UFC 225 undercard recap – Holly Holm dominates Megan Anderson

MMA


CHICAGO — Holly Holm has already accomplished so much in her MMA career, it’s easy to forget she’s still developing her skill set.

Her performance at UFC 225 on Saturday at United Center served as a reminder of that.

Holm (12-4) defeated Australian featherweight Megan Anderson (8-3) via unanimous decision — and did so primarily behind her grappling. The former pro boxer, with one of the most infamous head kick knockouts in UFC history, took Anderson down each round and dominated from top position.

Judges scored the 145-pound featherweight bout 30-26, 30-26 and 30-27.

“The game plan is always open-ended,” Holm said. “Sometimes in my other fights I’ve wanted to try takedowns and it’s about time I do them here. I do them in practice. It felt good tonight. We fight for a reason. We don’t ever know what’s going to happen.”

A former 135-pound champion at bantamweight, Holm moved up to featherweight late last year to challenge Cris “Cyborg” Justino. She lost by decision.

The Albuquerque, New Mexico native has frequently said she wishes to go back to bantamweight but is open to taking the biggest challenges. Heading into Saturday, she had lost four of her past five but was still in title contention in both weight categories.

She looked terrific against Anderson, a former Invicta FC champion who was making her UFC debut. A legitimate featherweight (Anderson says she weighs as much as 175 pounds between fights), Anderson could not deal with Holm’s grappling entries and top game.

Anderson landed a handful of right hands and showed some success landing knees as Holm came in, but she was limited to just 48 total strikes according to Fightmetric. Holm landed 143.

Holm, 36, now has options. She could return to 135 pounds to chase current champion Amanda Nunes. Justino has already expressed interest in a rematch at 145, as well.

“It’s one of those things, the 135-pound belt is dear to me, I want it back,” Holm said. “My heart hurts. I want to get back to that. But I challenge myself a lot. In boxing, I fought in three weight classes. You have to take big risks to get great victories.

“I want both. I want it all.”


Australia’s Tuivasa beats Arlovski in bloody battle

Heavyweight prospect Tai Tuivasa (8-0) defeated a former champion in Andrei Arlovski (27-16) via unanimous decision, despite a badly bloodied nose from the first round on.

Tuivasa, 25, won via unanimous 29-28 scores. The bout was close however, as Tuivasa only outlanded Arlovski in total strikes 69-to-64, according to Fightmetric.

A short left hook dropped Arlovski in the opening round, but the veteran came back strong with combinations of his own. The blood pouring from Tuivasa’s nose clearly bothered him, as he blew air through it several times during the fight.

With the result on the line, Tuivasa was the better man in the third. He landed more punches, including a left hook that sent blood flying from Arlovski’s mouth.

Immediately after the result, Tuivasa drank a Shooey — a sneaker filled with beer — from the crowd. He did so after a win at UFC 221 in February, as well.


Blaydes earns convincing TKO against Overeem

Chicago heavyweight Curtis Blaydes (10-1) outworked Alistair Overeem (43-17) in a convincing TKO victory, stopping his veteran opponent with ground and pound at 2:56 of the third round.

Blaydes, a former collegiate wrestler, cautiously pressured Overeem on the feet, while looking for the takedown. Once he secured a takedown, which he did in each round, he made it look easy — as Overeem looked helpless in terms of working back to his feet.

The game plan appeared to have an effect on Overeem’s endurance. The 38-year-old looked sluggish by the second round, although he did land a pair of knees and a left body kick in the third round.

Other than a few offensive spurts, however, it was all Blaydes. The finish came after he postured up and dropped a series of hard elbows to Overeem’s face, which cut him open.

The 27-year-old, who defeated Mark Hunt in February, called for a title shot after the result.

“I’m next in line for the belt, it’s my title,” Blaydes said.


Gadelha edges Esparza in grudge match

Two-time strawweight title challenger Claudia Gadelha (16-3) edged former champion Carla Esparza (13-5) in a hard-fought split decision — in a 115-pound fight years in the making.

The two have been booked to fight one another multiple times in the past, but the bouts fell through for various reasons. In the end, it was Gadelha who got her hand raised after a three-round affair. Judges scored it 29-28, 29-28 and 28-29. ESPN also scored it for Gadelha.

As has been the case throughout her career, Gadelha’s wrestling proved to be the difference. She converted four total takedowns, and scored points from the top — especially in the early rounds.

Esparza, of Southern California, staggered Gadelha with a right hand in the first round, however, and opened up with punches and kicks in the third after Gadelha’s cardio ran out. She finished the fight on top of Gadelha, raining down punches from the Brazilian’s guard.

Gadelha, who now trains out of Las Vegas, is now 3-1 in her past four. She lost to former strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk twice but has never fought current titleholder Rose Namajunas. Esparza had a two-fight streak snapped.


Smith crushes Rashad Evans with a knee

Light heavyweight Anthony Smith (29-13) crushed former champion Rashad Evans (19-8-1) with a devastating knee to the face early in the first round, securing a 53-second knockout victory.

A former middleweight, Smith defended Evans’ early takedown attempts and took full advantage of an early opportunity. As Evans pushed forward for a takedown and ducked his head to the left, Smith met him full force with a right knee.

Smith landed one follow-up strike, but the bout was already over. It is the 15th knockout of Smith’s career. For Evans, 38, it is his fifth loss in a row.

Originally from Omaha, Nebraska, Smith called for a bout against Sam Alvey at a UFC Fight Night event on Aug. 25 in Lincoln, Nebraska.


Pettis hands Benavidez first loss in four years

Flyweight contender Sergio Pettis (17-3) became just the third man to ever defeat Joseph Benavidez (25-5), as he narrowly outpointed the two-time title challenger in a split decision: 30-27, 29-28 and 28-29.

In his first appearance since undergoing ACL surgery last year, Benavidez actually outlanded Pettis 102-to-79 according to Fightmetric, but Petits defended 17 of his 19 takedown attempts and dropped him with a right hand in the first round.

Benavidez, who fights out of Las Vegas, certainly pushed the pace. He swarmed Pettis with combinations, and repeatedly drove him into the fence. His offense mostly stalled in that position, however, as Pettis shut down the grappling.

It was Benavidez’s first loss since 2013, snapping a six-fight win streak. Before Saturday, he’d lost only to former bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz twice and current flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson twice. Pettis has now won five of his past six.



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