On Saturday, April 15, the UFC made its long awaited debut in Kansas City for UFC on Fox 24: Johnson vs. Reis.
The event was headlined by the sport’s current pound-for-pound king, Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson. The flyweight champion looked to cement his place in the sport’s history with his 10th consecutive title defense when he battled Brazilian Wilson Reis. Johnson has not tasted defeat since the promotion opened the 125-pound division in 2012, most recently defeating Tim Elliott in December. Reis was originally scheduled to face Johnson at UFC 201, but the bout fell through due to injury. The 32-year-old had won three straight and five of his last six inside the Octagon.
Also on the main card, former strawweight title challenger Rose Namajunas met former Invicta FC atomweight champion Michelle Waterson.
The 13-fight event kicked off Saturday, April 15, from the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. Five fights streamed live on UFC Fight Pass at 4 p.m. ET, with four additional prelims airing live on Fox at 6 p.m. ET. The four-fight main card aired at 8 p.m. ET, also on Fox.
Flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson retained his 125-pound title with one of his most dominating performances to date. Throughout the opening round, Johnson effortlessly picked apart challenger Wilson Reis from distance. At one point he secured a body lock around Reis’s waist and unleashed a head kick from his back. It was more of the same in round two, as Johnson’s footwork and movement prevented Reis from creating any offense. Late in the second round, Johnson delivered a knee to the body of the Brazilian that dropped him. The champion flurried for the stoppage, but Reis survived. Round three was more of the same, until Johnson took the fight to the ground. Once on top, Johnson launched punches and elbows. He moved to mount late in the round and attacked with an armbar to force Reis to submit.
Former title challenger Rose Namajunas restarted her track toward a title shot, finishing Michelle Waterson by submission. Waterson opened with a front-leg side kick before scoring a head-and-arm throw. Namajunas was able to take Waterson’s back before moving to top position. She scored with heavy shots from the half guard while defending submission attempts from Waterson. In round two, Namajunas scored at range before catching Waterson with a flush head kick. Waterson crashed to the mat and Namajunas followed with an onslaught of punches, but Waterson survived. Waterson tried to scramble to her feet, but Namajunas took her back while standing and the fight once again found the ground. Once there, Namajunas slapped on the fight-finishing rear-naked choke.
There’s a new contender in the middleweight division. Robert Whittaker destroyed former Strikeforce champion Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza by TKO. The Brazilian tried to get the fight to the mat early, but Whittaker was able to keep his distance. Jacare initiated the clinch and was able to get a takedown. He moved to Whittaker’s back, but could not stay there. Once the fight returned to the feet, Whittaker took over. He dropped Jacare early in the second stanza, but allowed the talented submission artist to stand back up. Later in the round, he landed a head kick that put Jacare on rubber legs. Whittaker smelled blood and flurried for the stoppage.
The main card opened with a lackluster featherweight bout between Renato “Moicano” Carneiro and Jeremy Stephens. Moicano scored with leg kicks right from the opening bell to slow Stephens’ advance. Stephens chased the Brazilian around the cage, but was taken down late in the frame. The middle frame was contested on the feet, where the fighters traded single shots. Moicano earned a takedown early in round three, but Stephens was able to get back to his feet. The nose of Stephens bled late in the fight as Moicano stayed on the outside and avoided engaging. The judges were split, but Moicano earned the win.
Russian heavyweight Alexander Volkov closed out the prelims by cruising past Roy Nelson over the course of three rounds. Nelson came out looking to grapple, but Volkov used his massive reach advantage to keep the fight at range. Nelson was able to get the fight to the ground briefly, but could not capitalize. The first round ended with Volkov rocking Nelson in a wild flurry. Nelson’s pace slowed in the second and third rounds, but he continued to come forward. Volkov peppered Nelson’s body with front kicks and jab after jab. The result was never in doubt, as the Russian took all three rounds on all three scorecards.
In his UFC debut, France’s Tom Duquesnoy survived a slow start to finish Patrick Williams in round two. Williams scored with an early takedown and looked ripe to spoil the prospect’s hype train. Duquesnoy was aggressive, but got rocked by a right hand from Williams. Duquesnoy worked the body of Williams with knees. Late in the first round, he wobbled Williams along the cage. He worked hard to finish, but the bell saved Williams. In round two, Duquesnoy unleashed a barrage of elbows to finish Williams less than a minute into the second frame.
Lightweights Rashid Magomedov and Bobby Green went three rounds in a grueling, back-and-forth affair. They traded combinations, but each exhibited good movement and footwork to stay on the outside. Green’s leg kicks were a factor early, but Magomedov began to land with more regularity as the fight progressed. When the fight did find the clinch, Green controlled the action, but Magomedov was able to separate and land with punches. The judges were split, but it was Magomedov who left with the victory.
Former flyweight title challenger Tim Elliott thrilled the hometown crowd in an all-out war with Louis Smolka. The pair traded takedowns and submission attempts at a blistering pace for three entire rounds. Each time one fighter would gain a dominant position, the other would scramble free and threaten with a submission of his own. Both fighters frequently looked for choke attempts, but neither could find a finish. The thrilling fight went the distance, with Elliott sweeping the scorecards as a result of his relentless takedowns.
Aljamain Sterling snapped a two-fight skid, besting Augusto Mendes by unanimous decision. Sterling opened the fight well, scoring with strikes and a takedown. Mendes showcased his grappling skills, threatening with submissions from his back. Midway through the opening round, Mendes cracked Sterling with a right hand that wobbled him. Sterling recovered and picked up his volume in the final two rounds as Mendes tired. Sterling threw a variety of attacks, while Mendes desperately tried to clinch. The judges all scored the fight for Sterling.
Devin Clark earned a one-sided decision nod over Jake Collier. The pair exchanged wild shots throughout the opening round until Clark earned a takedown. He landed a big knee to Collier while he was grounded, but the referee did not see it. Collier recovered and worked back to his feet, but Clark was relentless with initiating the clinch. More takedowns followed in round two, but Collier started to build momentum with his strikes. The last frame was all Clark, who simply manhandled Collier. He landed heavy shots from the mount and threatened with a rear-naked choke attempt. When it was all said and done, Clark swept the scorecards.
Middleweight Anthony Smith scored a violent, third-round comeback win over The Ultimate Fighter winner Andrew Sanchez. Sanchez’s wrestling prowess was on display early, as he dragged Smith to the ground. Smith was able to sweep to top position, but only briefly. Smith ate a steady diet of left hands from Sanchez in round two. Down on the scorecards, Smith went for broke in the final stanza. He took advantage of a tired Sanchez, landing combinations. A head kick rocked Sanchez and Smith flurried hard for the knockout win.
Fighting in his hometown, welterweight Zak Cummings put on a show, choking Nathan Coy unconscious in the first round. Cummings used his reach advantage to pepper Coy with jab-cross combinations throughout the opening minutes of the bout. He rocked Coy with a left hand, forcing Coy to shoot for a single-leg takedown. Cummings sprawled and wrapped up a choke attempt. He moved to mount and locked in a guillotine choke to put Coy to sleep.
The night kicked off with a women’s bantamweight bout between Ketlen Vieira and Ashlee Evans-Smith. Brazil’s Vieira took charge early, marching forward and forcing Evans-Smith to defend. The pace and volume of the Brazilian negated any offense from Evans-Smith for the majority of the fight. Evans-Smith pushed forward aggressively in the final frame, landing a spinning backfist, but it was too little, too late. Vieira cruised to the decision win.