The crowd at the Ibirapuera Arena in Sao Paulo, Brazil wasn’t going to be happy with anything but a win by their native son Daniel Sarafian in the UFC on FX 7 co-main event Saturday night, but even though they didn’t get their wish, they did get an exciting middleweight battle, as CB Dollaway outlasted the TUF Brazil finalist, winning a close three round split decision.
“I had to dig deep,” said an exhausted Dollaway. “He was a tough competitor. Hats off to the Brazilian crowd, they really got into my head a little bit.”
Scores were 29-28 twice, and 28-29 for Dollaway, who improves to 14-5; Sarafian falls to 8-3.
Sarafian raced out of his corner at the bell, with Dollaway using a sharp jab to keep him honest and bloody his nose. Everything the hometown hero did drew a roar from the crowd, whether effective or not, and near the midway point of the round, a thudding right hand put Dollaway down briefly. Dollaway got back to business once he rose, but Sarafian’s attacks were becoming more effective and more frequent, especially the right hand.
Switching things up in round two, Sarafian locked up with Dollaway against the fence but quickly abandoned the plan when he wasn’t able to take the former All-American wrestler down. After another thudding right a few moments later, Sarafian was able to get a brief takedown, although Dollaway shot up instantly. As the round progressed, Sarafian was able to mix things up nice offensively, while Dollaway’s patient attack appeared to be working against him, even though his punches were leaving their mark. Late in the round though, a flush uppercut hurt Sarafian badly, with a series of unanswered ground strikes almost finishing the bout for the Arizonan. Referee Mario Yamasaki allowed the bout to continue, and a dazed Sarafian made it to the end of the round.
With five minutes left, the bout was up for grabs, and both fighters landed their share of power shots to open the third round. 90 seconds in, Dollaway scored his first takedown of the night, and he immediately moved into the mount position. Sarafian found an escape door though, rising to his feet, but it was Dollaway with another takedown. This time, Sarafian swept his way out of trouble and into the top position with less than two minutes left. Sarafian then took Dollaway’s back, working for a fight ending choke, but the two traded reversals before the final bell sounded, drawing an appreciative reaction from the crowd for both battlers.
GONZAGA vs. ROTHWELL
The resurrection of former number one heavyweight contender Gabriel Gonzaga continued, as he won his third straight (two in the UFC), impressively submitting Ben Rothwell at 1:01 of the second round.
Rothwell started the fight by switching stances, landing a solid right in the process. Gonzaga shot in for a takedown in response, and while he was able to briefly put the Wisconsin native on the mat a couple times, Rothwell kept getting back up, not allowing the jiu-jitsu black belt to work his ground game. After a stalemate against the fence, referee Marc Goddard restarted the action midway through the round, and it was Gonzaga landing hard right hands that built up points. Rothwell, cut under the left eye, responded with punches of his own, but he wasn’t landing shots with the weight behind them that “Napao” was.
The right continued to work wonders for Gonzaga early in the second, and his success allowed him to lock in a guillotine choke. Rothwell tried to resist the move as the two hit the mat, but it was too late, as Gonzaga forced the tap.
Gonzaga improves to 14-6 with the win; Rothwell falls to 32-9.
Watch Gonzaga's post-fight interview
NURMAGOMEDOV vs. TAVARES
Lightweight prospect Khabib Nurmagomedov made a major statement in the main card opener, emphatically stopping veteran Thiago Tavares in the first round to improve to 19-0 as a pro.
After a tense feeling out process as Tavares (21-5-1) stalked and Nurmagomedov used lateral movement while looking for an opening, the Dagestan native found the sweet spot, sending Tavares to the mat with a short left uppercut. An unanswered series of elbows followed, with referee Dan Miragliotta halting the bout 1:55 into the fight.
Catch up with Nurmagomedov following the win
The Doberman Bites Back, Outlasts Sarafian - UFC on FX 7 Main Card Results
Read on for UFC on FX 7 main card results...