Bantamweight action fighters Cameron Saaiman and Leomana Martinez faced off on the prelims of UFC 285 in Las Vegas.
Saaiman, a South African kickboxer, looked to improve to 2-0 in the UFC and 8-0 overall. Meanwhile, Mana Martinez tried to get his first UFC winning streak at Saaiman’s expense, as Martinez has traded wins and losses to a 2-1 record in the promotion since 2021.
The fighters came out setting a high pace from the beginning. Saaiman was attacking constantly with the low kicks while Mana looked to land more punches. Saaiman constantly switched stances to show different looks to his opponent. Both men landed decent shots but nothing which hurt either one of them. The South African’s bouncy in and out footwork was effective but sometimes when he rushed in to attack his left leg would give and he would fall to one knee, potentially a result of an early calf kick which may have hit the peroneal nerve of Cameron.
Midway through the round Martinez got hit in the groin by a misplaced kick, causing a brief stoppage, but the fight resumed after a minute off. Saaiman now mostly stayed southpaw and slammed round kicks into Mana, who looked to press forward to crowd the kicker. With ninety seconds in the round Saaiman hit the groin of Mana Martinez once again, leading to a point deduction and a warming from ref Herb Dean not to employ that kick again.
In his UFC debut, Cameron Saaiman also had a point deducted for a foul, that time it was an illegal grounded knee. He may even be the first fighter in UFC history to have a point deducted in his first two fights with the promotion. Regardless, they got going again. Both men threw with bad intentions for the rest of the round, including a Saaiman headkick which snuck through the guard of Mana. Both men did damage, but it seemed likely that Saaiman won the round, making it 9-9 after the point deduction.
Round two opened with a powerful, clean body kick from Saaiman. Mana tried to press forward but had little success push Cameron back to the fence. The pace remained extremely high, with Saaiman initiating most exchanges and Martinez trying to counter. The kicks of Saaiman were as diverse as they were constant, flicking out like lightning to smack into the body or legs of Mana, which now showed plenty of red welts. Mana still fought back though, landing occasionally. At one instance, Mana stepped in to meet Saaiman in the pocket and got met by a straight which suddenly dropped him. He fell to his back where Saaiman jumped on top of him and got into full guard.
Saaiman looked to pass guard but when he got to half guard briefly, Mana did a good job of regaining full guard. In the final minute Cameron rained down solid elbows whenever he won the wrist control battle. He passed to half guard in the last thirty seconds where he rained down elbows and hands until standing up and smacking a few leg kicks right at the bell.
It seemed Saaiman had a lead going into round three, but if Mana could rally then a draw on the scorecards would be possible. Both fighters tried to stance switch to gain an advantage, with Cameron going the extra step and using shifting kick combinations to extend his strikes and catch Mana Martinez. The leg kicks of Saaiman continued to take a toll on Mana’s leg. Ninety seconds into the round he seemed to hurt Martinez and pressed the advantage quickly, but then an eye poke from Saaiman paused the fight once again.
Herb Dean gave a strict warning but did not take a point for this first eye poke infraction but third infraction overall. The pair of bantamweight warriors got back to exchanging kicks at distance, a battle which Saaiman had better tools for. Mana was able to catch him sometimes when Saaiman got too reckless and dove into the pocket. With two minutes left Saaiman caught a kick and dumped Mana to the ground in half guard.
Mana liked to use the knee shield in that position all fight long, and he was able to use that to defend himself and re-guard quickly. Saaiman still worked to land big elbows from full guard which bloodied the face of Mana Martinez even more as the one minute mark came and went. The last thirty seconds saw Saaiman go all out looking for the finish, raining down alternating right and left hands. With ten seconds left Mana Martinez got to his feet. Saaiman slipped again right at the end but nothing came of it as the bell rang to end the fight.
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When the judges scorecards were read it seemed likely Saaiman had won rounds two and three after the probable tie in round one. Bruce Buffer’s announcement confirmed that as the South African fighter won by Majority decision, with each scorecard reading differently as one judge gave him a 10-8 round.
Official Result: Cameron Saaiman def. Leomana Martinez by majority decision (29-26, 29-27, 28-28)