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Benavidez outduels Cejudo in battle of coaches

Read on for TUF 24 Finale main card results...
BENAVIDEZ vs. CEJUDO
 
In a highly anticipated clash between The Ultimate Fighter 24 coaches on Saturday, Joseph Benavidez eked out a three-round split decision over fellow flyweight contender Henry Cejudo in a co-main event bout that thrilled fans at the Pearl at the Palms in Las Vegas.

Scores were 30-26, 29-27 and 27-29 for the No. 1-ranked Benavidez, now 25-4; the No. 2-ranked Cejudo falls to 10-2.

The exchanges started immediately between the two 125-pound standouts, with Cejudo rocking Benavidez early. An inadvertent low kick by Cejudo did give Benavidez a brief break, but as soon as the action resumed it was back to the fast paced exchanges. Another low kick halted the bout once more, prompting referee Yves Lavigne to dock Cejudo a point, but that only added to the 2008 Olympic gold medalist’s urgency. With a little under two minutes left, Cejudo briefly got the bout to the mat, but Benavidez scrambled to his feet, landing a hard knee moments later, just before another blitz by both men to end the round.

The action was less frantic in round two, but still compelling, with each fighter getting in his share of strikes in a back-and-forth frame. The edge seemed to go to Cejudo though, as he landed the crisper shots while effectively chasing the countering Benavidez.

There was no let-up from either man in the final round, with the call and response nature of that five-minute period still showing Benavidez and Cejudo unwilling to yield to the other. The crowd appreciated the high-level skills and determination displayed by both men, and while they may not have agreed with the decision, that’s nothing a five-round rematch can’t cure.

MASVIDAL vs. ELLENBERGER

The fight may have ended bizarrely, but Jorge Masvidal will take the first round win over Jake Ellenberger, which capped off a great performance by Florida’s “Gamebred.”

Masvidal put the heat on Ellenberger at the start and he didn’t let up, nearly finishing his opponent in the second minute with a barrage of strikes. Referee Herb Dean looked to be close to stopping the fight, but Ellenberger was able to weather the storm. That didn’t stop the forward progress of Masvidal, with the only thing apparently getting in his way being a momentum-killing halt to the bout when Ellenberger’s foot got stuck in the Octagon fence. But after a series of follow-up shots and brief stoppage to the action, Dean ruled the fight over by TKO, which wasn’t a popular verdict with the crowd. The official time of the stoppage was 4:05 of round one.

With the win, Miami’s Masvidal ups his record to 31-11; the No. 15-ranked Ellenberger falls to 31-12.

CANNONIER vs. CUTELABA

Alaska’s Jared Cannonier made a successful move to the light heavyweight division, winning an exciting three round unanimous decision over Ion Cutelaba.

Scores were 29-28 across the board for Anchorage’s Cannonier, now 9-1; Moldova’s Cutelaba falls to 12-3 with 1 NC.

After a couple offensive blitzes to get on the board, Cutelaba took the fight to the mat in the third minute and began firing off ground strikes, several of which missed with a thud as they hit the canvas. Cannonier fought free with 90 seconds left, but he got taken right back down moments later. As Cannonier rose, a kick to the head nearly caught him flush, but the Alaskan was able to elude it and make it to round two.

Cannonier began landing more frequently in the opening moments of round two, only to have his momentum stalled by a Cutelaba takedown. Once standing, Cannonier went on the attack and stunned his foe, but a takedown again put the fight back on Cutelaba’s terms. Cannonier was able to scramble into the top position with a little over a minute left, and he kept Cutelaba there until the end of the frame.

Showing great cardio, Cannonier stalked Cutelaba and bloodied him with flush shots in the third. In the final minute, Cannonier took his game to another level, dropping his hands and daring Cutelaba to hit him, and when “The Hulk” did, he walked right through the shots and kept pressing, much to the delight of the Vegas fans.

McMANN vs. DAVIS

Back in action for the first time since April 2015, longtime women’s bantamweight contender Alexis Davis started strong against Sara McMann, but in the second round, the U.S. Olympic Silver medalist turned things around, submitting Davis via arm triangle choke.

McMann’s striking looked greatly improved as the fight began, but she soon went to her bread and butter with a takedown of Davis, but the Canadian did great work from the bottom, landing several hard elbows as she sought a triangle choke.

McMann got the fight back to the mat to begin the second round, and Davis had no problem with that, as she went to work again, but soon enough, McMann took over, sinking in the arm triangle choke that produced a tap out at 2:52 of the frame.

With the win, the No. 7-ranked McMann improves to 10-3; Davis falls to 17-7.

MORENO vs. BENOIT

Mexican phenom Brandon Moreno earned his second UFC win in the main card opener, taking a three-round split decision win over fellow flyweight prospect Ryan Benoit.

Scores were 29-28 twice and 28-29.

After eating a hard kick to the head in the second minute, Moreno raced across the Octagon and took Benoit to the mat. Benoit didn’t stay grounded long, but two more takedowns followed in rapid-fire fashion. Each time, the Texan rose quickly, and in the final minute, he finally began finding a home for his strikes.

With two minutes gone, Benoit dropped Moreno with a left hand to the head, but the Tijuana native was back on his feet before his opponent could follow up. Benoit did keep the accurate strikes coming, prompting Moreno to take the fight to the mat, where he stayed in a dominant position and piled up some points with his ground strikes.

In the third, Moreno remained in control, but Benoit was always close behind, even if he wasn’t able to land the punch that would turn things in his favor in the final five minutes.

With the win, the No. 12-ranked Moreno improves to 13-3; Dallas’ Benoit falls to 9-5.

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