UFC Vegas 24: Live preliminary, play-by-play, thoughts and results

Credit: UFC

Originally set to include seven fights, the UFC Vegas 24 prelims was knocked down to a half dozen after Zarah Fairn’s incredible eight-pound weight miss led to the cancellation of her 139-pound catchweight bout with Josiane Nunes. The events opening showcase features the debut of Legacy Fighting Alliance strawweight champion Lupita Godinez. The return of Jessica Penne after 20-months away from a USADA suspension and failed bookings. As well as Octagon returns for submission aces Juan Espino and Gerald Meerschaert.

A quick note in regards to the main card, it was announced at the top of the show that the scheduled lightweight bout between Jeremy Stephens and Drakkar Klose has been canceled due to an injury to Klose. Bummer bit of news for a co-main event fight that had a lot of potential fireworks. Instead, the featured prelim matchup between Tracy Cortez and Justine Kish has been bumped to the main card.

MixedMartialArts.com will be dropping results in this space, live as they happen.

Gravely uses wrestling dominance to stun and stop Birchak

Tony Gravely was aggressive early in the fight, getting a takedown and landing a right hook that floored Anthony Birchak. “El Toro” was able to battle back and sink in what looked like a deep guillotine, but Gravely’s work rate and wrestling dominated the first round. The American Top Team product was beating his opponent up on the mat for the last half of the round. By the end of it Birchak looked worn out, however, he was still game and slinging shots.

Despite a Division-I NCAA wrestling background, Birchak had serious problems with his opponents grappling skills right away in the second. The Combate Americas and RZIN vet was able to get things back to the feet, but shortly after a left hook was waiting for him. He was floored for the second time in the fight and the referee called it soon after. Ending the fight at 1:30 in the second round. It’s the 29-year-old’s second win in the promotion and ninth victory from strikes.

Austin Hubbard puts in workman effort to score decision over UFC debutante Dakota Bush

Dakota Bush threw a ton of leg kicks in the first few minutes of his short-notice UFC debut. That, and a mix of an aggressive desire to lead the dance and land first, seemed to keep Austin Hubbard off balance, and it took him some time to settle in. Once he did, the round was very back and forth, with a close final two minutes.

“Hairy” switched strategies in the second and chose to go the wrestling route. It was a poor decision. Already tired after taking the fight on a weeks’ notice, “Thud” was able to reverse positions and gain top control midway through the round. It was a position he held on to for the rest of the round. Even gaining full mount with 35 seconds left.

Early in the third, Hubbard was able to reverse a back mount position on the mat and take control of the ground war again. And again, got to full mount on the Legacy Fighting Alliance veteran. Bush tried to put up a fight, but the two seemed to be competing at completely different energy levels. In the end, Hubbard earned a grinding unanimous decision victory. The win even’s his record to 3-3 in the promotion, and he has alternated wins and losses throughout his run in the UFC.

Meerschaert sleeps Fabinski in the first, and ends two-fight skid

An early exchange in the pocket between Gerald Meerschaert and Bartosz Fabinski led to a clinch battle against the cage for over a minute. Eventually, “The Butcher” attempted a double-leg takedown. However “GM3” locked in a guillotine that put his opponent to sleep with two minutes left in the round. The victory ends a two-fight skid for Meerschaert, earns him his twenty-fourth career submission, and fifteenth in the first round. It could be argued it was a must-win scenario for the Roufussport fighter after two straight first-round knockout losses. His job security is far better today than it was yesterday. Fabinski now moves to 0-2 in the UFC, with both losses coming by submission in the first.

Penne gets first win since 2014, with a split decision over Godinez

After four years away for a USADA suspension and failed bookings, Jessica Penne fought measured early. Looking to clinch up and try and get the fight to the mat where she has the advantage. On the other hand, Lupita Godinez countered that by throwing big shots and being the fighter with the higher output. She even landed two takedowns she chose not to follow to the mat. However, a near trip takedown by “Loopy” was reversed by her older foe and Penne gained back control. For the last minute of the round, the former LFA strawweight champ was able to defend with hand-fighting and slow Penne’s advances.

A minute into the second, Penne used her 12-fight experience advantage to turn a grappling scramble once again into a back-control position. A position she held for over a minute before the 27-year-old was able to escape. Penne probably gets the round, but Godinez did some solid work on the feet late in the frame.

A lot of cage-clinching in the first two minutes of the third led to a wild moment, where Penne attempted a standing triangle choke but was tossed off like a bag of sand by her Mexican foe. Neither had a key moment in the round, but Penne seemed to be the aggressor with more bars on her battery icon. It mattered as the veteran strawweight gets the split decision, her first win since December of 2014, and ends a three-fight losing streak. Godinez gets handed her first loss after starting her career unbeaten over five fights.

Romanov gets technical split-decision win, following third-round groin shot from Espino

The final fight on the prelims featured a rare battle between talented heavyweight grapplers in Juan Espino and Alexander Romanov. And we got to see some of those skills showcased early as the Moldovan landed a nasty trip takedown a minute into the fight. However, Espino displayed his own grappling gifts and was able to get the fight back to the feet. With two minutes left, the Spaniard was then able to score an impressive trip of his own. The 40-year-old likely won the round after getting to full mount, and landing a second takedown towards the end of the first.

Some good exchanges and a failed guillotine attempt by Espino got the fight back to the mat and Romanov on top. And the big man did work there landing some hard hammer fists from the top position. “King Kong” controlled the majority of the round with his wrestling and power advantage. Meaning “El Guapo” would need a finish in the third to win the fight.

Halfway through the final round, an errant Espino knee in the clinch landed below the belt and led to a stop in the action. Unfortunately, despite taking his allotted five minutes to recover, Romanov was unable to continue. The illegal shot forced the bout to go to a technical decision. A split-decision that went in favor of Romanov, who moves his record to 14-0 and has gotten the win in all three of his UFC appearances. Difficult way to end the fight and the prelims, but the shot was clearly illegal and Espino had the first two rounds to make it a harder decision for the judges.

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