UFC Fight Night 129 on Saturday was the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s inaugural event in Chile. The headliner between Top 10 welterweights played out over five rounds, as Kamaru Usman looked to validate his calls for a title shot and weathered veteran Demian Maia looked to right his ship after back-to-back losses to Tyron Woodley and Colby Covington. Usman cruised to a dominant unanimous decision and afterward took aim at Woodley and the welterweight championship.
Usman’s game plan was clear from the start. He wanted to avoid grappling exchanges and engage Maia on the feet. Usman was successful in doing so, as he denied all 15 of the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt’s takedown attempts and utilized a reach advantage to pick him apart from the outside. A straight right from “The Nigerian Nightmare” in the fourth round floored Maia, who appeared to be suffering from a broken nose in the latter stages of the fight.
The 31-year-old Usman has rattled off 12 wins in a row, owns a perfect 8-0 record in the UFC and finds himself in the thick of the title hunt at 170 pounds.
Contenders Clearing a Path
Tatiana Suarez moved to 6-0 in the co-main event, where she took out Mexican prospect Alexa Grasso with a rear-naked choke in the first round. Suarez seized control early, executing a single-leg takedown inside the first 40 seconds. Grasso countered with an armbar attempt but gave up her back in the process, setting up her counterpart for the fight-ending choke. The victory was the unbeaten Suarez’s first against a ranked opponent. “The Ultimate Fighter 23” winner figures to draw another Top 10 strawweight in her next assignment.
Meanwhile, Dominick Reyes kept his perfect professional record intact with his ninth straight win and improved to 3-0 with three finishes in the UFC, as he knocked out Jared Cannonier with a vicious uppercut in the first round of their light heavyweight showcase. Cannonier found trouble early, when Reyes landed a left uppercut and set him on wobbly legs. Reyes stalked the former Alaska Fighting Championship titleholder around the Octagon, looked to land the finishing shot and delivered another uppercut that sent Cannonier crashing to the mat. He then walked away from the scene, ala Mark Hunt, giving referee Marc Goddard the opportunity to step in a call it off. Afterward, Reyes called for a match with the unbeaten Jordan Johnson at UFC 227 in August.
Finally, much to the dismay of the Chilean crowd, Guido Cannetti outpointed hometown hero Diego Rivas across three rounds and picked up a unanimous decision in a bantamweight feature. Cannetti was effective throughout, as he mixed up his striking and grappling while staying aggressive against an opponent who was willing to sit on his back foot and wait for chances to land significant blows. Those opportunities were too few and far between for Rivas, who has suffered consecutive losses after starting his career 7-0.
Andrea Lee made a successful promotional debut, defeating Veronica Macedo by unanimous decision in a flyweight battle that won “Fight of the Night” honors. Lee took down Macedo on multiple occasions, working for submissions and delivering heavy ground-and-pound … Vicente Luque recorded his sixth finish in seven fights, as he knocked out “The Ultimate Fighter Nations” winner Chad Laprise in the first round of their welterweight clash. The end came 4:16 into Round 1 … Poliana Botelho stopped the previously unbeaten Syuri Kondo inside the first minute of their strawweight confrontation, freezing the former Pancrase champion with a liver kick. A few follow-up punches sealed it 33 seconds into the first round … Gabriel Benitez escaped a deep armbar attempt and knocked out Humberto Bandenay with a brutal slam in the first round. With his limb in danger, Benitez stacked his opponent, hoisted him horizontal and planted him on the canvas. Bandenay was in no condition to defend himself, and a subsequent hammerfist left him unconscious … Claudio Puelles authored a comeback for the ages in his lightweight prelim opposite Felipe Silva. After being battered for two-plus rounds, Puelles locked up a kneebar from the bottom, activated his hips and prompted the tapout 2:23 into Round 3.