Demetrious Johnson broke mixed martial arts’ most celebrated record in grand fashion Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena.
Johnson not only defended his flyweight championship an 11th consecutive time, surpassing Anderson Silva’s previous record of 10, but he locked up the victory over Ray Borg with a finish never before seen in the octagon. With less than two minutes left in the fight, Johnson slammed Borg to the canvas and caught his arm in midair to lock in an armbar, securing the finish at 3:15 of the fifth round.
The first words out of Johnson’s mouth addressed neither of the two historic accomplishments. He had something else on his mind.
“Shout out to Las Vegas,” Johnson said in his post-fight interview in the octagon. “Big thanks to the first responders. This record goes out to all you guys.”
Sunday’s mass shooting cast a wide shadow over the first major event on the Las Vegas Strip since the tragedy. Before the main card began, two injured first responders and two survivors were recognized in the octagon before Everlast performed “America The Beautiful.”
UFC President Dana White also made a statement in a video that played in the arena.
“We will forever remember those affected by this disgusting and cowardly act and keep them in our thoughts and in our hearts,” White said. “Together we will heal. Together we will help the victims and their families, and together we will be stronger than ever.”
Local fighter Evan Dunham echoed the sentiment after salvaging a split draw (29-27, 28-28, 28-28) in a lightweight bout against Beneil Dariush to open the main card. Dariush smothered Dunham in the first round, but the longtime local refused to give up and out struck his opponent over the final two rounds.
Dunham’s teammate at Xtreme Couture gym, Kevin Lee, saw his fight go the opposite way in the main event. Lee started strong against Tony Ferguson for the interim lightweight title and won the first round, but faded from there.
Ferguson tired Lee out with jabs and elbows in the second and third rounds, before fighting viciously off of his back to set up a finish. Ferguson submitted Lee via triangle choke at 4:02 of the first round.
Ferguson becomes the first-ever interim lightweight champion, and hopes to unify the belts in a forthcoming match with lineal champion Conor McGregor.
“Where you at McGregor?” Ferguson yelled. “I’ll kick your ass.”
Elsewhere on the pay-per-view, Fabricio Werdum submitted late-replacement Walt Harris via arm bar 65 seconds into their heavyweight fight. Mara Romero Borella started the main-card run of four straight submissions when she choked out Kalindra Faria at 2:54 of the first round in her UFC debut in the strawweight division.
The UFC provided free tickets to hundreds of first responders, law-enforcement agents and victims. The arena was dotted with fans wearing “Vegas Strong” shirts, and that message was also permanently and prominently displayed in the right corner of the pay-per-view broadcast.
“There are no words to describe this week’s tragedy here in Las Vegas or the horror of innocent lives taken too soon, but out of the chaos and the anger, the world witnessed what we have always known: The city is brave, compassionate and strong,” White said.
Stay tuned to lasvegassun.com for more coverage later, and look below for live coverage including preliminary results at the bottom of the page.
The first major sporting event on the Las Vegas Strip since Sunday’s mass shooting is under way at T-Mobile Arena.
The UFC never considered canceling tonight’s pay-per-view card. That doesn’t mean the locally based promotion ignored the tragedy.
It’s pledged $1 million to the victims, and plans to have several tributes tonight on a pay-per-view dedicated to the city of Las Vegas. Additionally, the UFC gave away free tickets to first responders.
They’ll get to cheer on a couple of local fighters on the main card, which will start momentarily. Rising star Kevin Lee, who trains at Xtreme Couture, will fight for the interim lightweight title in the main event against Tony Ferguson.
Lee’s teammate, Evan Dunham, opens the pay-per-view in a lightweight bout against Beneil Dariush. Lee and Dunham are both listed as short underdogs by oddsmakers.
The rest of the main card has endured a shake-up over the last month, all the way up to fight night. Heavyweight Derrick Lewis pulled out of his bout with Fabricio Werdum less than an hour before the card started with two bulging discs reportedly leaving him immobile.
The cancelation boosted an undercard heavyweight fight, Walt Harris vs. Mark Godbeer, to the main card. They’ll square off right after a women’s flyweight bout between Italy’s Mara Romero Borella and Brazil’s Kalindra Faria, a fight that was hastily arranged after an announced pairing between Paige VanZant and Jessica Eye fell through.
In the co-main event, a flyweight championship bout between Demetrious Johnson and Ray Borg was shifted to this card after the latter fell ill a day before last month’s UFC 215. Johnson could break Anderson Silva’s record of 10 straight title defenses with a victory over Borg.
The UFC hopes the fights give Las Vegas something to celebrate after a devastating week.
Follow along here from cageside during the UFC 216 main card. Full results from the preliminary card are below.
Cody Stamman defeated Tom Duquesnoy via split decision (30-27, 29-28, 28-29) in a bantamweight bout to finish off the preliminary card.
Lando Vannata and Bobby Green put in a bid for Fight of the Night, but got no resolution in their lightweight bout. Vannata and Green fought to a split draw (29-27, 27-29, 28-28) after the former was penalized a point for kneeing a downed opponent during an early surge in the first round that nearly scored him a knockout.
Poliana Botelho outgrappled Pearl Gonzalez through three rounds, picking up a unanimous decision in which the women's strawweight won every round on every judge's scorecard.
Matt Schnell defeated Marco Beltran via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28) in a flyweight bout.
John Moraga came through early as more than a 4-to-1 underdog in a flyweight bout against Magomed Bibulatov. Moraga knocked the previously undefeated Bibulatov out cold with an overhand right at 1:38 of the first round.
Brad Tavares thanked the first responders, waved a Nevada flag and urged Las Vegas to stay strong after picking up the first victory of the night. The local Tavares defeated Thales Leites by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-26, 30-26) in a middleweight bout.