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UFC 290

Wade Vandervort

Alexandre Pantoja reacts after defeating Brandon Moreno during a flyweight mixed martial arts title bout during UFC 290 on Saturday, July 8, 2023 in Las Vegas.

Mixed martial arts maintained its status as one of the most unpredictable sports in the world on one of its biggest stages of the year.

The odds painted a clear picture of who should win at UFC 290 Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena; the results failed to comply. Four of the final six fights on the pay-per-view card that concluded International Fight Week resulted in major upsets.

That included flyweight challenger Alexandre Pantoja knocking off champion Brandon Moreno in the co-main event by split decision (46-49, 48-47, 48-47). Pantoja, around a 2-to-1 underdog, collapsed onto the canvas and burst into tears as the scores were read.

“I worked so hard for this and now it’s my moment,” the 33-year-old said in his customary post-fight interview in the octagon.

The Brazilian briefly detailed a number of hardships he had endured — including being abandoned by his father as a child and moving to America to pursue his fighting dreams before his own children could join him — as UFC President Dana White wrapped the 125-pound division’s belt around his waist. His wife and children eventually joined him in the cage to celebrate and take photographs.

Not all octagon visitors were friendly after other fights.

In the bout before Pantoja’s coup, South African Dricus du Plessis stunned former middleweight champion Robert Whittaker, an Australian, with a knockout victory at 2:23 of the second round. The victory improved du Plessis to 6-0 in the UFC and set him up for a title shot with current 185-pound champion Israel Adesnya, who confronted him in the cage.

Adesanya had taken exception to past comments made by du Plessis — whom accused the Nigerian-born Adesanya of not being a true African — and alluded to them in a staredown that turned into a profanity-laced rant.

“I don’t need a DNA test to know where I’m from,” Adesanya said to du Plessis. “I’ll show you where I’m from…Easy fight. Easy money.”

UFC 290 served as a cautionary tale in labeling any matchup “an easy fight,” but also proved they still exist. In between all the underdog upheaval, the main card began and ended with a pair of heavily-favored stars performing near flawlessly.

Featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski retained his championship belt by beating interim champion Yair Rodriguez by TKO at 4:19 of the third round.

“I’m the king of this division,” Volkanovski said. “No one is ever stopping me.”

Middleweight super prospect Bo Nickal, who once stood as the biggest favorite in UFC history earlier this week, encountered even less resistance. Nickal knocked out Val Woodburn in 38 seconds for his fifth straight first-round finish to start his mixed martial arts career.  

But it feels unlikely UFC 290 will be remembered most for Nickal’s, or even Volkanovski’s, victory. Too many unexpected moments played out surrounding the pay-per-view bookends.

Du Plessis’ win was technically the biggest upset of the main fights, but a split-decision victory for Dan Hooker over Jalin Turner in a 158-pound catchweight bout — Turner missed the lightweight limit by two pounds — was similarly priced as a big long shot.

The lanky American Turner dominated and hurt the New Zealander Hooker early, but the latter battled back and dropped him twice in the final two rounds.

“Tough times don’t last,” Hooker said. “Tough men do.”

Few have lasted longer in MMA than former welterweight champion Robbie Lawler, who made his retirement fight one for the storybooks when he knocked out Niko Price in 38 seconds live on ABC and ESPN to cap the preliminary card. Like Pantoja, Lawler was brought to tears as the crowd gave him a standing ovation and the UFC played a highlight package of his best moments in the cage.

“Expect the unexpected,” Volkanovski said. “Everyone that knows this game knows that.”

Read below for full results from the first seven fights of the night at UFC 290.

Japanese flyweight prospect Tatsuro Taira stayed perfect by out-grappling the Mexican Edgar Chairez for two out of three rounds to win a unanimous decision.

The pro-Mexican crowd was left shocked as top prospect Yazmin Jauregui suffered the first loss of her career. Denise Gomes, from Brazil, derailed the Jauregui hype with a knockout 20 seconds into their strawweight bout, the fastest finish in divisional history.

American light heavyweight Alonzo Menifield left no doubt in a rematch against Australian Jimmy Crute, earning a submission (guillotine choke) at 1:55 of the second round. The two had fought to a draw earlier this year.

Brazilian Vitor Petrino submitted the Dutch Marcin Prachnio via arm-triangle choke at 3:42 of the third round. Petrino dominated the fight to stay undefeated.

South African Cameron Saaiman dispatched Terrence Mitchell 3:10 into their bantamweight fight via knockout, after initially taking the newcomer from Alaska down and controlling him on the ground.

One early punch was all it took for Mexican flyweight Jesus Aguilar, whom flattened and finished Shannon Ross via knockout in 17 seconds.

Esteban Ribovics edged Kamuela Kirk via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28) in a lightweight bout. Kirk out-wrestled Ribovics, but couldn’t hold his own on the feet.

Case Keefer can be reached at 702-948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at Keefer can be reached at 702-948-2790 or

Article written by #LasVegasSun

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