LAS VEGAS — Fresh off back-to-back numbered events the past two weeks, the UFC will roll right into a massive featherweight main event on Saturday inside the Apex.
Former 145-pound champion Max Holloway (22-6) will take on Yair Rodriguez (13-2) at UFC Fight Night. For Holloway, 2021 will mark the first calendar year since 2015 in which he did not compete in a UFC title fight. But a win tonight would almost certainly set that up for him in 2022. As for Mexico’s Rodriguez, Holloway represents the biggest test of his career, and an opportunity to live up to the potential he has shown since 2014, when he won The Ultimate Fighter Latin America series.
In addition to the high-profile main event, UFC Fight Night features welterweight prospect Miguel Baeza, who is looking to rebound from the first loss of his career against a fellow striker in Khaos Williams. A bantamweight matchup between Song Yadong and Julio Arce also stands out as the main-card opener.
Follow along as Brett Okamoto, Marc Raimondi and Jeff Wagenheim recap the action after each fight or watch UFC Fight Night on ESPN+.
Fight in progress:
Welterweight: Miguel Baeza (10-1, 3-1 UFC; -150) vs. Khaos Williams (12-2, 3-1 UFC; +125)
Song Yadong stuns Julio Arce with a head kick and then finishes him off with strong punches in the second round.
Men’s bantamweight: Song Yadong 18-5-1, 7-1-1 UFC) def. Julio Arce (17-5, 4-3 UFC) by second-round TKO
Yadong is looking more like a future title contender with every fight. Such was the case on Saturday, as the 23-year-old South Korean finished Arce via TKO at 1:35 of the second round.
The finish came after Yadong staggered Arce, who’s from New York, with a right hand. Arce retreated to the fence where Yadong walked him down and unloaded a heavy flurry that dropped Arce to the canvas. It’s the first time Arce has been finished in a fight since March 2016.
Yadong, who trains out of Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, California, looked great on the feet throughout the 135-pound contest. He threw with speed and power and mixed in a good variety of kicks to Arce’s legs and head. He is already 7-1-1 in the UFC, with his only loss coming against Kyler Phillips in March.
Joel Alvarez, left, recorded his fourth straight UFC victory with a first-round TKO of Thiago Moises. All four of those wins, and all 19 of Alvarez’s career wins, have come via stoppage. Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC
Lightweight: Joel Alvarez (19-2, 4-1 UFC) def. Thiago Moises (15-6, 4-4 UFC) by first-round TKO | Watch this fight on ESPN+
Alvarez acquired his “El Fenomeno” nickname prior to Saturday, but his phenomenal performance against Moises lived up to the moniker.
Although the 28-year-old from Spain was a more than 2-to-1 betting underdog, Alvarez was in command from the start. His 6-foot-3 stature produced a significant reach advantage, and Alvarez showed an ability to hit while not getting hit. He landed 44 strikes to 11 for Moises, who was hurt most badly by body strikes before sagging against the cage, leading referee Mark Smith to jump in at 3:01 of Round 1.
It was the fourth straight win for Alvarez, all finishes; in fact, all 19 of his pro wins have been by finish. The last three, however, had been by submission.
“I always said I was a striker,” Alvarez said through an interpreter. “I can do it.”
Moises, a 26-year-old Brazilian who fights out of Coconut Creek, Florida, has lost two in a row. His only “win” on this day was that he got to take home 30% of his opponent’s purse because Alvarez had missed weight by a pound and a half on Friday.
Both Andrea Lee and Cynthia Calvillo were bloodied over the course of their fight, but Lee’s performance in Round 2 earned her a TKO victory. Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC
Women’s flyweight: Cynthia Calvillo (10-3-1, 7-3-1 UFC) def. Andrea Lee (12-6, 4-4 UFC) by second-round TKO | Watch this fight on ESPN+
It’s time to consider Lee a women’s flyweight contender yet again.
In one of the best performances of her career, Lee pummeled Calvillo en route to a TKO victory at 5:00 of the second round. Calvillo declined to come out for the third. Lee lumped up Calvillo badly in the second round and Calvillo was emotional afterward.
“I really hope Cynthia is OK,” Lee said in her postfight interview. “I’m grateful she took this fight on three weeks notice. … For [referee Mark Smith] to come and say the fight was over, I was happy, I was thrilled. Also, concerned about Cynthia.”
Lee worked a nice jab in the first round, bloodying Calvillo’s nose. But Calvillo had moments, too, including several combinations that caused blood to pour from Lee’s nose. In the second round, though, it was mostly one-way traffic. Lee hurt Calvillo with a front kick to the body, then landed big left hooks and right hands, mixing in more kicks to the body and legs. By the end of the round, Calvillo was bleeding from multiple cuts on her face.
Lee, 32, from Louisiana, has won two straight following a three-fight losing streak. She came into the UFC in 2018 with considerable hype as a former LFA women’s flyweight champion and appears that Lee has finally started to put it all together. Calvillo, a 34-year-old California native fighting out of Las Vegas, has dropped three in a row.
Sean Woodson continued the trend of first-round finishes on Saturday with an early TKO over Colin Anglin. Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC
Men’s featherweight: Sean Woodson (9-1, 3-1 UFC) def. Collin Anglin (8-3, 0-2 UFC) by first-round TKO | Watch this fight on ESPN+
Woodson, of St. Louis, put it on Anglin on the feet, en route to an easy first-round finish. The end came at the 4:30 mark, as Anglin succumbed to a string of body punches along the fence. It is Woodson’s first finish inside the UFC.
Anglin tried to hang with Woodson on the feet and did attempt one takedown, but Woodson defended it easily. The jab was on point for Woodson, and once he had Anglin hurt, the finish came very quickly.
“I knew I had to put them hands together,” Woodson said. “I knew I couldn’t throw too many kicks, I felt he was looking to take me down. I hurt him with the body shot and saw him wince and knew I could finish the fight.”
Woodson is now 3-1 since coming off the Contender Series in 2019. Anglin, of Michigan, has lost two in a row.
Cortney Casey, right, bloodied Liana Jojua in the first round and controlled the rest of the fight — sweeping all three scorecards on her way to a unanimous decision. Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC
Women’s flyweight: Cortney Casey (10-9, 6-8 UFC) def. Liana Jojua (8-5, 1-3 UFC) by unanimous decision | Watch this fight on ESPN+
Jojua missed weight by 2½ pounds on Friday and had to surrender 30% of her purse. It was pretty much all downhill from there.
Casey repeatedly split the guard to land right hands and kicks to Jojua’s face, which was bloody by the middle of the first round; Round 1 ended with a 30-6 striking edge for Casey.
Even when Jojua succeeded in getting the fight to the canvas, she was the one absorbing most of the damage. As she followed Casey to the mat in Round 2, Jojua took two upkicks to the face. Then Casey landed several elbows from bottom position.
Casey, who is 34 and fights out of Glendale, Arizona, ended a two-fight losing streak by earning 30-27 scorecards from all three judges — despite injuring her hand in Round 1.
“It really was hurting in Round 2,” she said. “They said not to throw it in Round 3, but I said, ‘F— it.'”
Jojua, a 26-year-old from the country of Georgia, has been training in Las Vegas, has lost two of her last three.
Rafael Alves lands a flying knee on Marc Diakiese and then Alves immediately submits Diakiese with a guillotine choke.
Lightweight: Rafael Alves (20-10, 1-1 UFC) def. Marc Diakiese (14-5, 5-5 UFC) by first-round submission (guillotine) | Watch this fight on ESPN+
Alves is not the kind of guy you want to make a mistake against.
After wobbling Diakiese with a left hand, Alves ran in for a flying knee. Diakiese was able to catch Alves and go for a takedown – but Alves grabbed onto a guillotine. Alves locked in the choke as he and Diakiese hit the ground and Diakiese tapped out. The submission finish for Alves came at 1:48 of the first round.
“Dana, I’m here to be a champion,” Alves said in his postfight interview, referring to UFC president Dana White. “I’m born to be a champion.”
Alves, 31, from Brazil, picked up his first UFC victory with that impressive sequence. He is a Dana White’s Contender Series alum and the former Titan FC interim lightweight champion. Diakiese, a Congolese 28-year-old fighting out of the United Kingdom, has lost two straight and five of his last seven.
Da-Un Jung knocks Kennedy Nzechukwu out with a series of elbows in the first round.
Light heavyweight: Da-Un Jung (15-2-1, 4-0-1 UFC) def. Kennedy Nzechukwu (9-2, 3-2 UFC) by first-round KO | Watch this fight on ESPN+
Jung, of South Korea, knocked out Nzechukwu with standing elbows along the fence at the 3:04 mark of the opening round. The finish came after Jung hurt Nzechukwu on the feet, walked him to the fence and dropped him with elbows over the top.
It was a decisive finish for Jung and a bit of a puzzling performance by Nzechukwu, who barely attempted any strikes and mostly stood directly in front of Jung in a defensive posture. It is Nzechukwu’s first loss in four fights. Jung improves to 4-0-1 in the UFC.
Still to come:
Men’s featherweight: Max Holloway (22-6, 18-6 UFC; -625) vs. Yair Rodriguez (14-2 NC, 8-1 NC UFC; +450)
Heavyweight: Ben Rothwell (39-13, 9-7 UFC; -160) vs. Marcos Rogerio de Lima (18-8-1, 7-5 UFC; +135)
Women’s featherweight: Felicia Spencer (8-3, 2-3 UFC; -300) vs. Leah Letson (5-2, 1-0 UFC; +240)