The Adirondack Bank Center in Utica, New York, was home to a mediocre night of fights, with four (T)KOs, three submissions, and five decisions, including one split-decision.
Next week’s stacked UFC 225 left tonight’s card somewhat lacking in star power, and the NYSAC didn’t help matters by pulling Jessica Aguilar from the event, allegedly because she had “chapped lips.” Even with a fight scratched from the card, this event struggled for pacing in the prelims and there were only a few bright spots in the fights tonight.
Performances of the Night: Nathaniel Wood, Marlon Moraes, Gregor Gillespie and Ben Saunders
Brad Pickett’s protege, Nathaniel Wood, made his UFC debut on the heels of five stoppage wins in a row in Bellator and the UK’s Cage Warriors promotion, and he proved he could hang in the UFC with a D’arce choke victory over Johnny Eduardo. Eduardo was getting the best of the stand-up but made a tactical error by shooting in for a takedown on Wood. Wood capitalized, snatching Eduardo’s neck and earning himself an extra $50,000 in his UFC debut.
Gregor Gillespie dominated Vinc Pichel in a way that almost made you feel sorry for the mustachioed Hellion. Time after time, the New Yorker took Pichel down and basically did whatever he wanted, from arm triangle attempts to chokes and whatever else in between.
Round two saw much of the same, with Vinc trying to scramble and Gregor staying on him like a lead blanket. By the time the fourth minute rolled around, Gillespie had scored 7 takedowns and was winning all the scrambles. With Pichel fully mounted, Gillespie was able to secure the arm in a tight triangle and forced the man from Hell to tap. He will walk away with 50,000 smackers for his efforts.
Ben Saunders was a man on a mission, and Jake Ellenberger played right into his hands. Killa B started right off with a head kick and a monstrous right. They clinch against the cage, and predictably, like the supervillain whose tricks you already know but cannot seem to resist, Saunders started letting those deadly knees fly. One killa knee to the body later, and Ellenberger went down. Ben followed him to land a couple more punches and the ref stepped in to call an end to the action. Saunders gets the win inside two minutes and a cool 50 Gs to go along with it.
Marlon Moraes has been going from strength to strength since losing his UFC debut to Raphael Assuncao. Moraes was considered by many to be the best bantamweight outside the UFC for years as he racked up an eleven-fight win streak in the WSOF. Moraes’ fantastic knockout victory over Aljamain Sterling put UFC fans on notice, and tonight’s followup knockout will have Marlon’s name on a lot of people’s lips going forward.
Heading into tonight’s main event, Jimmie Rivera had put an insane 20 fight win streak together, including wins over Thomas Almeida, Iuri Alcantara, and Urijah Faber. He hadn’t lost a fight in almost 10 years. Moraes knocked him out in just 33 seconds with a perfectly placed head kick to the temple, followed up by ground-and pound. Rivera will no doubt be back and be in title contention in the future, but Moraes took the honors tonight, as well as an extra $50K in bonus cash.