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T.J. Dillashaw returned from more than a two-year absence to reclaim his spot as one of the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s premier bantamweights.
In his first appearance since completing a United States Anti-Doping Agency suspension, Dillashaw scratched and clawed his way to a split decision over former Elevation Fight Team stablemate Cory Sandhagen in the UFC on ESPN 27 main event on Saturday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. All three judges scored it 48-47: Sal D’Amato and Junichiro Kamijo for Dillashaw, Derek Cleary for Sandhagen.
Pace and pressure served as Dillashaw’s avenues to victory. He routinely pushed Sandhagen (14-3, 7-2 UFC) into the fence and worked from the rear waistlock position, burying knees into the back of his legs. Dillashaw (17-4, 13-4 UFC) did not escape unscathed. Sandhagen was the superior fighter in space and opened a cut with a clubbing right hand in the second round. Blood seeped from the diagonal wound, which was located near the intersection of Dillashaw’s nose and right eye. However, Sandhagen failed to fully capitalize. Too often he wandered into the two-time champion’s clutches, surrendering momentum and allowing valuable time to be milked from the clock. They entered the fifth round with the outcome still in doubt, though neither man managed to separate himself from the other.
Replacement Paiva Downs Phillips
Team Alpha Male’s Raulian Paiva rode timely takedowns, a stout chin and powerful punching combinations to a majority decision over MMA Lab prospect Kyler Phillips in the three-round bantamweight co-main event. Judges Eric Colon and Chris Lee saw it 29-28 for Paiva, while Sal D’Amato scored it a 28-28 draw.
Phillips (9-2, 3-1 UFC) dominated much of the first round, where he knocked down the Brazilian, stepped into thudding right hands and scrambled into top position on more than one occasion. A short-notice replacement for the injured Raphael Assuncao, Paiva (21-3, 3-2 UFC) appeared to be teetering on the brink near the end of the round, but his ability to survive paid massive dividends. He started to turn the tide in his favor in the middle stanza, as he dove on an attempted leg lock and later touched off a wild exchange with a right hand of his own. Phillips’ pace slowed down the stretch. Paiva walked through a number of right hands in the third round, connected in multi-punch bursts and mixed in a takedown for good measure.
The loss halted Phillips’ four-fight winning streak.
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Indomitable Elkins Sinks Minner
Darren Elkins disposed of Glory MMA representative Darrick Minner with punches in the second round of their featherweight showcase. Bloody and battered yet again, the resolute Elkins (26-9, 16-8 UFC) forced the stoppage 3:48 into Round 2.
Minner (26-11, 2-2 UFC) won a majority of the scrambles, piled up points with ground-and-pound and made passes at various submissions, from guillotine chokes and a topside triangle to an armbar. Nothing worked, and all the effort he exerted pushed his gas tank beyond its bounds. Elkins escaped a guillotine in the second round, twice moved to a topside crucifix, chipped away with punches and eventually advanced to the back. From there, a sustained barrage of punches on the exhausted Minner slammed the door shut.
Elkins, 37, has followed a career-worst four-fight losing streak with back-to-back wins.
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Barber Rebounds, Edges Maverick
Team Alpha Male’s Maycee Barber rebounded from back-to-back losses to Roxanne Modafferi and Alexa Grasso with a contentious split decision over Miranda Maverick in a three-round women’s flyweight feature. All three cageside judges scored it 29-28: Sal D’Amato and Dave Hagen for Barber (9-2, 4-2 UFC), Chris Lee for Maverick.
Maverick (9-3, 2-1 UFC) controlled the center of the cage through two rounds and backed up the Dana White’s Contender Series graduate with an active kicking game. She did her best work in Round 2, where she unleashed her jab with more regularity, scrambled to Barber’s back and applied her ground-and-pound in the waning moments. Maverick slowed down noticeably in the third, conceded a takedown, ate a beautiful spinning elbow from her 23-year-old counterpart and left her fate in the hands of the judges.
The setback was Maverick’s first since Feb. 15, 2019 and ended her run of consecutive victories at five.
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Resilient Yanez Stops Costa
Adrian Yanez put away Lauzon MMA export Randy Costa with punches in the second round of a wild back-and-forth bantamweight showcase. Yanez (14-3, 3-0 UFC) brought it to a close 2:11 into Round 2, posting his seventh consecutive victory.
Costa (6-2, 2-2 UFC) raced out to a strong start, as he battered the Metro Fight Club rep with a ferocious jab, head kicks and crisp punching combinations. It was not enough to get the job done. Yanez picked up his pace in the middle stanza, cut loose with a left hook to the body and drove his opponent to his knees with a right uppercut. He followed with a volley of punches on the kneeling Costa, forcing referee Chris Tognoni to intervene.
The defeat snapped Costa’s two-fight winning streak.
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