Well, the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s comeback to Austin was a wild ride. Nine out of 12 fights didn’t last the full distance at UFC on ESPN 52. But, guess what? The main event was the real showstopper.
Arman Tsarukyan, the No. 8 ranked lightweight, shot up into the Top 5. How? With a mind-blowing first-round knockout over No. 4 Beneil Dariush. This was at the Moody Center, one of the best cards of the year.
The fight on paper was between two super skilled grapplers with some sneaky striking. But, we never got to see it. Both fighters were all about taking center cage and landing their power. Tsarukyan, with a record of 21-3, 8-2 UFC, ended the show quick with a right knee. This lined Dariush up perfectly for a flush right hand over top.
Dariush hit the ground with a thud before the bout was stopped 1:04 into the round. A year ago, Dariush was the hottest lightweight in the world, riding the momentum of an eight-fight win streak. But, 2023 has been a disaster. Dariush has been finished in back-to-back bouts and slips even further away from a title shot. Tsarukyan will be elevated into the Top 5, where potential matchups could be spicy for the 27-year-old.
Jalin Turner knew it was a risk agreeing to fight Bobby Green on a week’s notice but the gamble paid off big for “The Tarantula.” Turner turned off Green’s lights with a devastating right hand that put his foe flat on his face. Turner reigned down maleficent destruction until Kerry Hately finally realized he had a job to do and stopped the fight 2:49 into the first round of the UFC Austin co-main event.
Turner (14-7, 7-4 UFC) has been on the backend of two split decision losses this year but closed out 2023 with a highlight-reel knockout. At 6-foot-3, it’s a miracle that Turner can make lightweight let alone on a week’s notice. Despite going 1-2 in 2023, the Tarantula stock in the lightweight division is on the rise.
The UFC’s bantamweight division just got a little deeper. Former two-time flyweight champion Deiveson Figueiredo took the first step in conquering a second weight class with an impressive unanimous decision win over No. 8 bantamweight Rob Font (30-27, 30-27, 30-27).
Figueiredo (22-3-1, 10-3-1 UFC) has always been considered big for flyweight but it was surprising to see just how well the former champion’s power carried to 135. Figueiredo staggered the heavy-handed Font multiple times and outboxed the 135-pound contender.
Font landed some solid punches but couldn’t keep up with Figueiredo’s flurries. Heading into the final five minutes after two close rounds on the feet, Figgy turned the tide and took Font to the canvas. Figueiredo was in full mount at the bell and looked dominant.
Kelvin Gastelum’s return to welterweight was not a welcome one as Sean Brady bullied the former reality show winner for three rounds before submitting Gastelum by kimura with just under three minutes left in the fight.
Gastelum (18-9, 12-9 UFC) has lost six out of his last eight and looked lifeless in his first fight at 170 since 2016. Brady (16-1, 6-1) successfully bounced back from his TKO loss to Belal Muhammad last year.
Joaquim Silva picked up the biggest win of his career over study UFC veteran Clay Guida in lightweight action. Silva edged out Guida on the cards (29-28, 29-28, 29-28) as all three judges gave him the edge in a razor-thin fight.
Silva jumped out early as Guida’s punches routinely fell short. Silva picked at “The Carpenter” with leg kicks and jabs while circling away from his power. Guida showed success in Round 2, getting Silva to the ground. It was either man’s fight heading into the final five minutes.
Silva (13-4, 6-4 UFC) fought off the valiant Guida in Round 3 and landed the cleaner shots between the two. Silva successfully bounced back from his TKO loss to Arman Tsarukyan last June and could be back in the mix for bigger opportunities at lightweight.
The UFC Austin prelims were full of finishes and Dustin Stoltzfus carried that trend into the main card. Stoltzfus handed Punahele Soriano his third-straight loss by way of a second-round rear-naked choke (4:10).
Stoltzfus (15-5, 2-4 UFC) opened the fight strong, recording a takedown and knockdown in the final 45 seconds of the first round. Stolzfus walked behind his punches in Round 2 before eventually taking Soriano’s back and attempting a neck crank. Once Stoltzfus found the room to slip his elbow in under the chin, he was able to finish the full choke.