Gilbert Burns defeated Tyron Woodley by unanimous decision (Photo/Getty Images)
At least four former amateur wrestlers took to the Octagon at UFC Fight Night Las Vegas Saturday night. Sadly, for just two one-time participants in the oldest-and-greatest sport, only came out of the cage as winners … while, arguably, the contestant with the most impressive wrestling credentials -- Tyron Woodley, NCAA All-American for the University of Missouri -- suffered arguably the greatest upset of the evening.
Burns scores unanimous decision over Woodley
"The UFC has a newly minted welterweight contender," according to Marc Raimondi of ESPN.com.
"Gilbert Burns defeated former champion Tyron Woodley via unanimous decision (50-45, 50-44, 50-44) in a complete performance Saturday night in the main event of UFC Las Vegas. Burns nearly finished Woodley in the opening minutes and never let his foot off the gas pedal, winning every single round."
Prior to launching his pro MMA career, Woodley had been a two-time NCAA All-American wrestler for the University of Missouri, the same collegiate program that also produced another mat-star-turned-MMA champ, Ben Askren.
ESPN had Woodley ranked No. 5 among MMA welterweights coming in, while Burns was No. 9. Woodley had not fought since dropping the welterweight title to Kamaru Usman via unanimous decision at UFC 235 on March 2, 2019.
Here's how Burns assessed his performance at UFC Fight Night Las Vegas vs his opponent: "That was a former champion right there -- you saw," Burns said. "And I had a dominant performance."
Burns now owns a record of 19-3, including six wins in a row and four straight since moving up from lightweight to welterweight. Burns, 33, a Brazil native, who lives and trains in Florida, has just one loss going back to 2016. Woodley, 38, was unbeaten in seven consecutive fights before falling to Usman, but now has not won since 2018.
Outcomes involving other ex-amateur wrestlers
Casey Kenney (who once wrestled at University of Indianapolis) bounced back from a previous UFC loss "in style," (to use UFC.com's working), submitting Louis Smolka in the first round.
"The two bantamweights got after it as expected, but in the midst of an exchange with a little over two minutes left in the opening round, Kenney clipped Smolka with a right hand that appeared to stun him. Smolka responded with a takedown attempt but got caught in a guillotine choke that forced him to tap out at 3:03 of the first round.
Casey Kenney bounced back from a loss to Merab Dvalishvili in style, submitting Louis Smolka in the first round.
The two bantamweights got after it as expected, but in the midst of an exchange with a little over two minutes left in the opening round, Kenney clipped Smolka with a right hand that appeared to stun him. Smolka responded with a takedown attempt but got caught in a guillotine choke that forced him to tap out at 3:03 of the first round.
With the win, Kenney ups his record to 14-2-1. Smolka falls to 16-7.
Brandon Royval submits Tim Elliott in a "bout of the night"
Former FLA flyweight champ Brandon Royval beat a top-15 fighter (and former junior-college champ and NCAA Division II finalist Tim Elliott) in his first UFC fight on Saturday, turning the tables on one-time title challenger Tim Elliott to score an arm-triangle submission at 3:18 of the second round. Elliott had just moments earlier threatened with a guillotine choke, only to get reversed and quickly checkmated.
Immediately after the submission win, Royval "trashed" his own performance, where former amateur wrestling superstar and UFC commentator was much more encouraging.
"Brandon, I've got to be honest, man -- you're beating really hard on yourself," Cormier said. "You just won your UFC debut over one of the top 15 guys in the division. On Monday, you're going to have a ranking right next to your name. You cannot be that disappointed!"
By contrast, Tim Elliott suffered his third consecutive loss in the Octagon. Yet, both Royval and Elliott took home "Fight of the Night" honors and $50,000 a piece from their preliminary flyweight bout.
Finally, Brandon Royval and Tim Elliott took home "Fight of the Night" honors and $50,000 apiece for their preliminary flyweight clash. Elliott set a wicked pace in the opening round, but once he tired, Royval gradually gained momentum. After a scramble on the canvas, the former Legacy Fighting Alliance champion was able to bring an end to the contest with an arm-triangle choke at the 3:18 mark of Round 2.
What's more, Chris Guitierez scored a second-round TKO by kicks of Vince Morales, 2009 Oregon high school state champion wrestler at UFC Las Vegas.