LAS VEGAS – Gilbert Burns dominated former UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley to win a unanimous decision Saturday night in the return of the mixed martial arts promotion to Las Vegas.
Brazilian heavyweight Augusto Sakai used some unpunished playing skill to claim a split decision victory over Bulgarian Blagoy Ivanov in the penultimate bout of the first UFC show in his hometown since the coronavirus pandemic began.
The event was held without fans at the UFC Apex, a gym with broadcast facilities on the promotion’s corporate campus. The UFC used minimal personnel to organize the fight, and the promotion said everyone involved was subject to strict health and safety protocols.
Burns (19-3), 33, dominated on his feet and on the ground, finishing his first main event fight with probably the biggest victory of his career and his sixth consecutive victory since July 2018. The Brazilian based in Florida completely defeated one of the most successful welterweights in UFC history and made its case for an opportunity against champion Kamaru Usman in the busy 170-pound division.
All the judges gave the five rounds to Burns, rating them 50-45, 50-44 and 50-44.
Burns came out with furious energy against Woodley, dropping the former champion in the opening seconds and winning a full mount. An open cut opened in Woodley’s left eyebrow in the first few minutes, and Burns again surpassed Woodley’s famous takedown defense to knock Woodley down again in the second round.
Woodley (19-5-1) had not fought since he lost his title in a one-sided beating of Usman in March 2019. Woodley had reigned at the top of the division for nearly three years, and the University of Missouri graduate of 38 years. He said he dealt with depression while debating whether to stay in MMA or pursue a music career.
Burns’ victory capped an entertaining show at the Apex, where the octagon is only 25 feet in diameter, compared to 30 feet in most competitive cages. The compact dimension generally leads to more aggressive fights, and this card featured six finishes in its 11 bouts.
Burns was fighting in a fan-free arena for the second time in 2 1/2 months. He stopped veteran Demian Maia in Brasilia on March 14 in the final UFC show before stopping the competition.
After an eight-week break, the UFC returned to competition earlier this month with three shows over eight days in Jacksonville, Florida. With the ambition of having almost weekly cards throughout the summer as part of its broad broadcast deal with ESPN, the promotion moved its operations to its own facilities after the Nevada Athletic Commission agreed three days ago to allow the return of sports of combat.
Although this card was quite light on the power of the stars, the promotion will present UFC 250 next Saturday night from the same gym. Two-division champion Amanda Nunes’ featherweight title defense against Canada’s Felicia Spencer tops the pay-per-view card.
UFC President Dana White continues to promise additional shows this summer from the so-called “Fight Island,” an undisclosed private island where the promotion is intended to organize battles between fighters who cannot enter the US. USA Due to health restrictions.
Sakai (15-1-1) remained undefeated in the UFC with his fourth consecutive victory when two judges favored him 29-28 after an animated fight with Ivanov (18-4), who was 30-27 on the third judge’s card .
Sakai escaped the penalty of referee Jason Herzog in the third round when he shamelessly grabbed the wall of the cage while trying to avoid an attempt to take down Ivanov.
Grabbing the cage is illegal and punishable by a point deduction, but Herzog simply warned Sakai verbally. The decision was greeted with audible disbelief by Daniel Cormier, the former UFC heavyweight champion who worked in the quiet arena as a commentator of color.
Strawweight contender Mackenzie Dern opened the main card by finishing Hannah Cifers with a knee bar that was the first leg lock submission victory by a woman in UFC history. Dern (8-1) earned her first victory since giving birth to her daughter last year.