UFC 242 Prelims: Joanne Calderwood Outduels Surging Andrea Lee in Abu Dhabi

By: Brian Knapp
Sep 7, 2019

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Joanna Calderwood made her most significant move to date inside the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s women’s flyweight division.

“The Ultimate Fighter 20” quarterfinalist outstruck and out grappled former Legacy Fighting Alliance champion Andrea Lee in a narrow split decision atop the UFC 242 prelims on Saturday at The Arena on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Two judges sided with Calderwood, 30-27 and 29-28, while a third struck a dissenting 29-28 scorecard for Lee.

It was a close as the scores indicated. Calderwood (14-4, 6-4 UFC) landed several standing elbow strikes off the break, answered the Karate Mafia standout’s takedowns with some of her own and kept a steady pace during a 15-minute battle in which neither woman seemed willing to give ground. Lee (11-3, 3-1 UFC) bloodied the Syndicate MMA representative’s nose with right hands and fired off punches and kicks to the body but failed to establish a real rhythm. Calderwood picked up steam as the fight progressed, flexing her considerable muscle in the standup exchanges with clean combinations and front kicks to the body and face.

The loss brought an end to Lee’s seven-fight winning streak.

Tukhugov-Murphy Results in Split Draw

Tiger May Thai export Zubaira Tukhugov was back in the Octagon for the first time since May 2016, and while he may have envisioned a triumphant return, he exited the cage after a split draw with Lerone Murphy in a three-round featherweight scrap. Judges scored it 28-28 (David Lethaby), 29-28 for Tukhugov (Clemens Werner) and 29-28 for Murphy (Howie Booth).

Tukhugov (18-4-1, 3-1-1 UFC) nearly finished it in the first round, where he dropped the former Full Contact Contender champion with a left hook, swarmed with follow-up punches and ultimately settled in top position. From there, he neutralized the organizational newcomer with control and ground-and-pound. Murphy (8-0-1, 0-0-1 UFC) appeared to alter the direction of the fight in the middle frame, as he hid a potent right hand behind a double jab and countered a takedown with a tight guillotine, his opponent using a combination of perspiration and determination to free himself from the choke. Round 3 was uneventful, though a visibly fatigued Tukhugov — the feels-like temperature inside the arena reportedly hovered around 125 degrees — seemed to right his ship with a takedown and suffocating clinch.

Moras Subdues Newcomer Jouja

“The Ultimate Fighter” Season 18 semifinalist Sarah Moras put away former Fight Nights Global champion Liana Jouja with a volley of punches and elbows from mount in the third round of their women’s bantamweight pairing. Jouja (7-3, 0-1 UFC) succumbed to blows 2:26 into Round 3, her five-fight winning streak having run its course.

Moras (6-5, 3-4 UFC) kept the Georgian at bay with straight punches, pursued an attritive clinch and then initiated a series of ground exchanges. Whether on top or on the bottom, the Canadian was the more active and successful grappler. Moras sprawled out of a takedown in the third round, transitioned the back and climbed to full mount. From there, she dropped short punches, elbows and hammerfists until referee Marc Goddard had seen enough.

The victory, Moras’ first in nearly two years, halted a troubling three-fight losing streak for the Xtreme Couture rep.

Undefeated Azaitar Flattens Packalen

Jupps Fight Team export Ottman Azaitar kept his perfect professional record intact and did so in dramatic fashion, as he leveled Teemu Packalen in the first round of their lightweight confrontation. In his first appearance since March 2017, Packalen (8-3, 1-3 UFC) kissed the canvas 3:33 into Round 1, the victim of one of the more unsettling knockouts of the year.

Azaitar (12-0, 1-0 UFC) introduced himself to the masses with winging power punches from both hands, putting the Finland native on his heels from the start. He stunned Packalen on multiple occasions, stonewalled a series of desperate takedown attempts and delivered the kill shot: a devastating overhand right behind the ear. The 32-year-old Packalen froze where he stood and fell to the ground facedown, his right leg twitching uncontrollably.

It was the ninth first-round finish of Azaitar’s career.

Muhammad Choke Submits Sato

Former Titan Fighting Championship titleholder Belal Muhammad submitted Takashi Sato with a rear-naked choke in the third round of their welterweight tilt. Sato (15-3, 1-1 UFC) conceded defeat 1:55 into Round 3, where he was beaten for the first time in over a year.

Muhammad (16-3, 7-3 UFC) pressed a merciless pace, alternating between body-head combinations and takedown-minded clinches. Sato was effective in spurts — he countered well and connected often with his jab — but too often played the matador to the Roufusport standout’s bull. Muhammad struck for a takedown early in the third round, climbed to the back and secured position with a body triangle. He then hunted the choke, as he transitioned between arms before prompting the tapout.

The 31-year-old Muhammad will ride into his next assignment on the strength of consecutive victories.

Salikhov KOs Reeling Taleb

M-1 Global veteran Muslim Salikhov returned from a 19-month layoff and wiped out Tristar Gym mainstay Nordine Taleb in the first round of their welterweight clash. Taleb (15-7, 7-5 UFC) bowed out 4:26 into Round 1, as he lost for the third time in his last four appearances.

In authoring the 12th first-round finish of his career, Salikhov (15-2, 2-1 UFC) withstood an inadvertent low blow and softened the Canadian with thudding kicks to the leg and body. He backed Taleb to the fence in the final minute and uncorked a sweeping right hook that sent the Firas Zahabi protégé crashing to the canvas, his head bouncing violently off the mat. No follow-up shots were required.

Salikhov has won 13 of his last 14 bouts.

Resurgent Akhmedov Downs Cummings

Heavy leg kicks, well-timed takedowns and punishing ground-and-pound carried American Top Team’s Omari Akhmedov to a unanimous verdict against Zak Cummings in a three-round middleweight encounter. Unbeaten across his past five outings, Akhmedov (19-4-1, 7-3-1 UFC) was awarded 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 marks on the scorecards.

Cummings (23-7, 8-4 UFC) sat down his counterpart with a sneaky left hook in the first round but failed to build on the momentum and slowly allowed the Dagestani sambo stylist to seize control with leg and body kicks. Akhmedov paired a takedown with ground-and-pound in the middle stanza and did so again in the third, drawing the last bit of hope out of the Factory X representative.

Akhmedov, 31, has registered back-to-back wins and owns a 4-0-1 record since his technical knockout defeat to Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos in 2016.

Madge Smothers Replacement Ziam

Former Extreme Fighting Championship Africa titleholder Don Madge posted his sixth consecutive victory, as he laid claim to a unanimous decision over Fares Ziam in a three-round lightweight affair. All three cageside judges scored it for Madge (9-3-1, 2-0 UFC): 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28.

In a 15-minute encounter marked by incessant clinching and not much else, Ziam (10-3, 0-1 UFC) was crowded out of his comfort zone. A short-notice replacement for Magomed Mustafaev, the 22-year-old Bulgarian representative failed to manage distance and paid the requisite price. Madge executed takedowns in the second and third rounds, putting his stamp on another win in the waning seconds, as he applied his ground-and-pound and briefly achieved full mount.

The loss snapped Ziam’s five-fight winning streak.

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