The level of competition keeps increasing, and Vicente Luque keeps rising to the occasion.
Luque, who has emerged as one of the most exciting fighters in the UFC over the past two years, picked up another big victory Saturday night in the co-main event of UFC Montevideo in Uruguay. The Brazilian striker defeated Mike Perry by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28) in a razor-close, bloody battle.
By the end, Perry's nose was badly broken and his face was covered in blood. On a late guillotine attempt by Luque, blood was pouring from Perry's face onto Luque's body in a gruesome scene. And yet, despite the appearance, Perry very much had his moments in the bout.
Near the end of the first round, Perry came out guns blazing and landed a heavy combination on Luque. He landed a huge right hand followed by an uppercut in the second that stopped Luque's forward momentum. There's a case to be made that Perry actually landed the harder shots.
But Luque was more precise, though this was one of Perry's better technical performances. Luque landed jabs, counter right hands and hard leg kicks. He busted Perry's right eye up early and Perry was cut on the side of his left eye by the second round. A flying knee in the third from Luque smashed in Perry's nose -- and potentially sealed the decision victory.
Luque (17-6-1) has won six straight fights, five of which came by early finish. The Brazilian, 27, has 10 wins since making his UFC debut in 2015, which is tied for the most in that span by a UFC welterweight with Leon Edwards and champion Kamaru Usman. Afterward, he called out former title contender Stephen Thompson.
"I think I've proved my point," Luque said. "I'm ready to fight anybody in the top 10. ... I'm up to go there and throw down with him."
Perry (13-5) has lost four of his past six, but remains an exciting and effective welterweight. The 27-year-old Florida native was coming off a good win against Alex Oliveira.
Perry underwent successful nasal surgery in Uruguay early Sunday morning, according to his manager Abraham Kawa. Kawa said Perry had some previous fractures in his nose that had to be taken care, as well, so the surgery was a bit lengthy.
Perry is expected to remain in Uruguay for at least a couple days and no there are no further details at this time about his recovery timetable.
What a moment in front of his home country's fans.
Garagorri, the only Uruguay native on the card, beat Bandenay by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27) in a brawl. When the result was read, the fans at Antel Arena went crazy. Garagorri got the better of the striking exchanges -- many of them wild -- throughout. Bandenay constantly tried to engage in clinching and grappling, but every time Garagorri was able to get separation and land looping shots.
Garagorri (13-0) had finishes in his past four wins before this bout. The 30-year-old Muay Thai fighter proved he belongs in the UFC's featherweight division with the victory here. Bandenay (14-7), a 24-year-old from Peru, has lost three straight.
Garagorri, Bandenay high-five after slugging it out
Eduardo Garagorri and Humberto Bandenay exchange heavy blows and then a high five in Round 2. For more UFC, sign up here for ESPN+ http://plus.espn.com/ufc.
It feels like eons since the hot streak that led Oezdemir into a UFC light heavyweight title fight in January 2018. On Saturday night, the Switzerland native finally regained his previous form to stop a three-fight skid.
Oezdemir finished Latifi by knockout at 4:31 of the second round with a left hook followed by another left hook with Latifi down to one knee. Oezdemir really started that flurry earlier in the round with a step-in knee that rocked Latifi, who was never able to recover. This was the first time in his career Oezdemir finished a fight after the first round.
Oezdemir landed two jumping knees that damaged Latifi in the first round. He looked exceptionally confident in his striking and really picked Latifi apart throughout on the feet in a brilliant performance in a battle of 205-pound contenders.
Oezdemir (16-4), who spent some time training with old mentor Alistair Overeem coming in, was ranked No. 10 in ESPN's light heavyweight MMA rankings. Latifi (14-7, 1 NC) has now lost two in a row. The 36-year-old Sweden native came in ranked No. 8 in ESPN's light heavyweight MMA rankings.
Oezdemir rocks Latifi with powerful knee to face
Volkan Oezdemir clocks Ilir Latifi in the face with a powerful knee that eventually sends him to the canvas. For more UFC, sign up here for ESPN+ http://plus.espn.com/ufc.
It's still very early in his MMA career. But, if things go as they should, Vieira should be a big problem in the UFC's middleweight division.
In his UFC debut, the four-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion submitted Piechota with an arm-triangle choke. The finish came at 4:26 of the second round. Vieira's nickname from BJJ was "The Black Belt Hunter" and, poetically, Piechota is a black belt in the martial art.
"I feel like this is history," Vieira said through an interpreter.
Vieira dominated the first round with his grappling, getting Piechota down and keeping him there throughout. The second round was much like the first. Piechota got some punches and elbows to land in the clinch and Vieira was bleeding from a cut. But in top position, Vieira was oppressive. He didn't let Piechota escape the second.
Vieira (6-0) won the International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation world titles from 2011 to 2014. The 29-year-old is originally from Brazil, but now trains out of Orlando, Florida. He has five submissions in six career wins. Piechota (11-2-1), a 29-year-old from Poland, has dropped two straight.
Vieira scores multiple takedowns
Rodolfo Vieira is able to control the bout vs. Oskar Piechota with multiple takedowns. For more UFC, sign up here for ESPN+ http://plus.espn.com/ufc.
In a back-and-forth fight, Barzola managed to pull it out.
Barzola was able to land hard shots and takedowns at the end of all three rounds en route to the close split decision (28-29, 30-27, 29-28) win. Moffett looked solid in the first with technical striking. When it became more of a brawl in the second, Barzola started getting his shots in. Moffett bloodied Barzola's nose in the third round, while Moffett was wearing damage over both eyes.
Barzola (16-4-1) has won five of his past six fights and probably earned himself a bigger fight in the featherweight division. The 30-year-old Peruvian fighter has gone to a decision in his past eight bouts. Moffett (14-5), a 29-year-old Illinois native, has dropped two in a row.
Moffett bombards Barzola against the cage
After taking a hard kick to the face, Bobby Moffett puts pressure on Enrique Barzola with a bombardment of combinations. For more UFC, sign up here for ESPN+ http://plus.espn.com/ufc.
Kunchenko was getting the better of the action at the end. So much so that the crowd thought he did enough to win. But Burns already put money in the bank over the first two rounds and ended up with a unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28) victory.
Burns, who was fighting on two weeks' notice up a division, was active in the first and second rounds with good calf kicks, takedown attempts and head striking, when needed. He ran out of gas a bit late and Kunchenko tried going in for the kill in the third. Burns survived. He was a +110 underdog.
Burns (16-3) has won three in a row. The 33-year-old Brazilian jiu-jitsu standout plans on staying at welterweight. This was his first fight there since 2014. Kunchenko (20-1), a 35-year-old Russian, had been undefeated coming in, including a pair of victories to start his UFC run.
Kunchenko had the second-best record among active UFC fighters heading into the bout behind Khabib Nurmagomedov's 27-0 record.
Burns works for takedown
Gilbert Burns attempts a takedown against the cage, kneeing Aleksei Kunchenko in the process. For more UFC, sign up here for ESPN+ http://plus.espn.com/ufc.
Gane, the highly touted training partner of Francis Ngannou, has been billed as a knockout artist. That's not the only aspect of MMA in which he is dangerous, clearly. Gane swept Pessoa after a takedown, went right into an arm-triangle choke and Pessoa had no choice but to tap at 4:12 of the first round. Before the takedown, it was mostly an even striking battle with Pessoa throwing big shots and Gane trying to counter with precision.
Gane is just the sixth heavyweight in UFC history to win via arm-triangle choke. He joins Kimo Leopoldo, Brock Lesnar, Randy Couture, Travis Browne and Stefan Struve on the list.
Gane (4-0) has finished each of his career wins. The 28-year-old Frenchman is one to watch in the UFC's heavyweight division. Pessoa (9-1), a 30-year-old Brazilian, came in undefeated. Both men were making their UFC debuts.
Torres has lost in her career only to women who have won the UFC strawweight title or been challengers for said gold. Until now.
Rodriguez, proving how legitimate she is at 115 pounds, bested Torres by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26) in what was a pretty dominant win.
The 5-foot-6 Rodriguez had a height and reach advantage on the 5-foot-1 Torres. That played a major factor in the bout. But when Torres got in close, in a clinch, Rodriguez was actually at her most effective, showing off her superior Muay Thai chops. In close clinches, Rodriguez was a buzz saw with elbows and knees.
Rodriguez (12-0-1) has gone 2-0-1 in three UFC fights, including a majority draw against Randa Markos last September. The 32-year-old Brazilian fighter earned a contract last year on Dana White's Contender Series Brazil. Torres (10-5), a 29-year-old American Top Team product, has lost four straight.
Rodriguez finishes strong against Torres
Marina Rodriguez pressures Tecia Torres against the cage at the end of the third round. For more UFC, sign up here for ESPN+ http://plus.espn.com/ufc.
Bontorin and Paiva didn't even fight for three minutes, but their faces afterward looked like they were in a five-round, knockdown brawl.
The bout ended when Bontorin opened up a massive cut on the right eyebrow of Paiva with a knee in a Thai clinch. Referee Osiris Maia halted the action and the doctor ruled the bout over due to the cut at 2:56 of the first round.
Before that Paiva badly damaged the left side of Bontorin's face with punches. Bontorin landed big shots himself in what was a very entertaining short span of time.
Bontorin (16-1) has won four straight, including his past two in the UFC. The 27-year-old Brazilian fighter earned a contract exactly one year ago today on Dana White's Contender Series Brazil. Paiva (18-3), a 23-year-old Brazilian, has dropped two straight since also earning a contract on DWCS Brazil in 2018.
At the end, both men were in a heap on the mat, covered in each other's blood.
In a back-and-forth battle in which both men were cut late, Gutierrez gutted out a split decision (29-28, 27-30, 29-28) victory. While de Freitas was the better grappler, Gutierrez was able to stay off the mat for the most part. And standing up, Gutierrez landed the harder shots throughout, including one that busted de Freitas' nose in the third. Gutierrez was bloodied on a head clash in that round as well.
Gutierrez (14-3-1) has won two in a row. The 28-year-old Colorado resident was a +105 underdog. De Freitas (12-5), a 27-year-old Brazilian fighter, had a seven-fight winning streak snapped.
Gutierrez survives pressure from de Freitas
Chris Gutierrez absorbs punishment from Geraldo de Freitas in the third round. For more UFC, sign up here for ESPN+ http://plus.espn.com/ufc.
Alex Da Silva defeated Kazula Vargas by unanimous decision
Takedown, top position, take the back. Rinse, repeat.
That's about how it went for da Silva for a unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27) win. Vargas came out aggressive in the first round and looked dangerous on the feet. But any time Vargas was on the verge of gaining momentum, da Silva grounded him and got into a great position. This was the first time da Silva had not finished a bout in his career.
Da Silva (21-2) lost his UFC debut to Alexander Yakovlev in April. The 23-year-old Brazilian has been wildly successful on the regional circuit in multiple countries. Vargas (11-3), a 33-year-old Mexican fighter, was making his UFC debut. He had his two-fight winning streak snapped.
Da Silva stuns Vargas with combination
Alex Da Silva hits Rodrigo Vargas with a combination that causes him to lose his balance and stumble to the ground. For more UFC, sign up here for ESPN+ http://plus.espn.com/ufc.
Viana is known for her Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Evidently, no one told that to Macedo.
Macedo swept Viana out of top position, cinched in an armbar and got the tap at 1:09 of the first round. It is Macedo's first career UFC victory and the fastest finish in UFC women's flyweight history. Viana got Macedo to the mat pretty quickly with a takedown, but Macedo turned things around right after.
Macedo (6-3-1) snapped a three-fight losing streak. The 23-year-old Venezuelan fighter, who trains out of France and Canada, was likely looking at a release if she lost. Viana (10-4) has lost three straight after winning her UFC debut in February 2018.