Magomed Ankalaev scored a big unanimous-decision win over Thiago Santos in the main event of UFC Fight Night 203 from the Apex facility in Las Vegas on Saturday.
From the beginning, Ankalaev's speed and counterstriking stood out against the powerful Santos. Marreta was the aggressor in the early going, but Ankalaev was there to counter most of his opponent's advances.
Santos' willingness to throw first paid off in the second round. He clipped Ankalaev with a left hand that put his opponent on the mat in an otherwise forgettable five minutes.
Marreta showed some more signs of life in the third as his leg kicks started to add up. Ankalaev was still efficient on the counter, making it a difficult fight to score.
In the fourth round, Ankalaev finally turned to his wrestling. He scored his first takedown attempt and utilized top control to make the round a clear win for him. The fifth round was much of the same. Though Ankalaev didn't secure a takedown, he did utilize the clinch against the cage to control Santos and wrap up the win.
This wasn't the most exciting performance from Ankalaev, but it was efficient and effective. He'll continue to see a push as a potential title contender in the light heavyweight division.
Here's a look at the complete results from the card, including a closer look at each of the main event fights.
- Magomed Ankalaev def. Thiago Santos by unanimous decision (49-46 x2, 48-47)
- Song Yadong def. Marlon Moraes by knockout at 2:06 of Round 1
- Sodiq Yusuff def. Alex Caceres by unanimous decision (30-27 x2, 29-28)
- Khalil Rountree Jr. def. Karl Roberson by TKO at 0:25 of Round 2
- Drew Dober def. Terrance McKinney by TKO at 3:17 of Round 1
- Alex Pereira def. Bruno Silva by unanimous decision (30-27 x3)
- Matthew Semelsberger def. A.J. Fletcher by unanimous decision (29-28 x3)
- JJ Aldrich def. Gillian Robertson by unanimous decision (30-27 x3)
- Javid Basharat def. Trevin Jones by unanimous decision (30-27 x2, 29-28)
- Damon Jackson def. Kamuela Kirk by submission (arm-triangle choke) at 4:42 of Round 2
- Miranda Maverick def. Sabina Mazo by submission (rear-naked choke) at 2:15 of Round 2
- Cody Brundage def. Dalcha Lungiambula by submission (guillotine) at 3:41 of Round 1
- Guido Cannetti def. Kris Moutinho by TKO at 2:07 of Round 1
- Tafon Nchukwi vs. Azamat Murzakanov by TKO at 0:44 of Round 3
Song Yadong def. Marlon Moraes
It's all aboard the Song Yadong hype train after the 24-year-old defeated Marlon Moraes via first-round knockout.
Moraes, who had lost three fights in a row going into this one, looked dangerous in the opening minutes. He was firing off crisp strikes with heat. Yadong was more than willing to fire back, though.
Among those responses was a three-piece combo that floored Moraes. The referee may have been quick to call the bout, but it was an impressively smooth combination from Yadong regardless.
The loss may have pushed Moraes' losing streak to four, but it's important to note the context of those losses. He had lost to a tough combination of contenders in Rob Font, Cory Sandhagen and Merab Dvalishvili.
Yadong is now a part of that impressive group.
The Chinese fighter was taking a big step up in competition here and proved he's ready for an even bigger step up in his next fight.
Sodiq Yusuff def. Alex Caceres
It was a tough night to be Alex Caceres' lead leg. Sodiq Yusuff made sure it was properly battered throughout the three-round fight to earn the unanimous decision.
Caceres can be a tough out because of his unconventional movement and style. But Yusuff came in with a plan to halt his mobility with leg kicks, and he stuck to it throughout the fight. Yusuff landed 34 of 37 leg kicks throughout the fight, per ESPN's FightCenter.
This was a much-needed rebound performance for Yusuff. He suffered his first loss in three years against Arnold Allen last time out. Now, he's back in the win column and 5-1 since coming to the UFC in 2018.
This wasn't the most impressive performance from him. We've seen him land more power strikes and knock out opponents. Sometimes neutralizing a dangerous veteran like Caceres is what's necessary, though.
There are bigger fights ahead for Yusuff.
Khalil Rountree Jr. def. Karl Roberson
Khalil Rountree Jr. brought the violence and threw his hat into the ring for Performance of the Night with a vicious second-round TKO win over Karl Roberson.
The two light heavyweights threw down in the first round. Both fighters had their moments as they fought like they weren't planning on needing judges.
In the second round, it was Rountree who proved they wouldn't need the scorekeepers. He sent Roberson to the mat with a nasty right hand, followed it up with a kick to the body and ensured his opponent wasn't getting back up with another right hook that ended the fight.
Rountree has not been able to string together good performances, but when he's at the peak of his powers, he's a dangerous man. After dropping three of four from late 2018 to early 2021, he now has two wins in a row.
If he's going to capitalize, he'll need to continue to be active and more consistent.
Drew Dober def. Terrance McKinney
A lot can happen in three minutes of a UFC fight. That was the lesson prospect Terrance McKinney found out in his first-round TKO loss to Drew Dober.
McKinney landed some massive shots early against the 33-year-old Dober. Specifically, he uncorked a few body kicks that appeared to have Dober in trouble. But McKinney wasn't able to capitalize.
As it turns out, that was a mistake that cost him the fight. Dober caught McKinney with a knee to the body that floored his opponent, and the beginning of an epic comeback was afoot. Dober finished the fight with ground strikes.
The loss for McKinney is his first under the UFC banner. He had a five-fight win streak that spanned back to 2019.
For Dober, it snaps a two-fight skid and continues to give him juice as a strong test for prospects looking to break into the lightweight division.
Alex Pereira def. Bruno Silva
Alex Pereira might be a bit green in MMA, but he's dangerous nonetheless. He proved that much in his second fight in the Octagon. He got his second UFC win and moved his career record to 5-1 with a unanimous-decision win over Bruno Silva to kick off the main card.
The former Glory kickboxer was the busier and more efficient striker throughout the three-round fight. He landed 108 of his 179 significant strikes in a fight that happened nearly exclusively on the feet.
Silva did land two takedowns but had just over three minutes of control.
This was an encouraging win for Pereira from a developmental perspective. All of his wins to this point were by relatively early finish. So for him to go three rounds against a decent fighter like Silva is a sign that he has more than just the power he has shown.
Pereira is definitely in line for bigger and better things before the year is out.