The streaking Tyson Pedro took on Modestas Bukauskas in the latter’s return to the UFC as part of Saturday’s UFC 284 preliminary card.
Pedro had been on a two-fight first round finish streak since his return from a four-year hiatus last year. The UFC’s return to Australia was a perfect opportunity for him to showcase his skills in front of his fellow countrymen. Meanwhile, Bukauskas had been cut from the UFC after a horrific knee injury caused by a kick from Khalil Rountree. Outside the promotion, the ‘Baltic Gladiator’ won back his old belt, the Cage Warriors light heavyweight title and then got his ticket back into the UFC when Tyson Pedro needed an opponent on short notice.
There was a feeling that anything could happen when these two warriors collided.
The first round began with a wild missed spinning kick from Modestas. He switched stances constantly while standing across from the orthodox Pedro. One minute in Bukauskas landed a clean left hook, and then a few seconds later another, bigger one. He was landing clean shots while Pedro hardly landed much of anything.
Bukauskas’ footwork on the outside was able to keep Pedro from trapping him, mostly. Eventually Pedro did get him in the clinch against the fence though. He used his leverage to twist and lift Modestas to the mat, settling in side control. When he tried to elevate to pass the guard, Bukauskas twisted and got to his knees, but Pedro threatened a front choke which he used to put his foe back on the mat. Modestas got to his feet soon after, though Pedro tried to do a fancy trick to get a flying leglock of some sort and failed. Not much happened in the remaining minute until the last five seconds when Bukauskas landed a spinning back kick to the chest and then a big left hand, the biggest strike of the fight thus far.
Round two kicked off with Tyson Pedro breathing heavy and looking tired. Still he came out and landed a leg kick, a tool that had won him his last two fights at least in part. The pace was similar to the first round, careful and considered, but Pedro was landing more strikes now that he was going to the leg kicks. Both fighters only landed upstairs periodically until halfway through the round Pedro threw a teep kick to the belly while Bukauskas was coming forward. The result was a brutal groin strike which crippled the ‘Baltic Gladiator’ momentarily.
Living up to his nickname, Bukauskas only took about thirty seconds to recover before indicating he could continue. He got back to it with a left body kick, but Pedro returned with two body kicks of his own. With a minute left in the round Pedro got into the clinch but Bukauskas did a good job framing off and getting underhooks to keep from being taken down. He reversed the clinch and got outside position, which he used to land while breaking the clinch with twenty seconds left. Bukauskas landed some last few decent shots before the bell sounded.
Both of the first two rounds were close, meaning the scorecards could have been all over the place, so both fighters really needed to take the final round. Pedro opened with a right hand but Bukauskas responded with a cleaner counter shot that snapped the Aussie’s head back. One minute in Pedro came forward with a right hand which he used to enter the clinch in an over/under position. Bukauskas was able to defend the takedown and separate with only slight difficulty.
Bukauskas seemed to have a slight edge on the feet once more, as Pedro by that point had largely gotten away from the leg kicks which made him more competitive in early round two. With two minutes left Pedro did not seem to be going for it much, despite needing to have some urgency in order to win. Bukauskas was somewhat urgent, as he kept a higher pace and kept throwing big 1-2s. With one minute left Pedro clinched up again but Bukauskas got the outside position by the time they got to the fence and landed some knees while there. The clinch broke with twenty seconds left and Bukauskas threw big shots, all of which missed at first. Then, after a clinch initiated by Pedro broke, Bukauskas opened up once more with punches and this time landed. Tyson Pedro circled out to avoid them and thus the clock ran out on the fifteen minutes of fight time.
15 HARD minutes in the books! @tyson_pedro_ and @BalticGladiator take it to the score cards in our #UFC284 Featured Prelim! pic.twitter.com/dzkQ93Ztsp
— UFC (@ufc) February 12, 2023
Bruce Buffer’s reading of the scorecards revealed that all three were unanimous for Modestas Bukauskas. After facing massive adversity with his injury and being cut from the UFC, the ‘Baltic Gladiator’ stayed true to his warrior name and returned at UFC 284 to get a win as an underdog against a highly touted prospect.
Official Result: Modestas Bukauskas def. Tyson Pedro by Unanimous Decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)