Gilbert Burns put himself on the map with a dominant unanimous-decision win over Tyron Woodley to close out UFC on ESPN 9 at the UFC's Apex facility in Las Vegas.
Burns put the former champion on notice early in the first. He floored Woodley with a quick uppercut after a knee to the body and quickly went to work on the ground and got to mount, where he opened up a nasty cut on his opponent.
The Brazilian looked to end the fight early on the ground with ground-and-pound and an arm-triangle attempt, but Woodley was able to work out of the disadvantageous position and survive the round.
Burns again seemed to take a page out of Kamaru Usman's playbook as he took the fight to Woodley in the second round. He boldly ducked under a Woodley right hand and scored the takedown, then controlled the fight on the ground.
The third round didn't feature much grappling, but it was still Burns who held the advantage.
He continued to showcase his striking in the fourth and fifth rounds. T-Wood had few answers as Burns continued to fight on the back foot and was uninspiring throughout the bout.
Burns broke out in a major way. While his wins over Demian Maia and Gunnar Nelson were impressive, this was the fighter's first opportunity on a big stage, and he stepped up in convincing fashion. The welterweight division has another contender.
Leading up to the main event was a fun night of fights for the company's return to Las Vegas. With close matchups throughout the night and two submissions on the main card, those who tuned in were rewarded with multiple good bouts.
- Gilbert Burns def. Tyron Woodley via unanimous decision (50-44 x 2, 50-45)
- Augusto Sakai def. Blagoy Ivanov via split decision (29-28 x 2, 27-30)
- Billy Quarantillo def. Spike Carlyle via unanimous decision (29-28 x 3)
- Roosevelt Roberts def. Brok Weaver via submission (rear-naked choke) at 3:26 of Round 2
- Mackenzie Dern def. Hannah Cifers via submission (kneebar) at 2:36 of Round 1
- Katlyn Chookagian def. Antonina Shevchenko via unanimous decision (30-25)
- Daniel Rodriguez def. Gabe Green via unanimous decision (30-27 x 3)
- Jamahal Hill def. Klidson Abreu via TKO at 1:51 of Round 1
- Brandon Royval def. Tim Elliott via submission (arm-triangle) at 3:18 of Round 2
- Casey Kenney def. Louis Smolka via submission (guillotine choke) at 3:03 of Round 1
- Chris Gutierrez def. Vince Morales via TKO at 4:27 of Round 2
Blagoy Ivanov vs. Augusto Sakai
On a night of fun fights, Blagoy Ivanov and Augusto Sakai made sure people had time to get a quick nap in before the main event. Sakai took a split decision in a bout that had few memorable moments.
The saving grace was that it was close. Both Sakai and Ivanov had their moments, but for a heavyweight bout, it was largely devoid of fight-changing strikes. According to the unofficial statistics, Sakai had the advantage in significant strikes landed.
The win ties Sakai with Francis Ngannou for the longest winning streak in the heavyweight division at four. However, the result was less than exciting for the rising Japanese-Brazilian fighter. Ivanov is as tough as they come, so a finish would have been asking for a lot, but this was not the kind of performance that will raise his stock much.
Ivanov certainly didn't do enough to win the fight either. He continues to look like a tough out for anyone he's matched up with but lacks the power to make a real impact in the division.
Billy Quarantillo vs. Spike Carlyle
Spike Carlyle and Billy Quarantillo did their best to earn Fight of the Night bonuses in a wild, frenetic bout that went all three rounds and saw Quarantillo claim the decision in a 150-pound catchweight bout.
Carlyle came out in the first round looking to suffocate Quarantillo with his top pressure. As it turned out, it would be the most success he found. The most bizarre moment in the fight came when Carlyle apparently thought the round was over and Quarantillo landed a shot before the bell actually called the round.
The second frame was the most competitive, as Carlyle was still pressuring but Quarantillo threatened with multiple submission attempts.
The third round saw the disparity widen as Quarantillo took advantage of a gassed Carlyle. His slick submission game and striking on the ground took the round and earned him the nod on the judges' scorecards.
Roosevelt Roberts vs. Brok Weaver
On the feet, on the ground, it didn't matter. Roosevelt Roberts showed he held the advantage everywhere in his second-round submission win over Brok Weaver.
Roberts picked Weaver apart on the feet, dominated position in the clinch and ultimately sunk in a rear-naked choke while on the ground for a comprehensive beatdown of Weaver in lightweight action. Weaver came in overweight at the weigh-ins at 157.5 pounds, but Roberts still looked like the stronger fighter.
Roberts is now 4-1 in five UFC appearances. After emerging from Dana White's Contender Series, he has looked impressive, and this win certainly showed off his continued progression.
Weaver, who is also a DWCS alumnus, was fighting in the UFC for just the second time. This is his first loss since September 2016.
Mackenzie Dern vs. Hannah Cifers
Since coming into the UFC, Mackenzie Dern has shown she's a dangerous grappler with suspect striking. Her brief fight with Hannah Cifers did little to change that perception.
Cifers came out firing and looking to make it a brawl on the feet. She landed leg kicks, knees and a few punches before a string of critical mistakes found her on the ground with Dern. The jiu-jitsu practitioner threw her down from the clinch, and rather than work her way to the feet, Cifers chose to go for some ground-and-pound.
That proved to be a mistake, as Dern locked in a kneebar that drew a quick tap from Cifers. As UFC News noted, the submission was historic in the division:
The win was especially important for Dern, who suffered her first loss to Amanda Ribas in her last appearance. That fight took place just four months after the birth of her first child, so it was crucial for her to turn in a good performance this time around.
She certainly did that once the fight got to her wheelhouse.