Out of action since July of 2018, TUF 18 vet Davey Grant made a successful return to the octagon Saturday at UFC Moscow, earning a hard-fought split decision against Grigorii Popov.
Ultimate Fighter 18 cast member Davey Grant had struggled to make it to the octagon since appearing on the show in 2013. Including his appearance in the show’s finale that year, England’s Grant had graced the octagon just four times, going 1-3 in that span. Injuries had hampered any chance at Grant finding his rhythm in the promotion, but on Saturday at UFC Moscow, he had one more chance to get his hand raised.
He just had to do it in the heart of enemy territory, against Grigorii Popov, whose loss to Eddie Wineland in his UFC debut had snapped a ten-fight win streak.
Grant started his first fight of 2019 light on the feet, attacking with kicks but constantly moving. Stance switches came fluidly, but one of those kicks, a side kick, landed low, halting the pace for just a moment. Back underway, Grant did not change his game plan, finding more success with kicks to the calf and body. Popov, meanwhile, was able to land a couple of counter over Grant’s kicks, and each punch that landed seemed to have a little pepper to it.
Grant, however, took the fight down at the midway mark of the opening round. Working in guard, he’d have to contend with submission attempts and upkicks from Popov, slamming him at one point. Popov would pop up, but Grant would pursue a second takedown while eating elbows. This time, however, Grant briefly got to mount when the fight did go to the ground. In a scramble in the final minute, Popov used knee-on-belly to control Grant, but Grant was able to free himself, and the pair would finish the frame on the feet.
Round two was one of adjustment. Popov added more of his own kicks. Grant spent a little more time in southpaw early, and added a jumping knee attempt and big overhand right, both of which fell short. Popov then signaled that he’d been hit low, causing the ref to pause the action.
Back underway, Grant connected with a hard straight right hand, then shot for a takedown, which Popov fought off. Grant then controlled to the back, securing a takedown but landing on bottom. He escaped in an instant then took the back with one hook just as Popov moved up. That allowed Grant to muscle the fight back down, but Popov locked in a nasty looking kimura which required Grant’s full attention. Kimura gave way to arm-bar, but Grant was able to defend the submission and transition to the top in the process. Grant landed at least one big bomb from the top before the pair rolled, but Grant taking the back briefly but finishing the round on top.
In round three it was Grigorii Popov landing a low blow early. Grant uncorked a spinning back fist, and a right hand that led to a takedown attempt. Popov defended with a knee and some crushing elbows, but Grant would eventually drag his opponent down. Once again, Popov would try to work on a kimura, but it was nowhere near what it was in the previous round. The elbows, however, were still nasty, and Popov would eventually free himself. Heading into the final minute, Popov landed an elbow, but with time running out, Popov was running the risk of coming up short on the scorecards. Grant spent the final minute on the defensive, but should have done enough to secure the win. Which turned out to be the case with two judges, giving Grant the split decision win.
Official Result: Davey Grant def. Grigorii Popov by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)