UFC 302: Wonky Scorecard Not Withstanding, Roman Kopylov Wins Clear Decision Over Cesar Almeida

Cesar Almeida and Roman Kopylov, UFC 302
Cesar Almeida and Roman Kopylov, UFC 302 ceremonial weigh-in Credit: Dylan Napoloene/Cageside Press

The featured fight at UFC 302 in Newark on Saturday saw middleweights in action, as Cesar Almeida squared off opposite Roman Kopylov.

A big night for the division (Sean Strickland faced Paulo Costa in the co-main event), Kopylov looked to bounce back from a loss to Anthony “Fluffy” Hernandez that had snapped a four-fight win streak. Almeida, a former kickboxer, looked to improve to 6-0, meanwhile, and follow in the footsteps of fellow kickboxers turned mixed martial artists Israel Adesanya and Alex Pereira- the latter of whom he had faced three times in the ring.

The fight began with the two fighters immediately exchanging kicks to the body and legs in the center of the octagon. Kopylov landed some strikes upstairs in an exchange while Almedia began to look to land the jab to the body. Kopylov clipped Almedia in the pocket before moving back slightly and landing a nice body kick. To finish the exchange, Kopylov secured a nice takedown landing some strikes as Almeida cage walked to return to his feet.  With the two fighters on their feet, Kopylov landed a massive straight left that dropped his opponent to the canvas. Kopylov followed his opponent to the ground and landed some nice hammer fists before he brought the fight back to the feet. Kopylov found another takedown seconds later and ended up in Almedia’s guard as the time expired for the first round.

The second round opened with Almedia again looking for kicks at a distance with varying levels of success. Against the cage, Kopylov landed another strong counter mid leg kick attempt from Almedia. With 90 seconds off the clock, Kopylov had his opponent pinned against the cage as Almedia threatened a guillotine and landed some solid knees to the body. Kopylov was able to gain control of the wrist and disengage, and the two men were back in space. Roman’s strikes started to look a little more labored as Cesar began to throw a bit more volume. Luckily, Kopylov was able to land a well-timed takedown and land in the modified guard of his opponent. With around a minute left in the round, Almedia was able to regain full guard and land some small strikes from the bottom. Roman was mostly inactive from the top position.

The final round opened with Kopylov on the outside as his opponent really turned up the heat and landed some slick counters. A minute into the round and Cesar is looked surgical with his hands picking at the body of his fatigued opponent. Kopylov was able to land another well timed takedown again landing in his opponent’s full guard. The two fighters are in the center of the octagon as Almeida attempted to get to a hip to in order to start to get to his feet. With a couple minutes left in the round, the referee warns Kopylov to continue to be active and seconds later the men are instructed to get back to their feet. Kopylov, who at this point looked extremely fatigued, again shot for multiple takedowns before successfully returning his opponent to his back.

Kopylov would briefly return to his feet, with seconds left, but Cesar remained on his back. Roman was able to hop into half guard where he remained until the final bell sounded. Come the decision, two judges sided with Kopylov in what was realistically a clear victory, continuing a trend of questionable dissenting scores on the night.

Official Result: Roman Kopylov def. Cesar Almeida by Split Decision (29-28, 28-29, 30-27)