Fight fans — UFC 181 is tonight!
It’s the last big North American show of 2014, and it’s indeed big — with two world title fights on the line: the rematch between UFC Welterweight Champion Johny Hendricks and top contender Robbie Lawler; and the showdown between 155 lb. kingpin Anthony Pettis and Gilbert Melendez.
The event’s PPV main card is also highlighted by UFC’s #3 ranked heavyweight, Travis Browne, against Brendan Schaub; and preliminary bouts include #3 ranked bantamweight Urijah Faber against Francisco Riviera.
The action begins with preliminary bouts to be broadcast on UFC Fight Pass at 7 pm ET/4 pm PT. Join us for full play-by-play beginning at 8 pm ET /5 pm PT with the evening’s preliminary bouts, and then the main card at 10 pm ET/7 PT.
Hit refresh for the latest update, and enjoy the fights!
Preliminary card (to be broadcast on UFC Fight Pass)
Featherweights: Alex White (11-1) vs. Clay Collard (13-5)
21 year old Collard has an extensive amateur boxing background and is 0-1 in the UFC but a promising young talent. White is also a striker, 1-1 in the Octagon, and received “performance of the night” honors in his debut. White is a -120 favorite.
Round One: Collard opens with kicks to body and legs. Southpaw White mostly evasive, takes a good straight to the body. White lands a few body punches in a quick exchange. White with a teep to the body. Collard leg kick, White with a glancing overhand. Collard lands a good punching combo and ends with a body kick. Maybe just a step ahead. White lands a few as Collard steps straight back, head up. Collard takes White down off a missed kick, but White right back up. Quick action but Collard a little more active. 10-9, Collard.
Round Two: Collard with a big left hook, then a right to wobble White! White staggers to the mat and Collard pounces to look for a rear naked choke. White escapes. They scramble to their feet — and White with a hard knee to the body. Collard disengages, lands another punching combo. Good leg kick looks like it hurts White. A scramble and Collard drops back to a triangle… so close, but White finally slips away. White briefly attacks with a guillotine before they get back to their feet off another scramble. Good right landed by Collard in the last exchange. Great, great fight here. 10-9, Collard.
Round Three: Fight slows a bit from the early torrid pace. Good straight left lands from White. White misses a spinning backfist. Collard drops for a takedown but no dice — and they clinch against the cage for a spell. Nice punching in the clinch from White. Good right and body kick from Collard. Collard switches levels again for the takedown and gets it. White escapes to his feet. White flagged for a low blow but Collard continues. White lands a few off another failed Collard takedown. Collard bloodied and taken down as time expires. 10-9, White.
Judges’ cards match mine.
Clay Collard defeats Alex White by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28).
Press row is impressed too:
My God this fight!
— Stephie D (@CrooklynMMA) December 7, 2014
Bantamweights: Sergio Pettis (11-1) vs. Matt Hobar (9-2)
“Crowbar” Hobar is mostly a grappler, Pettis (brother of the champ Anthony) more a striker. But it’s another young prospect here — Pettis only 21 but with a lot of hype. Pettis is a -250 favorite.
Round One: Big roundhouse left drops Pettis to begin! Pettis scrambles to his feet after nearly sweeping Hobar. Staight right lands from Pettis… and another. Hobar with a takedown. Pettis with a couple of up-kicks. Hobar passes guard briefly, but Pettis re-positions and attacks with a triangle. Pettis scrambles to his feet. Weak standup exchanges. Pettis initiates a takedown but Hobar rolls on top. The big shot basically wins it for the underdog. 10-9, Hobar.
Round Two: Big head kick lands from Pettis. Good punching combo’s from Pettis to follow up. Hobar looking for the takedown, no dice. Pettis with a good body kick, follows with punches, and Hobar crumbles to the mat. Pettis follows to the mat, Hobar gets guard position. Action goes nowhere and they’re stood up. Good punching combo and leg kick from Pettis, who is dominating 100% now. Hobar catches a kick and takes Pettis down. Pettis looking for triangles and armbars. The young gun was totally dominant here. 10-9 Pettis.
Round Three: Pettis moving fluidly in and out, landing a few punches and kicks but nothing damaging. Hobar failing at takedowns. Hobar’s corner is yelling a lot. When you notice stuff like that you know the round isn’t very interesting. Pettis winning the exchanges. Nice jabs from Pettis now. Hobar takedown is stuffed and Pettis hits a knee to the head. 10-9 Pettis.
Sergio Pettis defeats Matt Hober by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27).
Interesting point from press row about the differences between the brothers Pettis: that explosive power from Anthony.
How did A. Pettis win gold? 4 body kicks thrown in the space of 2 seconds forced Henderson to panic. S. Pettis can't move opp. like that.
— Luke Thomas (@SBNLukeThomas) December 7, 2014
Preliminary card (Fox Sports 1):
Women’s Bantamweights: Raquel Pennington (4-4) vs. Ashlee Evans-Smith (3-0)
Wrestler Evans-Smith is a -190 favorite over TUF19 favorite Pennington. “Rocky” has had an up-and-down career but beat some good names like Roxy Modafferi.
Round One: Pennington surprises by initiating the clinch. Pennington with a good knee in the clinch. Evans-Smith turns her around and gets a takedown after a brief struggle against the cage. Pennington positions half guard, then full guard. Pennington scrambles nicely to her feet. Evans-Smith with a good knee in the clinch. Little shots from both, and Pennington is bleeding around the nose area. Pennington with a takedown! Evans back up, caught in the bulldog choke! She’s out.. as the horn sounds! Big win for “Rocky” at the buzzer!!!
Raquel Pennington defeats Ashlee Evans-Smith by Technical Submission at 4:59 of round one.
“That is as exciting a finish as you’ll see in MMA,” sayeth Joe Rogan. This show is off to a great start!
Light Heavyweights: Corey Anderson (5-0) vs. Justin Jones (3-0)
As reflected in their records, Anderson & Jones are just babies as pro fighters. -450 favorite Anderson was TUF 19 champ, has a good collegiate wrestling background and trains with Pettis & Co. in Wisconsin. Jones is a virtual unknown out of San Diego who took the fight on short notice.
Round One: Good body kick from Anderson after a brief exchange of glancing punches. Anderson shrugs off a Jones takedown attempt. Good left hook from Jones, but he misses his straight punching. Anderson looks for the takedown, and Jones tries a guillotine. Anderson escapes, lands a knee to the body. Anderson with a takedown. They scramble to their feet but Anderson ends up on top again. Pretty even but better grappling + control from Anderson. 10-9, Anderson.
I've always wanted to watch Anderson vs Jones…but this is not what I had in mind. #UFC181
— MMA Roasted (@MMARoasted) December 7, 2014
Round Two: Cory Anderson gets that body kick again. They clinch against the cage. Jones throwing with bad intentions but not landing much. Anderson with another takedown. Jones scrambles up, Anderson lands a good right. Good punching and leg kick combo’s here and there from Jones — the kick is landing consistently as time runs out. Still, probably an Anderson round. 10-9, Anderson.
Round Three: Anderson initiates a clinch and lifts Jones — Jones looking for guillotine and Anderson avoids it carefully, takes it to the mat. Jones scrambles to hands and knees. Long clinch sequence follows with no one accomplishing much. Spinning elbow from Anderson as they’re against the cage. Jones tries dropping for a guillotine but no dice. Anderson looks for Americana armlock in Jones’ half guard. A few punches from Anderson. 10-9, Anderson.
Corey Anderson defeats Justin Jones by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26).
Middleweights: Eddie Gordon (7-1) vs. Josh Samman (185.5)
“Truck” Gordon is a slugger from the Serra-Longo camp in NY. He won TUF 19 and is a minor (-130)favorite here. Samman KO’ed Kevin Casey in his UFC debut back in April.
Round One: Samman with a takedown attempt. a knee from Samman is low, and action is halted. Nice throw by Gordon off a stuffed shot. Matt Serra is yelling loudly during Gordon’s light ground and pound.They scramble to their feet, but Gordon gets him right back down. More light g’n’p. 10-9, Gordon.
A comment re: Ray Longo calling for more body shots gave me a chuckle:
Something tells me that isn’t the first time Ray Longo has said “keep taking the ribs."
— Marc Raimondi (@marc_raimondi) December 7, 2014
Round Two: Samman lands a heavy leg kick which spins Gordon around. He tries to take the back and Gordon scrambles on top. Samman gets guard, where they stalemate as Serra continues his shrill instructions. Crowd boo’s the lack of activity. Ref Herb Dean stands ‘em up as we have two minutes left. Samman hits a HUGE HEAD KICK OUT OF NOWHERE!!! OH MY GOD! Eddie Gordon out cold!!!
Josh Samman defeats Eddie Gordon by knockout (head kick) at 3:08 of round two.
Bantamweights: Urijah Faber (31-7) vs. Francisco Rivera (14-3-1)
Longtime WEC champ Faber ready to put on a show against fellow Californian Rivera, who seems positioned as an opponent here. Fight is actually off the books at the Mandalay Bay so no odds for this bout. Rivera lost a decision to Takeya Mizugaki in his last bout.
Round One: Faber bouncing in and out for punches, Rivera loading up for a big shot. Rivera lands a leg kick, Faber a left hook. Faber threatening takedowns, Rivera lands a right. Leg kick by Rivera. Head kick by Rivera. Right hand to the body from Rivera. Rivera stopping all the takedowns and out-landing Faber at every turn. Good leg kicks carry the round. 10-9, Rivera.
Round Two: Faber lands a combo and presses Rivera against the cage. Faber takes a bulldog choke — and Rivera struggles — and taps!
Looks like an eye poke was missed, which is what had Rivera shaken. Tough break — especially because he was winning the fight.
Urijah Faber defeats Francisco Rivera by submission (bulldog choke) at 1:34 of round two.
PPV up next!
Main Card (Pay per View):
Lightweights: Tony Ferguson (16-3) vs. Abel Trujillo (18-5-1)
Round One: Trujillo with a good solid right hand right out the gate to drop Ferguson. Trujillo chasing him down to look sfor the finish! Ferguson survives but is taken back down. Ferguson scrambles, but is taken right back down. Back up, and a nice right by Ferguson. They exchange jabs to little effect, and it’s clearly Trujillo’s round. 10-9, Trujillo.
Round Two: Ferguson looking much better in the striking exchanges now, getting the Thai clinch for some knees. Good right from Ferguson. Trujillo is snapped down from a headlock and Ferguson chases him to the mat. Ferguson gets the back, looking for the choke… gets the wrist control and cinches in the rear naked choke for the win.
Tony Ferguson defeats Abel Trujillo by submission (rear naked choke) at 4:19 of round two.
Heavyweights: Todd Duffee vs. Anthony Hamilton
“Freight Train” Hamilton has won 7 of his last 8 — he’s of the Seattle area originally but is now with Greg Jackson MMA in New Mexico. ATT’s Todd Duffee is back in the UFC after two years away; he was seen as a major prospect at one point and looking to get back in the mix. Duffee is almost a three to one favorite here.
Round One: Big right blasts Hamilton right out the gate! Whoa! The big man faceplants and Duffee pounces on with punches. That’s it! Welcome back to the UFC Mr. Duffee!!!
Todd Duffee defeats Anthony Hamilton by knockout at 0:33 of round one.
Heavyweights: Travis Browne vs. Brendan Schaub
Big boys up now! Browne, now fighting at Glendale Fight Team (with Ronda Rousey’s striking coach) is #3 in the division and has 12 wins by KO. Schaub is a fringe contender who put a good series of wins together a few years back and looking to get back in the mix — he trains under Rener Gracie, also in Cali. Browne is a -260 favorite.
Round One: Browne advancing forward in a long, upright, stance. Browne catches a slow Schaub kick and drags him to the mat. Back up, Schaub lands a right. Long jab from Browne. Schaub with a takedown, Browne back up in a scramble. Browne just pushes Schaub off, and hits a big uppercut. Browne just whips Schaub to the mat, moves right into mount. Hammer-fists from Browne! Schaub stunned by a punch as he struggles to get half guard. Browne takes back mount and tees off! The ref waives it off.
Travis Browne defeats Brendan Schaub by TKO (punches) at 4:50 of round one.
Dave Meltzer sums it up from press row:
I'm more excited about this fight than any fight in a long time. Been watching Gilbert for ten years dating back to Japan.
— Dave Meltzer (@davemeltzerWON) December 7, 2014
Lightweights: Anthony Pettis vs. Gilbert Melendez — for Pettis’ UFC Lightweight Championship
Round One: Melendez presses Pettis against the cage, briefly gets the takedown but Pettis pops right back up. Melendez looking for the back. Melendez landing short shots, including some hard knees. Pettis with a good right but it’s Melendez’s round. 10-9, Melendez.
Round Two: Exchange of jabs at center Octagon, Pettis backpedaling and eats a punching combo. Pettis lands a hard right. Melendez in on another takedown but Pettis able to escape. Pettis rolls him in a guillotine and lands in mount… Melendez taps!
That’s the first time anyone has stopped Melendez. Melendez praises Pettis’ speed after the bout.
Anthony Pettis defeats Gilbert Melendez by submission (guillotine choke) at 1:53 of round two.
Welterweights: Johny Hendricks vs. Robbie Lawler — for Hendricks’ UFC Welterweight Championship
Lawler out to “Hold On I’m Comin'” by Sam & Dave. He’s singing along as he paces the cage waiting for Hendricks. Hendricks uses catchy cowboy anthem “$50 and a Flask of Crown” by Bleu Edmondson. Good stuff. Lawler got some late action from bettors, interestingly…
Round One: Lawler out quick with right hooks and combo’s upstairs. Big knee to the body. Lawler clinches up with more knees to the body. Hendricks escapes the Thai plum, and is trying to establish his jab. Hendricks pushes Lawler against the cage. Hendricks struggling to get a leg, Lawler uses an overhook to fend him off. Knee to the face by Lawler. Good knees to the body, with his back to the cage, by Lawler. Hendricks disengages. Nice overhand left from Hendricks. Leg kick from Lawler, Hendricks returns with one of his own. Nice punching combo and leg kick from Hendricks. Hendricks finally gets his takedown and ends up in guard when time expires. Great round. 10-9 Lawler.
Round Two: Lawler with a head kick after a punching exchange. Hendricks with a good leg kick again. Good punching combo followed by a leg kick by Hendricks. Hendricks with a straight left and leg kick that seems to hurt Lawler. Lawler gets pressed against the cage, takes several knees to the leg. Hendricks in on a takedown again and a long struggle ensues. They finally disengage. Big front kick to the chin from Lawler. Hendricks looking for punching combo’s, ending with the leg kick. Great exchanges from both as the round closes. Hendricks, 10-9.
Round Three: Good punching combo’s from Hendricks with the leg kick. Lawler slowing now and not defending. Hendricks controlling the pace, and it’s much slower than the opening round where Lawler took the advantage. Three punch combo then a kick to the leg from Hendricks. It feels like Lawler hasn’t thrown a punch, out of concern for the takedown. That takedown finally comes… and Lawler scrambles to his feet… and back down. Lawler looking worn out as the horn sounds. Hendricks 10-9.
From press row:
Miletich just came over to Lawler's corner. "Force Johny to fight," he said.
— Kevin Iole (@KevinI) December 7, 2014
Round Four: Lawler still looking frozen, Hendricks landing combo’s albeit not as strong as in the previous round. Hendricks in on a takedown and we’re pressed against the cage. Crowd starting to boo. they’re separated and Lawler lands a glancing jab. Head kick from Lawler. Halfway through the round now. Hendricks with a 1-2 and a leg kick. Head kick from Lawler. Rogan questions if Lawler injured his right because he hasn’t thrown it lately; in fact he doesn’t even have it closed… Hendricks in on a takedown but they’re right back up. 1-2 from Lawler. Leg kick from Hendricks, who shoots back in and we’re up against the cage again. Boo birds are out. Big shots start raining down for Lawler as he has Hendricks caught in a sprawl. Man that was close, and I’m calling it even, 10-10.
Round Five: Light standup exchange and Hendricks shoots in. Long sequence against the cage. They’re finally separated. Hendricks hits a good leg kick in a striking exchange. Hendricks in on another takedown and we’re against the cage. Lawler struggling to find Hendricks’ head. Ref stops the action and Hendricks shoots in and we end up in the same stalemate. Lawler finding Hendricks’ head now. Lawler landing the shots that may steal the round. They disengage and Lawler landing big punches! Lawler with a body kick. More punches and Hendricks is on the retreat. 10-9, Lawler.
I’ve got a draw here… but the judges…
Robbie Lawler defeats Johny Hendricks by split decision (48-47, 47-48, 49-46)
Wow! Lawler says afterwards, “it’s been an amazing journey.” ATT has their first UFC champion, Lawler wears UFC gold 12 years after his Octagon debut. Wow!
A memorable tweet from Phil Baroni, who of Lawler’s first UFC era:
Nevada BLOWS worst than boxing. But good 4 me. I bet Lawler ha ha ha
— phil baroni (@philbaroni) December 7, 2014
I can’t top that, so we’ll end there. Thank you for joining us!!!