(Photo Credit: REUTERS/Jason de Silva)
UFC Fight Night 129 in Chile delivered an awesome card for fans on Saturday night. It featured creative submissions, huge comebacks, and electric knockouts. The night ended with a fight between two top welterweight contenders that attempted to make a case for a crack at the title in a crowded division. We outline some of the highlights below.
1 Kamaru Usman dominates Demian Maia
The main event of the night was a battle between "The Nigerian Nightmare" Kamaru Usman and Demian Maia. Usman, known for his wrestling dominance and undefeated inside the UFC came into this fight as the huge favorite. Demian Maia, one of the greatest grapplers in UFC history, took the fight on short notice but has run into difficulty against high level wrestlers. That problem was evident on Saturday night.
Demian Maia did what he always does and went for takedowns over and over, but with no luck. Usman has never been taken down in the UFC and showed spotless takedown defense for all five rounds on Saturday. Usman executed a number of great sprawls, catching Maia in headlocks and burning time off the clock before taking the fight back to the feet. Once the fight got to the feet, Usman's dominance only increased. After 25 minutes of a tactical battle, Kamaru Usman was declared a clear winner to remain undefeated in his UFC career.
With this win against one of the top welterweights in the division, Usman could easily secure a top five position in the rankings. Colby Covington and Rafael dos Anjos are scheduled to fight for the interim title so the winner of that will get the next crack at Woodley, but after them, there is no clear contender. The winner of the Stephen Thompson vs. Darren Till fight will likely be in the conversation but Kamaru Usman has just as much of a case for a title shot as anyone else moving forward.
2 Claudio Puelles pulls off a comeback for the ages
When a fight featuring two fighters who do not even have Wikipedia pages make one of these lists, you know something crazy happened. Claudio Puelles came into this fight with an 7-2 record, having lost his UFC debut to Martin Bravo by knockout. His fellow lightweight competitor Felipe Silva came in with a 1-1 UFC record and coming off the first loss of his career.
The first round of the fight was pretty close but Silva was clearly the dominant striker. That advantage only grew in the second round in which Silva pieced up Puelles on the feet, breaking his orbital and earning a 10-8 round. The beating only continued in the third round and almost became hard to watch. Puelles, who could not see punches coming due to the swelling in his eye, was knocked down twice in the third round but refused to go out.
In a crazy turn of events, the fighters ended up on the mat with about half of a round left. A dazed Claudio Puelles sunk in a kneebar and forced Silva to tap to steal the fight in the last minute. It is not an exaggeration to call this fight one of the greatest comebacks in UFC history. Some fans were likely begging for the fight to be stopped when Puelles was repeatedly knocked down but he managed to come back and secure a win to start off the UFC Chile card in the most electric way possible.
3 Tatiana Suarez sends a message to the strawweight elite
Tatiana Suarez came into UFC Chile as the number 12 ranked strawweight in the UFC. She faced off against ninth ranked Alexa Grasso but was still considered the favorite as an undefeated fighter with great wrestling and heavy top pressure. This was only her second fight with the promotion since winning The Ultimate Fighter by first round submission in 2016. Her opponent, Alexa Grasso, came into this fight with a 2-1 UFC record after a win over the ranked Randa Markos.
Suarez could not have been more dominant in this fight. She put the pressure on right away and engaged Grasso in a clinch. She used the cage to throw her opponent to the mat and quickly found her way to the back where she sank in a rear naked choke. After some hand fighting and punches by Grasso proved futile, she tapped out and Suarez left victorious in the first round.
This fight was over quickly and was not particularly compelling but the way that Suarez got in and out of the cage and took care of business proved that she is a real contender in the strawweight division. With the introduction of the flyweight division, 115 pounds is not longer as deep. Suarez is now one of the few dominant grapplers that could make a run for the title. With another win, she could find herself in the top five and challenging for a title. That next fight could come against someone like Karolina Kowalkiewicz or even Mackenzie Dern if the UFC wants Dern to take such a daring leap.
What was your favorite fight from Saturday night? Leave a comment below.
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