Ricky Simon knew that he needed to stay out of the guard of one of MMA’s great jiu-jitsu players, Rani Yahya, if he was going to get a win on Saturday night in their UFC 234 main-card bout.
Yahya, for his part, knew he at least had to show something on offense on the feet if he was going to set up his ground game, so he loaded up on huge right hands.
Simon was able to execute his game plan more often than Yahya did his, and thus he emerged the winner at Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne. Simon earned a unanimous decision on scores of 30-27, 30-27, and 30-25 in the bantamweight bout.
The tone was set early, as Simon, of Vancouver, Wash., managed to parry Yahya’s takedown attempts. He rocked Yahya early with a a right hand and dropped him, but didn’t follow him to that mat.
This turned into a pattern. Yahya would close the distance; Simon would throw him to the mat, and then hesitate and not not play Yahya’s guard game.
In between these incidents, Simon by and large pieced Yahya up in the standup. Yahya’s biggest move of the fight was an accidental headbutt that opened a cut over Simon’s right eye.
Simon stuffed all nine of Yahya’s takedown attempts, then punctuated the fight by finally deciding to go into Yahya’s guard in the final minute, where time ran out on the bout.
“He’s a specialist,” Simon said. “His jiu-jitsu is one of the best in the UFC, we were worried about that but he couldn’t get me down to the ground.”
Simon improved to 15-1 with his eighth consecutive win. He’s 3-0 in the UFC. Yahya (27-9, 1 NC), who has been with Zuffa since WEC 28 in 2007, had a three-fight win streak snapped.