Fans who are looking forward to UFC 239 were able to satisfy their palate with UFC Fight Night on Saturday while they continue to wait for next weekend's action.
Tyron Woodley and Robbie Lawler were supposed to face one another, but a hand injury to Woodley caused a cancellation of that match-up. While a New Mexico fight stole the show, the final card between Francis Ngannou and Junior dos Santos failed to live up to the expectations of the crowd.
Alonzo Menifield and Drew Dober both earned first round wins via technical knockout over their opponents, while the second pair of matches on the main card went the full three rounds to determine a winner.
Vince Pichel was outworked in the first round after taking some early punishment from Roosevelt Roberts, but rebounded to win the second round. He caught Roberts with a spinning elbow in the third and eventually took him down to the ground and — although he was unable to finish him — won the bout on all three judges' scorecards.
Demian Maia earned a majority decision over Anthony Rocco Martin, by neutralizing Martin's powerful leg kicks and earning takedowns in each of the first two rounds. His ability to control the pace of the fight prompted a smattering of boos and fans yelling out chants of "boring," but was an effective technical approach that resulted in a win.
The first co-main card may have been the fight of the night. Joseph Benavidez had a cut open up near his left eye after Jussier Formiga connected with a punch, which may have included part of his thumb or thumbnail to the area, in the early going.
Benavidez spent most of the first round trying to wipe the blood from his eye and continued to take punishment throughout. But the 34-year-old — who has ties to Las Cruces — survived the round and set the stage for an improbable comeback.
His cut-man was able to stop the bleeding, and Formiga was unable to effectively target the eye and open the wound back up — and it cost him. Benavidez unleashed a thunderous kick in the latter stages of the round, landing the blow with such force that it actually knocked him down to the ground.
Surprisingly, Formiga was still standing, but that wasn't the case for long. Benavidez realized his opponent was hurt and connected with a right hand and finished Formiga with a flurry of blows that resulted in a TKO.
The final card between Ngannou and dos Santos lasted all of 71 seconds. Both fighters connected with low kicks — dos Santos appeared to catch Ngannou off guard and briefly knocked him to the ground. But a lunging punch that failed to connect left him vulnerable. Ngannou landed a right hook and took full advantage of the opportunity.
He landed several more punches and dos Santos — unable to protect himself on all fours — took damage. The referee stepped in and stopped the action. The win denotes the third straight first-round knockout for Ngannou, who could be poised for a title shot. He voiced his opinion that he should get the winner of the Daniel Cormier vs. Stipe Miocic championship match.
UFC 239 will be the next date circled on most UFC fans' calendars, capping the holiday weekend on July 6 in Las Vegas, Nev. The state of New Mexico and Jackson Wink MMA Academy will be well-represented, as Holly Holm challenges Amanda Nunes and Jon "Bones" Jones defends his Light Heavyweight title against Thiago Santos.
Robert Maler is the sports editor for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers basketball and baseball and contributes content for various other sports as well. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Robert_Maler