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LAS VEGAS — Two former UFC title challengers will look to strengthen their cases for a second championship attempt when light heavyweights Thiago Santos and Glover Teixeira collide at UFC Fight Night on Saturday at the Apex.

Santos (21-7) will be making his first appearance since he came up short in a split-decision loss to Jon Jones in their title fight at UFC 239 in July 2019. Santos tore the ACL, MCL, PCL and meniscus in his left knee during the loss. He has been sidelined the past 16 months because of the injuries and delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Physically, I’m already feeling 100 percent,” Santos said. “I have done everything in training: sparring, kicking hard, knee … everything normal. But I haven’t been fighting for a long time, I don’t know how my head, my adrenaline will be.

“But I have a feeling it’s going to be alright. I will be very happy, doing what I love and everything will be fine.”

Teixeira (31-7) is enjoying something of a career renaissance at age 41, as he’s riding a four-fight win streak. Teixeira also came up short in a title bid against Jones in 2014, but he is putting together a somewhat unexpected second run at a UFC championship.

The winner was expected to be the next challenger for recently crowned champion Jan Blachowicz, but UFC president Dana White said middleweight champ Israel Adesanya will move up a weight class to challenge for his second title.

In the co-main event, former heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski will meet 2020 standout Tanner Boser, who is 2-0 with two knockouts so far this year.


Fight in progress:

Heavyweight: Andrei Arlovski (29-19 1 NC, 18-14 1 NC UFC, +250) vs. Tanner Boser (19-6-1, 3-1 UFC, -300)


Results:

Men’s bantamweight: Raoni Barcelos (16-1, 5-0 UFC) vs. Khalid Taha (13-3 1 NC, 1-2 1 NC UFC)

Recap to come.

Watch this fight on ESPN+.


Men’s featherweight: Giga Chikadze (12-2, 5-0 UFC) defeats Jamey Simmons (7-3, 0-1 UFC) by first-round TKO

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Giga Chikadze welcomes Jamey Simmons to the UFC with a big head kick that promptly ends the fight in Round 1.

Coming in, Chikazde had fought three times this year. He had looked good in every bout, but the elite striker had been in search of his first finish. On Saturday, he got it.

Chikadze rocked Simmons with a head kick and then finished on the ground for a TKO at 3:51 of the first round in a featherweight bout. Chikadze first landed a gorgeous left body kick, which clearly hurt Simmons. With Simmons dropping his hands slightly, Chikadze recognized it and landed a perfect left head kick leading to the finish. After several shots to the downed Simmons, referee Herb Dean pulled Chikadze off.

With the victory, Chikadze put his name in some lofty territory. He joined former champion Max Holloway in 2015 as the only featherweights to go 4-0 in a calendar year, per ESPN Stats & Information research. Chikadze and Kevin Holland are the only UFC fighters to go 4-0 in 2020. Plus, Chikadze is only the sixth fighter to start his UFC career at 5-0 at featherweight.

In his postfight interview, Chikadze called out veteran Jeremy Stephens for a December fight.

“I want at least [my] next one co-main or even main event,” Chikadze said.

Chikadze, 32, has won seven straight overall. The Republic of Georgia native is a veteran of Glory Kickboxing. Simmons, a 28-year-old fighting out of Wisconsin, was making his UFC debut and had a three-fight winning streak snapped.

Raimondi

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Strawweight: Yan Xiaonan (13-1, 6-0 UFC) defeats Claudia Gadelha (18-5, 7-5 UFC) vs. by unanimous decision

Yan might not be as famous as her fellow Chinese strawweight, Zhang Weili, but she’s well on her way after a performances like Saturday’s.

Yan (13-1) dominated a former title challenger in Gadelha (18-5) to improve to 6-0 in the UFC. Yan didn’t come close to recording a finish, but strong takedown defense and laser-sharp work on the feet carried her to a clear-cut decision. All three judges scored it 29-28 for Yan.

The victory actually moves Yan ahead of Zhang, the 115-pound division’s current champion, in total wins — 6-5 — in the UFC. Yan has yet to record a finish in the Octagon, but that’s really the only knock on the 31-year-old, who now holds wins over multiple established names in Gadelha, Karolina Kowalkiewicz and Angela Hill.

Yan held a glaring speed advantage over Gadelha on the feet, which helped her dictate the fight. She picked Gadelha apart anytime the fight was at range, darting in with jabs and straight rights, and then exiting before Gadelha could counter. Gadelha tried to answer Yan’s speed by taking her down, and managed to do so several times, but struggled to keep Yan down or capitalize with any significant offense.

According to UFC Stats, Yan out-landed Gadelha in total strikes 128 to 69, and defended eight of Gadelha’s 10 takedown attempts.

Gadelha, who challenged unsuccessfully for the UFC championship in 2016, saw a two-fight win streak snapped.

— Okamoto

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Middleweight: Trevin Giles (13-2, 4-2 UFC) defeats Bevon Lewis (7-3, 1-3 UFC) by third-round TKO

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After fainting just before he was to fight in August, Trevin Giles rebounds and knocks out opponent Bevon Lewis at UFC Fight Night.

Giles was faster with his hands and also quicker afoot, a combination that on multiple occasions in the first two rounds allowed him to land a clean punch and step just out of range. When Lewis came out for the final five minutes more aggressively, Giles had an answer for that, too, using his speed to land a pair of hard right hands that collapsed Lewis against the cage at 1:26 of Round 3.

The fighters spent much of the first round either out of striking range or clinched against the cage, and while Lewis landed more strikes (41-25), it was Giles who landed the better ones (12-8). His speed kept him safe and put Lewis on the defensive.

Giles, a 28-year-old full-time Houston police officer, had not fought since a split-decision win over James Krause in February. He was scheduled to fight again in August but passed out backstage minutes before he was to make the walk to the Octagon.

Lewis, 29 and from Albuquerque, New Mexico, never seemed to get up to speed. He has lost four of his last five bouts.

“It feels great,” Giles said. “I always love to finish a fight, especially after having the last decision and then not being able to fight. I feel relieved that I was able to get out here and just get it done.

“I was pretty composed in there. I’m really happy with my performance. I gauged him very well. I hid the jab away from him well enough and kept sneaking it in on him. Everything I needed to work for me worked. I’m really happy about that.”

— Raimondi

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Heavyweight: Alexandr Romanov (13-0, 2-0 UFC) defeats Marcos Rogerio de Lima (17-2-1, 6-5 UFC) by first-round submission

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Alexandr Romanov throws his coaches to the ground after a submission win over Marcos Rogerio de Lima at UFC Fight Night.

UFC fans found out in his promotion debut that Romanov is extremely dangerous in top position. For a second act, he pulled off a submission rarely seen in mixed martial arts.

Romanov put de Lima to sleep with an orthodox forearm choke — he clasped his hands together and simply drove his forearm into de Lima’s neck until his foe was unconscious. The submission finish came at 4:48 of the first round.

“We have worked a lot on the ground with my team,” Romanov said. “All I do in the cage is because of the great work of my team.”

Afterward, Romanov called out heavyweight Marcin Tybura, the man he was supposed to fight in his UFC back in July until Tybura tested positive for COVID-19.

On Saturday, de Lima did land some hard shots on the feet. But Romanov was able to close the distance and take de Lima down. Romanov has shown himself to be an absolute monster on top, and de Lima had no answers for the odd choke setup.

Romanov, 29, remains undefeated and is now 2-0 in the UFC with a pair of finishes. The Moldova native beat Roque Martinez by second-round submission (arm triangle) in September. De Lima, a 35-year-old Brazilian, has alternated wins and losses in his past nine fights.

— Raimondi

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Men’s featherweight: Darren Elkins (26-9, 15-8 UFC) defeats Eduardo Garagorri (13-2, 1-2 UFC) by third-round rear-naked choke

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Darren Elkins digs deep to submit Eduardo Garagorri late in Round 3 of their UFC Fight Night bout.

Elkins snapped a four-fight skid — by far the longest of his career — with the third-round submission.

It was an interesting matchup, in that it was clear by the third round Elkins’ only path to victory was his grappling. He dominated Garagorri on the floor in the first round but ceded momentum to Garagorri as the fight progressed. Garagorri appeared to be on his way to winning the final round on the feet, until Elkins jumped on his back and secured a rear-naked choke at the 2:22 mark.

Fighting out of Uruguay, Garagorri looked shell-shocked by Elkins’ wrestling early on, as he struggled to create any kind of space in the opening round. The efficiency of Elkins’ takedowns started to wane in the second round, however, and Garagorri went to work with his jab and a straight left hand that opened a small cut under Elkins’ left eye.

It was more of the same for Garagorri in the third until Elkins desperately got hold of his waist, swung behind him and jumped on his back. It was impressive grappling from that point on, as Elkins secured a body-triangle on Garagorri as he continued to stand near the fence and slid the left arm under his chin for the finish.

Prior to this four-fight skid, Elkins had never lost back-to-back fights his entire career. He holds the second-most wins in UFC featherweight history with 14, trailing only former champion Max Holloway.

“I have the most takedowns in the featherweight division,” Elkins said. “I’m tied for the most appearances in the featherweight division. That just shows you my longevity. It’s been over 10 years I’ve been with this company. I’ve always liked fighting for the UFC and am glad to be doing what I love.

“I’d like to be back here around March. Me and Kron Gracie could match up. He’s been out for a while. Let’s try to do February or March. The last two fights, that’s the guy I’ve wanted to fight.”

— Okamoto

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Welterweight: Max Griffin (16-8, 4-6 UFC) defeats Ramiz Brahimaj (8-3, 0-1 UFC) by third-round TKO

Griffin and Brahimaj were trading blows against the cage early in Round 3, each man bloodied and battered, each delivering more damage, when referee Mark Smith suddenly jumped in to end it. Why? A Griffin elbow had landed to Brahimaj’s left ear and nearly torn it off his head, leaving the ear hanging.

The result was a TKO at 2:03 of Round 3. It was Griffin’s eighth career knockout win, but his first since 2016.

“I think his ear fell out of his head,” said Griffin. “I’m sorry for that. It was bad.”

Griffin, a 34-year-old fighting out of Sacramento, California, broke out of a two-fight losing streak. He did so with unrelenting footwork and a crisp jab that for much of the fight kept Brahimaj at distance — which kept the fight standing, where Griffin had the edge. He outlanded his opponent 82-46.

Brahimaj, who is 27 and trains as part of Fortis MMA in Dallas, was making his UFC debut after twice having seen it canceled. He was competing for the first time since March 2019. But when he has fought, he has done his best work on the canvas. All of eight of his pro wins have come by submission. But this time Brahimaj did not even attempt a takedown, thanks largely to Griffin’s distance management.

— Wagenheim

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Men’s bantamweight: Gustavo Lopez (16-6, 1-1) defeats Anthony Birchak (15-7, 0-1 UFC) by first-round rear-naked choke

In a battle of friends and former training partners, Lopez got a quick result.

It was a fast-paced sprint, as Lopez was able to land hard on the feet, then get things to the ground and finish Birchak by rear-naked choke at 2:43 of the first round. Lopez and Birchak have trained together in Las Vegas and both have represented 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu over the years. Birchak was coming in on less than a week’s notice.

Birchak missed early on a flying knee, which Lopez countered nicely with a left hook. Lopez followed with a hard right hand that dropped Birchak. While Birchak was able to get back to his feet, Lopez soon got him down again, took his back and choked him out.

Lopez, 31, earned his first UFC victory. The Washington state native has won four of his past five overall. Birchak, 34, was on a two-fight winning streak coming in. This was the Arizona native’s return to the UFC after being released in 2016.

“My striking has improved so much,” Lopez said. “I am a grappler. I know Birchak comes in with a black belt out of 10th Planet, but I know my grappling’s good. I hurt him well, broke him down, saw the neck and got in the rear-naked choke.

“I don’t fight guys based on anger. I do this because I love what I’m doing. I’m here because I want to become the best. I surround myself with amazing people here at Xtreme Couture. Just because I know you doesn’t mean I’m going to pull those punches. I’m going to hit you hard.”

— Raimondi

Watch this fight on ESPN+.


Still to come:

Light heavyweight: Thiago Santos (21-7, 13-6 UFC, -240) vs. Glover Teixeira (31-7, 14-5 UFC, +200)

https://www.espn.com/mma/story/_/id/30267901/ufc-fight-night-thiago-santos-vs-glover-teixeira-live-updates-results

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