The first two fights on the main card of UFC 201: Lawler vs. Woodley can best be described using the “WTF?!” chatspeak. Ryan Benoit and Erik Perez came away victorious, but there were plenty of odd (but entertaining) moments during their respective fights.
Erik Perez def. Francisco Rivera via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 29-28) – Bantamweights
Fireworks were expected in this one and Rivera cracked Perez with a pair of left hooks. Perez went upstairs with a kick which was partially blocked. Rivera landed a leg kick, slipped in a right hand, and got another outside leg kick. Francisco looked like the faster fighter, already knowing he had the power advantage. Rivera had a kick caught and Perez used that opportunity to score with a few right hands instead of taking him down. Brief takedown by Perez before Rivera popped back up against the cage. Crisp flying knee by Perez followed by a left hook. Perez picked up the pace and found his timing better as the 1st round drew to a close.
Perez started round 2 with an inside leg kick that put Rivera off balance. Action slowed somewhat for a minute or so, but Perez’s movement was more fluid. Rivera stuffed a takedown and then nearly drilled Perez with a big shot. Spinning elbow by Perez landed in Rivera’s chest. Perez was working the body more often. Caught kick by Perez turned into a takedown attempt but Rivera defended very well. Erik fought more methodically. Stiff right hand popped Perez. Leg kick by Perez was near the groin and Rivera stopped as if it hit him there. Ref didn’t do anything and Perez pushed forward and ended the round with a takedown and some ground-and-pound on a bloodied Rivera.
It was swing for the fences time in round 3! Rivera and Perez punches liked crazy. Perez was getting tagged by Rivera’s haymakers until Francisco literally fell over. Perez took Rivera down and then worked from half-guard, attacking with right hands to the body and his left arm around Rivera’s bloody head. The crowd booed as the ref wouldn’t stand them up. Rivera was in a seated position but still getting punched in the body. With 30 seconds left, Rivera finally got back to his feet but only to get into a clinch. Ten seconds left in the fight and Rivera didn’t have enough in the tank to throw more windmills. Perez has won 2 in a row, while Rivera has lost 5 of 6.
Ryan Benoit def. Fredy Serrano via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28) – Flyweights
Benoit looked like he kicked Serrano low but the referee didn’t notice it in the early stages. Serrano threw a right hand that staggered Benoit. Serrano powerfully slammed Benoit straight into side control, but Benoit scrambled to his feet. A straight right hand wobbled and dropped Serrano. Benoit went for the finish and then grabbed a hold of Serrano’s neck, but Serrano recovered and dumped Benoit on his back again, once again into side control. As was the case the last time, Benoit scrambled back up. The round ended with Benoit throwing (but missing) a strike well after the bell with Serrano retreating.
Serrano’s infatuation with the axe kick was prevalent again in round 2. He threw that twice in round 1 and twice more in the 2nd. Serrano went for another tkedown and Benoit dropped for the guillotine, but the TUF Latin America alum slammed his way out of it. Benoit returned to his feet for the 3rd time in as many takedowns. Serrano had no set-up to his striking whatsoever. For Serrano’s 4th successful takedown, he drove at Benoit like a maniac with a flying knee attempt before shooting in and getting Benoit in side control. Benoit was getting hit in the head by Serrano’s hip while downed, which apparently is legal, or the referee erroneously thought it was. Serrano had a cut on his forehead from scraping his head against the canvas on an earlier takedown.
Round 3 started with another Serrano takedown. Nothing really happened and the ref stood them up. This time a bizarre forward roll was countered by Benoit getting Serrano on his back. Ryan couldn’t make the most of it and they scrambled to standing again. Serrano got kicked in the body and this time couldn’t get the takedown. Benoit finally started stuffing Serrano’s wild shots with more consistency and outstriking him to end a truly weird contest. Benoit improves to 2-2 in the UFC while Serrano loses for the first time in his very short MMA career, dropping to 3-1.
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