Despite knocking out Gokhan Saki less than a year ago, it was Saturday night at UFC 236 that witnessed the best fight of Khalil Rountree Jr.’s career.
Eryk Anders was a former defensive stud on the 2009 National Champion Alabama Crimson Tide football team and had stints in the Canadian Football League and Arena Football League before transitioning to MMA. Anders went 8-0 to start his MMA career with six stoppages, winning the LFA middleweight championship before signing with the UFC. Anders is 3-3 in the Octagon and is looking to snap a two-fight losing streak, dropping a controversial split decision to Elias Theodorou in his last appearance.
Khalil Rountree Jr. made a name for himself on The Ultimate Fighter’s 23rd season, going 2-1 with a pair of knockouts. After losing in his first two UFC fights, Rountree knocked out three of his next four opponents, including kickboxing legend Gokhan Saki. Rising star Johnny Walker knocked out Rountree in the first round in the Californian’s last appearance.
Rountree came out in a Thai stance, having recently relocated to the Asian combat sports mecca. He threw out a kick early, and another, staying light on his lead leg. Anders circled, and through the first minute was yet to fire off much of anything. He ate a couple of heavier kicks to the inside of the thigh. Rountree then pressed forward, throwing a combo that had Anders reeling. Back in center, he fired a high kick, partially blocked. Then a leg kick. Later, another. Anders was already showing the damage of the kicks, both visibly, his leg turning a dark shade of red, and in his movement.
A kick to the body by Routree had Anders catch the limb, and land a spinning back fist. However Rountree was not deterred, and continued chopping away at Anders.
At the start of the second, Anders had his legs taken out from under him after a knockdown, and the attack didn’t stop there. Rountree continued kicking at the leg, dropped a bit of ground n’ pound, then let Anders back up. He didn’t stay up long, as Rountree knocked him down with a left. Always a tough out, Anders made it back up, but Rountree landed a knee to the midsection. A left hand connected upstairs for Rountree, who then scored the third knockdown of the round after a nasty flurry of punches. Somehow, Anders survived, and the ref allowed him back up as Rountree backed off. Then, another knockdown! Anders was still in it, and Rountree refused to go to the ground with him.
At least three, if not four knockdowns in the round, depending on whether any could be called slips. No quit in Anders, as he made it out of the frame. In the third, Anders ate a few more blows, but answered back. Rountree landed another low kick. Then threw a combination upstairs. Anders fired off a left, but he was being out-struck in all areas. Especially with the kicks. Rountree looked like an entirely new fighter, one Eryk Anders clearly was not expecting to see. More leg kicks from Rountree underscored that fact. In the end, there was zero question as to the winner.
Khalil Rountree Jr. def. Eryk Anders by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-26)