Siyar Bahadurzada has waited more than two years, since UFC 168, to get back into the Octagon.
Brandon Thatch is looking to get back on top after getting finished in his last two fights.
Those factors helped make for an entertaining welterweight scrap Saturday night at UFC 196. And while Bahadurzada appeared to be running away with the victory in the final round, he kept working for the finish and got the tapout at the 4:11 mark of the third via arm-triangle choke.
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"I've had two years away, but I trained every day," said Bahadurzada (22-6). "But I believed I would make my return, I always believed, and this is for everyone who believed in me."
The pace picked up fast in the opening round, as Bahadurzada landed huge knees in the clinch, followed by a big right hand. Thatch, for his part, had answers, as he landed a big knee of his own and followed with a spinning back elbow which found a home.
In the second, Thatch came out swinging, and he rocked his opponent with a big right hand. But Bahadurzada rebounded, took the fight to the ground, and controlled the bulk of the round from top position.
The pace slowed down a bit in the third. But more on Thatch's end than Bahadurzada's. The Kabul native dropped Thatch and landed big hammerfists. Referee John McCarthy stood the duo up, but Bahadurzada scored another takedown and kept working until he got the tap.
Bahadurzada snapped a two fight losing streak with the victory, while Thatch dropped to 11-4.