*** For MMAmania.com's UFC 173: "Barao vs. Dillashaw" play-by-play coverage of the main card click RIGHT HERE. ***
Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returned to MGM Grand Garden Arena for UFC 173: "Barao vs. Dillashaw."
Before the main card competitors lunge at each other for a chance at glory, the "Prelims" were broadcast online through Fight Pass and FOX Sports 1 (FS1), providing mixed martial arts (MMA) fans with a string of solid match ups.
In the main event of the "Prelims," The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 15 winner Michael Chiesa got the victory over Francisco Trinaldo with a hard-working, blue-collar performance.
Both combatants showed a lot of respect for each other in the opening sequences, looking for openings and staying cautious when it came to mistakes. Chiesa went for takedowns often, and he looked hurt after Trinaldo decked him on the beltline. Chiesa eventually secured the takedown, getting full mount and threw an abundance of strikes while "Massaranduba" looked for a way out.
Trinaldo kept his distance in the second round, doing much better on the feet. The Brazilian locked in a tight guillotine, but Chiesa was able to storm out and hung out in his opponent's guard. Trinaldo tried to work a sweep, but Chiesa was having none of it. There was no question "Maverick" had the advantage on the ground, while his foe had trouble trying to shake him off.
Chiesa opted to strike with the Brazilian for the opening two minutes of the third round, until landing another takedown and kept his opponent on his back until the final horn, landing an overabundance of ground strikes.
In arguably the dark horse fight of the "Prelims," Tony Ferguson knocked out Katsunori Kikuno, who suffered his first defeat by way of strikes.
The former DEEP lightweight champion was a tricky puzzle to solve at first, especially because of his stance. He was countering everything Ferguson threw at him, until "El Cucuy" rocked him with a serious punch.
Ferguson continued to damage the Japanese standout and almost submitted his counterpart with a D'arce choke. When Kikuno made his way back to his feet, he fell victim to a devastating right hand thrown by the American.
It was Ferguson's second consecutive victory by way of stoppage.
Appearing in the Octagon for the first time after winning TUF 18, Chris Holdsworth did more than just hold it down, as he got the decision victory by controlling Chico Camus for three rounds.
The Team Alpha Male-trained prospect rocked Camus with a good shot early in round one, stunning him and following up with solid work on the ground. It's not like he was laying and praying, either.
Camus came out more ferociously in the second round, doing a better job of connecting with his strikes. Still, Holdsworth got the better of him with his grappling, keeping Camus grounded for the majority of the round. The Californian tried to submit Camus with an arm triangle and even took his back, but "King" was able to survive, despite being outclassed.
In the third round, Camus tagged Holdsworth with a few good punches, yet his opponent played it smart and continued his domination on the ground after a strong takedown.
Opening up the FS1 broadcast, Mitch Clarke shocked viewers by earning his first victory on American soil by submitting Al Iaquinta in the second round via D'arce choke.
The New Yorker blasted Clarke in the first round, dropping him and continuing the onslaught by using his superior grappling skills afterwards.
Iaquinta took the Canadian down again in the second round, but "Danger Zone" suavely surprised his opponent with a D'arce choke, securing his seventh submission victory in his professional career.
The "Fight Pass" main event was supposed to be a doozy, but instead, it was Vinc Pichel who thoroughly dominated Anthony Njokuani for three rounds and made it look easy.
It was a difficult first round for Njokuani, who was the victim of an eye poke and a nut shot. To "The Assassin's" credit, Pichel was hitting him rather low while they were against the fence in the first round.
In the second round, Njokuani started to find success with his striking, looking technically sound. "From Hell" wasn't having any of it, scooping up his adversary twice and sending him crashing on the mat hard. Pichel landed six takedowns in the second round, battering the Las Vegas-based fighter on the ground with knees and punches.
It was much of the same story in the third round, as Pichel ragdolled his foe in the clinch and imposed his will en route to a unanimous decision victory.
Sam Sicilia did what he had to do to get the victory, saving his UFC job by earning a unanimous decision win over Aaron Phillips.
Sicilia was trying to make the fight a brawl, chasing Phillips around the Octagon and drilling him with his powerful fists. However, Phillips had a lot of success using kicks to the body, and hurt the Spokane native on a few occasions. Tagged by a left hand at the beginning of the second round, Phillips was brought down by his foe, and he was able to score a few reversals against Sicilia on the mat. Both competitors found themselves in full back mounts, as well as in full guard during their scrambles.
Ultimately, that's where Sicilia won the fight, staying wary of Phillips' armbar and guillotine attempts and his willingness to keep fighting off his back.
The first fight of the night saw two Octagon debutants square off with the perfect start on the line, and it was Jingliang Li who got the better of David Michaud.
Both welterweights started off by standing in the pocket and trading big punches, with Li landing counters. It was Michaud who got the better of him and took him down towards the end of the first round, limping as he went back to his corner.
Michaud seemed unfazed by the injury in the second round, almost locking in a rear-naked choke towards the end of the round. "Bulldawg" dominated the third round on the mat until Li reversed the position and started to use his ground-and-pound. He was caught in a guillotine shortly after, but he fought through it and earned the questionable split decision victory.
Here are the entire UFC 173 "Prelims" quick results:
155 lbs.: Michael Chiesa vs. Francisco Trinaldo -- - Chiesa wins via unanimous decision (30-26 x2, 30-27)
155 lbs.: Anthony Ferguson vs. Katsunori Kikuno -- Ferguson wins via knockout (punch) - 4:06 RD 1
135 lbs.: Chris Holdsworth vs. Chico Camus -- Holdsworth wins via unanimous decision (30-27 x3)
155 lbs.: Al Iaquinta vs. Mitch Clarke -- Clarke wins via submission (D'arce choke) - 0:57 RD 2
155 lbs.: Anthony Njokuani vs. Vinc Pichel -- Pichel wins via unanimous decision (30-27 x2, 29-28)
145 lbs.: Aaron Phillips vs. Sam Sicilia -- Sicilia wins via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28 x2)
170 lbs.: Jingliang Li vs. Danny Mitchell -- Li wins via split decision (30-27, 29-28, 28-29)
Make sure to follow our UFC 173: "Barao vs. Dillashaw" play-by-play coverage of the main card RIGHT HERE.