UFC on ESPN 23 prelims live play-by-play and results

Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

The preliminary side of the UFC on ESPN 23 card kicked off at 7 pm ET on both ESPN 2 and streaming service ESPN+. After featherweight Gabriel Benitez missed weight by four and a half pounds for his bout with Jonathan Pearce, the fight was removed from the prelims slate. Making for a six-fight prelims offering. Keep it locked to MixedMartialArts for play-by-play and result updates in this space immediately after the conclusion of each bout.

Colares shows off iron chin and will to grind out a decision victory over Sanders

Both Luke Sanders and Felipe Colares entered this fight off of losses in their last Octagon outings. Sanders however was the man who got off to the fast start landing a shot that seriously hurt his Brazilian opponent. He then followed that up with a vicious knee to the face as Colares attempted to grapple. But stunningly, “Cabocao” somehow survived it. For much of the round Sanders beat up his compromised foe, yet Colares endured and even landed some notable strikes in the last minute that felt like a little momentum shift.

Despite being hurt in the opening round, the 27-year-old kept pushing forward and pressuring the American. It led to Sanders changing strategy and initiating more grappling. The tactic change seemed to come from some exhaustion from all the punches thrown in the first round after seeming close to victory. With a little over a minute left in the round, Colares picked his opponent up, walked him across the cage and delivered a big slam that eventually led to getting back control. Colares landed a bunch of ground-and-pound that definitely scored him the round and he seemed to have the momentum going into the third.

Sanders looked very tired but tried to keep his opponent at bay as Colares continued to pressure and attempt takedowns. Both showed serious fortitude as they stayed active throughout the round despite looking exhausted. The third ended just like the second, with Colares scoring a takedown and getting back control. The constant pressure and effort to wear Sanders down paid off and earned Colares the unanimous decision victory. He moves to 2-2 in the promotion while Sanders falls to 3-5 in the UFC, and has now lost two straight.

Michailidis wins uneventful unanimous decision over overly cautious Bhullar

Andreas Michailidis versus KB Bhullar was a battle between two fighters looking to get into the win column for the first time in the UFC. After each lost their promotional debuts last year. Both were tentative early, but the native of Greece became the initiator two minutes in. As he was slinging big haymakers at the taller Bhullar to close the distance. Michailidis landed the notable shots in the round, as well as scored a takedown that led to back control for much of the last minute.

In the second, Bhullar tried to play a distance game based around kicks. He looked to stay far out of range from “Spartan’s” big power punch attempts. It was an uneventful round outside one good power punch landed by Michailidis. “The Bengal” was no tiger and played it cautious and tactical in the round and it likely cost him.

The third was much like the second as one man played the aggressor and the other the wary technician. However, Bhullar was nowhere near technical enough to make himself look like the fighter winning the rounds. In the end, Michailidis earned his first win in the UFC by unanimous decision. It’s just the second decision win in his 17-fight career. Bhullar moves to 0-2 inside the Octagon and now has the first losing streak of his 10-fight career.

Lookboonmee out strikes Hughes for third Octagon victory

Right from the start, Loma Lookboonmee seemed the more adept striker. Throwing out fast leg and front kicks at Sam Hughes. Sensing the challenge in a striking battle, “Sampage” smartly looked for a takedown against the cage. However, the Muay Thai specialist handled the clinch well and reversed the attempt into a takedown of her own. That same situation occurred once again with seconds left in the round in a strong first for Lookboonmee.

To start the second, Hughes pushed hard for the takedown. After about a minute of cage grappling, the Thai fighter fought off the American’s advances. In the standing, Hughes landed some solid shots but still worked for takedowns much more throughout the round. She was unable to score one but keeping her opponent against the cage for large swaths of time in the round gave the judges something to think about.

The third was much like the second. Hughes tried for takedowns against the cage that ended up being ineffective. However, when striking she was aggressive, seemed less fearful of the return fire, and landed several notable shots with her fists. The success in striking came too late, as Lookboonme was award the unanimous decision by the judges. Lookboonmee earned her third UFC victory and sent Hughes to 0-2 inside the Octagon following her debut loss in December.

Carolina scores first UFC win in two-years with split-decision over Botelho

Poliana Botelho pushed the action throughout the first round and eventually scored a nice takedown on Luana Carolina with a little over two minutes left. Not much work was done on the ground by the 32-year-old until around 30 seconds left when she transitioned to full mount. However, she was unable to finish an attempted armbar.

The second round featured a heaping helping of cage grappling that didn’t result in a takedown or major moment for either fighter. However, Botelho seemed to control much of the grappling action and most notably, opened up a cut over the right eye of Carolina. The first major blood-letting of the night.

Midway through the third, a takedown try by Botelho was reverse by Carolina. Over the next minute, the Sao Paulo native worked her way into gaining back control over her fellow Brazilian. It was a position she held for the rest of the round. Overall, the bout was closely contested and surely difficult to score for the judges. In the end, a decisive third-round clearly won Carolina, helped to give “Dread” the split decision victory. It was her first win in the UFC in two years and moves her to 2-1 inside the Octagon. Dana White Contenders Series alum Botelho falls to 1-2 in the promotion.

TJ Brown outlast Kai Kamaka III in well-rounded war

Kai Kamaka III controlled the center of the cage and worked stiff low kicks through the first half of the opening round. TJ Brown tried to combat the kicks with his boxing and had some solid success. It was a close and competitive first with both men landing often on the other in a kickboxing versus boxing clash.

Kamaka III landed a couple of nasty kicks early in the second round, with one landing flush to Brown’s face, and the 30-year-old took it with ease. A minute later, “Downtown” took control and hurt his Hawaiian foe with a stiff hook that put him on shaking legs. However, “the Fighting Hawaiian” weathered the storm and regained control by landing a punch that floored Brown. Yet, the Arkansas native was just as game and threatened a deep kimura off his back. A wild and highly competitive round that’s a difficult one to score. Especially, after Brown got a takedown with 30 seconds left.

Unfortunately for fans of the first two rounds, much of the final round was a ground battle after the 26-year-old scored two different takedowns and controlled Brown on the mat. However, the takedown heavy round was not enough for Kamaka III, as Brown scored the split-decision win. It is his first win inside the Octagon. Kamaka III now moves to 1-2 in the UFC after a fight of the night candidate scrap.

Pinheiro awarded disqualification victory after an illegal upkick from Markos

An early flurry by Randa Markos got her within arms length of Luana Pinheiro and her black belt Judo talents. The takedown came soon after. Followed by a couple of more impressive throws by the 27-year-old. After getting an errant poke in the eye, Markos came after her opponent like a bat out of hell. However, the DWCS contract winner was game for the fire and offered strikes and more terrific throws in return.

Unfortunately, the illegal antics continued with a minute left in the fight, as Markos landed an illegal up kick when Pinheiro had both knees down on the ground. The blow damaged the Brazilian severely and left her unable to continue. Pinheiro was awarded the win by disqualification. The 35-year-old “Quiet Storm” moves 10-11 and has now lost a fourth straight fight inside the Octagon.

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