Charles Oliveira transitioned from mount to armbar. His legs kept Tony Ferguson in place with Ferguson’s back on the canvas. Oliveira torqued on Ferguson’s left arm hard with Ferguson unable to defend. With time expiring in the first round, Oliveira completely hyperextended Ferguson’s arm — but Ferguson would not tap out.
That’s about how the entire fight went between Oliveira and Ferguson in the co-main event of UFC 256 on Saturday night in Las Vegas. Oliveira had advantageous position after advantageous position. He did damage; he had close submission attempts. But Ferguson refused to give up.
The result, though, was Oliveira winning by a one-sided unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27), the biggest victory of Oliveira’s career. Since returning to lightweight from featherweight in 2017, Oliveira has nine wins, tied for the most in the UFC with Israel Adesanya and Deiveson Figueiredo.
Oliveira outlanded Ferguson, 41-19, in significant strikes and 86-26 in total strikes. He was able to get Ferguson down in every round, where he stayed in dominant position, landed ground and pound and went for submissions.
“You tell me: Who has dominated [Ferguson] like that?” Oliveira asked in his postfight interview. “I was the only guy who accepted this fight at the last minute. I knew it was going to be a really tough fight. In 2021, I’m coming.”
ESPN had Ferguson ranked No. 3 in the world at lightweight, while Oliveira was ranked No. 9. Oliveira said he wants to fight the winner of the UFC 257 main event between Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier next.
“When Conor and Poirier fight in January, I’m gonna be watching,” Oliveira said. “I’m just gonna be waiting to see who will fight me.”
Oliveira (30-8, 1 NC) has now won eight in a row and is 9-1 since returning to the lightweight division from featherweight. The Brazil native has the most submission wins in UFC history (14), though he couldn’t earn one against Ferguson. Oliveira, 31, also has the second-most fight-night bonuses in UFC history (16), behind only Donald Cerrone (18).
Ferguson (25-5) had his record-tying 12-fight lightweight winning streak snapped by Justin Gaethje in his last fight, an interim title bout at UFC 249 in May. That unblemished run dated back to 2012. California’s “El Cucuy” is a former UFC interim lightweight champion. Ferguson, 36, owns wins over the likes of former champions Anthony Pettis and Rafael dos Anjos. This is the first time in his career he has lost back-to-back fights.
— Marc Raimondi
Fight in progress:
Men’s flyweight: Deiveson Figueiredo (c) (20-1, 9-1 UFC, -330) vs. Brandon Moreno (18-5-1, 6-2-1 UFC, +260)
Strawweight: Mackenzie Dern (10-1, 5-1 UFC) vs. Virna Jandiroba (16-2, 2-2 UFC) by unanimous decision
Mackenzie Dern can no longer be considered just a one-dimensional grappler. On Saturday, she picked up the biggest win of her young career with her hands.
The former Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion beat Virna Jandiroba via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28) in a battle of rising women’s strawweight contenders. It was a late flurry with punches that likely sealed the deal for Dern.
Dern hurt Jandiroba in the first round with combinations. But Jandiroba had her moments, too. In the second round, Jandiroba was poked in the eye by Dern. But she rallied to smash Dern in the nose with a knee. Dern was left bloodied after the powerful strike. Jandiroba finished the second round in top position.
In the third, Dern landed a hard, damaging combination that sent Jandiroba backing up against the fence. Jandiroba tried to jump into a leg lock, sending the fight to the mat. But Dern ended up on top, and that’s how the bout ended.
Dern has been working with boxing coach Jason Parillo since her last fight, and that has obviously paid dividends. Parillo has coached the likes of UFC Hall of Famer Michael Bisping and the legendary Cris Cyborg.
“I think I have those haymakers, but I think I’ve gotten a little more technical under Coach Parillo,” Dern said in her postfight interview.
Dern, still just 27 years old, has won three straight, all in 2020. The Arizona-born Brazilian fighter was once considered the best pound-for-pound women’s Brazilian jiu-jitsu competitor in the world. Jandiroba, a 32-year-old excellent grappler in her own right, was on a two-fight wining streak coming in. Jandiroba is the former Invicta FC women’s strawweight champion.
Middleweight: Kevin Holland (21-5, 8-2 UFC) defeats Jacare Souza (26-9, 9-6 UFC) by first-round KO
Kevin Holland has had one of the best years out of anyone in the world in mixed martial arts. And now he’s somehow creating new ways to win.
Earning the biggest win of his career, Holland knocked out “Jacare” Souza at 1:45 of the first round — with punches from the bottom. Souza, a legendary grappler, was in top position and Holland uncorked a wicked right hand from his hip that cracked Souza on the forehead. Souza was clearly hurt by the blow and Holland ripped another right hand that rocked Souza, sending him backward. Holland then pounced for the incredibly unique finish. He is only the second fighter in UFC history to finish with an arm strike from the bottom.
“If I can give somebody like ‘Jacare’ trouble on the ground, I guess I deserve my black belt [in Brazilian jiu-jitsu],” Holland said.
Holland is now just the third fighter in modern UFC history to go 5-0 in a calendar year. Neil Magny (2014) and Roger Huerta (2007) were the others. To make it even more amazing, Holland has done it all during the pandemic, starting his winning streak in May.
Holland, 28, has the second longest active winning streak at middleweight, behind champion Israel Adesanya. The Texas native has won eight of nine overall and has 17 finishes in 21 pro wins. Souza, 41, has dropped three straight. The Brazilian, a former Strikeforce middleweight champion, has just two victories since 2017.
Watch this fight on ESPN+.
Heavyweight: Ciryl Gane (7-0, 4-0 UFC) defeats Junior dos Santos (21-9, 15-8 UFC) via second-round TKO
The UFC heavyweight division has a newly christened contender.
Gane stopped dos Santos, the former UFC heavyweight champion, via TKO at 2:34 of the second round to open the UFC 256 main card. Gane rocked dos Santos with a jab while dos Santos was coming in, then put dos Santos down for good with a right elbow. This was the biggest win thus far in Gane’s young MMA career.
In the immediate aftermath, dos Santos disputed the finish, saying Gane’s elbow landed illegally to the back of his head. But dos Santos was turning away from the blow, and the referee usually will not call that if the fighter throwing the blow is targeting a legal area, regardless of where it lands if the fighter on the receiving end moves.
Gane fought masterfully throughout. The skilled southpaw stayed on the outside and picked dos Santos apart with beautiful kicks to the body and legs. By the second round, dos Santos was clearly feeling the affects of Gane’s low kicks. In that round, Gane put dos Santos in trouble with a perfectly placed right jab and then whipped a wicked elbow that floored dos Santos. Referee Jerin Valel jumped in to call the bout off before dos Santos could take any more damage.
Gane, 30, remains undefeated with the victory. The Frenchman has finished four of his five UFC victories. Gane has only been a pro MMA fighter since 2018, though he has Muay Thai and kickboxing experience.
Gane’s four straight UFC victories are tied with Francis Ngannou and Curtis Blaydes for the longest active winning streaks in the division, per ESPN Stats & Information research.
Dos Santos, 36, has now lost four straight — and not at an opportune time with the UFC looking to shed 60 or more fighters from its roster before the end of the year. The Brazilian slugger was the UFC heavyweight champion in 2011 and 2012 after knocking out Cain Velasquez. He was on a three-fight winning streak prior to this skid.
Men’s featherweight: Cub Swanson (27-11, 12-7 UFC) def. Daniel Pineda (27-14, 4-5 UFC) by second-round knockout
Cub Swanson fought for the first time since he suffered ACL and meniscus tears in December, and Daniel Pineda was intent on testing his leg in the first round. And while Pineda hurt Swanson’s leg, it was Swanson’s right hand that ended the fight.
Two short right uppercuts sandwiched a left hook, and Swanson ended it with a vicious right hand on Pineda’s chin.
“With my long layoff I was doing so much leg strengthening,” Swanson said. “It was on my mind, and last few days I was terrified, questioning myself.”
Swanson hurt Pineda in the last minute of the first round and kept landing shots, but Pineda was saved by the bell.
The loss ended Pineda’s seven-fight unbeaten streak. He was coming off an impressive second-round stoppage of Herbert Burns on Aug. 15.
Swanson moved into sole possession of third place on the UFC featherweight wins list with 12. Only Max Holloway (16) and Darren Elkins (14) have more.
Watch this fight on ESPN+.
Lightweight: Rafael Fiziev (9-1, 3-1 UFC) defeats Renato Moicano (14-4-1, 6-4 UFC) by first-round KO
Rafael Fiziev has some of the fastest hands and legs in the UFC, and he showed off all of his talents with a first-round knockout of Renato Moicano at UFC 256.
Fiziev spent most the first round mixing in hard kicks and quick combinations. He finished the fight with one of them, a three-punch effort — a left to the body, a right to the head and a left to the head.
This was Fiziev’s third straight victory. He has seven career finishes, six coming by knockout.
“This is really hard work, I’m tired from this camp and I want to go home and rest,” Fiziev said. “I want to say to everyone in my division — train more. More heart. More wrestling, grappling, boxing — I’m coming.”
Moicano has lost by KO or TKO in three of his past four fights.
Watch this fight on ESPN+.
Men’s featherweight: Gavin Tucker (13-1, 4-1 UFC) def. Billy Quarantillo (15-3, 3-1 UFC) by unanimous decision
Expectations that Gavin Tucker and Billy Quarantillo would put on an all-action fight were fulfilled early, and the furious pace continued throughout the three rounds with Tucker proving to be the sharper and more well-rounded fighter.
The unanimous-decision loss snapped Quarantillo’s eight-fight win streak.
Tucker, who has won three straight, controlled the action early in the third round, tripping Quarantillo, pressing him against the cage and then taking him down. Tucker stayed on top for about a minute but never came close to getting a finish.
“I’m happy with the win, but I’m sure watching back, it will look dirty and rough and tumble,” Tucker said. “I really wanted this one. Billy’s a hell of a fighter, and this was a hell of a fight.”
In the second, Tucker went to the body and started to slow Quarantillo — slightly. Tucker kept up the pressure with crisper, more accurate punches. Tucker took Quarantillo’s back twice in the second, but Quarantillo was able to escape both times.
Both went straight forward in the first round, exchanging kicks and punches and setting a pace that suggested cardio would play a big role.
Tucker landed a career-high seven takedowns after entering the fight having landed seven takedowns combined through his four career UFC fights.
Watch this fight on ESPN+.
Strawweight: Tecia Torres (12-5, 8-5 UFC) defeats Sam Hughes (5-2, 0-1 UFC) by first-round TKO (doctor’s stoppage)
Tecia Torres didn’t offer Sam Hughes the warmest of welcomes to the UFC. Torres won by TKO before the start of the second round after Hughes told her corner she couldn’t see out of her left eye. After evaluation from the ringside physician, the fight was stopped.
Torres now has eight wins in the UFC strawweight division, which is tied for third-most all-time with Carla Esparza.
“I would like to have a top-10 opponent, definitely someone ranked above me,” Torest said after the fight. “I’d like to make my way to that title shot one day … My time is coming.”
Torres came out swinging in the first, striking Hughes at will. Heavy combinations and Superman punches marked up Hughes’ face in that round, which was ultimately capped off by a slam to the mat. According to UFC Stats, Torres landed 27 strikes to the head, 13 to the body and 12 to the legs in that first round.
Torres was the biggest favorite on the card at UFC 256. She earned her first stoppage since July 2017 and the first TKO of her career
Men’s featherweight: Chase Hooper (10-1-1, 2-1 UFC) defeats Peter Barrett (11-5, 0-2 UFC) via third-round submission
Chase Hooper wasn’t having much success striking with Peter Barrett, so he took the fight where he needed to. And Hooper found that success on the ground.
With a feint followed by a roll, Hooper took Barrett down early in the third, and the two were locked up for more than a minute. Hooper kept punching Barrett in the face, and Barrett tried to scramble out before Hooper cinched in the heel-hook submission.
Barrett landed a leg kick early in the second round that compromised Hooper’s right leg. Hooper then went for several takedowns, and he kept the fight on the ground as long as he could.
Barrett moved forward throughout the first round, seemingly unconcerned with Hooper’s power. Hooper went for a double-leg takedown attempt at the end of the first, and he was able to get Barrett down, but the round ended before he was able to do any damage.
It was Hooper’s first fight since his first loss, a unanimous decision to Alex Caceres on June 6.
The 21-year-old Hooper has eight finishes in his 10 wins and is the 25th fighter in UFC history to win multiple fights before his 25th birthday, according research by to ESPN Stats & Information.
Watch this fight on ESPN+.
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