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Pichel returns from long layoff with 1st-round KO

Back in action for the first time in three years, former Ultimate Fighter 15 competitor Vinc Pichel showed no sign of ring rust at Spark Arena in Auckland, as he extended his winning streak to three with a first round finish of Damien Brown in a UFC Fight Night lightweight bout.

Brisbane’s Brown was having a good opening round as Pichel settled into his first fight since May 2014. But after a couple uppercuts that showed Pichel’s power to be as potent as it’s ever been, he set the stage for the finisher, which came with under 90 seconds left, as he dropped Brown with a right hand and then ended the bout with a follow-up attack that brought referee Mark Craig in to stop matters at 3:37 of the first stanza.

With the win, Pichel moves to 10-1; Brown falls to 17-10.

JUMEAU vs STEELE

Hamilton’s Luke Jumeau made the New Zealand fans happy with his UFC debut win, as he outpointed Dominique Steele via unanimous decision.

All three judges saw it 29-28 for Jumeau, now 12-3; Steele falls to 14-9.

Both fighters were throwing bombs in the first round, most just missing the mark. So to make sure he took the lead, Steele brought the fight to the mat with a minute left, and his ground strikes likely won him the round.

Jumeau stunned Steele with two right hands early in the second, but the Ohioan recovered quickly as the duo locked up against the fence. That’s where they stayed for much of the remainder of the round, with each fighter taking turns in control, but neither scoring with much consistency.

After nearly two minutes of stalled grappling against the fence, referee Neil Swailes restarted the action, and Jumeau took advantage, rattling his opponent with some hard strikes. Steele recovered well again, and he got Jumeau to the fence once more, but the New Zealander got free and again landed with hard shots as the bout ended.

MORAGA vs. MOKHTARIAN

No. 11-ranked flyweight contender John Moraga snapped a three-fight losing streak in dominant fashion, winning all three rounds of his bout against Octagon newcomer Ashkan Mokhtarian.

Scores were 30-25 and 30-27 twice.

Mokhtarian (13-2) looked for a takedown early, but in the process he got caught in a tight guillotine. The Sydney product hung tough, though, and he eventually got to his feet and escaped. After a brief separation, the two locked up again, Moraga (17-6) controlling matters as he took his opponent’s back and then looked for an armbar before the end of the frame.

Keeping it standing in the second, Mokhtarian looked to be more settled, but Moraga was still doing the majority of significant scoring, and with less than two minutes left, the Arizonan scored a takedown and punished his opponent en route to putting another round in the bank.

In the third, it was Moraga who put the bout on the mat immediately, and while Mokhtarian was impressive in scrambling out of an armbar attempt, Moraga regained control and kept it, locking up a clear-cut decision win.

OTTOW vs. KUNIMOTO

It was a third consecutive split decision for welterweight Zak Ottow, who picked up his second UFC victory with a win over Kiichi Kunimoto.

Scores were 29-28 twice and 28-29 for Ottow, now 15-4. Osaka’s Kunimoto, fighting for the first time since February 2015, falls to 18-7-2, 1 NC.

Ottow controlled the first round behind hard leg kicks and solid takedown defense, and when he added in punches upstairs, Kunimoto was already in a hole on the scorecards.

Ninety seconds into the second round, Kunimoto finally got the bout to the mat, but Ottow reversed position fairly quickly, and he bulled his foe into the fence before taking his back. Kunimoto was able to escape in the final minute, though, and he was able to stay in control, nearly getting a guillotine choke in the closing seconds.

It was another trip to the mat for the combatants early in the final round, Kunimoto staying in the top position until he took Ottow’s back in the last two minutes. It looked rough for the Milwaukee product, but he got loose, stood up and landed some hard body shots before the horn sounded.

ALDRICH vs JEON

In the strawweight opener, JJ Aldrich spoiled the UFC debut of the roster’s youngest fighter, impressively shutting out 19-year-old Chanmi Jeon over three rounds.

Aldrich’s boxing was sharp as the bout began, and she tagged Jeon with several flush shots before Jeon began finding her range, and from there, it was a competitive and action-packed round, with both fighters getting their share of shots in.

The second was almost a carbon copy of the first, with Aldrich in a steady rhythm with her striking, but Jeon did make a late charge that may have made an impression with the judges.

After screaming to the crowd to start round three, Jeon got the fans into it and she came out fast for the final round. And while the Seoul native tried to goad Aldrich into a brawl, the TUF 23 competitor wasn’t buying it. Instead, Aldrich remained disciplined with her attack as she wrapped up an impressive victory via identical scores of 30-27.

With the win, Colorado’s Aldrich moves to 5-2. Jeon, a late replacement who missed weight at 118 pounds, falls to 5-1.

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