UFC 216 went down Saturday night live from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. In the main event, Tony Ferguson and Kevin Lee were set to battle it out for the interim lightweight championship, with the shadow of Conor McGregor looming large. In the co-main event, meanwhile, history was set to be made as Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson was scheduled to defend his flyweight title for a record eleventh time. Earlier on in the evening, however, it was fellow flyweights Matt Schnell and Marco Beltran who opened up the televised preliminary card.
Schnell and Beltran were given the bump up to the televised card thanks in part to Nik Lentz falling ill during his weight cut. That resulted in his fight against “Ill” Will Brooks being scrapped from the card, and the flyweights getting some extra television time. With both fighters coming into the night on two fight losing streaks, this particular affair very much had the feel of a “loser leaves town” match.
The first round saw Beltran and Schnell run through a feeling out period in the opening minutes. Both fighters threw solo kicks, low and high, and worked their jab, but it wasn’t til the midway mark that Schnell, for one, put together a successful combination. He would later land a front kick and follow it up by landing another combo, showing he’d seemingly found his timing. Beltran, meanwhile, was working single kicks from the outside, and not landing at nearly the same pace.
The story of round two became Schnell’s movement, which allowed him to negate much of Marco Beltran’s striking. Beltran stayed at range, landing a leg kick early, then going high with his next two, but connecting clean with neither. Schnell then answered back with a combo followed by a leg kick; Beltran touched his opponent’s legs a few more times after that. Beltran would land a pretty switch kick just past the halfway mark, but his setups were telegraphed, and his hands were virtually AWOL. Neither men seemed at all interested in taking the fight to the mat. Schnell, meanwhile, continued to find success with both his kicks and combinations, keeping Beltran frequently moving back, closer and closer to the cage.
With the third getting underway, Marco Beltran could very well have needed a stoppage to claim a victory, depending on how the judges were seeing things. With the fight slipping away from him, Beltran began showing swelling around the eye, and with a slight hint of desperation began bringing the fight to Schnell. For the first time, we saw Schnell on his heels; he seemed to have lost a step and was likely a little fatigued. Despite this, Schnell’s movement served him well until the final seconds, when Beltran scored a takedown that Schnell answered with a late guillotine attempt.
The judges, not surprisingly, saw this one for Matt Schnell, who picked up his first win in the promotion.
Matt Schnell def. Marco Beltran by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 30-27)