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Time away did nothing to prepare Gilbert Melendez for Arnold Allen.
In his first appearance in nearly two years, the two-time Strikeforce champion was shut out by Allen in the featured UFC 239 prelim on Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. All three cageside judges struck 30-27 scorecards for Allen (15-1, 5-0 UFC), an emerging threat in the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s featherweight division.
Melendez (22-8, 1-6 UFC) could only survive. Allen picked him apart with clean punching combinations to the body and head, chewed up his lead leg with kicks and even mixed in a third-round takedown. Now on a five-fight losing streak, Melendez’s frustration was visible and only grew as the minutes ticked away.
Allen, 25, has rattled off eight straight wins.
Vera Taps Replacement Hernandez
Team Oyama representative Marlon Vera submitted organizational newcomer Nohelin Hernandez with a rear-naked choke in the second round of their preliminary bantamweight scrap. A short-notice replacement for Sean O'Malley, Hernandez (9-3, 0-1 UFC) raised the white flag 3:25 into Round 2.
Vera (14-5-1, 8-4 UFC) put the 25-year-old Californian in a number of precarious positions throughout the first round, where he caught a body kick, initiated a scramble and progressed to the back before he ran through a series of submission attempts. However, he surrendered top position in his haste to finish and wound up eating some heavy ground-and-pound as a result. Hernandez carried the momentum into the middle stanza, only to get stopped in his tracks. Vera connected with a flying knee, powered into full mount, dropped elbows and eventually locked down on the fight-ending choke.
The loss closed the book on Hernandez’s three-fight winning streak.
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Gadelha Outpoints Tentative Markos
Three-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion Claudia Gadelha utilized forward pressure and intermittent punching bursts to cruise to a unanimous decision over “The Ultimate Fighter 20” semifinalist Randa Markos in a tepid three-round encounter at 115 pounds. All three cageside judges scored it the same: 30-27 for Gadelha (17-4, 6-4 UFC).
There was not much in the way of meaningful action. Gadelha pecked away from the outside with two- and three-punch volleys, forcing her opponent to move backwards for extended periods of time. The crouching Markos (9-7-1, 5-6-1 UFC) seemed content to play defense, occasionally answering the Brazilian with single leg kicks and dirty boxing from the clinch.
Gadelha, 30, has won four of his last six bouts.
Surging Song KOs Perez
Team Alpha Male’s Yadong Song extended his run of consecutive victories to seven and knocked out “The Ultimate Fighter Latin America” winner Alejandro Perez in the first round of their preliminary bantamweight confrontation. Perez (21-8-1, 7-3-1 UFC) bit the dust 2:04 into Round 1.
After a brief feeling-out process, Song (14-3, 4-0 UFC) countered a leg kick with a devastating right cross. The impact froze Perez where he stood, as he collapsed backward and was met with another diving right hand from the airborne 21-year-old Song before referee Herb Dean could arrive on the scene.
Perez has suffered back-to-back defeats for the first time in his 30-fight career.
Shahbazyan Choke Submits Marshman
Glendale Fighting Club prospect Edmen Shahbazyan kept his perfect professional record intact and raised his profile further, as he submitted former Cage Warriors Fighting Championship titleholder Jack Marshman in the first round of their undercard pairing at 185 pounds. Marshman (23-9, 3-4 UFC) conceded defeat 1:12 into Round 1.
Shahbazyan (10-0, 3-0 UFC) fed the Welshman a few quick punches, executed a takedown and battered him with crushing standing-to-ground punches. He then passed to side control, advanced to the back and cinched the choke before Marshman knew what hit him.
It was the ninth first-round finish for the 21-year-old Shahbazyan.
Underdog Rencountre Upsets Naurdiev
Alliance MMA export Chance Rencountre won for the sixth time in seven appearances, as he laid claim to a unanimous verdict over Ismail Naurdiev in a preliminary welterweight affair. Rencountre (14-3, 2-1 UFC) swept the cards with 29-27, 29-28 and 30-27 scores from the judges.
Naurdiev (18-3, 1-1 UFC) connected with some heavy artillery to the body in the first half of Round 1 but failed to capitalize. Rencountre grounded him repeatedly and did so with surprising ease across the final 10-plus minutes of the fight. He flattened out Naurdiev in the second and third rounds, buried him with suffocating control and racked up points with short elbows and punches.
The setback snapped a three-fight winning streak for Naurdiev.
Newcomer Avila Downs Kianzad
Julia Avila showed there was plenty of substance behind the hype in her organizational debut, as she took a unanimous decision from “The Ultimate Fighter 28” finalist Pannie Kianzad in a three-round undercard clash at 135 pounds. All three cageside judges scored it for Avila (6-1, 1-0 UFC): 30-27, 30-26 and 30-26.
A short-notice substitution for Melissa Gatto, Kianzad (11-5, 0-2 UFC) punched well in combination and opened a cut near the newcomer’s right eye. However, she struggled to keep pace. Avila staggered her with a counter right hand in the second round and floored her with the same punch in the third, where she swooped into top position and transitioned from half guard to mount before wheeling to the back and threatening Kianzad with chokes and ground-and-pound.
The 31-year-old Avila has posted back-to-back wins since a finger injury resulted in a technical knockout loss to Marciea Allen under the Invicta Fighting Championships banner a little more than a year ago.