The second time around, there was no mistaking it for a low blow.
Cowboy Donald Cerrone thought he had the finish earlier in the second round of his lightweight main event against Jim Miller on Wednesday night. But referee Dan Miragliotta erroneously ruled a perfectly placed body kick a low blow, giving Miller a reprieve.
Cerrone wasn’t fazed, though, and the finish came soon thereafter. Cerrone landed a head kick to earned the knockout at 3:31 of the second round, a spectacular end to an action-packed UFC Fight Night 45 in Atlantic City, N.J.
He started worrying about the body, said Cerrone, I started thinking about drinking those Budweisers tonight.
Miller (25-4, 1 NC) got the best of a back and-forth first round, giving as good as he got in the standup, winning the scrambles and scoring takedowns.
By the end of the first, Cerrone had found his groove, and he thought he had the finish with the first kick in the second. Cerrone refused to fault the referee afterwards.
You gotta follow the refs, Cerrone said. That’s what the refs are for, and I’m glad I finished it.
Cerrone has now won four fights in the past eight months to the day, dating back to UFC 167. The popular finisher is content to take the fights as they come.
I want to fight as soon as possible, Cerrone said. Whoever’s out there, I want to fight.
In the co-main event, Edson Barboza did what he does best. The 28 year-old-Brazilian lightweight finished Evan Dunham with a vicious liver kick earning the TKO win at 3:06 of the first round.
Barboza (14-2), whose only loss in his past five fights is to Cerrone, recorded his fourth kick-related stoppage finish, the most in UFC history.
Everybody knows my background is in Muay Thai, said Barboza. I saw his elbow a little bit, and just as my coach taught me, it was the opening I needed for the win. I’m feeling great.
In his first fight since he began training at Arizona’s MMA Lab, Rick Story had an easy go of it in his welterweight bout with overmatched late replacement Leonardo Mafra. Story (17-8) was rarely in danger and finished things off at 2:12 of the second round with an arm-triangle choke.
Dunham (14-6), who was once a highly regarded prospect who won his first 11 pro and first four UFC fights, has now dropped six of his past nine fights.
Going to train at The Lab in Glendale, Arizona with John Crouch and Benson Henderson got me in great condition and ready for anything, Story said. Their help speaks for itself. Just look at my performance tonight.
Story has won two of three and is 4-4 in his past eight.
Things weren’t looking so hot for Boston lightweight Joe Proctor in the early going of his bout with Justin Salas. Proctor came out of round one with a huge hemotoma on the left side of his head, perhaps the biggest one seen in the Octagon since Mark Hominick’s memorable UFC 129 fight against Jose Aldo.
But Proctor (10-2) rallied in the second and scored the first finish of his UFC career. Proctor dropped Salas (12-5) to the mat with a big counter left hook and rained down a series of uncontested hammer fists for the victory. The time of the TKO was 3:27 of round two.
Everybody knows I like to finish with my right hand, but I was able to finish with my left hook, which was great, said Proctor. I’ve been working and working on my boxing and looking for the knockout and it finally came.
John Lineker took the adage about not letting the fight go to the judges about as close to the edge as you can take it. His furious flyweight scrap with Alp Ozkilic was going down to the wire when Lineker finished him off with a furious flurry. The time of the TKO stoppage was 4:51 of the third round. The bout was tied for the third-latest finish in a three-round fight in UFC history.
He liked to play my game and that let me go for the striking and the exchange, Lineker said. I found the right openings at the right time and that enabled me to get the knockout.
Fighting as a short-notice replacement, Missouri’s Alex White played with fire against dangerous Brazilian striker Lucas Martins in a featherweight bout. And while it made for an entertaining slugfest, it didn’t end well for White, who was on the wrong end of a memorable knockout.
Lineker (23-7) won for the fourth time in his past five fights, and, notably, has made the flyweight limit twice after missing weight in consecutive fights.
Martins (15-1) clobbered White (10-1) with a left-right combo to the jaw, and White had a delayed reaction as he wobbled for a couple second before collapsing to the mat. Martin got the KO win at 2:08 of round three.
With the victory, Martins now has UFC wins at 135, 145, and 155 pounds.
I have heavy hands and a long reach, said Martins. I knew once I was able to start hitting him, it was a matter of time before I won the fight.
The American Top Team’s Gleison Tibau’s UFC record 21st lightweight fight in the company was victorious, as he scored a unanimous-decision victory over Oregon’s Pat Healy. The judges’ scores were 30-27 and a pair of 29-28s.
Pat Healy is strong, Tibau said. I trained with the best wrestlers in the world and he was still unbelievable. The reason I got this win and was able to go the distance was because of the structure and conditioning I got with American Top Team at home. I injured my finger early in the year and I missed time, but now I’m back and want to fight again as soon as possible. I want to break the record for the most fights in a year. I’m ready to go.
Tibau (29-10) is 13-9 in the UFC (including a loss at welterweight to Nick Diaz in Tibau’s first UFC fight in 2006), with nine of those wins coming by decision. Healy (29-20, 1 NC) has lost four in a row.
The evening’s opening bout was noteworthy as it marked the first women’s strawweight fight in UFC history. In a battle of previously undefeated 115-pounders, Brazil’s Claudia Gadelha (12-0) scored a unanimous decision over Finland’s Tina Lahdemaki (5-1). While the judges’ scores were 30-26, 30-27, and 30-27, the scores don’t reflect the fact a game Lahdemaki hung in there over the course of 15 minutes, particularly after withstanding a one-sided first round.
I’m so happy to be in and win the first strawweight fight in UFC history, Gadelha said. Since I wasn’t able to get into the TUF show, this is my present! I tried my best and I’m happy with the fight. I am ready for whatever the UFC gives me next. I was the top contender in Invicta and I am ready to fight the winner of the TUF 20 finale.