 for Brooks, who improves to 14-2. Sanchez falls to 8-2.
Battling primarily on the mat and in the clinch against the fence, Brooks and Sanchez both had their moments, but it was Brooks who got stronger as the fight went on, and as he put on his hard hat and got to work, it was clear that he did enough to win, despite the split verdict.
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