A couple of highly-touted bantamweight prospects brought their skills to the Octagon at UFC Vancouver when Canadian Brad Katona battled promotional newcomer Hunter Azure. Katona, 27, was 8-1 coming into the bout and suffered the first loss of his career in his most recent bout.
Prior to that, Katona had won The Ultimate Fighter 27 featherweight tournament, as well as his UFC debut against Matthew Lopez.
Azure hadn’t lost in his professional career ahead of UFC Vancouver. The 27-year-old followed up a successful 3-0 run in LFA with a unanimous decision victory on the Dana White Contender Series in July.
He faced the toughest test of his young career on Saturday night, looking to make waves in one of the promotion’s deepest divisions.
Round 1: Azure fired off a leg kick that missed the mark and Katona looked to land with a right. Azure caught Katona with a big right hand that sent Katona to the mat and he moved in to put on pressure but Katona was quick to his feet and drove Azure into the cage.
Katona worked for the takedown but Azure defended well. Azure escaped and just missed a knee as the two separated but he did land with a head kick that followed. Katona kept up his movement as he slipped away from a body kick then answered with a combination of his own. The two exchanged until Katona shot the takedown and pressed Azure into the cage. Azure assumed a wide stance as Katona looked for the double. Katona powered the legs out from under Azure but Azure used his hands and agility to stay vertical.
Azure tried to spin away but Katona stuck with him and again worked the takedown and pressed Azure against the cage. Azure escaped and looked to land a front kick but Katona slid out of range as the round came to a close.
Round 2: Azure opened with a nice jab that found its mark. Katona circled but Azure fired off a hard left that put Katona on the mat. Katona sprung right back up but Azure stayed with him and kept throwing with power. Katona utilized his movement to avoid the power shot of Azure and he looked for another takedown but Azure slipped to the side and countered with the right. Katona moved forward with a left but Azure countered with an uppercut.
Katona backed off then shot in for the double that took Azure to the mat for a moment. Azure popped back to his feet but Katona kept looking for that takedown and finally getting him back to the mat. Again Azure sprung back to his feet but Katona held on and continued to fight for the takedown. Azure kept a wide stance and Katona switched to a single leg. Azure landed punches on Katona he held on to the takedown attempt and the pair briefly separated and engaged just before the horn sounded to the end the action.
Round 3: Azure came out with a hard right that Katona slipped away from. Azure rushed forward with a combination that missed the target. Katona answered back with a leg kick but Azure kept advancing. Azure missed on a leg kick and Katona moved in for a left hook that he pulled back, Azure then landed a hard right before Katona again shot in for the takedown. Azure defended and Katona gave up on the attempt but landed a nice uppercut as they separated. Azure moved forward with a left but Katona changed levels and quickly got the takedown but it was only for a moment and the two were standing again.
Back on their feet, the men exchanged again with Azure missing his combination but Katona landing left hook. Azure shot his own takedown that Katona defended, locked in the clinch then tripped Azure to the mat. Katona was quick to take his back and looked for the choke.
Azure tried to explode out and spun out from the bottom to take the top position. Just before the horn Azure broke to his feet spun and tried to land one last punch on a down Katona.
Winner: Azure def. Katona by Unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 29-28)