Daniel Stittgen vs. Stephen Thompson
Thompson stands orthodox with his hands by his waist, flicking kicks to Stittgen’s legs and midsection. “Wonderboy” switches back forth to southpaw, keeping his distance. Stittgen tries a few leg kicks of his own and covers up when Thompson wades in with punches. Stittgen bull-rushes, trying to clinch, but Thompson rebuffs him. Stittgen’s strikes aren’t even coming close and Thompson continues to rack up the precise but non-damaging strikes through the middle of the frame. Thompson stuffs a couple straight punches in Stittgen’s face and then goes to the head with a right high kick. It lands smack on Stittgen’s face and he falls to the mat in a heap. Josh Rosenthal jumps in to save the unconscious Stittgen at 4:13 of the opening round, a beautiful knockout win for Stephen Thompson in his UFC debut.
Rafael Natal vs. Michael Kuiper
An early clinch yields nothing but the next takedown try from Natal scores a takedown. Kuiper hops right back up and moves the fight to the fence. Natal gets another takedown along the fence and tries to posture up, but Kuiper doesn't let him get any offense off, and gets back to his feet. Kuiper again pushes Natal against the fence, but can't find a throw or strikes. When they separate, Kuiper chases, and gets taken down with another double-leg, as Natal trips his foot after the shot and sets up once more in half guard. When Natal looks to pass, Kuiper sweeps to top position. Natal looks for a quick armbar, but the Dutchman yanks his arm out, and tries to pound aay from full guard. Natal keeps looking for the armbar, pinning Kuiper's arm to his chest. He throws his hips for the submission and Kuiper rolls, taking a tough few seconds to extricate his arm. He yanks out and regains his feet, whizzing a head kick by the Brazilian before the horn.
Kuiper connects with a kick to the leg of Natal, then a hard one to the body. Natal is throwing wide punches, trying to get inside for a takedown, but it's not coming this time. Kuiper has the outside position on the fence, working some dirty boxing, but Natal comes through with a couple hard shots. Natal gets the outside now and looks to go low for a double-leg, backs away and slugs Kuiper with a pair of hard shots. Kuiper pushes Natal away and moves him off further with a front kick. Natal swings some wide rights which connect, but the punches are coming slower and slower as his mouth hangs open. A double-leg attempt fails for Natal and he winds up pushing Kuiper on the cage. He gets the takedown with about 20 seconds left but doesn’t do anything with the position.
A big right hand along the cage sends Natal to the ground and Kuiper rushes to finish. Natal is on his side, his back to the fence as Kuiper unloads with punches and ref Steve Mazzagatti hovers nearby. The Brazilian is looking to sweep as he clasps onto Kuiper’s left leg, but Kuiper kneels down and slugs more punches to Natal’s head and body. Kuiper postures up, throws more hammerfists and dives back into Natal’s guard. Natal swings his legs up and rolls to his feet after a minute of punishment and brings Kuiper down with a double-leg on the fence. Kuiper stands up, gets lifted into the air and slammed down to the mat. Natal lands in side control and works to isolate Kuiper’s arm for the crucifix. Kuiper defends well and Natal leans across his body to throw short, horizontal elbows. With 85 seconds to go, Natal hops into full mount. He locks up an arm-triangle choke and steps off to Kuiper’s left side. Kuiper is calm, but the choke is deep and Natal has more than 30 seconds left to finish. Natal keeps wrenching with Mazzagatti watching closely, but Kuiper survives to hear the final horn.
Official result: The scorecards read 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28, all for the winner by unanimous decision, Rafael “Sapo” Natal.
Matt Riddle vs. Henry Martinez
The southpaws touch gloves and line up, and it’s Martinez swinging first on the taller man. Martinez backs Riddle into the cage but has his punches go off the “TUF” alum’s arms. Martinez’s punches are beginning to get through, countering kicks with big right hands up top. Riddle throws a long jab to the body, but he wanders into the pocket and eats another pair of shots. Another right crashes into Riddle’s cheek, which is already reddened with two minutes left in the first frame. Riddle tries a knee from the Thai plum and Martinez finishes the round with another combo.
Martinez is sticking to the theme of the first round in the early part of the second, waiting for Riddle to lob punches and kicks, then flurrying with quick three-punch combos. Martinez scores with a hard left, ducks a high kick and gets a rear waistlock. Nothing comes of the tie-up and they go back to throwing. Riddle thuds a couple left kicks to Martinez’s body and eats some right-hand counters in return. Riddle finishes strong with a three-punch combo, a kick to the body. He unloads with aggressive punches and the welterweights slap hands at the horn.
Riddle lands a kick to Martinez’s body, but Martinez gets the better of the early exchange with some more corking overhand punches. Martinez stands stock-still, waiting to counter and leaving himself open to further body kicks. Martinez is showing wear on the bridge of his nose as he walks forward, trying to close the gap on Riddle, who’s still racking up the leg and body kicks. Martinez lands a solid left counter but is spun to the ground soon after via single-leg. Martinez gives up his back and kneels, and Riddle hops right on, quickly sinking in both hooks. Riddle’s riding high, elbowing to the side of Martinez’s head as he tries to hang on. He can’t and Martinez stands up, facing the cage, allowing Riddle to get off a high... (Continues on next page)