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The Ultimate Fighting Championship grew its ranks by three during Week 9 of Dana White’s Contender Series, as the promotion signed Natan Levy, Nikolas Motta and Luana Pinheiro to contracts on Tuesday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas.
A Syndicate MMA prospect, Levy kept his perfect professional record intact and did so in spectacular fashion, as he choked Shaheen Santana unconscious with an arm-triangle in the third round of their catchweight confrontation at 160 pounds. Santana (6-1) lost his grip on reality 55 seconds into Round 3.
Levy (6-0) was superior in all phases. He did some damage on the feet but buttered his bread in the extended ground exchanges with Santana. Levy successfully navigated the MMA Masters rep’s active guard and progressed to dominant positions in all three rounds. He struck for a takedown inside the first minute of the final stanza, shifted to half guard, cinched the arm-triangle and squeezed the remaining fight out of Santana.
The 29-year-old Levy has delivered three of his six career victories by submission.
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A onetime Cage Fury Fighting Championships titleholder, Motta leaned on violent punching volleys and outstruck Joseph Lowry to a unanimous decision in a three-round lightweight scrap. Motta (12-3) swept the scorecards with 30-27 marks from all three judges.
Lowry (9-2) could not match the Ricardo Almeida-trained Brazilian’s firepower. Motta cracked him with repeated left hooks, leaving him with significant damage to his nose. Lowry countered effectively in spurts but found himself outmatched in the majority of their standup exchanges. Motta turned up the heat late in Round 3 and appeared to have referee Mark Smith considering a stoppage. However, Lowry’s considerable resilience allowed him to survive to the final bell.
Motta will ride a three-fight winning streak into his next assignment.
Meanwhile, Nova Uniao’s Pinheiro put away former King of the Cage champion Stephanie Frausto with punches in the first round of their women’s strawweight pairing. Frausto (8-7) succumbed to blows 2:48 into Round 1, her run of three straight victories at an end.
Pinheiro (8-1) circled on the perimeter, probed for weaknesses and set her heavy hands free. Hooks from both hands connected and dropped Frausto where she stood, the Invicta Fighting Championships alum coming to rest in the fetal position. Pinheiro then pounced with follow-up punches on her defenseless counterpart, prompting the stoppage.
The 26-year-old Pinheiro has won six fights in a row, all of them first-round finishes.
Filipe de Sousa Outduels Ksiazkiewicz
Former Max Fight champion Mario Filipe de Sousa connected with more consequential strikes, countered takedowns and ground-and-pound from Mariusz Ksiazkiewicz with a hyperactive bottom game and walked away with a unanimous decision in a three-round middleweight encounter. Scores were 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28, all for Filipe de Sousa.
Outgunned on the feet, Ksiazkiewicz (8-1) pursued takedowns with a gritty purpose but failed to consolidate many of them with meaningful offense. Filipe de Sousa (12-1) responded with punches, hammerfists, elbows and several submission attempts from the bottom, neutralizing whatever advantages his Canadian adversary felt he had on the ground.
Filipe de Sousa has pieced together a five-fight winning streak since he suffered his only professional setback in 2018.
Confident Sabatello Dominates Moore
Multiple takedowns, stifling control and steady ground-and-pound carried American Top Team prospect Danny Sabatello to a lopsided unanimous decision over Taylor Moore in a three-round bantamweight affair. All three cageside judges scored it for Sabatello (9-1): 30-24, 30-25 and 30-26.
Moore (10-5) did nothing of note from an offensive standpoint. Sabatello executed early takedowns in all three rounds, made positional advances when the opportunities presented themselves and piled up points with elbows, forearm strikes and short but effective punches to the head and body. Moore grew more and more frustrated with each passing second, the dire nature of his situation coming into focus.
Sabatello, 27, has rattled off three consecutive victories.