Rafa Garcia was stepping up on just a few days’ notice at UFC Vegas 21, making his promotional debut in the process. Filling in for Don Madge, Garcia was matched up with Nasrat Haqparast — not an easy out for a first opponent in the UFC.
The UFC lightweight division is constantly called the most talented and stacked division, and with fighters like Haqparast vs. Garcia, it’s understandable.
The pairing was being billed as a striker vs. grappler match-up in advance of the fight, mainly because of Haqparast’s knockouts and Garcia’s submissions. But if you bought into that over-simplification, you were fooled again, because both fighters stood up the whole time and threw bombs.
All three rounds, the lightweight fighters stood and traded punches. Garcia never let Haqparast breathe, and he kept the constant pressure. As expected, it was a tough test for the promotional newcomer. Especially on short notice.
— UFC (@ufc) March 13, 2021
Haqparast showed just how good of a striker he is, as he repeatedly landed crisp, heavy combos. While Gracia had heart and kept coming forward throughout the bout, it was a clear unanimous decision win for Haqparast. Two judges, however, did awarded Garcia a round in the end.
There is no doubt that Garcia deserves to be in the UFC. He’ll be fun to watch with a full fight camp, given he took this fight on very short notice.
Haqparast, meanwhile, has rebounded tremendously since his knockout loss to Drew Dober last year. A rebooking with Arman Tsarukyan would make sense for him next as he tries to climb up the incredibly stacked top 15 lightweight division.
Official Results: Nasrat Haqparast def. Rafa Garcia via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)