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UFC Fight Night 86 results: Junior dos Santos dominates Ben Rothwell

Esther Lin photo

The Junior dos Santos we've been waiting on, the one whose skills took him all the way to the UFC heavyweight championship, showed up Sunday in Zagreb.

Dos Santos looked like a reinvigorated fighter in the main event of UFC Fight Night 86, the UFC's debut card in Croatia. Instead of the headhunter who has been seen in recent fights, the former champion used slick movement and a wide variety of punishing strikes to overwhelm a game Ben Rothwell.

The judges' scores were 50-45 across the board for dos Santos (18-4), who won for the second time in his past three fights and the third in his past six.

"I think we did the right strategy," dos Santos said. "You can't go against a guy that size, he's too big. So I used my footwork and my speed and used my boxing. Forget about jiu-jitsu and wrestling, I'm a boxing guy!"

Dos Santos set the tone in the opening round, circling, landing crisp punches, then scampering to safety. Whenever Rothwell managed to close the distance, dos Santos, who now trains with American Top Team, peppered Rothwell with body shots.

This pattern continued in the second, a round which featured dueling Superman punches, and one which was punctuated in the closing seconds by dos Santos landing a big right hand, followed by a front kick which sent Rothwell crashing backward to the mat.

The pace continued in the later rounds as dos Santos mixed spinning kicks into his arsenal. Rothwell (36-10) is one of the toughest customers in the business, so he went the distance before his five-fight win streak came to an end. But he never came close to threatening dos Santos.

In the co-feature bout, Houston's Derrick Lewis delivered on the one aspect of his game he does really well, needing just one fearsome flurry to knock out veteran Gabriel Gonzaga in a heavyweight bout.

Gonzaga appeared to be on his way to winning the opening round, as he took Lewis to the ground early and engaged in a clinch standoff once it got back to the feet.

But Lewis started swinging for the fences late, and a gigantic right hand landed right on the button. Gonzaga (17-11), who lost for the fourth time in his past five fights, crumpled to the mat and the bout was waved off at the 4:48 mark.

Lewis (15-4, 1 NC) won his third straight fight. His six knockouts in the UFC since 2014 are the most in the promotion, regardless of weight class.

He also has his next opponent in mind after the win.

"I feel hungry after that victory," Lewis said. "I feel really good. I appreciate my opponent and what he did in the fight. I'm hoping that I get to fight Roy Nelson in July at UFC 200. I want to fight again soon and keep this run of victories going."

France's Francis Ngannou continued marking himself as a heavyweight to watch, as the fearsome striker scored a victory over Curtis Blaydes.

Ngannou (7-1) peppered Blaydes (5-1), who was making his UFC debut, with precise punches that slowly made Blaydes' right eye turn into a gruesome sight. By the end of the second round, Blaydes' eye was completely shut. Blaydes was game and wanted to continue, but the doctor correctly waved the bout off, giving Ngannou a TKO victory.

"I'm very happy with the victory and I proved today that I'm not just a striker or a boxer like people think," said Ngannou, who has scored all seven of his career victories via finish. "I showed people today what I can do and proved that I'm an MMA fighter."

Fargo, N.D.'s Tim Johnson got back into the win column by grinding out a decision win over Poland's Marcin Tybura.

In a methodical fight, Johnson wore down Tybura and landed big strikes when the opportunities presented themselves, busting Tybura open around the right eye. In the final round, Tybura (13-2), who was making his UFC debut, picked up the pace, landing a nice head kick and forcing Johnson to backpedal. But it wasn't enough to win the fight, as Johnson took across-the-board 29-28 scores.

"I had a good idea that I'd won," said Johnson (10-2), who improved to 2-1 in the UFC. "I think in the third round I probably wasn't doing as much as I wanted to but I still had energy in the gas tank."

In a light heavyweight matchup, Zagreb's own Igor Pokrajac and Poland's Jan Blachowicz electrified the crowd by throwing down for the better part of two rounds. Then Blachowicz (19-5) changed strategy and sealed the win in a tight fight, getting a unanimous decision on 29-28 across-the-board scores.

With the crowd behind him, Pokrajac (28-13, 1 NC), who took a three-fight win streak into the bout, handily won the first round. The second, though, was a wild brawl, with each fighter rocking the other, but Blachowicz getting the better of things. In the third, Blachowicz scored a takedown and worked from the top for the bulk of the round, sealing the decision and snapping a two-fight losing streak.

"I had to be smart in this fight because I have lost my last two fights," said Blachowicz. "He was a tough opponent but I had no option I had to win this fight because you never know what can happen."

In the main-card opener, Maryna Moroz (7-1) of Ukraine improved to 2-1 in the UFC's women's strawweight division with a unanimous decision victory over Romani's Cristina Stanciu (5-1).

Stanciu, making her UFC debut, came flying out of the gate, pushing the pace and ultimately ending up with a standing guillotine. But Moroz broke the submission attempt and took over the fight from there. She used a nasty neck crank in the first, dominant top work in the second, and an armbar from the bottom in the third en route to 30-27 across-the-board scores.

"If I had more time I think I could have finished the fight, but I'm still very happy with the performance," said Moroz, who had her first career decision win. "I'm not sure whats next for me, but I do know that I'm ready to climb this division. I will take whichever opponent they give me to help me get to the top."

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