The lightweight division’s go-tos for fun fights did not disappoint in the featured prelim bout on FOX Sports 1, with Donald Cerrone and Evan Dunham warring their way through most of two rounds inside the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Donald Cerrone vs. Evan Dunham
Tenth-ranked Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone bounced back from his listless August loss to put on a striking clinic against Evan Dunham, rocking him early before submitting him in the second round.
Dunham showed immediate motivation to get the fight off the feet, shooting in immediately for a takedown. Cerrone pushed off the attempt, then answered Dunham’s aggression with a solid knee to the head that wobbled Dunham and one to the body that got him to the ground. Cowboy followed with merciless strikes, but somehow Dunham survived, only to be subjected to Cerrone’s nonstop submission threats. As soon as they stood, Cerrone landed another echoing knee to Dunham’s head. Dunham was bloody but unwavereing, and he continued coming forward with strikes.
Dunham had seemingly recovered by the second, but Cerrone still mixed up the standup and kept Dunham at bay. Cerrone scored another big knee when Dunham tried to take him down, then transitioned to a bodylock and took Dunham to the mat. From top position, he rolled his way into his signature triangle submission, put one hand back on the mat to relax, and waited for the tap at 3:49.
"I told myself that if I didn’t go out there and perform like I know I’m capable of then I would’ve retired," said Cerrone. "It really helped me get back that inner fire and drive that I haven’t had in a long time. Tonight I felt that nervous energy that I haven’t felt in several fights. I needed to feel that. It reminded me why I love this so much.”
Cerrone improves to 21-6 (1 NC) with eight of those wins (and 3 losses) coming in the UFC since February 2011. This loss is Dunham’s second in a row – both he and Cerrone dropped decisions to Rafael Dos Anjos in their last outings – as he slides to 14-5 in his 12th UFC appearance.
Ed Herman vs. Thales Leites
One-time middleweight title challenger Thales Leites continued his UFC resurgence, dominating unpredictable Ed Herman on the ground to get the no-question win.
Leites got the knockdown and followed Herman to the ground, then stood and dropped bombs from his feet before opting for a half-guard, which he turned into side control. Herman escaped and got to his feet, but the powerful Brazilian took hold and dropped him to the mat again. Leites stayed in back control for most of the rest of the round, never quite locking in the choke but clear
ly in control.
Fists flew in round two, with Herman landing several cracking shots before he was tied up again and ultimately taken down. Leites cruised between back control and side control, ending the round in Herman’s guard. Only when the crowd began to boo did he start throwing shots.
Herman couldn’t avoid the now-ritual tie-ups in the third, but he did reverse it several times and land heavy punches against the fence before Leites made space. Halfway through the round, Leites got his takedown, despite Herman’s defensive tactic of “grabbing the fence,” which earned him a warning from referee Kim Winslow. Leites was slightly more aggressive on the ground, particularly from back control, from which he heel-kicked Herman’s body and punched his head.
Scores were a no-brainer 30-27 for Leites, now 22-4, who gets his second win in three months since he returned to the Octagon at UFC 163. TUF 3 finalist Herman moves to 21-9 (1 NC) in his 15th UFC appearance.
Brian Ebersole vs. Rick Story
Washington state’s Rick Story, the only man to defeat main event challenger Johny Hendricks, trained in Montreal at Tristar with champion Georges St-Pierre for UFC 167. Whether or not St-Pierre benefitted from the partnership, Story clearly did, as he showed off a sharpened striking game to go along with his patented aggression and power wrestling against the creative Muay Thai artist Brian Ebersole. Story dominated all three rounds and stymied the Thailand-trained welterweight veteran en route to a unanimous decision.
Story was aggressive early, and a hard body shot was enough to get Ebersole to back off. That didn’t stop Story from coming forward with brutal hooks that tagged Ebersole multiple times. Ebersole stayed outside range and tried new ways to get inside on the shorter fighter, trying knees, jabs, elbows, a pawing hand and takedowns. But Story planted his feet and answered all of it with fast strikes. Ebersole finally darted in and landed one good combination, but Story planted a massive left as they broke and another big right before the round’s end.
When Ebersole closed the distance in the second, the powerful Story charged him to the fence, grabbed a leg and dragged him down. Ebersole’s hesitance was telegraphed on the break, when he flinched as Story followed him. Most of the round was Story stalking Ebersole. The taller man did connect with some straights, the evidence worn on Story’s mug, but it was still mainly “The Horror” calling the shots. He connected with another nasty body shot and did the best in a final-seconds flurry against the links that had to be physically stopped by referee Herb Dean.
Both fighters were game coming in for the third, but it was Story who landed an early takedown. As Ebersole worked for submissions, Story punished him with GnP then stood. Ebersole, a crafty submission expert, stayed on his back, goading Story into his guard, and Story threw such big shots from above that Ebersole turtled up and immediately got to his feet. The rest of the round was the same standup we’d already seen, with Story waking up Ebersole with several massive right hands over the course of the round and buckling him three times with a leg kick. Ebersole tried to turn his final collapse into a takedown, but Story quickly took a dominant position and continued meting out blows until the bell.
Story’s scores were all 30-27, as he improves to 16-7 in his career. Ebersole drops his second
in a row and now stands at an almost-unbelievable 50-16-1 (1 NC).
> Watch: Rick Story's post-fight interview
Erik Perez vs. Edwin Figueroa
Bantamweights Edwin “El Feroz” Figueroa and Erik Perez wasted no time trading leather, but it was the Mexican “Goyito” whose takedowns made the difference, earning him a unanimous decision win.
Figueroa came forward immediately with long straights, but Perez answered with power counters. Perez scored two knockdowns in round one, one from a big kick and one an accidental low blow, which echoed through the arena and earned a reasonably lengthy break. He earned two more takedowns before the first round’s bell, peppered Figueroa with body shots and elbows from half-guard and landed one big knee on the break.
With both men’s fists flying, Perez knocked Figueroa to the mat with a big overhand right early in the second. Figueroa rebounded, only to be knocked back against the fence by Perez, then picked up and carried for a resounding slam. Perez delivered ground-and-pound the entire time Figueroa worked to his feet, then ate a huge right hand from the Texan. The next takedown put him in Figueroa’s guard, where the minutes whiled away until a referee standup followed by the buzzer.
After some more standup in the third – namely leg kicks from both men that landed and huge fists that didn’t – Goyo again got things to the mat. Perez stayed busier after the takedown in round three, passing into side control and elbowing and kneeing as often as possible. Perez connected again with that big overhand right, but the iron-chinned Figueroa gutted it out and stayed on his feet until the end.
Judges all had the fight 30-27 for Perez (14-5), who at 23 years old is seen by many as the future face of Mexican MMA. “I’m very emotional after this win because I feel like I did what I was supposed to do," he said. "I lost my last fight because I got away from the strategy. I fixed those mistakes tonight and it paid off.” “El Feroz” drops to 9-4, losing his third in a row.
> Watch: Erik Perez's post-fight interview
Cowboy Up: 167 Prelim Results
Read on for results of the UFC 167 televised prelims, which aired on FOX Sports 1 in the United States...