UFC 303: Rei Tsuruya Takes Decision Against Carlos Hernandez

Rei Tsuruya and Carlos Hernandez, UFC 303
Rei Tsuruya and Carlos Hernandez, UFC 303 ceremonial weigh-in Credit: Eddie Law/Cageside Press

Road to UFC star Rei Tsuruya made his official UFC debut on Saturday at UFC 303, taking on fellow flyweight Carlos Hernandez as part of the night’s early preliminary card.

Tsuruya was a perfect 9-0 to start the night, and a former Pancrase champ. A 2021 Contender Series winner, Hernandez had gone 2-2 in the UFC through his first four fights. He entered UFC 303 off a loss against Tatsuro Taira.

To start round one it was Tsuruya getting a takedown a minute into the fight. Hernandez scrambled and suplexed Tsuruya to the mat. Tsuruya used a leg lock to smoothly scramble back to his feet. Both guys were trying to find their range on the feet in the first round. Hernandez was the aggressor and Tsuruya timed a takedown entry and threw Hernandez to the mat. Hernandez scrambled really well but almost put him into a twister. A really fun grappling exchange went down to end the round.

In round two, as soon as they got started Tsuruya got the single-leg takedown. Hernandez continued to scramble but Tsuruya had an answer for everything. He had Hernandez in a crucifix at one point. The defense of Hernandez was on point but Tsuruya was like an octopus on the mat. He again almost got Hernandez in a twister but Hernandez barely escaped. Hernandez survived the round but was never able to get to his feet.

In the final round an immediate shot came from Tsuruya. He tried another throw but lost balance and Hernandez landed on top. It was the first time Hernandez had top position in the fight but he wasn’t producing any offense. Eventually, Tsuruya got to his hip and grabbed a leg to scramble to his feet. Tsuruya got a brief takedown but a lot of time was spent with his back on the cage. Hernandez controlled the position against the cage but wasn’t landing anything significant to the bell. The judges all saw it the same, 29-28 Rei Tsuruya.

Official Result: Rei Tsuruya def. Carlos Hernandez by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)