LAS VEGAS -- This is the UFC 143 live blog for all the preliminary bouts in support of tonight's UFC pay-per-view at the Mandalay Bay Events Center.
On the FX portion of the card are Max Holloway vs. Dustin Poirier, Jorge Lopez vs. Matt Riddle, Alex Caceres vs. Edwin Figueroa and Matt Brown vs. Chris Cope. Featured on Facebook are Rafael Natal vs. Michael Kuiper and Dan Stittgen vs. Stephen Thompson.
The live blog is below.
Round 1: Slow pace early. Thompson switching stances frequently and throwing out occasional kicks. Stittgen hasn't done much in the first two minutes, trying to figure out Thompson. FInally, he bull-rushes forward but Thompson easily side-steps him. Thompson looks very comfortable in the standup, no surprise given his kickboxing pedigree. Stittgen is a deer in headlights. With 45 seconds left, Thompson lands a one-shot headkick knockout.The kick was the back end of a combination, preceded by a right hook, and Stittgen never saw it coming.
Winner: Stephen Thompson via knockout, Rd. 1 (4:13)
Rafael Natal vs. Michael Kuiper
Round 1: Natal takes Kuiper down quickly and into full mount. Kuiper scrambles free quickly, and they're back to their feet. Kuiper tries to open up with his strikes, but Natal drives forward for another takedown. Kuiper wall walks back to his feet. Natal is determined to keep the fight down, though, and takes him down again. Natal isn't able to do much with the position. These two are up and down repeatedly. Natal can't hold him down, but Kuiper can't stop the takedown, either. Natal tried an arm bar but Kuiper pulled out and ended up on top. Kuiper landed a couple elbows as the round expired. It's Natal's round, 10-9.
Round 2: Kuiper looks more confident to start the second round. He's stalking Natal around. Kuiper lands a nice uppercut. Natal wants to take it to the ground but Kuiper's on to his game. Natal looks to be tiring. Natal lands a hard right hand but Kuiper looks unphased. Natal clinches as we near midway through the round. Natal lands a spinning back fist. Kuiper just eats it. He certainly has a chin, as he continues to walk Natal down. Natal stays active, keeping Kuiper off him by firing first and often. Natal manages a takedown with :20 left. There's little time to work, and the round expires. It's Natal again, 10-9.
Round 3: Kuiper hurts Natal with a right hand early. Natal falls against the fence. Kuiper lands a pair of hammerfists. More heavy blows from the top as Natal tries to sweep. Kuiper with another smashing right from the top. Natal finally closes his guard, but there's still lots of time to work. Natal works his way back up and slams Kuiper down with two minutes left. Natal quickly into side control. He tries to set up a crucifix. Kuiper defends but Natal lands some elbows, then takes full mount. He attacks with an arm triangle. Kuiper's in some trouble but hangs on for the last 20 seconds. A roller coaster round. I'll call it a 10-10 as both had dominant moments and it was very even.
Winner: Rafael Natal via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
Matt Riddle vs. Henry Martinez
Round 1: Riddle has a big size advantage on Martinez, who opens with a hard left hand. Martinez is countering well, using a speed advantage to connect as Riddle moves forward. Martinez with a good right hook. Riddle may be a little surprised here, as Martinez is taking the fight on short notice. Riddle comes forward and Martinez again lands with the counter. Martinez is very comfortable in the pocket. He doesn't give ground and fires off combinations. Riddle throws a rare kick, taking advantage of his size. Riddle just misses with a short knee as the round ends. Martinez's activity takes the round, 10-9.
Round 2: Martinez is fearless in their, that's for sure. No octagon jitters as he continues to take it to Riddle, who is content to slug it out with a fighter who is much quicker than him. Martinez clocks him with a lead left again. Riddle has never made any real adjustments to capitalize on his size advantages, which is quite puzzling. Riddle has a touch of blood coming from near his left eye. Martinez still not slowing down or backing off. Riddle lands his best shot of the fight with a left hand. Riddle flurries late and bloodies Martinez's nose but it's not enough. Martinez 10-9.
Round 3: Riddle starting to incorporate more kicks now. Martinez counters with a straight left hand. Riddle with a series of kicks, increasing the distance. A smart change for Riddle. Kicks are starting to add up. Martinez throws a kick and Riddle catches it, taking him down. Riddle gets his hooks in but Martinez starts getting to his feet and Riddle gives up the position, leaving with a head kick. Martinez looks a bit winded now, and Riddle sees it, taking him down. Riddle with a series of left hands that all find their target. Riddle with elbows now. Trying to finish as time runs short. He hammers away as the round ends. It's Riddle's round, 10-9.
Winner: Matt Riddle def. Henry Martinez via split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)
Matt Brown vs. Chris Cope
Round 1: A fairly evenly matched fight early as the two trade. A clinch stalemates against the fence. Brown drives for a takedown midway through the round, but Cope bounces back up to his feet. Brown continues working him against the cage. Brown lands a knee from in close, then an elbow from inside. Cope with a nice combination that ends with a hard leg kick. Brown answers with a pair of right hands as the round ends. Close round, but Brown takes it 10-9.
Round 2: Brown catches a kick and fires off a right hand. He follows it up with a combo as Cope backs up. Cope is OK but bleeding. Or maybe he isn't. Seconds later, Brown staggers him with a right hand behind the ear, drops him with a left hook and follows with hammerfists for the finish.
Winner: Matt Brown via TKO, Rd. 2 (1:19)
Alex Caceres vs. Edwin Figueroa
Round 1: Caceres doubling up on the jab early. Caceres with a kick that lands low, and Figueroa falls to the ground, writhing around in pain. Timeout is called to let him recover for the accidental but illegal strike. Figueroa says he's OK three minutes later and we restart. Figueroa fires off a blistering right hand that misses. Caceres lands a left kick that just misses. Figueroa shows him how it's done moments later, flooring Caceres with a right high kick. Figueroa goes for the finish but Caceres blocks some shots. Caceres finds a way back to his feet, and takes Figueroa's back. He tries a choke, but Figueroa slips out the back door. Wild sequences. Caceres works to his back again, looking for a rear naked choke. He has the body lock on Figueroa trying to finish. Figueroa defends well. Caceres lands strikes from the back as the see-saw round finishes.
Round 2: Caceres scores with a couple of early high kicks. Figueroa comes over the top of a lazy left with a right hand. Caceres throwing a series of kicks. Caceres is getting the better of the standup now. During an exchange, he lands another low blow. Referee Herb Dean deducts two points from Caceres for the infraction. Caceres pouring it on as he knows he may need a finish to win. Caceres drags him down and takes his back with plenty of time to work. Caceres body locks Figueroa and digs in the choke, but Figueroa tucks his chin and breaks Caceres' grip. Caceres is going over and over to the rear naked choke. Figueroa pulls free but Caceres tries the triangle. Figueroa pulls free. Because of the point deduction, it's going to be a 9-8 round for Figueroa.
Round 3: Figueroa comes out for round three looking low on gas. Caceres still looks pretty fresh, dancing on the balls of his feet. Caceres with jabs. Figueroa slipped and Caceres jumped to his back. Caceres is hellbent on a rear naked choke, but Figueroa's not having it. Figueroa turns in and gets top position, looking for punches from the top. The pair spend the final 60 seconds exchanging position. Figueroa drops for a kneebar, but it never gets close, and Caceres takes his back again as the horn sounds. Caceres 10-9.
Winner: Edwin Figueroa via split decision (28-27, 28-27, 27-28)
Dustin Poirier vs. Max Holloway
Round 1: Holloway comes out firing with fast, tight striking. Holloway looks for a flying knee and Poirier looks for the takedown. Holloway stops the first one but Poirier re-loads and slams Holloway down, quickly moving to full mount. Poirier with heavy right hands as Holloway tries to work free. Poirier goes for an arm bar and Holloway defends. Poirier transitions to a triangle and gets the mount by rolling him over. He has the triangle/arm bar combo and Holloway has no choice but to tap.
Winner: Dustin Poirier via submission (triangle/arm bar), Rd. 1 (3:23)