Russian slugger Sergei Pavlovich underlined his credentials as a serious threat to the UFC heavyweight title by blasting longtime contender Curtis Blaydes inside one round at the UFC Apex.
The pair met in the main event of UFC Vegas 71 in Las Vegas, where Pavlovich produced his most impressive performance to date to finish Blaydes via TKO in just three minutes and eight seconds with a barrage of punches. But it was the manner of Pavlovich’s performance, as well as the quickness of it, that shone through.
Unlike past fights where he would blitz opponents with wild punching combinations, Pavlovich was much more composed and compact as he chose his shots well and connected consistently with heavy punches on Blaydes, who seemingly had little answer to the Russian’s forward pressure and punch power.
Even a desperate takedown attempt was easily stuffed by Pavlovich as Blaydes was left with no option but to stand and trade with the heavy-handed Russian. It quickly led to his downfall as Pavlovich loaded up again and, after stunning him with one stiff left hand, followed up with more punches to drop him to the mat before finishing him with ground strikes to claim his sixth consecutive KO/TKO finish and put him within touching distance of a shot at the UFC heavyweight title currently held by Jon Jones.
Jones looks set to put his title on the line against two-time former champ Stipe Miocic later this year, but, after that performance, it looks like Pavlovich is the next man in line after that.
The co-main event saw a little controversy as Bruno Silva produced a superb performance to finish Brad Tavares via first-round TKO. But, despite Silva’s impressive display, there were question marks over the stoppage of the fight.
A big knee from Silva was swiftly followed by a huge right hand that dropped the teak-tough Hawaiian. But, as the referee dived in to stop the fight, Tavares appeared to be recovered and attempting to get back to his feet.
Tavares protested the stoppage, but to no avail as Silva and his team celebrated his 23rd career win, and 20th career knockout.
There was also some controversy in the eagerly-anticipated lightweight bout between Bobby Green and Jared Gordon. The action was starting to warm up nicely when there was a nasty clash of heads that resulted in Gordon falling to the canvas. And, with Green applying some heavy ground strikes, the fight was waved off, with Green initially thinking he had picked up a first-round TKO victory.
However, the clash of heads was clear to see and, after Nevada State Athletic Commission officials exercised their right to check the replay, the fight was officially ruled a no contest, much to the frustration of Green, who expressed his disappointment in a brief appearance in front of the media backstage.
The night’s other two main card bouts saw women’s flyweight Iasmin Lucindo and men’s welterweight Jeremiah Wells pick up decision wins.
Lucindo won all three rounds on all three scorecards to defeat Brogan Walker-Sanchez, while Wells mixed up his striking and wrestling superbly to defeat hard-hitting Matthew Semelsberger via split decision.
The preliminary cards featured a pair of superb first-round knockouts, courtesy of Christos Giagos and Montel Jackson, while rising women’s featherweight contender Norma Dumont moved one step closer to title contention at 145 pounds with a unanimous decision victory over Karol Rosa.
Brother of former welterweight champion Kamaru Usman, Mohammad Usman, picked up a unanimous decision win over Junior Tafa after three grueling rounds, while William Gomis atoned for missing weight at Friday’s weigh-ins by claiming a split-decision victory over Francis Marshall.
The opening bout of the night saw Brady Hiestand produce a third-round finish as he stopped Danaa Batgerel with strikes with just 39 seconds left in the fight.
UFC Vegas 71: Official results
- Sergei Pavlovich def. Curtis Blaydes via TKO (punches) – Round 1, 3:08
- Bruno Silva def. Brad Tavares via TKO (punch) – Round 1, 3:35
- Bobby Green vs. Jared Gordon ruled a no contest (accidental clash of heads) – Round 1, 4:35
- Iasmin Lucindo def. Brogan Walker-Sanchez via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Jeremiah Wells def. Matthew Semelsberger via split decision (30-27, 28-29, 30-27)
- Christos Giagos def. Ricky Glenn via knockout (punch) – Round 1, 1:35
- Montel Jackson def. Rani Yahya via knockout (punches) – Round 1, 3:$2
- Norma Dumont def. Karol Rosa via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Mohammad Usman def. Junior Tafa via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- William Gomis def. Francis Marshall via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
- Brady Hiestand def. Danaa Batgerel via TKO (punches) – Round 3, 4:21