Following an 11-month layoff, Chris Weidman returned to the Octagon on Friday night as a light heavyweight fighter against Dominick Reyes.
After spending the past eight years of his career fighting at middleweight, Weidman made the decision to move up to 205 pounds in part due to multiple neck surgeries that made it easier for him to carry the additional weight.
Weidman was also looking to reignite his career in the wake of losing four of his last five bouts. The All-American is four years removed from holding the UFC middleweight title and hasn't been a factor in the championship picture since dropping the strap to Luke Rockhold in December 2015.
Unfortunately, the change in weight didn't make a difference in the results for Weidman. He was knocked out by Reyes 103 seconds into the fight.
Reyes is on the rise in the 205-pound division with 12 consecutive wins to begin his career, including six straight since joining UFC in 2017.
Andreas Hale of Sporting News has seen enough from Reyes, both against Weidman and in UFC, to suggest he deserves a title shot against Jon Jones:
Jones is in the market for a new challenger after dispatching Alexander Gustafsson, Anthony Smith and Thiago Santos in the past 10 months. Reyes is putting together a resume that at least puts him in the conversation to get a shot at the light heavyweight title in 2020.
UFC on ESPN 6 Results
Light Heavyweight Bout: Dominick Reyes def. Chris Weidman via first-round TKO
Featherweight Bout: Yair Rodriguez def. Jeremy Stephens via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Heavyweight Bout: Greg Hardy fought Ben Sosoli to a no-contest
Lightweight Bout: Joe Lauzon def. Jonathan Pearce via first-round TKO
Women's Flyweight Bout: Maycee Barber def. Gillian Robertson via first-round TKO
Catchweight Bout (188.5 pounds): Darren Stewart def. Deron Winn via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Catchweight Bout: Charles Rosa def. Manny Bermudez via first-round submission
Women's Flyweight Bout: Molly McCann def. Diana Belbita via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-26)
Featherweight Bout: Sean Woodson def. Kyle Bobchniak via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-27)
Bantamweight Bout: Randy Costa def. Boston Salmon via first-round TKO
Welterweight Bout: Sean Brady def. Court McGee via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
Middleweight Bout: Brendan Allen def. Kevin Holland via second-round submission
Heavyweight Bout: Tanner Boser def. Daniel Spitz via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
As thrilling as Reyes' finish of Weidman was, Yair Rodriguez and Jeremy Stephens put on the best match of the night in the semi-main event. The two featherweight stars engaged in a back-and-forth battle that all three judges scored 29-28 in favor of Rodriguez.
Rodriguez seemed to have the fight finished in the second round thanks to a pair of leg kicks that dropped Stephens to the mat. El Pantera pounced right away, trying to end the match with a series of strikes.
Stephens was able to survive the second round and make it through the third round. Several UFC fighters were so impressed with the performance by both men it prompted glowing responses on Twitter:
Rodriguez vs. Stephens was a rematch from last month when Stephens was unable to continue due to an accidental eye poke 15 seconds into the fight. The win moves Rodriguez to 12-2 overall with one no-contest in his career.
Friday's event turned into an emotional moment for Joe Lauzon. The 35-year-old was fighting in his home state of Massachusetts in search of his first victory since Jan. 2017.
Standing in Lauzon's way was Jonathan Pearce in his UFC debut after previously appearing on Dana White's Contender Series in July. Lauzon wasted no time ending the match, scoring a TKO victory in 93 seconds.
The stoppage ended Lauzon's three-match losing streak and may have put a bow on his 15-year career, though The Human Bonus Machine did leave the door open to keep fighting:
There was also a lot of positive reaction to Lauzon getting back in the winner's circle:
One fighter who didn't get great feedback was former NFL star Greg Hardy. The one-time Pro Bowl defensive end initially received unanimous decision win over Ben Sosoli, but UFC senior vice president of regulatory affairs Marc Ratner overturned the result to a no-contest for his use of an inhaler.
Hardy created the controversy for himself in between rounds two and three when he was seen using an inhaler.
Ariel Helwani @arielhelwani
Greg Hardy wins via UD. No post-fight interview. Jon Anik says Hardy was told by “a commissioner” that he was allowed to use the inhaler. Never heard of that before. Hardy’s manager says Hardy has asthma but unclear who actually cleared it. No post-fight interview for Hardy.
Even before Hardy circumvented the rules, his performance in the fight left a lot to be desired. Neither he nor Sosoli looked very impressive as they both stalled throughout the match.
Sosoli made it interesting in the third round when he landed one stiff shot to the head that rocked Hardy. It will be up to UFC president Dana White to determine which direction he wants to go with both fighters next, but the no-contest result would seem to set up a rematch.
Hardy clearly has a long way to go in his development as a mixed martial artist. He's a powerful striker capable of ending fights early. If he wants to be more than a mid-card attraction, being able to add skills to his style and improve cardio are imperative.