Liverpool lightweight Paddy Pimblett delivered on his promise of a first-round finish on his UFC debut with a stunning TKO win over Luigi Vendramini.
Pimblett was rocked by a big left hand from Vendramini early on, but recovered quickly before turning the tables on his opponent in stunning fashion.
A right hand from Pimblett stunned the Brazilian, and “The Baddy” followed up with a breathless salvo of strikes that eventually dropped Vendramini and forced referee Mark Smith to step in and wave off the bout at the 4:25 mark.
“What did I tell you, Mike?” he told English UFC Hall of Famer and former middleweight champion Michael Bisping who interviewed him in the ring after his victory at UFC Fight Night 191 in Las Vegas.
“”Me and you will be having this conversation after a first-round finish.’ And what happened?”
After Bisping mentioned that Pimblett was caught early in the fight, the victorious Englishman shrugged it off, as he grinned: “I’m a Scouser. We don’t get knocked out!”
He then announced his arrival as a new force in the UFC’s lightweight division, before calling on UFC president Dana White and matchmaker Sean Shelby to bring the UFC back to England.
“I’m here to take over, lad. I’m the new cash cow. I’m the new main man on the UFC roster,” he declared.
“People are going to be calling me out now. You know who the boy is!
“Dana, Shelby, let’s get England back on, lad! Let’s get back to the UK.
“Get your boy in the main event, or the co-main, and I’ll blow the roof off the gaff.”
Pimblett, 26, was constantly linked with the UFC throughout his time with British MMA promotion Cage Warriors, where he became a featherweight champion.
But, despite twice being offered contracts to join the UFC, Pimblett turned down the chance on both occasions, opting instead to stay on the UK scene until he felt he was ready to make the jump to the world stage.
He made that leap on Saturday at the UFC Apex.
Till loses out as Brunson targets title shot
In the main event of the evening, Darren Till’s hopes of earning a shot at UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya were dealt a blow as the English middleweight lost to veteran contender Derek Brunson.
Liverpool’s Till, 28, looked sharp in the stand-up exchanges early on, but had no answer to Brunson’s takedowns.
After two rounds spent largely on the mat, Till started to find his mark in round three. But, after Till connected with a big straight left that appeared to hurt Brunson, the American managed to drag Till to the canvas, where he submitted him with a rear-naked choke at the 2:13 mark to extend his winning streak to five fights.
“I’m tired of these guys not mentioning my name,” said a frustrated Brunson after the fight, before saying he is happy to wait for his title opportunity, rather than continue facing other contenders.
“I’m not broke, I’ll sit and wait,” he said.
“I know Izzy [Adesanya] and [Robert] Whittaker have got a fight coming up. I’ll sit and wait.
“That’ll give me five or six fights to get my body right and prepare for this last, long title push that I’m trying to make.”
Aspinall claims quickfire finish
The night’s co-main event saw English heavyweight prospect Tom Aspinall score his fourth consecutive win in the octagon with a first-round victory over Moldova’s Serghei Spivac.
Manchester fighter Aspinall, 28, submitted former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski in February to move into the UFC’s heavyweight rankings.
That run of success continued on Saturday night when Aspinall dropped Spivac with an elbow from the clinch, then finished his man with a flurry of ground strikes at the 2:30 mark to register the 11th win of his professional career.
After his victory, Aspinall said he wanted to continue his steady rise up the heavyweight rankings
“I just want to fight someone ranked above me, you know?” he said.
“I’m trying to move up this thing slow. If I’m [ranked] number 13, give me number 12.
“It was pretty sweet. I actually hurt my elbow on his head.
“The first punch that I threw, I smashed my hand, so I’ll have to get that checked out. But I’m ready, man. I’m ready!”
Bukauskas suffers painful defeat
It was not a happy a night for England-based Lithuanian Modestas Bukauskas, who suffered a broken nose and damaged knee ligaments in a second-round TKO loss to Khalil Rountree.
Former Cage Warriors light heavyweight champion Bukauskas, 27, was in big trouble early on as Rountree chased an early finish with a series of thunderous punches.
Bukauskas weathered the storm and made it into the second round. But an oblique kick from Rountree collapsed “The Baltic Gladiator’s” left knee and brought the fight to an immediate end.
Brits claim preliminary card wins
The featured preliminary bout of the night saw Liverpool’s Molly McCann snap her two-fight losing streak with a hard-earned decision win over Ji Yeon Kim.
Despite conceding a 10-inch reach advantage to her South Korean opponent, McCann, 31, stayed in the pocket and kept the pressure on to earn a unanimous decision victory, with scores of 29-28 on all three scorecards.
Earlier in the night, undefeated Welsh bantamweight Jack Shore improved his perfect professional record to 15-0 with a unanimous decision win over Liudvik Sholinian.
Shore, 26, was calm and composed throughout the bout as he methodically outstruck the Ukrainian on the feet and outwrestled him on the mat to earn scores of 30-27 on all three scorecards to register his fourth consecutive win in the UFC.