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411’s UFC Fight Night Report: Edwards and Muhammad Goes to No Contest

March 14, 2021 | Posted by Robert Winfree
UFC on ESPN+ 45

MAIN CARD (ESPN+, 8 p.m. ET)
#3 Leon Edwards (170.5 lbs.) vs. #13 Belal Muhammad (170 lbs.)
#11 Misha Cirkunov (205 lbs.) vs. #13 Ryan Spann (206 lbs.)
#9 Dan Ige (145.5 lbs.) vs. Gavin Tucker (146 lbs.)
Davey Grant (135.5 lbs.) vs. Jonathan Martinez (136 lbs.)
Manel Kape (125.5 lbs.) vs. Matheus Nicolau (125.5 lbs.)
Eryk Anders (186 lbs.) vs. Darren Stewart (185.5 lbs.)

#12 Angela Hill (115.5 lbs.) vs. Ashley Yoder (116 lbs.)
Charles Jourdain (145.5 lbs.) vs. Marcelo Rojo (145.5 lbs.)
Ray Rodriguez (135.5 lbs.) vs. Rani Yahya (136 lbs.)
Rafa Garcia (156 lbs.) vs. Nasrat Haqparast (156 lbs.)
J.J. Aldrich (125.5 lbs.) vs. Cortney Casey (126 lbs.)
Gloria de Paula (115.5 lbs.) vs. Jinh Yu Frey (115.5 lbs.)
Matthew Semelsberger (169.5 lbs.) vs. Jason Witt (171 lbs.)

Hello everyone and welcome to 411mania’s LIVE coverage of UFC on ESPN+ 45, I’m Robert Winfree and I’ll be your host for the evening. On the heels of a very stacked PPV last week the UFC keeps the gears turning with this one. Our main event sees top welterweight contender Leon Edwards finally get back to action after almost 2 years off. Edwards will be meeting a late replacement in fellow ranked welterweight Belal Muhammad, Muhammad could score a big upset and get the biggest win of his career while Edwards is trying just to remind the fanbase he exists and is a very good fighter. Beyond that it’s a somewhat thin card, but Dan Ige taking on Gavin Tucker could be a fun little featherweight scrap and Manel Kape should be trying to make up for a very lackluster debut with a better sophomore effort. Really we’re in hope mode, but until the fight actually happens the possibility of it being a good one exists.

UFC on ESPN+ 45 comes to the world from the UFC Apex facility in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. We’re under the newer rules with a couple of exceptions, you only need one hand on the mat to be considered downed and there’s a replay official out of the cage who can request the use of instant replay and a fight can be restarted after instant replay is used if that’s applicable to the situation. Also keep in mind the Apex uses the smaller 25 foot diameter cage. On commentary we have Brendan Fitzgerald, Daniel Cormier and Michael Bisping.

Matthew Semelsberger has a four fight winning streak going that includes a successful UFC debut last year, he’s hoping to keep that momentum going and establish himself as a prospect to pay attention to. Jason Witt has gone 1-1 in the UFC but he’s coming off of that win and could earn his first UFC winning streak with a win. Semelsberger is the favorite at -120 to +100 for Witt.

Welterweight Bout: Matthew Semelsberger (7-2, 169.5 lbs.) vs. Jason Witt (18-6, 171 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: Semelsberger is three inches taller and has five inches of reach advantage. southpaw for Witt, he switches his stance a bit but fires a naked leg kick and eats a straight counter right that knocks him stiff as a board.

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – Matthew Semelsberger via KO punch, at :16 of Round 1

The First Round Finish Club thanks Mr. Semelsberger for his work this evening. Mic time for Semelsberger after that one, he says how hard he’s worked for this and is happy to get a quick win. He says his initial prediction was a second round finish, and talks about his new strength and conditioning program. Asked how soon he’d like to be back he says he’ll stay available as long as his coaches sign off on it.

Behold the fastest KO win in UFC welterweight history. Don’t throw naked leg kicks people, it leads to stuff like this more often than not.

Jinh Yu Frey has gone 0-2 in the UFC and is likely fighting for her job here. Gloria de Paula has won her last two bouts and is trying to make a good first impression on the UFC audience. Despite being the debuting fighter de Paula is your favorite at -190 to +160 for Frey.

Strawweight Bout: Gloria de Paula (5-2, 115.5 lbs.) vs. Jinh Yu Frey (9-6, 115.5 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: De Paula is two inches taller, has two and a half inches of reach advantage, and is ten years younger. Southpaw for Frey. Both women working straight power hand punches, Frey gets a clinch and secures a takedown into half guard. De Paulua gets full guard. Some body shots from Frey, de Paula is trying to work her guard. De Paula to her knees, Frey slips to the back but de Paula rolls to her back and gets half guard. Back to full guard now for de Paula. A fairly consistent pace of offense from Frey, de Paula is trying to angle her hips off for an attack. Lefts from Frey land to the head. A few short elbows from Frey, de Paula’s complacency in bottom position is a problem at this point. Frey stands and lands a couple of leg kicks as the round ends.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Frey

ROUND TWO: Some circling early, Frey lands an inside leg kick. Body kick from de Paula. Bit of a left hook from Frey. They trade power hand punches. De Paula slips, but regains her feet quickly then lands a straight right. Frey punches to the clinch and they start fence wrestling. Some knees to the body from de Paula and they break. A couple of punches from de Paula. Bit of an inside leg kick from Frey. Frey catches a body kick and drives things to the fence. De Paula lands an elbow and slips free. Bit of a left from Frey closes the round.

SCORECARD: 10-9 de Paula, 19-19 overall

ROUND THREE: Frey comes out jabbing, de Paula lands a right. Frey gets a clinch, they hit the fence but she’s got a body lock this time and trips de Paula down into full guard. De Paula goes to a high guard rather quickly but Frey postures through it. Frey passes to half guard, de Paula is fishing for a kimura though. The position is stalling out, and there’s a knee slice pass from Frey and she’s into full mount, nice move. De Paula gives up her back trying to move, Frey only has one hook but she’s got the choke nearly locked in. Frey adjusts to keep the position but loses the choke attempt. Frey goes to a body lock and is fighting for the choke. The arm goes under the chin but de Paula is able to avoid being choked. They trade some punches on the mat as the clock runs down.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Frey, 29-28 Frey overall

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – Jinh Yu Frey via unanimous decision (29-28 x3)

Wasn’t the most exciting thing, but Frey really needed the win and if de Paula struggled against that level of wrestling it’s better to figure that out sooner rather than later. Mic time for Frey, she says the first UFC win feels good and then thanks all of her coaches for their work with her. She closes noting this wasn’t exactly the win she envisioned but she’ll take it.

Cortney Casey has had a very up and down UFC career but has gone 1-1 since returning to flyweight, unfortunately she’s coming off of a loss and is fighting for relevance in her new division. JJ Aldrich has gone 1-2 since returning to flyweight, she’s also coming off of a loss and is trying to avoid her first ever losing streak. Aldrich is the favorite at -150 to Casey’s +125.

Women’s Flyweight Bout: J.J. Aldrich (8-4, 125.5 lbs.) vs. Cortney Casey (9-8, 126 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: Casey is two inches taller while Aldrich has half an inch of reach advantage. Southpaw for Aldrich as we get going. Casey lands an inside leg kick. Aldrich is pressuring forward, they trade some kicks. Casey lands another inside leg kick. Aldrich pushes into a clinch and starts looking for a takedown. Casey spins free after a bit and lands a right. Body shot from Casey, Aldrich fires back. They trade power hand punches then hockey style uppercuts in a clinch. Casey is fighting very well so far, she lands another long distance right. Another right and then uppercuts from Casey, Aldrich has had enough and hits a trip takedown into full guard. Casey quickly throws up a high guard and starts looking for an armbar attack. Casey kicks Aldrich off and stands, but Aldrich dives back into the clinch on the fence but Casey spins free rather quickly. Body kick from Casey lands. Casey catches a body kick, lands a punch and they get close with Aldrich grabbing a front headlock and forcing things to the mat. There’s a double wrist lock from Casey, she just kind of holds it as the round ends.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Casey

ROUND TWO: Casey back to kicking and circling. Aldrich lands a straight left. They trade rights in close. Casey with a series of rights, then a high kick that’s caught and Casey jumps for full guard. Aldrich tries to posture and pass, Casey with some punches from her back and is trying to wall walk. Aldrich does get to half guard. Another pass sequence from Aldrich, she’s almost in full mount now and lands lefts to the head. Casey is trying to wall walk, she’s been able to hip escape to half guard. Casey back up from her knees and Aldrich tries to set up a high crotch lift. They break without incident. Bit of a right from Casey. Casey lands a jab, Aldrich gets a clinch and hits a takedown into half guard as the round ends.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Aldrich, 19-19 overall

ROUND THREE: Circling again as the final round starts. Aldrich lands a left, Casey fires back with a right. Another left from Aldrich. Casey fires off a straight right. Bit of a combination from Casey lands. Hard right from Casey lands. They clash, both women land power punches but Casey landed better. A couple of rights land for Casey and she evades the counters. Aldrich lands a left. Straight left from Aldrich lands. Both women land rights in close, then Aldrich hits a takedown into almost side control. Casey quickly back up against the fence then they punch and separate. Another combination from Casey, these two are still getting after it. Casey lands an uppercut. Aldrich with a combination. Another punch from Casey, Aldrich tries a spinning back kick but that looks to have been a low blow so we’ve got time out for her to recover. Replay confirms the low blow, Casey takes about 45 seconds then we’re back with just enough time for one more exchange as the clock winds down.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Casey but could go either way, 29-28 Casey overall

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – JJ Aldrich via split decision (28-29, 29-28 x2)

Can’t complain about 29-28 for either woman, it all came down to the third round and that was a back and forth five minute frame. No interview for Aldrich.

This fight began life as Guram Kutateladze taking on Dan Madge, but thanks to injury and visa issues we wound up here. Nasrat Haqparast has gone 4-2 in the UFC, he’s coming off of a win and is trying to build his second UFC winning streak. Rafa Garcia took this fight on about a weeks notice but he’s undefeated with a couple of UFC veterans on his record, now he’s trying to take out a relatively bright prospect in Haqparast and announce his arrival in the UFC. The odds are with Haqparast at -550 to a +400 comeback for Garcia.

Lightweight Bout: Rafa Garcia (12-0, 156 lbs.) vs. Nasrat Haqparast (12-3, 156 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: Haqparast is three inches taller and has two inches of reach advantage. Southpaw for Haqparast. Garcia walking forward looking to engage early. Bit of a right from Garcia then an inside leg kick. Glancing left from Haqparast. Combination from Haqparast is mostly blocked but he’s throwing heat. They trade power hand punches, Haqparast wound up a little stunned. Garcia punches then tries a takedown, nothing doing so he lands a knee to the body and separates. Both men probing with the power hand. Right form Garcia stuns Haqparast again. Haqparast lands a left to the body. Left from Haqparast then a body kick. Garcia lands an inside leg kick. A couple of body shots from Haqparast, Garcia coming forward now. Bit of a left from Haqparast. Garcia lands a right, tries a double leg but can’t get it and they wind up clinched. Haqparast is able to spin free rather quickly. A Haqparast body kicks is the last blow of the round.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Garcia but a close one

ROUND TWO: Garcia pressing forward again, lands a body kick. Bit of a left from Haqparast. Combination from Haqparast as he angles off of the fence. Body shot from Haqparast, Garcia counters with a left hook. Haqparast lands an elbow. These two have started swinging at each other. Garcia lands a couple of body kicks. Haqparast with a few lefts towards the head and body. Another body shot from Haqparast lands. Garcia fires a right to the body of his own. Both men land body shots, then Haqparast lands a left to the head. Haqparast lands a right hook to counter a kick. Another hard body shot from Haqparast. Garcia backs Haqparast into the fence, tries a double leg but Haqparast shoves him off and lands a knee. Both men are finding some success with the power hand. Garcia is still coming forward but Haqparast is landing on him and slowly breaking down his confidence. They trade power hand punches again. Haqparast has started including some left elbows when they’re close. Body kick from Haqparast. Garcia tries a single leg, that stalls out on the fence as the round ends.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Haqparast, 19-19 overall

ROUND TRHEE: Garcia jabbing to start the round. Haqparast lands a body kick. Haqparast is starting to pull away in this fight, he lands a straight left then another body kick. Garcia with a knee to the body. Punches in close from Haqparast, including a nice uppercut. Haqparast lands a combination, Garcia responds with a left hook. The uppercut from Haqparast is really dialed in. Garcia keeps walking into front kicks to the body. Garcia with punches and backs Haqparast to the fence but Haqparast circles off of the fence. A few more straight lefts from Haqparast as he’s moving around. That front kick to the body from Haqparast is brutal, Haqparast digs another left punch to the body as well. Garcia lands a right, then takes another body kick. Body kick from Garcia. Haqparast with a head kick, then a left hand to follow up. Another head kick from Haqparast is partially blocked, Garcia is tough as the proverbial 2 dollar steak. They trade for the last couple of seconds as the round ends.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Haqparast, 29-28 Haqparast overall

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – Nasrat Haqparast via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28 x2)

The longer that went on the more Haqparast took over, he kept a brutal pace but Garcia was game the whole time. That’s your current Fight of the Night. No interview for Haqparast though.

Rani Yahya has gone 1-1-1 in his last three fights but hasn’t won since 2018, and while he’s a respected veteran of the sport if he’s going to try and make one final run he’s in a must win situation. Ray Rodriguez lost his UFC debut in quick fashion when he ran into a Brian Kelleher guillotine, now he’s trying to bounce back and get his first UFC win at the expense of a veteran in Yahya. Despite taking the fight on fairly short notice Yahya is a fairly heavy favorite at -300 while a Rodriguez win would payout at +240.

Bantamweight Bout: Ray Rodriguez (16-7, 135.5 lbs.) vs. Rani Yahya (26-10-1 1 NC, 136 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: Rodriguez is an inch taller and has three inches of reach advantage. Southpaw for Yahya. Yahya lands a leg kick. Rodriguez lands a right but Yahya gets a clinch off of that and is looking to get this to the mat. Yahya finally gets the trip takedown and lands in half guard. Rodriguez is working his half guard to try and set up a wall walk, Yahya is keeping him on the mat. Yahya lands some body to head punches while trying to open up chances to pass or attack an arm triangle. Yahya tries another arm triangle, he’s got the choke position correct but he’s on the wrong side in half guard and there’s not much time. Rodriguez gets his arm out of trouble and will end the round on his back.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Yahya

ROUND TWO: Yahya goes orthodox this round, they trade rights but Rodriguez is clearly the better striker of the two. Rodriguez with a bit of a right, but Yahya backs him to the fence and shoots a double leg. They hit the fence, Yahya is working the takedown from his knees and he gets Rodriguez down into half guard again. Yahya lands a few punches, he’s still chasing that arm triangle as his primary attack. Rodriguez is trying to shrimp to full guard but Yahya is stifling that. Yahya grabs an arm triangle as he passes to half guard on the dangerous side, he cinches that up and Rodriguez has to tap.

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – Rani Yahya via Submission, arm triangle choke, at 3:09 of Round 2

Yahya is still a tough out and on the ground an ace. Mic time for Yahya, he says the win feels great and mentions how long he’s been training and reiterates that he’s happy. He talks about his tape study on Rodriguez and that he saw a habit in his defense and that he could bait a motion and lock up the arm triangle on the dangerous side in half guard. To close he puts over the older guys like DC or Blachowicz who succeeded later in life as his inspirations now that he’s closing in on 40.

Look at this bit of beauty. Rodriguez tries to shrimp/bridge on his left hip, Yahya grabs the arm triangle on the far side so the threat is minimal. But look at the pass from Yahya, he just floats incredibly quickly from one half guard to the other and suddenly he’s on the correct side to finish the choke.

Charles Jourdain has gone just 1-2-1 in the UFC and his last win was in December of 2019, now he’s at an important junction and needs a win just to get his UFC record to the .500 mark. Marcelo Rojo has gone 3-2 in the lead up to his UFC debut, now he’s trying to make a good first impression to the UFC audience. Jourdain is your -260 favorite to +210 on Rojo.

Featherweight Bout: Charles Jourdain (10-3-1, 145.5 lbs.) vs. Marcelo Rojo (16-6, 145.5 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: Jourdain is an inch taller while Rojo has two inches of reach advantage. They touch gloves, Jourdain fighting southpaw. Rojo with some inside leg kicks early, mostly range finding. Jourdain showing the kicks early as well. Bit of a right from Rojo in close. Jourdain punches into a clinch, Rojo with knees to the body then he hits a body lock takedown but Jourdain elevates him quickly and regains his feet. Body kick from Jourdain. Rojo is showing some stance switches. Bit of a knee from Rojo in close. Rojo lands a leg kick. Bit of a left hook from Rojo. They trade punches in close, mostly Jourdain landing. Another bit of a knee from Rojo, he’s good about firing offense when they break a clinch. Rojo with a right hook in close. Hard inside leg kick from Rojo. Jourdain lands a straight left. Left hook then a right from Rojo, he’s finding the openings in Jourdain’s defense now. Body shot from Rojo, he could use more of those as Jourdain is using a high guard. Jourdain lands a left and they clinch, he digs the body with punches as they hit the fence. More body shots from Jourdain, Rojo lands an elbow as they break. They clash again, both men landing just before the round ends.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Rojo but could go either way

ROUND TWO: Rojo coming forward again, he lands a leg kick as Jourdain is switching his stance as well now. Quick couple of punches from Rojo, then a hook as Jourdian exits the pocket. Rojo land a body shot. Another leg kick from Rojo lands, those are rapidly adding up now. Jourdain with a jab. Jourdain lands a decent right, Rojo responds with a leg kick. They clash, and Rojo gets poked in the eye so we’ve got a timeout. Rojo takes 30 seconds then we’re back to fighting. Jourdain has a couple of high kicks blocked then they trade leg kick kicks. Rojo lands a combination, Jourdain lands a solid left hand. Body shots from Jourdain, Rojo returns a series of them along the fence. Rojo pushes into a clinch and slips around to the back standing. A bit of a right from Rojo as they break. Both men with leg kicks at distance, Jourdain lands a straight left. Jourdain lands a jab, when they’re at distance and he can snipe he’s doing well but the closer things get the less comfortable he is. Rojo digs the body in close. Another couple of jabs from Jourdain, Rojo with a right to the body then a calf kick. Jourdain’s left leg is compromised. Flying knee from Jourdain then a follow up combination. Rojo gets close and swings to the body and head, then they stare away the final couple of seconds.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Jourdain but another close one, 19-19 overall

ROUND THREE: They hug for the last round. Both men start swinging again, Rojo lands a calf kick. Another calf kick from Rojo, he’s really beating up those legs. Jourdain with a right and a left hook in close. Hard inside leg kick from Rojo but Jourdain is coming forward. Another leg kick from Rojo, Jourdain with a counter left. Jourdain lands a left to the body. A left from Jourdain drops Rojo, he gets on top in the guard and starts landing blows. Rojo ties up his wrists, Jourdain postures up and lands a punch. Jourdain stands free, tries to jump off the fence with a hammer fist and keeps looking to unload from top position. Jourdain punches and passes to side control. Rojo gets his guard back but Jourdain is unloading punches and passes back to side control. Rojo to his knees, Jourdain into a modified crucifix position but stands free and makes Rojo stand. They brawl in close again, Rojo will not go away. They trade in the clinch, both men with punches and knees. Jourdain tries a flying knee but misses, then he lands a left and they clinch. Rojo tries to fight back, but Jourdain unloads with body shots and Rojo stumbles and falls to his back exiting the clinch and that prompts the ref to stop it.

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – Charles Jourdian via TKO, punches, at 4:31 of Round 3

The Final Round Finish Club thanks Mr. Jourdain for his work this evening. That might have taken over Fight of the Night honors, a fun brutal grueling affair. Mic time for Jourdain after that, he says 2020 was a rough year as he went winless but he’s reflected on that and is glad to get 2021 off on the right foot. He puts over Rojo’s toughness, normally he feels the better striker but Rojo hurt him a couple of times and he thanks Rojo for stepping up and taking the fight.

Jourdain has Rojo hurt, and proceeds to throw everything but the kitchen sink at him and when he finally drops the ref halts the action.

Angela Hill has gone 3-2 in her last five fights but is on a two fight losing streak, that’s somewhat mitigated by those being split decisions but she needs a win here to defend her top ranking and possibly regain positive momentum. Ashley Yoder has gone 3-2 in her last five fights, she’s coming off of a win though and could score the biggest win of her career if she can take out the ranked Hill. Hill is an unsurprising favorite at -370 to +290 for Yoder.

Strawweight Bout: #12 Angela Hill (12-9, 115.5 lbs.) vs. Ashley Yoder (8-6, 116 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: Yoder is four inches taller and has five and a half inches of reach over Hill. Southpaw for Yoder. Hill feinting her way forward. A few calf kicks from Hill land. Bit of a right from Hill. Neither women has really found much. Hill lands a right and Yoder responds with a body kick. Another right from Hill. Yoder lands a body kick. Hill punches into a clinch and works some knees while she’s got Yoder on the cage. Elbow from Hill lands. Some knees to the body from Hill, then Yoder spins free. Yoder lands a left. Hill lands a right. Another straight right from Hill. Yoder tries to grab a clinch, can’t get it and they trade rights. Hill with a series of rights in close, Yoder grabs a headlock and they wind up clinched. Hill spins Yoder down, and lands some hammer fists from half guard as the round ends.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Hill, could be a 10-8 argument in there

ROUND TWO: Hill feinting forward again, lands a right to the body. More calf kicks from Hill, Yoder is getting worked over wherever the fight is taking place so far. A couple of more rights from Hill, she can basically pick her shots at will. Body shot from Hill, then a couple of rights to the head. Yoder lands a body kick but eats a counter right. Another clinch and Hill works knees to the body and they break. Yoder with a bit of a left, and they clash on kicks. Hill punches Yoder back and lands a knee to the body. Front kick to the body from Hill. Another calf kick from Hill. Hill with a right to the body, Yoder is hurt to the body. Hill pressing the action, another body shot. They clinch, Yoder times a takedown with a knee attempt and she lands on top of Hill. Hill fires some elbows from her back as the round ends.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Hill but there’s another 10-8 argument to be had, 20-18 Hill overall

ROUND THREE: If Hill has been paying attention she’ll go back to the body quickly. Yoder is coming forward punches, she gets a clinch but Hill puts her on the fence. Hill with some knees to the body. A few elbows as well now from Hill, who’s just working Yoder over. They break with a final knee from Hill. Hill lands a right to the body. Another clinch and Hill is back to kneeing the body along the fence. A barrage of knees from Hill but Yoder times one and trips her down into half guard. Yoder is trying for an arm triangle but can’t keep her arms in position. Hill scoots towards the fence, Yoder lands a few lefts. Hill is trying to build up for a wall walk, she’s up and lands more knees to the body then they break. They punch into a clinch as the round ends.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Hill, 30-27 Hill overall

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – Angela Hill via unanimous decision (30-27 x3)

Somewhat predictable, but Hill made the most of a showcase opportunity. Mic time for Hill, she felt there was no doubt about who won this fight and looks forward to even better fights in the future with better preparation.

That does it for preliminary action, we’re still on ESPN+ for the main card. Our main card opens with a graphic card, in memory of Marvin Hagler the boxing great who’s death was announced just about an hour or so ago. Hagler is my favorite boxer, so this one hurts. Oh, and he beat Leonard in that last fight.

Eryk Anders has gone 2-4 in his last six fights, he’s coming off of a win but needs a win pretty badly given the hype he used to have contrasted to where he is right now. Darren Stewart has gone 3-2 in his last five fights, he’s coming off of a split decision loss that I thought he won and is trying to avoid another UFC losing streak. Stewart is your favorite at -180 to a +155 comeback on Anders.

Middleweight Bout: Eryk Anders (13-5, 186 lbs.) vs. Darren Stewart (12-6 1 NC, 185.5 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: Anders has one inch of height and reach over Stewart. Southpaw for Anders. Both men feinting a bit and trying to get a read on things. A few leg kicks from Stewart, mostly probing. Both men swing and land, Stewart has Anders hurt a little bit. Anders forces a clinch and they hit the fence. A few knees from Stewart while he’s fighting off a single leg attempt. Both men with knees, Anders can’t find a successful level change. They break but Anders lands a couple of lefts then gets around to his back in a clinch. Mat return from Anders, he jumps to a ride position but Stewart fights up and they start swinging on the fence. Both men have landed punches, Anders lands a left and floors Stewart. Stewart fights to his knees, he’s back up and trying to swing back but Anders is teeing off then tosses Stewart down to his knees. Anders stands over Stewart, he then proceeds to land an illegal knee to the head while Stewart is on a knee. Did he not watch last weeks event or read any associated coverage? We’ve got timeout now and Stewart is down on his knees recovering. The doctor is in to check on Stewart, he wants Stewart to walk towards him and Stewart is just unsteady enough on his feet to get the doctor to wave this off.

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – No Contest via illegal blow, knee to the head, at 4:37 of Round 1

Commentary brings up the obvious question about why this was a No Contest while last weeks was a disqualification, the broadcast says it was a combination of happening in the first round and the perceived intention by the ref. I know the number of rounds that have elapsed matters if you want to go to a technical decision, but that should have no bearing on NC or DQ.

Matheus Nicolau has gone 5-1 in the UFC, he’s currently on a two fight winning streak and is back at flyweight for this one. Nicolau is trying to get to three in a row and possibly get a shot at someone with more name recognition for his next bout. Manel Kape took this fight on somewhat short notice, he lost his UFC debut last month and will be trying to put that flat performance in the rear view mirror and showcase more of his abilities tonight. The odds are with Kape at -125 to +105 for Nicolau.

Flyweight Bout: Manel Kape (15-5, 125.5 lbs.) vs. Matheus Nicolau (15-2-1, 125.5 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: Nicolau is an inch taller while Kape has two inches of reach over him. They touch gloves, Kape fighting southpaw. Both men kind of feinting forward, looking for openings. Kape lands an inside leg kick. Nicolau with a body kick. Kape showing off some stance switches. Nicolau with a double leg, it takes a second effort against the fence but he gets it and lands in half guard. A few rights from Nicolau as Kape gets full guard. Kape is trying to set up a wall walk, Nicolau jumps full guard for a guillotine but Kape’s head slips free and he lands a few punches as Nicolau separates on the feet. Inside leg kick from Nicolau. Kape tries a flying knee, Nicolau catches that and hits a single leg into full guard. Some elbows from Nicolau as he works from the guard. Kape is trying to se up another wall walk. Body to head punches from Nicolau. The round ends in that spot.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Nicolau

ROUND TWO: Kape coming forward to start the round. Uppercut from Kape has staggered Nicolau, Nicolau shoots in desperation but he’s avoided easily. Kape is coming forward looking to land punches. Stiff left from Kape hurts Nicolau again. Nicolau lands a punch but he’s in a bad spot. Kape lands another left. Nicolau lands a right, Kape might be a little overconfident in the pocket and needs to keep responsible. Kape digs the body a few times while Nicolau is against the fence. Both men land rights in close. Kape lands an inside leg kick. Stiff right from Kape lands, Nicolau lands to the body in return. Nicolau with a knee tap but Kape bounces up before he can solidify the position and they’re on the feet again. Another couple of rights from Kape land. Nicolau lands a left, then a left to the body. Kape lands a left hook. Kape slips on a spinning back kick to close out the round.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Kape, 19-19 overall

ROUND THREE: Kape is backing Nicolau up again, and lands an inside leg kick. Combination from Nicolau but he landed that on the end of his punches, he’s not controlling the range. Nicolau lands a step through left punch. They trade lefts, Kape lands a right jab. Nicolau tries a single leg, can’t finish it though and Kape lands a couple of leg kicks wile Nicolau is on his back. Nicolau back up, and they clash again. Inside leg kick from Nicolau. They trade again, both men landing lead hand hooks. Nicolau lands a right. Kape lands a leg kick then a right. Nicolau with a left to the body. A left hook lands for Kape. One two from Nicolau. Kape has a head kick blocked. Both men land punches in close, Kape is pushing Nicolau back towards the fence. Stepping knee from Kape lands and he’s got Nicolau hurt. Kape with a knee to the body. Nicolau avoids a right hook and that will close out the fight.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Kape, 29-28 Kape overall

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – Matheus Nicolau via split decision (28-29, 29-28 x2)

I don’t agree with that at all. Nicolau gets an interview, he says he’s had a rough couple of years and the fight camp was rough but it’s good to be here after a win. He thinks he could have done better, but notes he got rocked in the second and ultimately his job isn’t to judge but to fight.

Jonathan Martinez has gone 4-2 in the UFC and is on a two fight winning streak, he’s trying to increase that to three here and start making his way up through the divisional ranks. Davey Grant has gone 3-3 in the UFC but he’s on a two fight winning streak and will be trying to prove he’s finally found his footing in the UFC with a third consecutive win. Martinez is your favorite at -310 to a +250 comeback on Grant.

Bantamweight Bout: Davey Grant (12-4, 135.5 lbs.) vs. Jonathan Martinez (13-3, 136 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: These two are the same height while Martinez has an inch of reach advantage and is eight years younger. They touch gloves, Martinez fighting southpaw. They trade some range finding kicks early. Grant is after the lead calf. Both men still trading kicks more than anything. Grant lands a body shot, Martinez lands an inside leg kick. Bit of a side kick from Grant. Martinez lands a calf kick when Grant switched stance. Inside calf kicks from Martinez now, those hurt just looking at them. They trade a few low kicks, then Martinez fires a head kick that’s mostly blocked. Martinez lands a straight left. Grant lands a pretty good right hook in close. More of those side kicks from Grant, he’s trying to stay active despite missing most of these. Left from Martinez drops Grant and he follows him down with punches but Grant ties him up in full guard. Grant kicks Martinez off as the round ends.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Martinez

ROUND TWO: Both men probing with punches as the round starts. Martinez with a front kick to the body. Grant’s combination work is getting to Martinez a bit, Grant tries a double leg and Martinez defends. Both men land some punches, Grant is keeping the higher work load thus far. Martinez lands a jab then a left. Right hook from Grant lands on the chin. Bit of a left from Martinez. Both men block power hand punches. They trade left hooks, but Grant landed the flush one and Martinez flops backwards and we’re done here.

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – Davey Grant via KO, punch, at 3:03 of Round 2

Mic time for Grant after that knockout, he thinks his foot is broken and notes he got dropped again in the first round but it all went right in the end. He talks us through the finish, noting he’s been working on that sequence. Asked who he’d like next he’s willing to fight whenever he can but isn’t going to throw out a name. To close he gives love to his wife and kids, as well as a coach who passed away recently.

This isn’t the cleanest set up, and Grant keeps his head straight up which leads to him eating a punch at the same time his lands. But his lands better and Martinez goes down.

Dan Ige just had a six fight winning streak snapped by Calvin Kattar last summer, now he’s trying to rebound and avoid his first ever losing streak with a win. Gavin Tucker stepped on for the injured Ryan Hall and brings a three fight winning streak with him, Tucker could get the biggest win of his career and take out a ranked opponent in this fight. Ige enjoys favored status at -150 to +125 on Tucker.

Featherweight Bout: #9 Dan Ige (14-3, 145.5 lbs.) vs. Gavin Tucker (13-1, 146 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: Ige is half an inch taller but has five inches of reach advantage. Southpaw for Tucker, and they touch gloves to get us going. Both men looking to establish the lead hand early. A hard right from Ige as they clash together and Tucker is down and out.

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – Dan Ige via KO, punch, at :22 of Round 1

The First Round Finish Club thanks Mr. Ige for his work this evening. Mic time for Ige after that one, he jokes about getting a post fight bonus. He says he’s happy to be back and is happy to get the first round KO, then says he can’t wait to meet his son who’s due to be born soon. Asked what he’d like next he’s focused on his family first and foremost, but he’d love to face The Korean Zombie Chan Sung Jung. I’d be very down for that fight.

Normally you want outside foot position to open up the punching lane, but Tucker goes so deep on the entry Ige slips to the inside and because his punch is straighter he gets to the target quickly and with all the force of Tucker coming forward to multiply it.

Misha Cirkunov was thought of as a guy who might make a legitimate run at light heavyweight and help revitalize the division, unfortunately that was about five years ago and he’s just 2-3 in his last five fights. Cirkunov is coming off of a win though and will be trying to get his first winning streak since 2016 up and running here. Ryan Spann just had an eight fight winning streak snapped when he met Johnny Walker, now he’s trying to bounce back and prove he’s still a viable rising fighter in a division that really needs those. The odds are with Cirkunov at -135 to Spann’s +115.

Light Heavyweight Bout: #11 Misha Cirkunov (15-5, 205 lbs.) vs. #13 Ryan Spann (18-6, 206 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: Spann has two inches of height and reach over Cirkunov. Cirkunov fighting southpaw. Bit of a right from Cirkunov. Stiff jab from Cirkunov, Spann responds with a left hook. An inside leg kick from Cikunov goes into the groin so we’ve got time. Spann takes a shade over 20 seconds then we’re back to action. Cirkunov is really working that lead hand, but Spann slips one and lands a right that drops Cirkunov, he tries to finish but can’t and lets him back up when he doesn’t feel it. Cirkunov reaches for a takedown, Spann clips him again then lands hammer fists while Cirkunov covers up and the ref has seen enough.

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – Ryan Spann via TKO, punches and hammer fists, at 1:11 of Round 1

The First Round Finish Club thanks Mr. Spann for his work this evening. Mic time for Spann, who talks a bit about the emotions and having a hard time lately but continuing on and getting better. He talks us through the finish, noting he learned from his loss to Johnny Walker in following him down instead of forcing things back into his wheelhouse. Asked who he’d like next he wants someone in the top ten or to be in the top ten after the win, he’d like the winner of the upcoming Anthony Smith vs. Jimmy Crute fight. Reasonable callout, I’m down.

Here’s a look at the finish, it misses the really nice straight right that started this but the shifting overhand left from Spann that off balances Cirkunov and prompts the end is nice too.

Leon Edwards has an impressive eight fight winning streak going, hasn’t lost since he ran into Kamaru Usman back in 2015, and really should be in the title picture. Unfortunately for Edwards he hasn’t fought since July of 2019 and hasn’t finished anyone since beating the over matched Peter Sobotta back in 2018, at a bare minimum he needs a win here to remind everyone that he should be in serious consideration for the next welterweight title shot. Belal Muhammad has a four fight winning streak going on, in fact he’s 8-1 in his last nine fights. Muhammad took this on somewhat short notice as he fought one month ago, but if he’s able to upset the streaking Edwards he’ll have proved he deserves to be considered among the very best welterweights in the world and could have an even bigger opportunity lined up next. Unsurprisingly the odds are with Edwards at -270 while while Muhammad would payout at +220.

Welterweight Bout: #3 Leon Edwards (18-3, 170.5 lbs.) vs. #13 Belal Muhammad (18-3, 170 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: Edwards is three inches taller and has two inches of reach advantage. Southpaw for Edwards, both men feinting early. Edwards shows some stance switches, lands a bit of a body kick. Both men miss power hand punches. Edwards lands a left. They clinch and Edwards drives Muhammad to the fence. Muhammad spins Edwards to the fence and lands an elbow then breaks. Edwards circling, lands a left after avoiding a punch. The switching from Edwards is throwing Muhammad off. Edwards lands a head kick, he rocks Muhammad and starts pressuring him again. Muhammad blocks a double leg attempt and gets Edwards on the fence. They break without incident, Muhammad has a cut over his right ear up on the head from that head kick. Edwards stalking forward again. Body kick from Muhammad. There’s a bit of an eye poke to Muhammad, Edwards gets a warning and we’re fighting again. Body kick from Edwards. Muhammad misses some lead hand punches. Edwards with a one two that both land. A follow up left from Edwards lands, again that stance switching is messing with Muhammad. Edwards gets a clinch, and lands an elbow as they break. Muhammad misses a wheel kick, that will be the last bit of the round.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Edwards

ROUND TWO: Edwards jabbing to get the round going. Body kick from Edwards but he framed on the face and poked Muhammad in the eye. Replay confirms the thumb of Edwards gouged through the right eye of Muhammad. Muhammad is down, that was a pretty gnarly one and the doctor is in to check on him. Muhammad can’t see anything out of that eye and we’re done.

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – No Contest, accidental eye poke, at :18 of Round 2

Well that really sucks for everyone. Muhammad got no closure on his big shot at the top, Edwards lost out on the chance to remind everyone that he should be in the title picture, and fans got another high profile fight ending via foul. Edwards is getting interviewed, he apologizes to Muhammad and says he’d rather have lost than what just happened. Cormier asks what’s next for him, and he doesn’t know as he’s still focused on getting to the belt but he’s heartbroken to end his 18 month layoff like that. He says he felt great in the cage, doesn’t really buy into ring rust and was really starting to feel the fight as it went on. To close he reiterates he felt great in the cage he’s upset about what happened and that’s coming across.

Well, on that deeply unfulfilling note UFC on ESPN+ 45 comes to a close. We’ll unpack all the action on the 411 Ground and Pound MMA Podcast, available wherever fine podcasts can be found, and look ahead. Next week the UFC is back on ESPN with a middleweight main event when Derek Brunson tries to halt the rise of Kevin Holland. I’ll be back for that event and I hope you will as well. Until then thank you again for reading, stay safe out there, and keep checking 411mania for all of your pop culture needs.

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UFC Fight Night, Robert Winfree