The UFC 215 main card kicked off with a dominant showing from Jeremy Stephens, who kicked Gilbert Melendez to pieces and sent Melendez to yet another Octagon defeat. Following the lopsided win for Stephens, Ilir Latifi handed Tyson Pedro the first loss of his career. Here’s how the fights played out.
Jeremy Stephens def. Gilbert Melendez by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-25) – Featherweights
“Lil’ Heathen” unsurprisingly loaded up on virtually every strike he threw. Melendez was patient in the early stages and let Stephens get his shots off. Stephens had success with leg kicks and Melendez’s lead leg swelled almost immediately. Melendez cracked Stephens on the jaw with a hard right hand, but ate another leg kick and he buckled badly. He could hardly stand up and briefly dropped to his back. Melendez gutted through it and fought back, going toe-to-toe with the dangerous Stephens. Another leg kick on the knee put Melendez down, and Stephens followed him to the mat to land some devastating shots before the round ended. The doctor was called in to check Melendez’s leg, and the fight continued into round 2, with a hobbled Melendez in serious trouble.
Gilbert periodically switched stances in the 2nd round, and Stephens decided to just attack that leg. Melendez finally started checking some of these kicks, and he was able to tag Stephens with a couple of lefts. Stephens kept kicking away and put Melendez down again. Jeremy switched things up and went up high and rocked Melendez to the head. Stephens’ offense was in full flow and Melendez was only having sporadic moments of success. A hook-uppercut combo got through for Stephens. Another uppercut was followed by another leg kick, which put Melendez down for the umpteenth time. The referee warned Melendez that the fight could be stopped if he wasn’t defending himself in round 3.
Stephens ripped the body with a hook and then a kick early in the final stanza. Melendez was completely outgunned and taking damage to his right leg. Stephens hammered Melendez with several right hands and was doing what he could to finish the former Strikeforce champion. With two minutes to go, Melendez buckled after another leg kick, sprung back up, and even Stephens joined the crowd in applauding Gilbert’s toughness. The body punches of Stephens were absolutely lethal and made Melendez retreat. One more kick to the leg, one more knockdown. Stephens ended the fight on top and capping off a brilliant performance. This was a total shellacking.
It’s a great bounce back win for Stephens after losses to Frankie Edgar and Renato Moicano, while Melendez’s return to the Octagon sees him drop to 1-5 in the UFC.
Ilir Latifi def. Tyson Pedro by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27) – Light Heavyweights
The strength of Latifi was apparent as he took the Australian down early in round 1. Pedro did well to stand back up and he slammed home a nice body kick. Pedro faked a low kick and went high, but that just meant a takedown for the Swede and side side control. Pedro exploded out of north-south position to escape to his feet. The end of round 1 meant the longest fight of Pedro’s entire career.
Pedro committed to his powerful kicks and being unpredictable with his strike selection. The body kicks by Pedro were solid. Latifi clipped Pedro with a good uppercut, but was mostly winding up for single shots. Ilir swung for the fences, drove forward, and went for a takedown. He wowed the crowd by slamming Pedro down, and Tyson immediately threw up a triangle. Pedro got back to his feet but ate some hard left hands in the process. It was a good finish to the round for Latifi.
The low calf kicks of Pedro were landing with more regularity for him, as Latifi searched for big punches. An uppercut cracked Pedro, and he retaliated with some more body kicks. Latifi nailed Pedro with yet another right hand, and took him down again. Extended top control provided Latifi the opportunity to punish a tired Pedro with ground-and-pound and secure a clear-cut victory.
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