LAS VEGAS — Canadian featherweight Kyle (The Monster) Nelson, who won just one of his first six UFC outings, made it two victories in a row Saturday when he earned a unanimous decision over Mexico's Fernando Padilla.
The Fight Night card at T-Mobile Arena was dubbed Noche UFC, in honour of Mexican Independence Day.
The pro-Mexican crowd booed Nelson (15-5-1) after the 29-28, 29-28, 30-27 decision, which improved his UFC record to 3-4-1.
"I've got to say thank you to my fiancée. We're expecting a baby soon," Nelson said in his post-fight interview in the cage. "So you guys can boo all you want but I'm the happiest man in the world right now."
Nelson called out Cub Swanson after the bout, saying he wanted to fight him in January.
Lupita (Loopy) Godinez, a Mexican-born strawweight who is based in Canada, extended her winning streak to three in the UFC with an impressive submission win over American Elise Reed. Godinez has won five of her last six UFC bouts and is 6-3-0 in the promotion.
Canadian Jasmine Jasudavicius lost a 30-27, 30-27, 29-28 decision to American Tracy Cortez, ranked No. 14 among flyweight contenders.
The main event saw Mexico's Alexa Grasso retain her flyweight title with a split draw with former champion Valentina (Bullet) Shevchenko, a native of Kyrgyzstan who fights out of Las Vegas.
One judge scored it 48-47 for Grasso, another went 48-47 for Shevchenko with the third scoring it 47-47 (giving Grasso a 10-8 edge in the fifth round). The draw means Grasso retains the belt.
Padilla was both the betting and crowd favourite against the 32-year-old Nelson, who calls Huntsville, Ont., home but spends Monday to Thursday in his House of Champions training base in Stoney Creek some 275 kilometres away.
Nelson was giving up five inches in reach and two in height to the six-foot-one Mexican, who stopped American Julian (Juicy J) Erosa in his UFC debut in April.
Padilla scored with the jab early but ate some nasty leg kicks doing so. The jabs took a toll however, and Nelson was soon bleeding from the nose. Two of the three judges awarded the Mexican the first round.
Nelson turned it on in the second round, catching Padilla with a right to the chin and then a high kick. The bout was paused briefly in the round after Nelson absorbed a kick to the groin.
Nelson, who was cut under the left eye, kept moving and looking to counter in the third.
Nelson, who has also fought in the UFC as a lightweight, had an 82-72 edge in significant strikes according to UFC Stats.
Born in Aguascalientes, Mexico, Godinez moved to Vancouver with her family when she was 12.
Godinez (11-3-0) was a favourite going into the bout and soon showed why. Godinez took Reed down twice in the first round and had a 15-2 edge in significant strikes in the second.
Godinez sent Reed tumbling to the canvas with a left hook to the head in the first round and then slammed her to the ground when she got back up. Reed then had to fight off a choke and then an armbar attempt that was hard to watch as her limb was bent at an abnormal angle.
Somehow Reed survived the round, getting to her feet with Godinez glued to her arm.
"I need you to hit her," Reed's corner told her between rounds.
Godinez had other ideas, punishing Reed with strikes before slamming her to the canvas again and choking out the American at 3:30 of the second round.
Reed (7-4-0) had two hematomas on her forehead like mini-horns when the fight was called.
"I am so happy. I feel better than ever," said Godinez, who did a victory dance in the cage.
In Cortez, Jasudavicius was facing a fight with power and speed. The American also showed good takedown defence, stuffing eight of 10 attempts by Jasudavicius.
Two of those takedowns came in a better second round for Jasudavicius (9-3-0). But Cortez (11-1-0) stopped all four takedown attempts in the third.
Jasudavicius kept coming in the third and the two fighters exchanged words with Cortez seemingly unhappy at a blow to the back of the head.
Cortez landed 103 significant strikes to 77 for Jasudavicius.
The 34-year-old from St. Catharines, Ont., who trains in Niagara Falls, Ont., had won her last two outings, earning decisions over American Miranda (Fear The) Maverick at UFC 289 in June in Vancouver, and Brazil's Gabrielle (Gabi) Fernandes in February in Las Vegas.
Jasudavicius fell to 3-2-0 in the UFC since earning her contract on Dana White's Contender Series in September 2021. She won her UFC debut in January 2022 with a decision over American Kay Hansen at UFC 270 before losing a decision to Brazil's Natalia Silva in June 2022.
Cortez, who last fought in May 2022 due to injuries, has won all five of her UFC bouts and extended her win streak to 11 in all promotions.
"No matter what life throws at me, you can't break me," an emotional Cortez said after the fight.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 16, 2023.
The Canadian Press