The UFC’s return to the Canadian capital kicked off with six bouts televised on ESPN+. It set a fast paced, busy beginning to the card capped with a devastating rise of a women’s bantamweight star.
TUF 28 Women’s Featherweight Champion Macy Chiasson, now fighting at bantamweight
continued her rapid rise up the ranks, dominating Canadian veteran Sarah Moras en route to a second round stoppage.
Moras looked like she was going to be spoiler early on, as she took Louisiana’s Chiasson (5-0, 3-0 UFC) down less than ten seconds into the fight. After stopping some submission attempts, Moras was able to pass to half guard and land some decent GNP, but with about a minute left in the round, Chiasson found room for a half guard sweep and reversed the situation and seemed to hurt Moras (5-5, 2-4 UFC) with first ground strike she threw. The follow up strikes did a lot of damage and encouraged, Chiasson quickly took Moras down to start the second. She quickly landed strikes from half guard and soon passed to mount, unleashing a furry of shots that forced the referee to stop the fight at 2:36 of Round 2.
The win is Chiasson’s third in the past six months and second since dropping down a division to 135 pounds. With female fighters running to 125 pounds over the past two years, she can become a title threat relatively quickly in this depleted division.
Idaho’s Vince Morales finally landed himself in the UFC win column, scoring a mild upset over Canadian Aiemann Zahabi over three rounds. The young bantamweights seemed to have a lot of excess energy in the first round, missing a lot of their strikes early. Morales (9-3, 1-1 UFC) found his rhythm late in the first round, landing several nice strikes. Zahabi (7-2, 1-2 UFC), the younger brother of superstar trainer Firas Zahabi, was more accurate in the second round and a late takedown probably sealed yet another close round for him. But Morales stepped up his attack in the third round, including landing a big uppercut about two minutes into the round. The strikes of Morales was heady enough that Zahabi really tried to force the wrestling late, but Morales was able to stay on his feet and landed enough to convince all three judges to give him the win. The scores were 29-28 across the board.
Canadian welterweight veteran Nordine Taleb out of Montreal got back into the win column after a disastrous 2018, out dueling late replacement Kyle Prepolec over three rounds. Prepolec, a solid veteran fighter who took the fight on just one weeks’ notice, looked at least a weight class smaller than Taleb, who was coming off tough losses to Claudio de Silva and Sean Strickland. Prepolec started slow in the first, eating some hard strikes from Taleb but started to find his rhythm in the second, putting on good pressure and landing some decent combinations. But Taleb’s power kicking game started to take its toll visibly in the third round, with loud shots reverberating throughout the arena. Taleb put a bow on the fight by dropping Prepolec with a leg kick with twenty seconds left in the fight, capping off a successful return. The scores were 30-27 across the board.
It was much better the second time around in the UFC for Alliance MMA top prospect Matt Sayles, who submitted native Ontarian Kyle Nelson with a head and arm choke at 3:16 of the 3rd Round. Sayles (8-2, 1-1 UFC) who appeared on both Dana White: Lookin’ For A Fight and Tuesday Night Contender Series, dropped a close decision to Sheymon Moraes in his UFC debut last summer at UFC 227 in Los Angeles. He came out with a purpose and hurt Nelson (12-3, 0-2 UFC) with right hands early in the first round, but faced real adversity in the second, when Nelson took his back and nearly submitted him twice with a rear naked choke. But Sayles was able to fight and grit it out and get to the third round, where he was able to stop a takedown and sweep into the mount. After some strikes, he applied the submission and while Nelson tried to “Answer the Phone” defense, Sayles’ squeeze was much too much.
In a bout that had a lot of heated trash talk coming in, former Canadian Olympic wrestler Arjan Singh Bhullar outlasted the massive Juan Adams of Texas en route to a close, but well deserved unanimous decision. Adams, who at 6’6 and walking around at close to 300 pounds may legitimately be the biggest man in the UFC, started out strong in the first round, out landing Bhullar and landing some good combinations with his faster hands. Bhullar (9-1, 3-1 UFC) who showed improved boxing and top control, managed to take Adams down with a single leg in the second, setting up some excellent GNP, including an elbow that knocked out Adams’ mouthpiece. Both men were visibly tired going into the third after two very busy rounds and Adams (5-1, 1-1 UFC) seemed to have a slight advantage, but a late takedown from Bhullar seemed to seal the deal. The scores were 30-27 and 29-28, Twice, all for Bhullar.
It was a successful UFC debut for Squamish, British Columbia’s Cole Smith, who outlasted Canadian veteran Mitch Gagnon over three very good rounds. Gagnon, who was coming a two and half-year layoff, made a wrestling match in the first round and managed to eat most of that round, but Smith (6-0, 1-0 UFC) managed to get a waistlock takedown in the second and nearly submitted Ontario’s Gagnon with a rear naked choke. Feeling he needed a big round to win the fight, Gagnon came out and nailed Smith with a big right and nearly seemed to submit him an arm in gullitone, but Smith eventually managed to escape the hold and Gagnon down for the rest of the round. The scores were 30-27 and 29-28 two times over for Smith.