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After besting Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran John “Doomsday” Howard via unanimous decision in the quarterfinals, David Michaud punched his ticket to the million-dollar welterweight finals on New Year’s Eve.
Michaud (18-5) was hurt by Glaico Franca from strikes a few times in their three-round war and was taken down multiple times. But “Bulldawg” showed true grit by coming back and landing nasty strikes of his own and out-scrambling his Brazilian adversary on the canvas.
Franca (22-6) seemed to be in control of the fight until the third, when Michaud, likely knowing he needed to rally, turned up the heat. The two stood toe-to-toe own the stretch, but Michaud landed the harder, more telling blows that swayed the judges. One judged scored it even at 28-28, but that margin was overturned by the other tow officials, who scored for Michaud 29-28. Franca toppled Andre Fialho (10-3) in the quarters to meet Michaud.
In a rather wacky turn of events, Magomed Magomedkerimov was supposed to stand opposite Ray Cooper III in the first welterweight semifinal matchup, but the Russian was reportedly vomiting backstage not too long after besting Chris Curtis via unanimous decision in the quarterfinals and was pulled from the card. Curtis (21-8) officially retired via social media following the loss, but since Magomedkerimov (26-5) couldn’t continue, “The Action Man” swiftly un-retired and took on Ray Cooper III.
Unfortunately for Curtis, who was taken down and controlled by Cooper III in the first round, he was vaporized with one punch. “Bradda Boy” turned out Curtis’ lights with a perfect counter right hook to the jaw. The punch dropped Curtis flat on his fat, his head bouncing off the canvas on impact. Before referee Mark Smith could intervene, Cooper III (20-7) landed two follow-up punches, ending the fight just eleven ticks into the second round. Cooper III, who went to a majority draw with Sadibou Sy (but advanced via a Pride-style must-decision by the judges) in the quarterfinals, will now face Michaud in the finals for all the loot.
Olympic champion Kayla Harrison returned to her dominant ways as she subbed Bobbi Jo Dalziel in the first round of their lightweight semifinal matchup. Harrison (6-0) scored a powerful takedown early and controlled the pace on the canvas. Dalziel (5-2) couldn’t scramble out from underneath the judoka and once Harrison mounted her, it was over. Harrison unloaded a series of punches and then finished Dalziel off with an armbar, forcing the tap at 3:32 of the frame.
In the other women’s semifinal bout, it was Larissa Pacheco (13-3) who prevailed in a moderate upset over longtime veteran and No. 1 overall seed Sarah Kaufman. Pacheco landed the more telling strikes and took the Canadian down almost at will en route to a somewhat shockingly lopsided unanimous decision win. While one judge saw its 29-28 for Kaufman, the other two had it a more understandable 30-27. Pacheco will now meet Harrison in the finals in New Year’s Eve.
In preliminary action, Russian welterweight Nikolay Aleksakhin (24-5) looked superb against Jesse Ronon as he put him away in the opening round. Aleksakhin was patient as the American stalked him around the cage, and when Aleksakhin found openings, he took full advantage. Ronson (20-10) was hurt by a knee to the head as he came inside and once he fell to his side, Aleksakhin unloaded a barrage of punches from on top until referee Keith Peterson pulled him off. The end came at 3:37 of the first.
In the opening bout of the evening, featherweight contender Brendan Loughnane turned in a dominant performance against Matt Wagy and won a lopsided unanimous decision. Loughnane (18-3) controlled the distance on the feet and out-struck Wagy throughout, landing jabs and counters to the head and body. The Brit also scored timely takedowns and had Wagy (13-7) reeling late in the third from a combo of punches. However, Loughnane couldn’t put his foe away and settled for a judges’ verdict with scores of 30-27 (twice) and 30-26.