Timur Valiev delivered a performance that would make his training partner and coach Frankie Edgar proud, surviving a very bad round to outwork and outlast Raoni Barcelos on the UFC Vegas 30 main card.
Barcelos sent Valiev to the canvas twice in the second round, running out of the energy to fully remove his opponent from consciousness in the bantamweight contest. It was a fatal mistake, because Valiev battled back and captured two 29-28 scores. A third judge ruled the fight a 28-28 draw.
Afterward, a fired-up Valiev called out UFC matchmaker Sean Shelby, demanding bigger opponents after a trio of octagon appearances in three different weight classes.
Asked about his close call, Valiev brushed them off as the cost of doing business.
“I train with Frankie Edgar,” he said. “Who cares about knockdowns?”
Indeed, Valiev smiled and patted Barcelos on the back at the second round bell. Barcelos was perhaps a hammerfist or two away from the knockout and was forced to take a one-minute breather.
When the Brazilian returned for the third and final round, his punches carried far less speed and steam. Meanwhile, Valiev doubled down on the hit-and-run attacks he’d used to great effect in the first, popping a jab to keep distance and mixing up striking combos.
In the first, Barcelos might not have been surprised by a spinning backfist or a leaping overhand right. In the third, he was caught unprepared and was unable to fire back with authority.
After a debut loss at 140 pounds that was overturned due to a positive drug test, Valiev has now won two straight after a decision over Martin Day at featherweight. Barcelos sees a five-fight streak snapped.