On a night when not one of the 10 fights went to the scorecards, it seems somehow appropriate that one of the stars of the night was a guy with the last name Usman.
Kamaru Usman is the UFC’s welterweight champion, the pound-for-pound top fighter in the world and one of the greatest MMA fighters in history.
His younger brother, Mohammed, doesn’t have his reputation or fame, but he did make a bit of history on Saturday. He knocked out Zac Pauga, a former practice squad member of the Houston Texans, 36 seconds into the second round at Apex in Las Vegas to win the heavyweight division of Season 30 of “The Ultimate Fighter.” In the process, the Usmans became the first set of brothers to win TUF.
Kamaru Usman, who won Season 21 at welterweight in 2015, was in his younger brother’s corner Saturday. Mohammed Usman’s last name may have helped get him onto the TUF cast, but once he got there, he created his own success.
With former WBC boxing heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder watching from ringside, Mohammed Usman cracked Pauga with a left hook on the chin to end things early.
It earned him a UFC contract three years after the tragic death of his 3-year-old son, Nash, who accidentally drowned.
“It means the world to me” to win TUF for his son, Usman said. “He means the world to me and he’s the reason I’m here now. Don’t get me wrong, man. I could sit up here and tell you it’s easy, but it’s not. I hurt every day of my life. I’m hurting right now sitting up here talking about it. I know he wants me to have a good life. He wants me to take care of my kids I’m going to have in the future [as well as] my current kids. He wants me to be a blessing to them.
“That’s the No. 1 thing. I’m just trying to be the best dad I can be and show my kids, and my future kids, that there’s nothing you can’t accomplish in this world if you put your mind to it.”
He’s existed in his brother’s shadow for much of this time, working diligently while serving as Kamaru’s hype man for his fights. But he set his mind on winning TUF and earning a UFC deal and he did that in a big way.
Mohammed Usman put on a show Saturday, but he wasn’t the only one. Each of the 10 fights ended in a finish, only the second time in UFC history that occurred.
Geoff Neal overcomes slow second round, angry coach
Geoff Neal was brilliant in the first round of his welterweight fight with Vicente Luque. Neal landed 52 significant strikes in the first round, rocking Luque repeatedly with a straight left hand. Neal was powerful, accurate and in control.
But in the second, he took his foot off the gas and it was a more even round. It is, he said, a problem he often has. His coach at Fortis MMA, Sayif Saud, knew it and let him know about it after the round. Saud got into Neal’s face during the rest period and told him in no uncertain terms to get going.
“I have a tendency to take off the second round, especially when I go a hard first round,” Neal said. “I just go, ‘Let me see if I can get through this round and come back in the third,’ but that’s just dumb of me.”
Neal hurt Luque with a blistering straight left that sent him into the cage. Neal then threw eight consecutive left uppercuts before the fight was stopped at 2:01 of the third.
Jamahal Hill rallies in fourth after uneven third
Thiago Santos took Jamahal Hill down five times in the third round of the main event in a light heavyweight battle. But Hill, who calls Apex “Sweet Dreams Stadium” because of his success there, wasn’t deterred.
He suspected Santos would be tired from the wrestling-heavy third, when he took Hill down five times in 11 attempts. Hill came out quickly in the fourth and hurt Santos.
He dropped him and finished him with a vicious ground and pound. Referee Herb Dean stopped it at 2:31 of the fourth as Hill was blasting Santos with elbows.
“I just don’t stop working,” Hill said. “That’s what I learned from my coaches and what I learned from my team, just keep working.”
Hill came into the bout ranked 10th at light heavyweight, with Santos sixth. He hopes for a title shot next against champion Jiri Prochazka, but said if it didn’t happen, he wanted ex-champion Jan Blachowicz, who is No. 2.
Juliana Miller wins TUF flyweight title
Juliana Miller went a perfect 4-for-4 on takedowns Saturday to dominate Brogan Walker and win the TUF 30 flyweight title via a third-round TKO. She stopped Walker with elbows to the head from mount at 3:57 of the third and final round.
It was a dominant performance by Miller, who had 9:40 of control time in the 13:57 of time in the bout.
Miller landed 54 of 85 of her significant strikes, connecting on 63 percent, in addition to the perfect effort on takedowns.
Biggest highlight was Bryan Battle’s head-kick KO
Former TUF winner Bryan Battle had perhaps the most memorable moment of the night. He needed only 44 seconds to stop Takashi Sato in their bout, knocking Soto out with a kick to the head.
Battle said that in camp, he and his coaches noticed that Sato was vulnerable to head kicks.
“It’s something we anticipated,” he said. “I didn’t see it happening quite so soon. That was probably the most beautiful strike I’ve ever thrown.”
After the fight, he called out both Bryan Barberena and Ian Garry for a bout.