Two heavyweights with plenty of finishing ability squared off on the UFC Vegas 24 preliminary card on Saturday.
Juan Espino may have slipped some fans’ minds due to inactivity. Still, the TUF 28 heavyweight winner was looking to make it two fights within twelve months when he took on Alexander Romanov. Espino was also looking for his third straight win inside the UFC. Romanov, meanwhile, was a perfect 13-0 to start the night and inching closer to a spot in the rankings.
Both men boasted excellent submission games — but would one bring about an early end to the fight on the ground, or would their skills cancel each other out?
Well, an early end did come, but for all the wrong reasons.
Romanov started the fight off with a low calf kick, with Espino going side to side. Romanov threw a high kick, and Espino blocked it. Romanov then landed a power takedown two minutes into the round. Espino got to his feet, but Romanov kept him against the fence. Espino got Romanov off him for a few seconds, but the relentless Romanov clinched again. Espino landed a fantastic throw on Romanov with two minutes left in the round. That allowed Espino to move to mount with a minute left, where he began working over Romanov’s body. Romanov got up, and Espino put him back down. Romanov got up again, and this time put Espino against the fence to end the round. With five seconds left, Romanov threw a spinning back fist. It was a very tough round to score.
Romanov threw a left hook to start round two, an attack that missed. Both fighters started swinging, and Romanov rushed at Espino. Romanov was talking to the referee, and Espino landed a knee. Romanov took Espino down quickly after the knee. Romanov landed a short elbow with 2:55 left in round two. He started to land heavy ground and pound, which led the referee to tell Espino to defend himself. Espino tried to get to his feet, but Romanov kept him against the cage. Romanov tried for a guillotine, but Espino got out of it. With a minute left in round two, Romanov was put against the cage by Espino. Romanov rushed Espino again and tried for a takedown.
Both fighters looked tired to start round three. Espino threw a punch, with Romanov instead going for a takedown. It was Espino who took Romanov down, however, but he worked his way back up against the cage. Espino then hit Romanov down low with a knee, and the fight was halted. A clearly pained Romanov did not look to be in great shape. After some time, Romanov told the ref and cageside doctor that he could not continue, and the fight was over.
With a full two rounds in the books, it went to the scorecards. In the end, a rarely seen technical split decision left Romanov undefeated, while handing Espino his first UFC loss.
Official Result: Alexander Romanov def. Juan Espino by technical split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)