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Brunson caps finish fest of a main card with KO

Middleweight contender Derek Brunson wasted no time snapping his two-fight losing streak in the UFC Fight Night co-main event at Spark Arena in Auckland, halting Daniel Kelly in a single round to get back to his winning ways.

“I was cheated in my last fight, I’m sure you guys saw with Anderson Silva,” Brunson said, referring to his controversial decision loss to Silva at UFC 208. “So I have to make sure I finish guys so it won’t happen again.”

North Carolina’s Brunson took his time getting his timing and range down in the first round, but it didn’t take long, as he pounced on Kelly in the second minute and drilled him with a flush left hand that put the four-time Olympian on the deck. The follow-up shots on the grounded Kelly were just window dressing before referee John Sharp stepped in and stopped the fight at 1:16 of round one.

The No. 8-ranked Brunson moves to 17-5 with the win; Melbourne’s Kelly, ranked 15th, falls to 13-2.

HOOKER vs. PEARSON

Auckland’s own Dan Hooker had the perfect homecoming for his UFC lightweight debut, as he knocked out veteran Ross Pearson in the second round.

There was no shortage of action in the opening round as the two fighters kept it standing for five minutes, Hooker leading the way with kicks everywhere while Pearson tried to implement his boxing attack with varying levels of success.

Pearson kept the pressure on in round two, but Hooker smoothly countered with his left hand as he moved backwards and then fired back with kicks to slow the Brit down. Pearson was getting the left hand in regularly though, bloodying Hooker in the process. But Pearson’s aggression soon got the better of him, as a right knee to the head by Hooker sent the Brit’s mouthpiece flying and put him on the canvas. Referee Neil Swailes moved in immediately to stop the fight, the end coming at 3:02 of the second stanza.

With the win, Hooker improves to 15-7; Pearson, who has lost four straight, falls to 21-14 with 1 NC.

CUTELABA vs. DA SILVA

All-offense light heavyweight Ion Cutelaba didn’t disappoint in his matchup with Henrique da Silva, as he tore through his opponent, stopping him in just 22 seconds.

Cutelaba marched into da Silva’s corner during the introductions and pointed to the mat as if to say, “Let’s stand and trade,” and that’s just what the fighters did. The only problem for the Brazilian was that Cutelaba was the one landing the big shots, with a left hand putting da Silva on the deck less than 10 seconds into the fight. Da Silva did his best to recover, but the relentless barrage of shots that followed from Cutelaba left referee Mark Craig no choice but to stop the bout.

Moldova’s Cutelaba moves to 13-3 with 1 NC; da Silva falls to 12-3.

NGUYEN vs. ELLIOTT

No. 12-ranked flyweight contender Ben Nguyen blitzed No. 8-ranked Tim Elliott in their bout, using his striking and submission game to finish his opponent in less than a minute.

Nguyen cracked Elliott with a kick and punch to the head as the bout began, and the scrambling 125-pounders soon locked up, Nguyen taking Elliott’s back. Moments later, the Brisbane product locked in a rear naked choke, and Elliott was forced to tap out. The official time of the finish was :49.

Nguyen moves to 17-6 with the win. Missouri’s Elliott, who replaced the injured Joseph Benavidez, falls to 15-8-1.

VOLKANOVSKI vs HIROTA

Australia’s Alexander Volkanovski made a successful UFC featherweight debut, winning a three-round unanimous decision over Japan’s Mizuto Hirota, who saw a five-fight unbeaten streak snapped.

Nearly 90 seconds in, Volkanovski picked up the first big scoring blow of the fight when he dropped Hirota with a right hand as the two broke from a clinch. A flurry of right hand punches and elbows followed, but Hirota was able to weather the storm and get back to his feet. Volkanovski kept the pressure on, landing a spinning elbow that drew a roar from the crowd, and he also added a takedown to his scoring total before the round was out.

Hirota (19-8-2) was able to stay out of serious trouble in rounds two and three, but that didn’t stop him from eating more bombs from Volkanovski that would have finished lesser fighters. And while Hirota had a decent final round, it was not enough to turn things around against Windang’s Volkanovski, who impressively moved to 15-1 with the victory.

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