After an extended layoff, Canada’s Tristan Connelly returned at UFC 261 — down two weight classes. Having made his octagon debut at welterweight opposite Michel Pereira and pulling off the upset, he’d been forced to take time off — the pandemic, a car crash, and surgery all played a factor. But he was back on Saturday, in a tough match-up with Pat Sabatini.
Sabtini was finally making his octagon debut, after a fight in February with Rafael Alves was scrapped when Alves missed weight.
Connelly found himself in another car crash early on Saturday night. An early punch from Sabatini put him on his backside, and Sabatini quickly got on top. Connelly looked to force Sabatini into half-guard, but he was in a rather awkward position, and nowhere near escaping. Still, Connelly managed to work his way back closer to the fence — but he ate a left hand from Sabatini, who then moved in for an arm-triangle choke. In response, Connelly gave up his back; Sabatini locked in a body triangle. That left Connelly fighting off a rear-naked choke, with well over a minute remaining in the opening round. He’d survive, but the round belonged to Sabatini.
Round two had the pair trading early, and Sabatini tried a switch kick. But again, it found Connelly on his back, with Sabatini on top of him. A scramble ensued, but eventually, Sabatini would again take the back, and again, he would lock on with a body triangle. This time, Connelly rolled to his knees, trying to shake Sabatini off. Which sort of worked, but he had to contend with an arm-triangle, which forced him to give up his back again. Connelly ended the round throwing backfists and hammering at the thighs of his opponent, which wasn’t going to score him any points.
Round three found Tristan Connelly in need of a finish. Early in the frame, he managed to fight off a Sabatini takedown attempt. A small victory for the confidence of the Canadian, perhaps, but he was no closer to finding a finish. That was the story of the round. Improved takedown defense from Connelly, but with Sabatini already out in front, the writing was on the wall. Connelly even landed a takedown of his own in the final minute, but that was a too little, too late situation.
Official Result: Pat Sabatini def. Tristan Connelly by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)