Brazilian Marlon Moraes won a hotly-contested split-decision over John Dodson at UFC Norfolk Saturday night.
Featuring two of the most talented fighters in one of the UFC’s deepest divisions, the bout between former flyweight title-challenger John Dodson and former World Series of Fighting bantamweight champion Marlon Moraes was a matchup every MMA fan could get behind. The matchmaking by UFC brass has been on-point in 2018, and fights like this are a big reason why. UFC Fight Night 120 in Norfolk, VA was no exception.
Both fighters came into the bout ranked in the top-10 in the UFC’s 135-pound division, which features a loaded top-tier. Featuring a new champion in TJ Dillashaw, as well as fresh injuries to title-contenders Cody Garbrandt and Dominick Cruz, there’s room for a fighter to join the title-party.
Dodson was coming off of a win over Eddie Wineland in April, improving his record to 2-1 since returning to bantamweight in 2016. His loss came to John Lineker in October of 2016. Meanwhile, Moraes was making just the second UFC appearance of his career at UFC Norfolk, following his split-decision loss to Raphael Assuncao at UFC 212. It was his first professional loss since November of 2011.
Both fighters had faced tough competition in the UFC’s bantamweight division, and had the chance to add to their already-impressive resumés in Norfolk.
Moraes looked to control the center of the Octagon early, while Dodson fired his lightning-fast left-hand throughout the opening minutes. Moraes struck well before Dodson bounced off of the cage, and landed a strong left dropping Moraes halfway through the round.
With about two minutes left, Moraes hit Dodson directly in the groin, stopping the action for a short period. As action resumed, Moraes continued to throw consistent kicks, but unfortunately landed an eye-poke on Dodson with under 30 seconds remaining. In a mostly even round, neither fighter was able to take control of the bout.
An angry Dodson came out for round two, but Moraes was once again controlling the pace from the center of the Octagon. Landing a heavy right in the first minute, Moraes was able to keep Dodson on the back-foot early in the second stanza. After an accidental headbutt, Moraes looked for a heel-hook following a couple of strong takedowns from caught-leg-kicks by Dodson. Dodson was unable to get inside and land consistently against Moraes, who likely took a slim lead heading into the final round.
The pace slowed in round three, as both fighters struggled to take control in the first couple of minutes. Dodson was slightly more aggressive, but didn’t land anything strong enough to shift the balance of the bout in the first half of the third round. Dodson landed more efficiently over the course of the fight, and looked the fresher fighter in the final round, but failed to land the finishing blow on Moraes. Moraes threatened with a late choke, but Dodson survived.
In a split-decision that saw both fighters earn the win according to the judges, Marlon Moraes earned the first victory of his UFC career. He called out Jimmie Rivera in the post-fight interview, citing his lack of an opponent after Dominick Cruz broke his arm last week.
Marlon Moraes def. John Dodson via split-decision (30-27, 27-30, 30-27)