Gilbert Burns wallops Woodley in UFC’s return to Las Vegas

Gilbert Burns of Brazil, left, punches Tyron Woodley in their welterweight fight during UFC Fight Night in Las Vegas. (Reuters)
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Updated 31 May 2020

Gilbert Burns wallops Woodley in UFC’s return to Las Vegas

  • The event was held without fans at the UFC Apex in line with measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19

LAS VEGAS: Gilbert Burns dominated former UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley to win a unanimous decision on Saturday night in the mixed martial arts promotion’s return to Las Vegas.

Brazilian heavyweight Augusto Sakai employed some unpunished gamesmanship to eke out a split-decision victory over Bulgaria’s Blagoy Ivanov in the penultimate bout of the UFC’s first show in its hometown since the coronavirus pandemic began.

The event was held without fans at the UFC Apex, a gym with broadcast facilities on the promotion’s corporate campus. The UFC used minimal personnel to stage the fight, and the promotion said everyone involved was subject to strict health and safety protocols.

The 33-year-old Burns (19-3) dominated on his feet and on the ground, finishing his first main event bout with likely the biggest win of his career and his sixth consecutive victory since July 2018. 

The Florida-based Brazilian soundly defeated one of the most accomplished welterweights in UFC history and made his case for a shot at champion Kamaru Usman in the crowded 170-pound division.

The judges all gave all five rounds to Burns, scoring it 50-45, 50-44 and 50-44.

Burns came out with furious energy against Woodley, dropping the ex-champ in the opening seconds and gaining full mount. A gaping cut opened in Woodley’s left eyebrow in the opening minutes, and Burns again overcame Woodley’s famously strong takedown defense to drop Woodley again in the second round.

Woodley (19-5-1) had not  fought since losing his title in a one-sided thrashing from Usman in March 2019. Woodley had reigned atop the division for nearly three years, and the 38-year-old University of Missouri graduate said he dealt with depression while debating whether to stay in MMA or to pursue a music career.

Burns’ victory capped an entertaining show at the Apex, where the octagon is only 25 feet in diameter, compared to 30 feet in most competitive cages. The compact dimension typically leads to more aggressive fighting, and this card featured six finishes in its 11 bouts.

Burns was fighting in a fan-free arena for the second time in 2 1/2 months. He stopped veteran Demian Maia in Brasilia on March 14 in the UFC’s final show before it halted competition.

After an eight-week break, the UFC returned to competition earlier this month with three shows over eight days in Jacksonville, Florida. 

With ambitions to hold near-weekly cards throughout the summer as part of its expansive broadcast deal with ESPN, the promotion relocated its operations to its own facilities after the Nevada Athletic Commission agreed three days ago to allow the return of combat sports.

Although this card was fairly light on star power, the promotion will stage UFC 250 next Saturday night from the same gym. Two-division champion Amanda Nunes’ featherweight title defense against Canada’s Felicia Spencer headlines the pay-per-view card.

UFC President Dana White continues to promise additional shows this summer from the so-called “Fight Island,” an undisclosed private isle where the promotion intends to host bouts between fighters who can’t enter the U.S. due to health restrictions.

Sakai (15-1-1) remained unbeaten in the UFC with his fourth straight victory when two judges favored him 29-28 after a lively bout with Ivanov (18-4), who was up 30-27 on the third judge’s card.

Sakai escaped punishment from referee Jason Herzog in the third round when he blatantly grabbed the chain-link wall of the cage while attempting to avoid a takedown attempt by Ivanov.

Grabbing the cage is illegal and punishable by a point deduction, but Herzog merely warned Sakai verbally. The decision was met with audible disbelief by Daniel Cormier, the former UFC heavyweight champion working in the quiet arena as a color commentator.

Strawweight contender Mackenzie Dern opened the main card by finishing Hannah Cifers with a knee bar that was the first leg-lock submission victory by a woman in UFC history. Dern (8-1) earned her first win since giving birth to her daughter last year.


Man City’s court triumph set to intensify race for top 4 places in Premier League

Updated 14 July 2020

Man City’s court triumph set to intensify race for top 4 places in Premier League

  • The fight for a top-five finish has reverted back to needing to be in the top four to join champion Liverpool and City, already secured in second place

LONDON: Manchester City’s success in overturning its Champions League ban on Monday has huge ramifications on the Premier League and the remaining two teams that will qualify for Europe’s top club competition.

Chelsea, Manchester United and Leicester — and maybe Wolverhampton Wanderers and Sheffield United, too — are now fighting for two qualifying spots instead of three with two weeks of the season remaining.

The fight for a top-five finish has reverted back to needing to be in the top four to join champion Liverpool and City, already secured in second place, in earning tens of millions of dollars in UEFA prize money next season.

The most concerned team is likely to be Leicester.

In the top four since September — and, in December, even looking like the most realistic title challenger to Liverpool — Leicester have imploded, collecting only two wins from their last 11 league games stretching back to the end of January.

After losing to relegation-threatened Bournemouth 4-1 on Sunday, Leicester will find themselves  in fifth place if Man United beat  Southampton on Monday.

United appears much more likely to secure a top-four finish and return to the Champions League after a season’s absence.

With four straight wins ahead of the Southampton game, United are the form team in the league and also has the most benign remaining schedule with upcoming matches against Crystal Palace and West Ham before what could be a winner-takes-all game game at Leicester on the final weekend of the season.

Making it all the more intriguing is the fact that another final-day match is between Chelsea and Wolves.

Chelsea is currently in third place, one point ahead of Leicester, but will drop into fourth if United beat  Southampton.

A victory over already-relegated Norwich on Tuesday appears pivotal for Chelsea, considering its last two games are at Liverpool — a team chasing records to cap its title-winning season — and then Wolves, who have gained a reputation for beating the top teams over the last two years.

Wolves are in sixth place, four points off the top four, so the ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport has come as a blow to their Champions League ambitions.

Indeed, Wolves’ best chance of qualifying for the competition is now to win the Europa League, which earns entry to the Champions League. The team coached by Nuno Espirito Santo has reached the last 16 of the Europa League and will play the second leg of its match against Olympiakos next month, with the score at 1-1 after the first leg.

Likewise, seventh-place Sheffield United needed City to lose its appeal at sport’s highest court to stand a realistic chance of a finish in the Champions League positions, a prospect that would have seemed fanciful for a team that was widely tipped for relegation at the start of the season.

Europa League qualification will be Sheffield United’s target now, with seventh place possibly earning that reward if Manchester City, Manchester United or Chelsea win the FA Cup.