Charles Byrd needed to win twice on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series to catch an Ultimate Fighting Championship contract, but he was thankful for the experience it gave him. When he finally got into the Octagon, that experience paid off in spades as he choked out power-punching Welshman John Phillips in the first frame.
Byrd (10-4 MMA, 1-0 UFC) choked out both Jamie Pickett last July, but wasn’t able to gain UFC President Dana White’s favor and earn passage to the Octagon. Five weeks later, he fought again in the Contenders Series and choked out Randall Wallace, then finally got his contract. Making his Octagon debut against Phillips (21-7 MMA, 0-1 UFC), an SBG Ireland rep and training partner of Conor McGregor, he immediately put the fight on the deck, took full mount and hammered away with elbows. Phillips eventually escaped to half guard, but when “The White Mike Tyson” sought to scramble to his feet, “Kid Dynamite” halted him, sinking in one hook and cranking his face. The 34-year-old Byrd continued to work for a submission, eventually sinking the choke and his second hook, rolling his opponent over and securing the tap at 3:58 of the opening round in the UFC Fight Night 127 preliminary headliner.
“That experience was everything because it prepared me for this moment right here,” said Byrd when asked of his two Contenders Series appearances. “Being able to do it twice, it just set me up for the production, the lead-up, to the walkout to the cage.”
After starting his career 5-3, the California-born, Texas-based Byrd is now 6-1 over his last seven outings.
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“Hot Chocolate” Scalds Enkamp With Sizzling Left Hand
After getting caught cold in his last outing in December against Nordine Taleb by a head kick and savage right hand in a mere 59 seconds, “Hot Chocolate” Danny Roberts brought the heat against Oliver Enkamp.
A powerful counterpuncher, Roberts (15-3 MMA, 4-2 UFC) was happy to circle to the outside of the cage as Enkamp (7-2 MMA), 0-2 UFC) attacked him with steady kicks to the legs, body and head. The 30-year-old Brit stayed patient however, looking to locate his left hand and detonate. After a few swipes, Roberts was able to rock the Swedish kareteka, which clearly made him confident he had his distance and range down. Not long after, Enkamp threw a side kick to the leg and Roberts used his impressive hand speed to detonate a counter left hook on his opponent, who collapsed to the mat. As Roberts dove in to finish, referee Leon Roberts was on the rescue scene in a heartbeat, ending the bout at 2:12 of the opening round.
“Listen, I’m a dog of war, you come and wanna fight with me, it’s as simple as that, bro,” a psyched-up Roberts yelled in his post-fight interview. “We stand up and this left bomb gonna write people off.”
Henry Derails Dawodu’s Hype Train in 39 Seconds
Hakeem Dawodu entered UFC London as an undefeated featherweight prospect and heavy favorite against Scotland’s Danny Henry. That was all erased in less than a single minute in sudden, shocking fashion.
Henry (12-2 MMA, 2-0 UFC) apparently was cognizant that fighters don’t get paid by the minute and immediately got in the face of the more celebrated striker and World Series of Fighting veteran. After a quick feint, a forward-pressuring Henry missed his jab, but absolutely lanced Dawodu (7-1-1 MMA, 0-1 UFC) and put the Calgarian on the deck. As Dawodu sought to scramble to his feet, Henry jumped on a guillotine immediately. Although Dawodu was able to break Henry’s grip twice and get to his feet, the third time proved the charm, as “The Hatchet” secured his grip one more time, tightened his squeeze and forced the tap in just 39 seconds.
Craig Hits Instant Classic Comeback On Previously Unbeaten Ankalaev
Paul Craig entered the UFC as a hot 9-0 prospect and the British Association of MMA’s 205-pound champ, then suffered brutal first-round knockouts last year against Tyson Pedro and Khalil Rountree. On the last fight on his contract, facing undefeated Magomed Ankalaev, he was a +550 underdog and for 14 minutes and 59 seconds, he looked every part of it. And then.
Craig (10-2 MMA, 2-2 UFC) was battered every which way for the near-entirety of the bout with Dagestan’s Ankalaev (10-1 MMA, 0-1 UFC), who liberally switched stances standing, smashing the Scot with punches, head kicks and his trademark heavy ground-and-pound. Ankalaev mounted Craig late in the first round, smashed him on top in the second, then did both in the third round. In Round 3, Craig was so battered he fell down throwing an errant spinning back fist. When the 10-second clapper sounded, the bout looked like a lopsided formality until “Bearjew” threw up his legs in a flash, locked on an airtight triangle choke and forced Ankalaev to tap almost immediately, completing one of the most sensational comebacks in UFC history. The official end came with one tick left on the clock, at 4:59 of the third round.
Johnson Holds On To Earn Split Decision
He was in peril late and the margin was razor thin, but Canadian veteran and outspoken fighters’ union advocate Kajan Johnson held on to earn a split decision over Scotland’s Steven Ray, pushing his UFC win streak to four in a row.
Early on, Johnson (22-11-1 MMA, 4-1 UFC), a 16-year veteran at just 33 years old, established his low kicks from the perimeter of the Octagon, stumbling Ray (21-8 MMA, 5-3 UFC) on multiple occasions and forcing the typically voluminous striker to resort to sparse spinning kicks. By the third round, Johnson was eating liberal, hard one-two southpaw combinations, ending the fight on bottom taking damage. The fight ultimately came down to a scrambling second round, where “Ragin Kajan” was able to rock Ray to the fence and escape a guillotine to top position. Judges David Lethaby and Andy Roberts saw it 29-28 for Johnson, while dissenting Paul Sutherland turned in a 29-28 Ray scorecard.
Sosnovskiy Remains Unbeaten in Sloppy Brawl
It was hardly a pristine display of MMA, but in his long overdue UFC debut, Ukrainian heavyweight Dmitriy Sosnovskiy, who had his Octagon coming out delayed for nearly two years due to a spate of injuries, remained undefeated by choking out British puncher Mark Godbeer at 4:29 in the second round.
Sosnovskiy (11-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC) was able to get clinch takedowns liberally throughout the contest, but could scarcely hold top position despite dropping steady punches on Godbeer (13-4 MMA, 2-2 UFC) from guard. Godbeer was surprisingly able to scramble up on several occasions, pounding away on a tiring “Wicked Machine.” Despite eating leather, Sosnovskiy eventually rocked Godbeer late in the second round standing, moving straight into full mount, then securing a rear-naked choke when a flagging Godbeer turned over. It was Sosnovskiy’s first fight and victory since May 2015.