Stepping up on short notice at UFC 286, former LFA champ Gabriel Santos faced off with Lerone Murphy in a featherweight showdown.
Murphy was coming off a lengthy layoff, having last fought at UFC 267 in October of 2021. Despite the time away, “The Miracle” still represented a tough test for the debuting Brazilian.
Santos wasted no time changing levels and landed a well-timed double leg takedown inside of a minute to star Saturday’s proceedings, but Murphy was almost immediately back up. In a clinch, they headed back to the mat with Murphy coming out on top in the scramble— though it was Santos working to trap an arm. Murphy had Santos folded up against the fence, however, and that forced the Brazilian to ease up on the submission attempt, with Murphy in turn moving back to his feet.
Back at range, Murphy fired kicks, though it was a Santos kick that landed with an audible thud. Murphy was finding success with his right hand; Santos cracked the lead leg with a kick. A switch knee and a combo flowed from Murphy, who later fired a head kick that was blocked. But just as Murphy was opening up, so too was Santos, who landed another takedown with a minute left in the round. They didn’t stay down long, and Murphy showed some stance switches back on the feet, something he’d displayed smoothly throughout the round.
Santos finished the frame with a big left hand, and the pair came together, forehead to forehead, jawing after the horn. Just the right amount of heat in a very entertaining round.
In the second, Murphy opened up, ripping the body and pressing Santos against the fence. Santos tried to reverse; Murphy out-muscled him and landed a knee to the thigh. The ref warned Murphy to show him that he was working to improve position, and he did just that, taking Santos down. Murphy landed some body shots, then stood back up; Santos scrambled up as well. Just moments later, a low blow that appeared to just barely graze Santos brought a halt to the action, but they didn’t stop long.
Back underway, Murphy fired a spinning back fist. Santos connected with a punch, Murphy spun high with a kick. A Santos leg kick then dropped Murphy, who was quickly back up then taken down off a single-leg takedown by Santos. Murphy gave up his back attempting to scramble up, and Santos was right on it, locking on with a body triangle. With seconds left in the round, Santos locked up an arm-bar, but Murphy pulled free just as the buzzer rang.
Round three saw Santos land a takedown just shy of a minute into the round. Murphy scissored his legs and scrambled up, risking his back again, though this time he got away with it. Murphy then reversed along the fence, and fired elbows off the break, followed by a blocked head kick.
Lerone Murphy got his boxing going in the third, and had more gas in the tank than Santos— not all that surprising given Santos had replaced Nathaniel Wood on short notice. Murphy’s right hand was money, and Santos scooped up Murphy and fired a slam takedown rather than stay on the feet.
Following a hard-fought fifteen minutes, it was Lerone Murphy picking up the split decision win.
Official Result: Lerone Murphy def. Gabriel Santos by split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)