OTTAWA - The main event at UFC Fight Night Ottawa didn't disappoint Saturday at the Canadian Tire Centre.
Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone and Al Iaquinta traded bombs, by both hand and foot, for five full rounds in an epic battle between two of the UFC's top lightweights.
In the end Cerrone, ranked eighth entering the fight, earned a unanimous decision to improve to 36-11. Iaquinta, who was ranked fourth entering the bout, fell to 14-5-1.
Cerrone cut Iaquinta below his right eye with a left-leg kick late in the first round but Iaquinta responded near the end of Round 2 with a right that staggered Cerrone.
A few more shots left Iaquinta's face even more bloodied in the third round before Cerrone sent him to the ground with a vicious left.
The fight ended with Iaquinta on his back after a flurry of punches and kicks by both fighters.
“I felt terrible starting that fight. I couldn't find it. In the locker room I didn't want to warm up, didn't want to get ready, didn't want to hit the pad, didn't want to wrestle,” said Cerrone. I didn't want to fight until the second round.
“People say I'm a slow starter and what Cowboy are you going to get? Today was my worst day but I was able to fake it until you make it because if you fake it long enough you find it. In the second round I was like, there it is, let's go to work.”
Elias Theodorou has only been fighting in the UFC for five years, but Saturday the Toronto native found himself in the co-main event on the card.
Theodorou (17-3) was hoping to crack the top-10 of the middleweight division when he took on American Derek Brunson, but that will have to wait as he dropped a unanimous decision to Brunson (19-7), who will undoubtedly rise from his current ranking of eighth.
The crowd voiced their displeasure throughout the bout as both fighters seemed to do more moving than hitting, but the crowd of 10,960 went crazy when Brunson picked Theodorou up over his shoulder and slammed him to ground.
“He was harder to hit than I thought he would be, but I was faster than him, so I just had to wait for him to try and hit me and then counter. I didn't really care how it looked, but he was mostly backing up and I was taking the centre and winning those exchanges every time,” Brunson said.
“I just had to make reads out there and be the better fighter and I think I did that.”
Quebec City's Marc-Andres Barriault lost his UFC debut to the dismay of an Ottawa crowd.
Barriault lost by unanimous decision in his middleweight bout against American Andrew Sanchez as part of the UFC Fight Night main card on Saturday.
Barriault, who had an eight-fight winning streak coming in and was 11-1 overall, certainly had the crowd behind him as they chanted his name throughout the fight and roared with every punch he landed.
The Canadian Tire Centre crowd erupted in disbelief with a chorus of boos after Sanchez (12-4) was awarded the win with all three judges scoring the fight 29-28.
“It was very frustrating but at the end of the day it's the judges' decision. But I'm very proud of myself and I showed that I belong here that's for sure,” Barriault said.
“It was a good experience. I just need to look at the fight, continue to work and do the same things the next time. When I hit I can be dangerous.”
Al Iaquinta was to face Donald Cerrone in a matchup of lightweight contenders in the main event later Saturday, while Derek Brunson and Elias Theodorou were scheduled for a middleweight bout.
Bantamweight Brad Katona of Winnipeg suffered his first loss in the octagon, falling to 9-1 as he dropped a unanimous decision to Merab Dvalishvili (9-3) of Georgia.
In the shortest fight of the night, American Walt Harris needed just 50 seconds to improve to 11-8 with a first-round TKO in a heavyweight battle over Sergey Spivak (9-1) from Moldova.
And Cub Swanson (25-11) lost a split decision against fellow American Shane Burgos (11-2). Swanson will likely see his No. 10 ranking in the featherweight division drop following the defeat.
The six preliminary bouts had eight Canadians as combatants, including Sarah Moras of Kelowna, B.C. in the women's bantamweight division.
Unfortunately Moras (5-6) took a pummelling at the hands of American Macy Chiasson, who won by TKO at 2:22 of the second round.
That bout was followed up by another bantamweight tilt that saw Vince Morales (8-2) of the United States score a unanimous decision over Montreal's Aiemann Zahabi (7-2).
In an all-Canadian welterweight bout, Nordine Taleb (15-6) of Montreal earned a unanimous three-round decision over Kyle Prepolec (12-6) of Windsor, Ont.
The third bout of the preliminary card was the first fight of the night not to go the distance as featherweight Matt Salvas of the U.S. won by submission at 3:16 of the third and final round with a head and arm choke over Kyle Nelson of Stoney Creek, Ont.
Both fighters were in compromising positions on the mat in the first two rounds but were saved by the bell. Nelson (12-3) was not able to recover in the third round and tapped out, giving Salves (7-2) the decision.
In the first heavyweight bout of the night, Vancouver's Arjan Singh Bhullar improved to 9-1 with a unanimous decision over American Juan Adams (5-1).
The opening preliminary bout featured a pair of bantamweight Canadians going at each other and ended with a unanimous win for Vancouver' Cole Smith (8-0) over Mitch Gagnon (12-5) of Sudbury, Ont.