The UFC returns to Las Vegas on Saturday night as the fight capital of the world reopens for combat sports with a welterweight main event between former champion Tyron Woodley (19-4-1) and rising challenger Gilbert Burns (18-3).
As well as everything went for the UFC in Jacksonville — 32 total bouts and only one athlete, middleweight Jacare Souza, testing positive for the coronavirus — Las Vegas was always where the UFC hoped to settle in long-term. The company is based in Las Vegas, and the Nevada State Athletic Commission is among the best in the world.
Las Vegas — and, potentially, Fight Island — will be the UFC’s home for the foreseeable future, and this unique chapter of MMA history will begin at the Apex facility on the UFC’s campus.
Woodley hasn’t fought since losing his title to Kamaru Usman via unanimous decision on March 2, 2019. Part of that storyline was Woodley allowing himself to be distracted by things such as releasing a rap album shortly after that fight. But Woodley said he’s been as focused as he’s ever been leading up this bout.
Burns has won five straight and is looking to propel himself into the title conversation.
One thing to look out for is how the smaller 25-foot Octagon — it’s usually 30 feet — will impact the action.
Cageside commentary now includes slightly closer quarters and some plexiglass #UFCVegas
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) May 30, 2020
The card will also feature strawweight prospect Mackenzie Dern (7-1) opposite Hannah Cifers (10-4) and former flyweight title challenger Katlyn Chookagian (13-3) against Antonina Shevchenko (8-1), among others.
Brett Okamoto, Marc Raimondi and Jeff Wagenheim offer their analysis and insight for every fight on the card.
Fight in progress
Men’s flyweight: Tim Elliott (16-10-1, 5-8 UFC, -155) vs. Brandon Royval (10-4, 0-0 UFC, +135)
Men’s bantamweight: Casey Kenney (14-2-1, 4-2 UFC) defeats Louis Smolka (16-7, 7-7 UFC) by first-round guillotine
It didn’t look a high-percentage submission attempt. Kenney was on top, nowhere near a dominant mount. But he went for a guillotine choke anyway — and Smolka tapped.
Kenney picked up perhaps the biggest win of his career, a submission victory with a guillotine from half guard at 3:03 of the first round. The sequence started with Kenney wobbling Smolka with a right cross. Prior to the finish, it was a back-and-forth battle with both landing good punches.
Kenney vs Ricky Simon would be ?
— Belal Muhammad (@bullyb170) May 30, 2020
Smolka was working the body, but Kenney got the job done with a big right hand and slick Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
The bout took place at featherweight, but both are regulars in the bantamweight division
“That’s how I fight,” Kenney told Daniel Cormier afterward. “I come and take your head off — neck, arm, something.”
Kenney, 29, has won three of four in the UFC and seven of his last eight overall. The Arizona resident is a former interim champion in LFA at both bantamweight and flyweight.
Smolka, a 28-year-old Hawaii native, has dropped two of his last three fights.
Men’s featherweight: Chris Gutierrez (15-3-1, 3-1 UFC) defeats Vince Morales (9-5, 1-3 UFC) by second-round TKO
Chris Gutierrez catches Vince Morales with a vicious leg kick that has his stumbling against the cage in Round 2.
Gutierrez won his third straight fight with a bruising performance, finishing it at 4:27 of Round 2 by dropping Morales with a kick to his lead leg. His other lead leg.
Morales was in a southpaw stance by then, out of necessity. He’d started out orthodox, but Gutierrez wrecked his left leg with a succession of low kicks throughout the first round.
— Paul Felder (@felderpaul) May 30, 2020
Morales, his mobility seriously limited, had to switch it up before the first five minutes were over, but that proved to not be a sustainable answer. One last kick to the right calf sent Morales to the canvas, and Jason Herzog mercifully jumped in, something the referee had appeared poised to do for the better part of the round.
That gave Gutierrez, a 29-year-old out of Colorado, the 11th finish by leg kicks in UFC history, according to the promotion. Unofficially, he landed 36 of 45 leg strikes, according to UFC Stats. Overall, Gutierrez’s striking advantage was 60-8.
Daniel Cormier interviewing Chris Gutierrez via headset from separate locations after Gutierrez’s win. No in-Octagon interviews tonight. Difference between Jacksonville and tonight. Nevada COVID-19 protocols. #UFCVegas
— Marc Raimondi (@marc_raimondi) May 30, 2020
Morales has lost three of four in the UFC.
Watch this fight on ESPN+.
Still to come
Welterweight: Tyron Woodley (19-4-1, 9-3-1 UFC, -180) vs. Gilbert Burns (18-3, 11-3 UFC, +160)
Heavyweight: Blagoy Ivanov (18-3, 2-2 UFC, -105) vs. Augusto Sakai (14-1-1, 4-0 UFC, -115)
Catchweight (150 pounds): Billy Quarantillo (13-2, 2-0 UFC, -130) vs. Spike Carlyle (9-1, 1-0 UFC, +110)
Lightweight: Brok Weaver (15-4, 2-0 UFC, +260) vs. Roosevelt Roberts (9-1, 4-1 UFC, -320)
Strawweight: Mackenzie Dern (7-1, 2-1 UFC, -440) vs. Hannah Cifers (10-4, 2-2 UFC, +350)
Women’s flyweight: Katlyn Chookagian (13-3, 6-3 UFC, +115) vs. Antonina Shevchenko (8-1, 3-1 UFC, -135)
Welterweight: Daniel Rodriguez (11-1, 2-0 UFC, -380) vs. Gabe Green (9-2, 0-0 UFC, +310)
Light heavyweight: Jamahal Hill (7-0, 2-0 UFC, -120) vs. Klidson Abreu (15-4, 1-2 UFC, +100)
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