The flying knee landed flush on the chin, just the second strike to connect for Cory Sandhagen. That was all that was necessary.
Sandhagen stiffened Frankie Edgar with the knee, then watched the former UFC lightweight champion slowly fall to the canvas face-first, unconscious. Referee Keith Peterson immediately jumped in to wave off the bout as a knockout just 28 seconds into the co-main event of UFC Fight Night on Saturday in Las Vegas.
Sandhagen had reason to celebrate, but he had a look of concern on his face as Edgar remained on the canvas for several moments before being helped to his stool.
"It feels good, man, but that's Frankie Edgar," Sandhagen said. "I don't want to watch that happen to him, you know? But better him than me. That's the game we're in."
Sandhagen, who is 28 and from Aurora, Colorado, has lost only once in his last 10 fights, a run extending back to 2017. He is No. 3 in the ESPN bantamweight rankings. With the champ, No. 1 Petr Yan, set to defend his belt against No. 2 Aljamain Sterling on March 6, this stunning victory puts Sandhagen in position for the next title fight.
"I'm a different monster than I was before I fought Aljamain Sterling. He taught me some lessons," Sandhagen said, referring to last June's first-round submission loss. "I know Yan has been talking about fighting TJ [Dillashaw] after that fight -- that's if he even wins that fight. That's garbage to me. Fight me. I'm the toughest guy next to Aljamain. And if Aljamain wins, I owe him a nap and he's going to get that nap. The winner of those two gets knocked out by me in July."
Sandhagen earned a $50,000 performance-of-the-night bonus.
"I think I finally get the hype I deserve now," Sandhagen said. "I've just been floating under the radar. The fans know who I am if they're really into the sport, but the other people don't. That highlight is going to go around and I think I've got a lot of opportunity now.
Ugh that sucks. https://t.co/xJrBNPy7py— Funky (@Benaskren) February 7, 2021
"It feels good to add that to my resume. I'm even more happy it went the way that it did. That'll be one that gets replayed for a long time -- highlights last forever. Afterwards, it was a little bit emotional. I don't want to see someone crawling up off the canvas. That was a little sad. I'm not an arrogant guy, but if there's one thing I know about myself it's that I can adapt. I can change my mind. Whatever I need to do in order to survive, I'll do. I take that with me everywhere in life. In this sport, I need to be nasty. I wasn't that before. Now I am that and I'm knocking people out."
It was a stunning fall for Edgar, a 39-year-old from Toms River, New Jersey, who was fighting for the second time at bantamweight. He has had slow starts before during a 14-year UFC career, but never a stoppage like this. He lost for the third time in his last four fights.
-- Jeff Wagenheim
Alexander Volkov has been on the cusp of ascending into the heavyweight elite for several years. He has been missing only that one, big, signature finish.
He got it Saturday night.
Good jod Volkov you're now playing on the big men field. Be careful it's Slippery 😏#UFCVegas18— Francis Ngannou (@francis_ngannou) February 7, 2021
Volkov took out legend Alistair Overeem via TKO at 2 minutes, 6 seconds of the second round in the main event. After bloodying Overeem with hard combinations, Volkov landed a walk-off left hook that floored Overeem for good. Referee Jason Herzog jumped in and called off the bout.
-- Marc Raimondi
All three judges scored the contest 30-27 for Guida, who picked up his 16th win inside the Octagon. Guida put in his usual effort, grinding out Johnson over the course of the three rounds. He landed a handful of hard right hands during exchanges and managed to avoid Johnson's dangerous straight left. He converted two takedown attempts and finished the fight on Johnson's back, hunting for a choke.
It was a big upset win for Guida, who hadn't tasted victory since he was a massive favorite against BJ Penn in 2019. Guida went into Saturday on a two-fight skid, losses to Jim Miller and Bobby Green. The Team Alpha Male product looked good from the opening bell, however, as he surprised the lightning-quick Johnson with an early right hand and a slam takedown near the fence.
Johnson, who fights out of South Florida, has had a tough go as of late in the UFC. He has now lost four in a row, a skid that began with a nasty knockout loss to Josh Emmett in March 2019. He is 2-7 in his last nine.
-- Brett Okamoto
Using sharp kicks to the body and legs, Pantoja frustrated Kape over three rounds en route to a unanimous-decision win (29-28, 29-28, 30-27) in a flyweight fight. Kape was coming in as the former Rizin bantamweight champion.
Pantoja set the pace immediately with hard body kicks and calf kicks. Kape stayed on the outside and switched stances several times. When Kape threw combinations, he had success in every round. But Pantoja nullified any consistency in Kape's offense with the kicks and the threat of a takedown. Pantoja is a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
To much waiting and dancing for manel— Belal Muhammad (@bullyb170) February 7, 2021
Kape ended up being the one going for takedowns at the end of each round, with little success. Kape landed a hard-punching combo in the second round and a nice right hand in the third. But his effective offense was limited. Pantoja never really hurt Kape, but he did outpoint him, though, and landed hard punches.
"The guy is a high-level striker," Pantoja said in his postfight interview. "I come to show my striking skills, too. ... I'm here to prove it to all the guys. When I fight Manel, I'm thinking about [champion] Deiveson Figueiredo. If I want to fight Figueiredo, I need to beat this guy."
Pantoja, 30, has won five of his past seven fights and 16 of his past 19. The Brazil native came into the bout ranked No. 7 in the world at flyweight by ESPN. Kape, a 27-year-old Portugal native, had not fought since beating Kai Asakura to win the Rizin bantamweight title in December 2019. His three-fight winning streak was snapped.
-- Marc Raimondi
This was a rematch of a fight from more than six years ago. What took you so long, UFC matchmakers?
The first round alone had more back-and-forth than the rest of the prelims combined, and Dariush got the better of the engagements, both in the standup and on the canvas. The same held true in the two other rounds as well. Still, one of the judges somehow managed to see the fight for Ferreira by a 29-28 score. Both fighters earned $50,000 for the fight-of-the-night bonus.
30-27 @beneildariush all day. Travesty averted.— Justin Gaethje 🇺🇸 (@Justin_Gaethje) February 7, 2021
The other two judges also had 29-28 scorecards, both for Dariush, who won his sixth straight fight and handed Ferreira, No. 10 in the ESPN lightweight rankings, his first loss since 2015.
Dariush, a 31-year-old from Iran, fights out of Yorba Linda, California, and trains at Kings MMA. He led the dance the whole way with his aggression. He had takedowns in all three rounds and three in Round 2. He hurt Ferreira with a knee to the torso in the first round. And even when Ferreira attempted submissions, Dariush had an answer. Both men have been medalists in the world no-gi jiu-jitsu championships.
Ferreira, who is 36 and originally from Brazil, trains at Fortis MMA in Dallas. He came in having won six in a row. His previous loss to Dariush came in 2014 in a fight he entered undefeated.
"As far as having streaks and thinking you deserve something, I learned in life you don't deserve anything -- even in fighting," Dariush said. "Max Holloway had 10 wins in a row before he got a title shot. I'm not going to sit here and beg for an opponent. I'm over that. I'm going to sit here and say, 'Who's next?' Everybody's welcome."
Marques submitted Rodriguez via rear-naked choke at 4:52 of the second round -- good for his fourth consecutive win and ninth overall career finish. Marques was a significant betting underdog, but his ground game proved to be too much for Rodriguez, as he easily took Rodriguez down in both rounds and refused to let him back up.
It appeared Rodriguez would get the chance at a Hail Mary in the third round, as the clock ticked into the final seconds of the second frame. Marques, who spent much of the round either landing elbows and punches from side mount or riding Rodriguez's back, managed to find the choke in the final 10 seconds to secure the finish. It is the third time Rodriguez has lost via submission.
Rodriguez appeared to have an advantage on the feet but it was hard to tell, as Marques didn't allow the fight to stay there for long. Rodriguez, who trains out of Massachusetts, falls to 1-3 in his last four contests.
But the damage had already been done. When Jaynes got to his feet, referee Keith Peterson saw the result of what Smith did to Jaynes on the ground: a nasty swelling of the left eye. Peterson paused the bout, and after a closer look by the doctor, he called it. Smith was ruled the winner by TKO (doctor's stoppage) at 3:38 of the second round in a 160-pound catchweight fight. All 13 of Smith's pro fights have ended via stoppage.
Devonte Smith looked great tonight. Beautiful win for him. #UFCVegas18— Cody Durden (@Cody_Durden) February 7, 2021
Smith looked good with his jab in the first round. But Jaynes clipped him with a right hand at one point, leaving him wobbled. Jaynes caught a kick later in the round and Smith made him pay with a flurry of hard punches. By the end of the first Jaynes had a cut below his right eye.
It was the other eye that ended up finishing the fight, though. Smith took Jaynes down to start the second round and eventually moved into mount. From there, he landed punches while Jaynes attempted to cover it up. Some got through, enough to cause bad swelling on Jaynes' left eye. Smith took Jaynes' back, but Jaynes escaped and got to his feet. But the eye was too bad for the fight to continue. There was no way Jaynes could have seen out of it.
"A lot of people think I'm not good on the ground," Smith said in his postfight interview. "It's because they can't get me to the ground. ... To be able to showcase my ground skills, it feels good. I feel like people will be more wary of the overall game."
Smith, 27, was making a comeback from a ruptured Achilles. The Ohio native, who trains out of Factory X in Colorado, has won three of four fights in the UFC. Jaynes, a 31-year-old Las Vegas resident, has dropped three straight after winning his UFC debut last June. He was filling in on short notice for Alex da Silva Coelho, who withdrew from the Smith fight this week due to an undisclosed injury.
Rosa did not look like a winner at the final horn, but looks can be deceptive. Her face was a bloody mess, but the 26-year-old from Brazil was in control the whole time in recording her fifth straight victory and remaining unbeaten in the UFC.
Rosa suffered a cut at the right corner of her mouth in the second round during a forward-moving flurry of punches from Edwards. But that was about all the offense that Edwards was able to deliver. Taken down in all three rounds, she spent the latter part of Round 2 and much of Round 3 being bled upon by Rosa and unable to get out from under her.
All three judges scored the bout 30-27 for Rosa.
Edwards, who is 25 and from Panama, saw a two-fight winning streak end.
Procopio, 25, was simply too much for McMann on the ground. She took her down seven times in the 15-minute contest and racked up nearly 12 minutes of control time, according to UFC Stats. McCann threatened with a surprising armbar attempt from the bottom in the second round, but was otherwise dominated on the mats. Procopio had no trouble taking down McCann with bodylocks and moved in and out of side mount and McCann's half guard, working offense.
Fighting out of Rio de Janeiro, Procopio is a talented grappler who suffered the first defeat of her professional career to Karol Rosa in her last outing. She picks up her first win in the UFC over McCann and does so as a betting underdog.
McCann, 30, drops to 3-3 in the UFC. She has lost her past two bouts now via unanimous decision, to Procopio and Talia Santos.
After losing his first two UFC fights, SeungWoo Choi has settled in as a legitimate prospect.
Choi defeated Youssef Zalal by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27) in a battle of up-and-coming featherweights. Choi looked the best he has so far in the UFC.
In the first round, Zalal looked to work his jab, but Choi's hard combinations worked to nullify much of Zalal's offense. Zalal resorted to trying to take things to the ground in the first and second rounds, though he was mostly unsuccessful. Choi kept the pressure on in the striking with Zalal constantly on his bike, trying to evade Choi's hard punches. Zalal's best round came in the third when he locked in a guillotine and then a triangle choke from the bottom. But Choi, a Muay Thai fighter, survived without getting into too much trouble.
"I did definitely work on my ground game and my takedowns," Choi said through a translator in his postfight interview. "I put a lot of effort into this. I put everything I had into this fight."
Choi, 28, has won two straight. The South Korea native is the former Top FC featherweight champion in his home country. Choi cashed as a +200 underdog. Zalal, a 24-year-old Morocco native who trains out of Colorado, has dropped two straight following a four-fight winning streak.
Timur Valiev put on a methodical beatdown, getting takedowns in all three rounds and spending much of the fight's 15 minutes in top position and never surrendering control. The decision win extended his unbeaten streak to eight straight fights.
For the 31-year-old from Dagestan, who fights out of Toms River, New Jersey, as a teammate of co-main event fighter Frankie Edgar, it was a redemption of sorts. His most recent fight, last August, is listed on his record as a no contest, but it originally was a TKO loss to Trevin Jones. The result was overturned after Jones tested positive for marijuana.
This one got Valiev fully back on track. He was in charge the whole way, delivering damage on the mat and never allowing Martin Day to get going in any way. That was reflected in the judges' lopsided scoring: 30-25, 30-25 and 30-26.
It was the fourth straight UFC loss for Day, who is 32 and from Kailua, Hawai'i.
Ode Osbourne's first UFC win came in style, as he knocked out Jerome Rivera in just 26 seconds with a piston of a left hand.
Osbourne hung in the pocket as Rivera attempted a head kick and countered with a left hand straight down the middle. The left hand dropped Rivera to the canvas and referee Chris Tognoni quickly moved in as Osbourne landed a handful of follow-up shots. It is Osbourne's first knockout since 2018 and his first win in the UFC, after he dropped a first-round submission loss to Brian Kelleher in his promotional debut in January 2020.
Perfect counter by Osborne!— Herbert Burns (@HerbertBurnsMMA) February 6, 2021
Osbourne, 29, earned a UFC contract as a contestant on Dana White's Contender Series in 2019. The bantamweight was born in Jamaica, but now fights out of Wisconsin. He has recorded finishes in all but one of his professional wins.
"During our faceoff, I looked in his eyes and saw he was a little bit timid," Osbourne said. "You can tell a lot about a person by looking in their eyes.
"I knew I just had to walk him down a bit and be patient. I had to wait for him to do something stupid. That kick, we were so close that he should have never thrown that kick. He wasn't in kicking range. So I just rolled it, waited for the opportunity and capitalized on it."