The Ultimate Fighter Season 30 heavyweight finalist Zac Pauga moved back down to his natural weight class Saturday at UFC Vegas 69. In the night’s co-main event, he took on a former middleweight moving up: Jordan Wright. Wright was 2-4 in the UFC with only a single fight going past a round; it ended late in the second.
Wright is all-action, no matter what his record is, and it was interesting to see how Pauga would respond to the wild style of ‘The Beverly Hills Ninja.’
Pauga opened the fight pressing forward. He launched into an overhand right and then turned it into a clinch entry. He held Wright there but then broke to land a big elbow before jumping back into the clinch again. Pauga landed more elbows in the clinch and used his size to grind down the much smaller man. The only thing that was able to break the clinch was an accidental knee to the groin of Wright, at which time Mark Smith stopped the fight for the time it took him to recover.
Yet, when the fight was resumed, Smith put them back in that same position in the clinch, ruling they had both fired knees at the same time. So Zac Pauga kept pushing his likely significant weight advantage. At the very end of the round Pauga was able to open up with elbows and knees again, leaving Wright’s face masked in blood when he walked to his corner.
The cuts from the elbows marred Jordan Wright’s face as round two started. Pauga did not immediately clinch in that round, but they ended up there early on anyways. After about a minute there, Wright was able to shake off Pauga and get back to space. On the feet they were tentative as they figured out the open stance match-up. Wright did not take advantage of his time fast enough as he was walked into a corner, which let Pauga drive him right into the clinch with ease again.
Halfway through the round, after little damage before it, Pauga opened up with a big, four strike flurry of elbows, all of which were thrown at full power into Wright’s head and high guard. Pauga got back to controlling Wright after that. In the last thirty seconds of the round Wright got back to striking range but he got stuck back in the clinch. As the round was about to end he opened up with elbows and Wright traded with him in the pocket for those final few seconds.
Round three started with Jordan Wright at a large deficit on the scorecards. He had been controlled for two rounds and needed to pull off something drastic. Pauga came forward to start the round and was countered by a hook from Wright. His coach had encouraged him to knock out his opponent now and he was trying to, but had trouble getting into range to strike. The pair traded open side body kicks as they circled each other, striking only periodically.
Ninety seconds into the round Pauga landed a right hook and Wright hit the floor, but only momentarily. He got back to his feet and kept looking to try to counter Pauga. Since Pauga was allowed to lead with no resistance, he managed to find his timing and start jabbing up Wright, before just clinching him halfway through the round anyways. The fight did not end there though; they got back to striking range and traded leather for the finale. Not many massive strikes landed, but they each got their licks in.
When the final bell sounded it was clear who would get the decision. The judges scorecards confirmed that sentiment as all three gave it to Zac Pauga, who won his first UFC fight outside of the TUF 30 finale, just one fight after losing for the first time in his pro career.
Official Result: Zac Pauga def. Jordan Wright by Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)