Holly Holm has said time and again that she does not want her UFC career to be defined by her shocking knockout of Ronda Rousey. Saturday on “Fight Island,” Holm has a chance to forge her first winning streak since that 2015 victory — and perhaps earn another title shot.
Holm, one of the most popular fighters in mixed martial arts, meets Irene Aldana in the main event of the UFC Fight Night. The bout is a pivotal one in the women’s bantamweight division. In ESPN’s women’s bantamweight rankings, Aldana is No. 5 and Holm is No. 6.
Holm (13-5), the former UFC women’s bantamweight champion, is coming off a unanimous decision win over Raquel Pennington at UFC 246 in January. The New Mexico native has won three of her past five fights, with the losses coming against Amanda Nunes, the current UFC women’s bantamweight and featherweight champion, and former women’s featherweight champ Cris Cyborg.
Holm, 38, is only 3-5 since beating Rousey at UFC 193 on Nov. 15, 2015.
Aldana (12-5) has won two straight and five of her past six fights. She is the first Mexican-born woman to headline a UFC event. The 32-year-old is coming off a first-round knockout of Ketlen Vieira at UFC 245 last December.
In the co-main event, Yorgan De Castro meets Carlos Felipe in a heavyweight bout. De Castro (6-1) had his previously undefeated record tarnished in May against Greg Hardy. Felipe (8-1) is searching for his first UFC victory following a debut loss to Serghei Spivac in July.
Also on the card, women’s bantamweight contenders Germaine de Randamie and Julianna Pena face off; Carlos Condit returns against Court McGee in a welterweight bout; and former Invicta FC women’s atomweight champion Jinh Yu Frey faces Loma Lookboonmee.
UFC Fight Night takes place at the Flash Forum on inside the Yas Island safe zone, which has been dubbed “Fight Island.” Brett Okamoto, Marc Raimondi and Jeff Wagenheim recap the action as it happens.
Fight in progress:
Middleweight: Dequan Townsend (21-11, 0-3 UFC, +280) vs. Dusko Todorovic (9-0, 0-0 UFC, -340)
Welterweight: Carlos Condit (31-13, 8-9 UFC) defeats Court McGee (20-10, 10-7 UFC) by unanimous decision
Recap to come.
Men’s featherweight: Charles Jourdain (10-3-1, 1-2-1 UFC) and Josh Culibao (8-1-1, 0-1-1 UFC) fight to a split draw
Jourdain valiantly battled back after getting dropped in the first round — but he’ll have to settle for a tie.
Jourdain and Culibao fought to a split draw (30-27, 28-29, 28-28) in a featherweight fight. Culibao cracked Jourdain with a right hand to the nose in the first round, dropping Jourdain and putting him in trouble. Jourdain survived and did well the rest of the way, but it wasn’t enough to secure a victory.
By the end of the first, Jourdain had recovered, finishing the round looking for a guillotine choke on the ground. The second round was incredibly close with Jourdain landing leg kicks and punching combinations and Culibao also landing with takedown attempts mixed in. Jourdain wobbled Culibao with punches in what was a wild third. Jourdain also had a triangle choke and armbar attempt in the third. Culibao was able to make his way up, though, and finish that round with stand-up exchanges.
Jourdain, 24, has just one win in his past four fights. The Canada native is considered a prospect, but is still stuck on one UFC win, over Dooho Choi last December. Culibao, a 26-year-old Aussie, is still seeking his first UFC win after a pair of very competitive — and exciting — bouts in the promotion.
Watch this fight on ESPN+.
Middleweight: Nassourdine Imavov (9-2, 1-0 UFC) defeats Jordan Williams (9-4, 0-1 UFC) by unanimous decision
French middleweight Nassourdine Imavov already watched his opportunity to sign with the UFC earlier this year go to Jordan Williams. He wasn’t about to let Williams ruin his UFC debut, as well.
Imavov picked up a unanimous decision win over Williams, via judges’ scores of 29-27, 29-27 and 29-28. It was a unique matchup in that Imavov was scheduled to appear on Dana White’s Contender Series last month, but was forced to withdraw. Williams took his place and ended up earning a UFC contract. The two were then paired against one another several weeks later.
The chin of Jordan Williams is incredible!!! 🤯 #UFCFightIsland4
— Jamahal Hill UFC (@JamahalH) October 4, 2020
“I did learn a lot with this fight,” Imavov said. “It’s been a very long time since I fought three hard-fought rounds because I’ve finished most of my fights in the first round. I’m happy with the win, though, and I will be better the next time.”
The fight was a bit awkward, in that the two middleweights violently clashed heads in the first and third rounds. Imavov appeared to get the worst of it in the first round, but Williams was rocked by the second one, and mistakenly thought it was an eye poke. He asked for a timeout but wasn’t granted one, and Imavov took advantage with some stiff punches to the head.
Imavov threatened to submit Williams with a guillotine late in the second round, but there were no near finishes beyond that. Imavov ran away with the third frame, however, and left no doubt he had won on the scorecards.
It’s six wins in a row now for Imavov, who fights out of Paris.
Strawweight: Loma Lookboonmee (5-2, 2-1 UFC) defeats Jinh Yu Frey (9-6, 0-2 UFC) by unanimous decision
Elbows and knees. Knees and elbows. Lookboonmee went back to those techniques again and again, especially in the first two rounds, to take Frey out of the fight.
Lookboonmee, a 24-year-old from Thailand, got off to a masterful start, landing practically everything she threw in the first round and absorbing little from Frey. In Round 1, Lookboonmee out-landed her opponent 36-9, hitting her target at a 73% clip to 42% for Frey.
Muaythai clinic, nice job Loma 👌🏾👌🏾👌🏾 #UFCFightIsland4
— Angela Hill (@AngieOverkill) October 4, 2020
It didn’t get much better for Frey in the second round as Lookboonmee appeared fully comfortable, maintaining distance with front kicks until it was time for her to counter one of Frey’s rare advances.
Frey finally tried something new in Round 3, getting a takedown just 15 seconds in. The 35-year-old from Arlington, Texas, even advanced to side control. But before she could threaten with a submission attempt of ground-and-pound, Lookboonmee got the fight back to standing and resumed control.
Lookboonmee rebounded after losing via unanimous decision to Angela Hill on Feb. 22.
“The UFC is absolutely amazing,” Lookboonmee said. “I am so grateful to compete and make money for my family in a global pandemic and I can’t thank the UFC enough for the opportunity they have given me.
“I feel like with Angela Hill — fighting such an experienced and well-known opponent — I felt the pressure and maybe I wasn’t ready mentally for that yet, but I came into this fight very mentally strong and I’m happy with the win.”
Frey, a former Invicta FC atomweight champion, is 0-2 in the UFC. Lookboonmee, who also competed in Invicta as a 105-pounder, has won two of three inside the Octagon.
Two judges scored the fight 30-27 for Lookboonmee, and the third had it 29-28.
Watch this fight on ESPN+.
Men’s bantamweight: Casey Kenney (15-2-1, 4-1 UFC) defeats Alateng Heili (14-8-1, 2-1 UFC) by unanimous decision
The story of the fight went from how good Kenney looked to astonishment that Heili could take that amount of punishment without ever going down.
Kenney pummeled Heili for three rounds in a unanimous-decision victory (30-25, 30-26, 30-27). Kenney landed hard straight left hands and hard body kicks throughout the fight. By the end, Heili was bleeding from his nose and right ear — and the entire right side of his torso was bruised and red.
Kenney is a savage! Lad can mix it up 💽 #UFCFightIsland4
— Alex Volkanovski (@alexvolkanovski) October 4, 2020
“He ate some solid left hands that a lot of people go down with,” Kenney said. “Alateng is tough as nails.”
After the decision was read, Kenney climbed out of the cage and screamed in the direction of UFC matchmaker Mick Maynard that he wants to fight again next week. Kenney said in his postfight interview that he wants to be more active and figured he needed to really make it known up close and personal.
“I guess I had to say it a little louder,” Kenney said. “… I felt like I needed to do that.”
Kenney, 29, has won two straight and eight of his past nine. The Arizona resident is 4-1 in the UFC and seems to be climbing the bantamweight ladder. Heili, a 28-year-old Mongolian fighter, had a four-fight winning streak snapped.
Lightweight: Luigi Vendramini (9-1, 1-1 UFC) defeats Jessin Ayari (16-6, 1-3 UFC) by first-round TKO
Lightweight Luigi Vendramini might have woken up all of Abu Dhabi on Saturday with a loud first-round finish (and even louder postfight celebration).
Competing in the event’s curtain-raiser, which took place in the early morning hours local time, Vendramini defeated Jessin Ayari via TKO just 72 seconds into the bout. Immediately after the fight was called, Vendramini unleashed a long, echoing scream inside the crowdless Flash Forum Arena.
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) October 4, 2020
“Two years, two surgeries, my life was terrible,” said Vendramini, who hadn’t fought since September 2018. “Everything happens for a reason. Now, I feel like my life starts now.”
The finish was a thing of beauty as Vendramini staggered Ayari with a counter left hook to the chin and then swarmed him with punches. Ayari did a great job of clearing the cobwebs at first, and did well moving his head to avoid Vendramini’s follow-up shots, until the Brazilian elevated a nasty right head kick that put Ayari down. Vendramini jumped on Ayari after he fell to the canvas and finished the bout via strikes.
It was the first UFC win of Vendramini’s career, and his seventh first-round finish overall. He did not compete the past two years due to multiple ACL surgeries.
“I debuted in the UFC and lost,” Vendramini said. “I don’t feel like a UFC fighter when I lose. I had to win against somebody. Now, I’m a UFC fighter.”
Watch this fight on ESPN+.
Still to come:
Women’s bantamweight: Holly Holm (13-5, 6-5 UFC, -120) vs. Irene Aldana (12-5, 5-3 UFC, +100)
Heavyweight: Yorgan De Castro (6-1, 1-1 UFC, -240) vs. Carlos Felipe (8-1, 0-1 UFC, +200)
Women’s bantamweight: Germaine de Randamie (9-4, 6-2 UFC, -140) vs. Julianna Pena (10-3, 5-1 UFC, +120)
Men’s bantamweight: Kyler Phillips (7-1, 1-0 UFC, -450) vs. Cameron Else (10-4, 0-0 UFC, +360)