BERLIN - Gegard Mousasi forced Mark Munoz to tap out in the first round on Saturday in the main event of UFC Fight Night: Munoz vs. Mousasi at Germany's O2 World Berlin.
Mousasi (35-4-2) showed resilience after a disappointing February loss to top contender Lyoto Machida.
Munoz (13-5) wasted little time working inside for a takedown, but Mousasi showed ample defence, earning top position in an early scramble. Munoz eventually worked back to his feet, but Mousasi was always a step quicker with his movement and more accurate with his strikes.
As Munoz continued to press for a takedown, Mousasi battered him with elbows and eventually moved to his opponent's back. Bloodied and battered, Munoz tapped out at the 3:57 mark of the first round when Mousasi applied a rear-naked choke.
"I worked a lot on the rear-naked choke and the guillotine," said Mousasi. "I set it up with punches, and I was able to get it. He's a wrestler, so he always comes forward. I wanted to pick up the angles and slowly pick up the pressure."
In the night's co-feature, C.B. Dolloway (15-5) made his case for a top-10 ranking with an impressive win over France's Francis Carmont (22-9), a Tristar Gym fighter who lives in Montreal.
Carmont used powerful strikes to batter Dolloway in the opening stages of the fight, kicking hard to the body and firing big right hands. Unfazed, Dolloway began to taunt his opponent and hang his chin before unleashing a crisp left hook that dropped Carmont to the floor. Dolloway pounced to finish, but Carmont quickly recovered and moved back to his feet. The two continued to trade strikes throughout an entertaining first round before Carmont scored a late takedown. However, Dolloway swept immediately to the top and finished the round in top position.
Dolloway looked to work the body in the second, while Carmont continued to attack the legs and body with powerful kicks. Dolloway eventually worked inside for a takedown, moving to his opponent's back and securing the dominant position. An alert Carmont tried to work for a kimura, but Dolloway kept his arm tucked and again finished the frame in a dominant position.
In the third, Carmont initially looked for a takedown, but Dolloway defended the move and countered with one of his own. As blood trickled down his face, Dolloway advanced to his opponent's back, but Carmont defended a choke attempt and worked back to his feet. A relentless Dollaway turned back to his wrestling, bringing the fight to the floor and moving quickly to mount. The pair scrambled for the remainder of the fight, but it was Dolloway who again was in top position at the bell.
In the end, Dolloway's effort was enough to earn him one of the biggest wins of his career by unanimous decision with scores of 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28.
"I'm exhausted, but I feel on top of the world," Dolloway said. "Francis was hard to get to, and he was a little bit more difficult to get past than I thought he would be. I took a while to adjust and to get into the fight. Now I've just got to keep working. This is what I want, so I've just got to keep on working to get there."
In a middleweight matchup that failed to live up to expectations, Sean Strickland (15-0) earned a controversial split-decision win over Luke Barnatt (8-1).
The contest played out at a moderate pace with neither athlete truly taking control of the pace. Strickland was the crisper striker in the early going, and scored an early takedown in the second frame. But along the way, Strickland suffered a broken hand, and it limited his offence for the rest of the contest. Barnatt picked up his offensive volume in the latter stages of the bout, but he never truly put together any significant combinations, and Strickland was awarded a split-decision win with scores of 28-29, 30-27 and 29-28.
UFC president Dana White immediately posted on Twitter, stressing that he felt the wrong man was awarded the victory.
"I should have pulled the trigger more," Strickland admitted after the win. "In the third round, I was pretty much useless. I know my cardio was there though, going into the fight, and I knew I could push the pace. I just gave Luke Barnatt a lot of respect. He's a tough guy."
In the night's first main-card contest, Swedish featherweight Niklas Backstrom (8-0) picked up a victory in his UFC debut, submitting Finnish veteran Tom Niinimaki (21-6-1) in the first round.
Niinimaki worked hard to get the fight to the floor, but once there, Backstrom scrambled first for a guillotine choke and then transitioned to his opponent's back. Once in place, Backstrom locked a sneaky rear-naked choke, forcing a tap from Niinimaki with 45 seconds left in the first round.
"Life is weird you know; you just have to work the hardest that you can and then everything will fall into place," an emotional Backstrom said. "This has been a really, really big dream for me. Everything happens so fast in the UFC."