UFC on Fox 18 Prelims: Tarec Saffiedine Stymies Jake Ellenberger in Triumphant Return

By Brian Knapp Jan 30, 2016
Kicks once again were the difference for Tarec Saffiedine.

The former Strikeforce champion made a triumphant return from an extended layoff, as he claimed a unanimous verdict from Jake Ellenberger at UFC on Fox 18 “Johnson vs. Bader” on Saturday at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. In his first appearance since Oct. 4, 2014, Saffiedine (16-4, 2-1 UFC) swept the scorecards with 29-28 nods from all three judges.

The notoriously heavy-handed Ellenberger (30-11, 9-7 UFC) rocked the Belgian twice -- a sweeping right hook did the damage in the first round and a short left hook did the honors in the waning seconds of the third -- but was otherwise ineffective. Saffiedine punished him with kicks to the legs, body and forearms throughout the match and kept “The Juggernaut” at the desired range.

Ellenberger, 30, has lost five times in six outings.

Related » UFC on Fox 18 Round-by-Round Scoring

Ferreira Shuts Down Aubin-Mercier

Carlos Diego Ferreira snapped a two-fight losing streak with a unanimous decision over “The Ultimate Fighter Nations” finalist Olivier Aubin-Mercier in a preliminary lightweight matchup. All three cageside judges scored it for Ferreira (12-2, 3-2 UFC): 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27.

A replacement for the injured Joaquim Silva, Ferreira was superior in all facets. The former Legacy Fighting Championship titleholder chewed up Aubin-Mercier (7-2, 3-2 UFC) with accurate punching combinations and sneaky kicks for much of their 15-minute bout. Ferreira put the exclamation point on his first victory since August 2014 with a dominant third round. There, he made the Tristar Gym export pay for an ill-advised takedown, scrambled into top position, shifted to the back and kept Aubin-Mercier on the defensive with one rear-naked choke after another.

Natal Extends Winning Streak

Rafael Natal took care of former Resurrection Fighting Alliance titleholder Kevin Casey with third-round ground-and-pound from the mount in their undercard meeting at 185 pounds. Casey (9-4, 1-2 UFC) succumbed to blows 3:37 into round three.

Natal (21-6-1, 9-4-1 UFC) permanently altered the complexion of the fight at the end of the first round, as he floored the Rickson Gracie black belt with a right hook. Casey was saved by the bell but was never the same. Natal controlled the remainder of the fight, on the feet and on the ground. In the third round, the 33-year-old New York-based Brazilian struck for a takedown, softened Casey with hammerfists and climbed to full mount. He bailed on a brief bid for an arm-triangle choke and dropped punches until referee Gary Copeland had seen enough.

“Sapo” has rattled off four consecutive victories.

Reis Outgrapples Ortiz to Decision

Repeated takedowns and a clear superiority in the grappling exchanges spurred former EliteXC champion Wilson Reis to a unanimous decision against Dustin Ortiz in a three-round undercard confrontation at 125 pounds. Reis (20-6, 4-2 UFC) took 30-27 scores from all three judges.

After a competitive first round, Reis seized control. The longtime Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt stayed glued to Ortiz in the second, dragged him to the mat and advanced to the back, threatening the Roufusport representative with a last-second armbar. Reis gave Ortiz no hope in the third round, where he pressed an aggressive clinch, executed multiple takedowns, achieved full mount and forced the Tennessee native to yield his back in desperation. The finish did not materialize, but the decision had been won.

Reis, 31, has won eight of his past 10 bouts.

Razor-Sharp Yakovlev Stops Sullivan

M-1 Global veteran Alexander Yakovlev disposed of onetime Cage Fury Fighting Championships titleholder George Sullivan with first-round punches in their preliminary welterweight affair. Sullivan (17-5, 3-2 UFC) met his end 3:59 into round one.

Yakovlev (23-6-1, 2-2 UFC) was in charge from the start. The 31-year-old Russian secured a pair of takedowns, briefly moved to mount and made Sullivan work to get back to his feet. Once there, Yakovlev zapped the Kurt Pellegrino protégé with a two-punch combination, following a glancing straight left with a right hook on the button. A dazed Sullivan collapsed to the canvas, and Yakovlev mopped up the rest with three unanswered right hands.

Caceres Outpoints Fullen, Halts Skid

An active, diverse kicking game and overwhelming forward pressure carried MMA Lab rep Alex Caceres to a unanimous verdict over Masio Fullen in a three-round undercard pairing at 145 pounds. All three cageside judges scored it the same: 30-27 for Caceres (11-8, 6-6 UFC), who put an end to a three-fight losing streak and steered clear of the Zuffa chopping block.

Fullen (10-6, 1-2 UFC) never seemed comfortable, his offense mostly limited to single right hands. Caceres wobbled him with a short left hand in the first round, brought knee strikes to the body into play in the second and forced the Alliance MMA featherweight to retreat to punches late in the third. His kicks, some of them of the spinning variety, filled in the remaining blanks.

The 28-year-old Fullen has dropped back-to-back bouts.

Unbeaten Brown Denies Dwyer

Former Ring of Combat champion Randy Brown kept his perfect professional record intact, as he captured a unanimous decision from Matt Dwyer in a preliminary welterweight tilt. Brown (7-0, 1-0 UFC) swept the scorecards with matching 29-28 marks.

Dwyer (8-4, 1-3 UFC) capitalized on a slow start from the Jamaican-born prospect, as he fired away with leg kicks and buckled the 25-year-old with an overhand right in the first round. However, Brown grew more comfortable as the fight progressed. He scored with a sublime second-round throw and then threatened Dwyer with a brabo choke before releasing the hold, returning to his feet and punishing the Canadian with short-range elbows in the clinch.

Brown had Dwyer reeling from a burst of punches in round three, where he also climbed to the back and scrambled to top position on more than one occasion.

Jackson, Makashvili Battle to Majority Draw

Former Legacy Fighting Championship titleholder Damon Jackson and Levan Makashvili fought to a majority draw in a three-round undercard battle at 145 pounds. Two of the three cageside judges scored it 28-28; the other saw it 29-27 for Jackson (9-1-1, 0-1-1 UFC).

The two featherweights spent the majority of their encounter jockeying for position in the clinch, and though Jackson was the instigator, neither man gained a discernible advantage. Makashvili (7-2-1, 1-1-1 UFC) neutralized Jackson in close quarters, snuck in punches when he could and executed a pair of third-round takedowns. However, the Georgian was undercut by a late point deduction in which referee Gasper Oliver penalized him for two fouls: an illegal knee to the head and an accidental eye poke.

Martin Choke Sleeps Olivieri

Team Sityodtong representative Tony Martin rendered Octagon rookie Felipe Olivieri unconscious with a third-round rear-naked choke in a preliminary lightweight clash. Martin (10-3, 2-3 UFC) brought it to a close 3:02 into round three.

Olivieri (14-5, 0-1 UFC) enjoyed some early success, as he peppered the American’s lead leg with crushing kicks, sometimes two or three at a time. However, Martin withstood the attacks and found another gear in the second round, where he tuned up the Nova Uniao export with right hands and had him on rubbery legs with an accurate multi-punch volley. He carried his newfound momentum into the third, as he executed a takedown, advanced to the back and cinched the fight-ending choke in the scramble that ensued. Soon after, the Brazilian went limp.

The loss snapped a three-fight winning streak for Olivieri.


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