Former UFC middleweight title challenger Jared Cannonier returned to the win column at the promotion’s final event of the year, going five rounds against Sean Strickland for a split decision victory.
Cannonier’s win headlined a “Fight Night” card Saturday from the UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.
Cannonier’s win came after a close five-round stand-up battle between the two. He showcased the more diverse output of strikes during the bout, targeting not just the head of Strickland but also the body and legs.
Cannonier was frequently charging forward with strikes, but the tight defense of Strickland meant that many shots would not land.
The fight started with a significantly slow pace on the feet from both fighters. The output from both picked up as the contest progressed, however it remained composed and structured until the end.
All three judges scored the fight 49-to-46, albeit only two of the three had the such score in favor of Cannonier.
Both fighters were looking to come back after recent high-profile losses in the middleweight division.
Cannonier had an unsuccessful title shot against Israel Adesanya earlier this year, dropping a unanimous decision result after five rounds of competition.
Cannonier has his eyes set on the top of the division once again after his victory this weekend.
“Anybody above me [in the rankings] that will get me to the title fight, or the title fight,” is what he called for during his post-fight interview.
Strickland’s campaign towards a title fight was halted earlier this year, suffering a first-round finish loss to Alex Pereira. One fight later, Pereira challenged for the UFC Middleweight Championship and was successful.
Ismagulov Takes First UFC Loss To Tsarukyan
Arman Tsarukyan handed Damir Ismagulov his first pro loss in Saturday’s co-main event, walking away with a unanimous decision victory after three rounds.
Tsarukyan showed off a well-rounded game in his performance, utilizing striking and takedowns to stay a step ahead of Ismagulov in the fight. It was clear heading into the third round that Tsarukyan was already ahead by two rounds.
Tsarukyan is now back in the win column after losing a five-round unanimous decision to Mateusz Gamrot in June. He had a five-fight winning streak in the UFC prior to then.
Ismagulov came into this weekend on a five-fight streak of wins in the UFC from 2018 to 2022. His previous appearance came in June when he beat Guram Kutateladze on scorecards.
Albazi Keeps Streak Alive With Finish Win
Amir Albazi kept his flawless UFC campaign going on Saturday night, stopping promotional newcomer Alessandro Costa late with strikes.
Albazi floored Costa in the third round clean with a right uppercut. Albazi then followed Costa to the ground, landing another punch before the fight was stopped.
Albazi’s striking was on display earlier in the fight as well. He earned a knockdown in the second round, then used this moment to set up a ground position that the kept for the rest of the frame.
Albazi has picked up four victories since joining the UFC roster in 2020. His previous fight this year was against Francisco Figueiredo, who he submitted in the first round with a rear naked choke.
Costa was a short-notice opponent for this event, coming in after two previous matchups for Albazi fell through. He joined the promotion with a record of 12 wins and two losses, including a July victory from “Dana White’s Contender Series.”
Caceres Stops Erosa Early With Head Kick
Alex Caceres put an early end to his bout against Julian Erosa, catching him in the opening round with a high kick to score a stoppage.
The kick from Caceres connected to the head of Erosa quite early into their bout, giving the contest a winner while the bout was still in its feeling-out process.
Caceres, a UFC veteran of more than a decade, is on a strong run currently. While he lost his previous fight to Sodiq Yusuff, he previously put together five wins from 2019 to 2021.
Erosa entered this weekend on a three-fight winning streak, including 2022 victories over Steven Peterson and Hakeem Dawodu.
Dober Stops Green To End Close Battle
Drew Dober put an end to his close stand-up battle against fellow veteran Bobby Green, catching him with a clean left cross in the second round of their bout.
Dober’s left cross punch floored Green, causing their fight to suddenly end. Dober had been backing Green up with punches before the finish, charging ahead against an opponent who was willing to trade punches.
Green succeeded earlier in the fight, connecting with punches on Dober in the opening round and causing visible damage with his shots.
The fight on Saturday wraps a bow on a strong year for Dober. He earned finish wins in his two previous fights this year, beating Terrance McKinney and Rafael Alves in recent months.
Green, a UFC vet with more than 20 appearances for the promotion, was appearing for the first time in 10 months. He was coming off a busy February, when he beat Nasrat Haqparast then lost a short-notice bout to now-UFC Lightweight Champion Islam Makhachev.
Oleksiejczuk Puts Away Brundage Early With Ground and Pound
Vicious ground and pound shots from Michal Oleksiejczuk earned him a quick stoppage victory over Cody Brundage on Saturday night.
Oleksiejczuk connected with a series of hammerfist punches in the first round, briefly knocking Brundage out in the process.
Brundage used his wrestling skills to get the fight to the ground early and put together some control time. However, Oleksiejczuk was able to reverse the position and get on top, setting him up for the bout’s finishing sequence.
Oleksiejczuk’s 2022 wraps up with two wins and one loss. His previous victory came in August when he stopped Sam Alvey in just under two minutes with strikes.
Fresh off his win, Oleksiejczuk called for a booking against Chris Curtis during his post-fight interview.
Brundage was aiming to finish his 2022 with a third victory. Previous appearances this year saw him stop both Tresean Gore and Dalcha Lungiambula in the first round.
The Rest of the Card
Cory McKenna finished her year with a third career UFC victory, going the distance against Cheyanne Vlismas to earn a decision nod.
Matthew Semelsberger scored three knockdowns against Jake Matthews en route to a decision win.
Said Nurmagomedov caught Saidyokub Kakhramonov with a guillotine choke amid a takedown attempt in the second round, forcing a submission finish. Nurmagomedov is now on a four-fight winning streak.
Battling past a large cut on his head that caused his performance to become a bloody battle, Rafa Garcia picked up a unanimous decision win over Maheshate. Garcia now has an even UFC record of three wins and three losses.
Rinat Fakhretdinov dominated Bryan Battle for three rounds, keeping him on the ground for most of the fight and landing strikes as well. He walked away with a lopsided unanimous decision victory in the end.
After nearly finishing his fight with punches and a deep kimura attempt, Manel Kape settled with a strong unanimous decision victory over David Dvorak. Kape has now strung together three consecutive wins at flyweight.
Sergey Morozov used his overwhelming grappling skills to control Journey Newson for three rounds and earn a unanimous decision victory. Morozov exits 2022 with two wins and one loss from the year.
Main Card (7:00PM EST / 4:00PM PST) (ESPN+ / TSN 5)
Bout 13: Jared Cannonier def. Sean Strickland via Decision, Split
Bout 12: Arman Tsarukyuan def. Damir Ismagulov via Decision, Unanimous
Bout 11: Amir Albazi def. Alessandro Costa via TKO, Strikes (RD 3, 2:13)
Bout 10: Alex Caceres def. Julian Erosa via TKO, Strikes (RD 1, 3:04)
Bout 9: Drew Dober def. Bobby Green via TKO, Strikes (RD 2, 2:45)
Bout 8: Michal Oleksiejczuk def. Cody Brundage via TKO, Strikes (RD 1, 3:16)
Preliminary Card (4:00PM EST / 1:00PM PST) (ESPN+ / TSN 5)
Bout 7: Cory McKenna def. Cheyanne Vlismas via Decision, Unanimous
Bout 6: Matthew Semelsberger def. Jake Matthews via Decision, Unanimous
Bout 5: Said Nurmagomedov def. Saidyokub Kakhramonov via Submission, Guillotine Choke (RD 2, 3:50)
Bout 4: Rafa Garcia def. Maheshate via Decision, Unanimous
Bout 3: Rinat Fakhretdinov def. Bryan Battle via Decision, Unanimous
Bout 2: Manel Kape def. David Dvorak via Decision, Unanimous
Bout 1: Sergey Morozov def. Journey Newson via Decision, Unanimous