Gilbert Burns is a multiple-time jiu-jitsu world champion. Stephen "Wonderboy" Thompson is a former kickboxing world champion. Both have evolved into well-rounded mixed martial artists, but in the end, the grappler went back to his roots to impose his will.
Burns, fighting for the first time since being knocked out by UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman in February, put himself in contention for another title shot and nudged Thompson out of line by earning a clear unanimous decision in the UFC 264 co-main event -- also known as the appetizer for Dustin Poirier vs. Conor McGregor 3 -- on Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Burns (20-4) had a key takedown midway through Round 3 to sew up the win after Thompson had hurt him and appeared to be swinging the fight his way. After getting his third takedown of the fight, Burns was unable to get a submission but controlled Thompson on the canvas until the final horn.
All three judges scored the bout 29-28 for the 34-year-old Brazilian, who is No. 4 in ESPN's welterweight rankings.
"That was a special moment, coming back from a loss and beating a guy that a lot of guys couldn't beat," Burns said. "I had a game plan and I was able to execute. It felt good.
"A lot of guys don't want to fight him. Colby [Covington] doesn't want to fight him, Leon Edwards doesn't want to fight him. They offered it and I said let's go. I was able to get a win. That puts me right back in the title picture. I have a little bit more work to do, but I'm right there."
Great game plan from Burns. 🙏🏽 #UFC264— Tatiana Suarez (@tatianaufc) July 11, 2021
The fifth-ranked Thomspon (16-5-1) had moments of success on the feet, but never failed to overcome his opponent and saw a two-fight winning streak end.
-- Jeff Wagenheim
Dustin Poirier wins trilogy rematch by TKO after Conor McGregor injures leg
LAS VEGAS -- Dustin Poirier now owns two victories over the biggest star in the history of mixed martial arts. This one, though, didn't end in the cleanest way.
Good always defeats evil.— khabib nurmagomedov (@TeamKhabib) July 11, 2021
Very happy for @DustinPoirier I hope you will get the belt end of the year
Poirier hit Conor McGregor with a combination at the end of the first round of Saturday night's highly anticipated UFC 264 main event. McGregor went to plant his left foot and his leg buckled, sending him to the mat. Poirier followed up with punches on the ground as time expired in the round.
-- Marc Raimondi
The bonus winners
These are the winners of the $75,000 bonuses:
Fight of the Night: Sean O'Malley vs. Kris Moutinho
Performances of the Night: Tai Tuivasa and Dricus Du Plessis
Greg Hardy thought he had Tai Tuivasa hurt. And maybe he did. But he didn't have him hurt enough.
Hardy, 32, suffered the second knockout loss of his career, as Tuivasa, of Sydney, put him down with a counter left hook just 67 seconds into their heavyweight fight at UFC 264. The finish came after Hardy rocked Tuivasa with a right hand and aggressively moved forward for a finish. Tuivasa regained his footing and threw the perfect two-punch counter to put Hardy on his back.
-- Brett Okamoto
The UFC's top Mexican fighters are on a roll.
Less than a month after Brandon Moreno became the first Mexican-born fighter to win a UFC title, Aldana took out Kunitskaya via TKO at 4:35 of the first round. Aldana dropped Kunitskaya with a beautiful left hook and then finished with hard left hands on the ground.
Afterward, Aldana quoted her countryman.
"Like Brandon said, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow -- but someday I'll be champion," Aldana said in her postfight interview.
Coming in, ESPN had Aldana ranked No. 6 and Kunitskaya at No. 7 in the world at women's bantamweight. The victory could propel Aldana to a major contender fight in the women's 135-pound division.
Aldana, who has great boxing, landed her jabs early, bloodying Kunitskaya's face. Kunitskaya attempted to bully Aldana in the clinch, but when things were at striking distance Aldana let her hands go and things were over shortly thereafter.
Aldana, 33, has won three of her last four and six of her last eight. Fighting out of Guadalajara, she now has two finishes with her boxing in her last two victories. Aldana weighed in Friday at 139.5 pounds, 3.5 pounds over the women's bantamweight non-title limit. She was fined 30% of her purse.
Kunitskaya, a 31-year-old Russia native fighting out of Florida, had a two-fight winning streak snapped.
O'Malley ended up getting the knockout of Moutinho he wanted, but it took absolutely everything he had to do it -- and even then, some felt the fight shouldn't have been stopped.
O'Malley earned the TKO stoppage at 4:33 of the third round, when referee Herb Dean elected to step in during a lengthy O'Malley flurry in the center of the Octagon. Despite the fact O'Malley landed a career-best 249 strikes in the bout, Moutinho never stopped moving forward and protested the stoppage afterwards.
I get the stoppage but I don't like it.— Angela Hill (@AngieOverkill) July 11, 2021
Moutinho, who trains out of Massachusetts and took the fight on short notice, was clearly not in O'Malley's league when it came to skill, but he never backed down in the bantamweight contest. He walked through O'Malley's counter jab, piston right hand, front kick, head kick -- O'Malley never seemed too discouraged by it, but he did seem surprised.
The closest O'Malley came to a decisive finish prior to the TKO was a knockdown late in the opening round. Although the finish likely took longer than he had hoped, O'Malley was always in control. He expertly slipped Moutinho's punches throughout the bout and stayed out of harm's way.
O'Malley was supposed to fight Louis Smolka on Saturday, but Smolka withdrew due to staph infection. O'Malley, a 26-year-old out of Glendale, Arizona called out the UFC's No. 4-ranked bantamweight Rob Font after the win.
Griffin exploded out of the gate, blitzing Condit at the start of the fight with relentless kicks to both legs, then dropping him late in Round 1 and swarming in pursuit of a finish. But Condit regained calm and survived.
Competing in the 46th fight of a pro career dating back 19 years, Condit understands that a three-round bout is not a sprint, even if his opponent tries to make it one. He turned things around in Round 2, and as the fight went into its final five minutes, it was Griffin who was called upon to prove his mettle. He did.
Griffin, who is 35 and from Sacramento, California, took charge in Round 3 and earned his third straight victory (30-27, 29-28, 29-28), extending a turnaround from a spell of four losses in five fights.
Condit, the 37-year-old former UFC interim champion from Albuquerque, New Mexico, saw a two-fight winning streak come to an end. That short run of success had broken him out of a skid that had reached eight losses in 10 fights.
Michel Pereira comes within inches of knocking out Niko Price ... via backflip
Michel Pereira is on another level, attempting a backflip knockout on Niko Price at UFC 264.
Price and Pereira embraced after the bell sounded, following a back-and-forth display of violence from both men. Price told Pereira "75K" for the $75,000 performance and fight of the night bonuses being given out by the UFC on Saturday night. Moments later, Pereira put Price on his shoulders in celebration.
For two men who tried to knock each other unconscious with punches, kicks, knees and elbows, it was quite the display.
Pereira had his way early, but a bout that was billed as perhaps the most exciting on the card delivered in the end. Pereira came away with a unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28) in an expectedly wild bout.
In the first round, Pereira stayed on the outside, using his reach advantage well. He landed hard jabs, big combos and nice front kicks to the body. Pereira took Price down in the second round and used a back flip -- yes, that's correct -- to get into mount, where he looked for a key lock and some ground and pound.
Price was able to get up and end the round strong, though, which was foreshadowing for the third round. Pereira looked a bit gassed, and after recovering from a low blow, Price attempted to pour it on with combinations and blows in the clinch. But Price could not get the finish and Pereira hung on for the win.
Pereira, 27, has now won three consecutive fights after back-to-back losses. The Brazil native, who lives in Las Vegas, has dialed back some of his flashier techniques and the result has been mostly positive. Price, a 31-year-old Florida native, is winless in three straight.
Facing one of the most unique styles in the sport, Topuria executed beautifully against Hall to come away with a first-round finish.
Topuria stalked Hall around the Octagon, but did so intelligently. He didn't overcommit on the feet and refused to give Hall any opportunities to work his signature leg attacks. The finish came via punches and hammer fists at the 4:47 mark. It's the second consecutive win Topuria has registered via first-round knockout.
That's the only way you beat a guy like Ryan Hall. #UFC264— Aljamain Sterling (@funkmasterMMA) July 11, 2021
Hall, 36, of Falls Church, Virginia, came out in his typical sideways stance. He kept Topuria, of Spain, at a distance with sidekicks and feints, but Topuria seemed very comfortable picking his shots when walking him down. Occasionally, Hall dove at Topuria's legs with his signature Imanari roll. Topuria cleared his legs from danger each time, and when he saw an opening to land a shot, he took it.
It's the first time Hall has lost since 2006. He's had trouble booking fights with any consistency due to his unique style. Topuria moves to 3-0 in the UFC.
Dricus Du Plessis flattens Trevin Giles with one punch
Dricus Du Plessis needs just one punch to knock out Trevin Giles in their prelim bout at UFC 264.
Du Plessis was covering up against the cage after absorbing a straight right hand and a left hook, but when Giles moved in on him with a flurry, the South African unleashed a right hand of his own to finish the fight suddenly and violently. It was the 27-year-old's fourth win in a row and 12th in his past 13, including two straight in the UFC.
The knockout, which came at 1:41 of Round 2, was Du Plessis' seventh career KO. He has had finishes in all 16 of his victories.
Damn! Du Plessis get the KO! That was nasty! Fighting with your hands down has its advantages it it also has its disadvantages. 😳#UFC264— Tatiana Suarez (@tatianaufc) July 11, 2021
Early on, Du Plessis had done his best work on the canvas. After he and Giles had stalked each other for the bulk of the first round, with Giles looking light on his feet and Du Plessis more plodding, the fight went to the mat. And Du Plessis got the better of the grappling scramble, twice gaining full-mount position. But he would have to wait until the next round for the finish.
"Every fight is different," Du Plessis said. "My first one was a short-notice debut and was absolutely incredible. Now I'm on a Conor McGregor undercard. I told them I'm not an undercard fighter and they're making a mistake putting me on the prelims. Hopefully I don't see the prelims ever again. Before I came out, I told my team, 'Let's go say goodbye to the prelims. It's main card from here.'
"I've proven to people that I have power in both hands. My first fight was a knockout with a left hook. I just knocked out a capable striker with a clean right hand, I'm happy I got that right hand finally. People need to start taking notice. You better watch out and keep those chins tucked because I'm either going to knockout you out or choke you."
Giles, a 28-year-old from Houston, saw a three-fight winning streak end.
Eye came alive late, almost drawing motivation from a nasty cut she sustained on her forehead late in the second round. But it was not enough.
Maia picked up a unanimous decision win (29-28, 29-28, 30-27) over Eye, a fellow former title challenger, in a solid striking performance. Maia's Muay Thai striking and footwork was the difference early in the fight. Eye rallied in the third round with a hard combination and nice jab.
Near the end of the second round, Maia and Eye clashed heads, causing a gnarly cut on Eye's forehead. It was gushing blood at the end of the second and third rounds, though Eye seemed undeterred -- and perhaps even more motivated. However, Maia had already developed too much of a lead in the early rounds for Eye to overcome.
Maia, 32, came in ranked No. 4 in the world at women's flyweight by ESPN. The Brazil native was coming off a unanimous decision loss to champion Valentina Shevchenko at UFC 255 in November. Eye, 34, has now dropped three in a row. The Ohio native, fighting out of Las Vegas, lost to Shevchenko at UFC 238 in June 2019 via a first-round head kick.
Tavares beat Akhmedov to the punch all night as he stayed busy with the jab and low leg kick. The kicks were particularly effective. Akhmedov's movement was visibly compromised by the third round. Two of the judges scored it 29-28 for Tavares, while a third had it 29-28 for Akhmedov.
So happy for my brother @BradTavares if it wasn't for him I wouldn't be where I am today probably wouldn't even be in the UFC. He gave me a chance when no one else did. @Omari_Akhmedov you're a warrior keep your head up #UFC264— Dan "50k" Ige (@Dynamitedan808) July 10, 2021
According to UFC Stats, Tavares outlanded Akhmedov in total strikes 76 to 50, and he did an incredible job defending takedowns. Akhmedov, of Dagestan, managed to get him down twice, but Tavares, of Hawaii, popped back to his feet before Akhmedov could put together any offense.
Tavares finished the 15-minute bout strong, as he landed some good shots to Akmedov's head and sought a finish. Tavares moved into a tie for second in all time UFC middleweight wins, with all-time great Anderson Silva. Akhmedov has lost two of his past three fights.
Zhalgas Zhumagulov stuns Jerome Rivera with quick sub
Zhalgas Zhumagulov submits Jerome Rivera standing up in the first round of their bout.
Zhumagulov scored a knockdown with a short left hand, and when Rivera tried to wrestle him, the 32-year-old from Kazakhstan clamped on a guillotine that turned into a standing choke that produced his first UFC victory.
"I felt him going down and that's why I tried to get a submission," Zhumagulov said. "That's my favorite submission."
Zhumagulov absorbed some early punches and kicks, but when Rivera tried to ramp up the pressure, he paid the price. The end came just 2:02 into Round 1.
What a beautiful standing choke from Zhumagulov! #UFC264— Herbert Burns (@HerbertBurnsMMA) July 10, 2021
Rivera, who is 26 and from Santa Fe, New Mexico, has lost all four of his UFC fights, all within the past year.
Zhumagulov ended a two-fight losing streak.