DENVER – Tony Ferguson justified his top-prospect status.
Ferguson, the previously embattled winner of “The Ultimate Fighter 13,” displayed impressive striking and ultimately broke lightweight Aaron Riley’s jaw for a first-round TKO victory.
The fight was the featured attraction on the preliminary card of UFC 135, which took place Saturday at Denver’s Pepsi Center. Ferguson vs. Riley was one of two fights that aired on Spike TV after a three-fight Facebook stream.
While Riley traded blows early, Ferguson soon took control with crisper striking and some especially effective counter shots. A left uppercut dazed Riley and, as we later learned, broke the veteran fighter’s jaw. Riley continued fighting through the pain for the next two minutes, but Ferguson wore him down with body shots and lunging punches as he chased.
Once the round was over, Riley, who was forced to keep his mouth agape for the second half of the round, informed his corner that his jaw was broken. As expected, the doctor then waved it off.
The TKO stoppage officially came at the 5:00 mark of the opening round.
“I’m ecstatic,” said Ferguson, who won “TUF 13” as a welterweight. “We wanted to put on a good show. Sorry it stopped early.”
Ferguson (12-2 MMA, 2-0 UFC) now owns a five fight win streak with five knockout victories, including one over Ramsey Nijem earlier this year to win “TUF 13” as a welterweight.
Riley (30-13-1 MMA, 3-5 UFC), a 14-year vet, falls to 2-3 in his past five.
Boetsch delivers Ring a first loss
Tim Boetsch’s move to middleweight again paid dividends as the former light heavyweight delivered Nick Ring his first career loss in the night’s Spike TV opener.
Boetsch pressed the action throughout the fight and continually cut off a circling Ring. And though Ring scored some takedowns on the wrestler, Boetsch avoided damage and then delivered his own once standing. In the second round, he landed shots more frequently, including a quick right that briefly dropped Ring, before closing out the round with a trip-takedown and kimura attempt.
Boetsch continued the momentum in the third and continued stalking and landing heavy blows from distance. Toward the end of the fight, he scored a big trip-takedown that sent Ring ankles over ass. Once on the mat, Boetsch worked from the crucifix and mount positions but couldn’t get the stoppage.
Instead, he settled for a unanimous-decision victory via 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27 scores.
“I’m loving middleweight so far,” said Boetsch, who is 2-0 in his new weight class. “I was trying to land that one big punch in the first round, but that doesn’t work in the UFC.”
Boetsch (14-4 MMA, 5-3 UFC), who’s currently in his second UFC stint, is 6-1 over his past seven fights. Ring (12-1 MMA, 2-1 UFC) suffers the first loss of his nearly 10-year career.
Assuncao wins fight – but few fans
Junior Assuncao won his first UFC fight in four-and-a-half years, but he made few fans in the process.
Although the Brazilian featherweight finished strong with a dominant third round against promotional newcomer Eddie Yagin, two action-light rounds were showered in boos.
Although Assuncao postured and dropped his hands, he remained at a distance and was slow to engage through the first five minutes of the fight. He scored a few takedown but did little with them, and then in the second round, he mocked Yagin’s guillotine-choke attempt and wiggled his finger before popping his head free.
The action finally arrived in the final round, when Yagin failed to lock up a standing-guillotine choke. After escaping, Assuncao quickly put Yagin on his back, moved into half guard, and closed out the round with a steady stream of punches and elbows from the top. The lopsided round earned him a couple 10-8 scores, but he couldn’t get the finish.
In the end, the judges awarded Assuncao a unanimous-decision victory via scores of 30-26, 30-26 and 30-27.
“The rush wasn’t that high,” Assuncao said. “I didn’t know why the crowd was booing. My opponent was really tough. In the third round I gave it my all, giving him elbows. I knew he was anxious, but I wasn’t going to play russian Roulette.”
Assuncao (13-4 MMA, 2-2 UFC) went 7-1 after a 1-2 stint in the UFC from 2006 to 2007. He now owns a seven-fight win streak.
Yagin (15-5-1 MMA, 0-1 UFC), who won the Tachi Palace Fights featherweight title before recently signing with the UFC, suffers just his second loss in nine fights.
Mizugaki blasts Escovedo from the clinch
Cole Escovedo was willing to trade leather with fellow WEC vet Takeya Mizugaki, and he paid the price.
In an entertaining bantamweight bout, Mizugaki did solid work from the clinch, fended off a few takedown attempts, and then unloaded a vicious barrage of punches and forearm strikes to earn a second-round TKO victory.
Mizugaki clearly wanted to keep the fight in close quarters, where Escovedo initially rivaled his pace and matched each punch and knee. But in the second round, Mizugaki took over. In one especially effective exchange, Escovedo refused to abandon his Thai clinch, and the Japanese fighter made his pay with a couple dozen punches and slicing forearm strikes.
With Escovedo dazed and remaining at a distance, Mizugaki simply picked him apart. A series of lunging shots, including a vicious left hook, sent Escovedo to the mat for good. Mizugaki unloaded a few follow-up punches, and the ref halted the action seconds later.
The TKO stoppage came at the 4:30 mark of the round.
“I finally was able to score a KO in the octagon and show the American fans what I’m made of,” Mizugaki said.
Mizugaki (15-6-2 MMA, 2-1 UFC), a onetime WEC title challenger, now has alternated between wins and losses for nine straight fights going back to a 2008 Cage Force championship win. Escovedo (17-6 MMA, 0-2 UFC) slips to 1-4 in his past five fights and faces a likely contract termination.
Te Huna makes quick work of Romero
Ricardo Romero clearly wanted the takedown, and James Te Huna quickly made his pay for it.
In the night’s curtain jerker, Te Huna avoided a few early takedowns and then blasted his light-heavyweight opponent with quick, short punches, one of which put him on the mat. Romero quickly recovered and shot again, but after a sprawl, Te Huna popped the kneeling fighter with punches that quickly put him to sleep.
The ref halted the bout just 47 seconds after it began.
“I was looking to catch him with the uppercut and caught him and hurt him,” Te Huna said. “I’m feeling really relieved. I was glad to get it over. I took my time and followed it up with one punch after another.”
Te Huna (12-5 MMA, 2-1 UFC) successfully rebounds from a UFC 125 loss to fast-rising Alexander Gustafsson, and the New Zealander now has seven wins in his past eight fights (the past six via knockout). Romero (11-3 MMA, 0-2 UFC) suffers his second straight loss in the octagon.
PRELIMINARY CARD (Spike TV)
- Aaron Riley via TKO (doctor’s stoppage) – Round 1, 5:00
- Tim Boetsch def. Nick Ring via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
PRELIMINARY CARD (Facebook)
- Junior Assuncao def. Eddie Yagin via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-27)
- Takeya Mizugaki def. Cole Escovedo via TKO (punches) – Round 2, 4:30
- James Te Huna def. Ricardo Romero via KO (punches) – Round 1, 0:47