Hunter Azure is back on track.
Less than four months after suffering his first career loss, the former Contender Series veteran returned to the win column with a unanimous decision victory over Cole Smith to kick off the UFC Vegas 9 main card.
An early knockdown followed by a dominant showcase of his wrestling helped Azure secure the victory to move to 2-1 in the UFC.
“My main focus was getting back to the win column,” Azure said afterwards. “To me, it wasn’t my best performance but I’m going to take it, get back to the drawing board and just keep growing.”
It took less than a minute into the opening round for Azure to shoot for his takedown as he brought Smith crashing to the canvas. To his credit, Smith was able to scramble free rather quickly to get back to his feet but that actually backfired on him seconds later.
As soon as the fighters started exchanging strikes again, Azure pressed forward and clipped Smith with a stinging left-right combination that dropped him to the ground. Azure flurried on him with punches on the ground but Smith was able to hold until recovering enough to get back to his feet.
While he didn’t get the finish, Azure was still on the attack, especially when he was able to get a minute between rounds to recharge his gas tank. Whether he was striking at distance or working from inside the clinch, Azure was just able to out power Smith at every turn.
When Azure turned back to his wrestling, he continuously brought Smith down into his world on the ground while maintaining a dominant position whenever there were grappling exchanges.
Knowing he was down big on the scorecards, Smith attempted to alter his strategy in the final round by coming out with more aggression but that only seemed to give Azure less space to cover when getting inside for another takedown attempt. While Azure wasn’t doing a ton of damage, he was forcing Smith to fight at his pace.
Smith did manage a final Hail Mary after taking Azure’s back with less than a minute remaining as he tried to sink in a rear naked choke but time ran out before he could get the finish.
Azure has looked like a solid prospect to watch since first arriving in the UFC and Saturday night’s performance only strengthened those claims. As for Smith, he’s now dropped back-to-back fights after earning a win in his octagon debut.