Brazilian flyweight Taila Santos, showing impressive grappling skills, won a unanimous decision Saturday over Canadian Gillian (The Savage) Robertson on the undercard of a UFC Fight Night card.
The judges scored it 30-26, 30-26, 29-28 for Santos (17-1-0).
The matchup had seemed to pit a grappler, Robertson, against a striker, Santos. But Santos, who had 10 finishes by KO/TKO among her 16 previous wins, beat Robertson at her own game by controlling the ground fighting.
Robertson (9-5-0) came into the fight ranked 13th among 125-pound UFC contenders, having won two straight and four of her last five fights, adding to the UFC record book along the way.
The 25-year-old Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt from Niagara Falls, Ont., who now calls Port Saint Lucie, Fla., home, is tied for most victories in the women’s flyweight division (6), held the record for most finishes (5) and was tied for second in takedowns (14) in flyweight history.
Saturday’s main event at the UFC’s Apex production facility pitted fifth-ranked welterweight contender Steven (Wonderboy) Thompson against No. 11 Geoff (Handz of Steel) Neal.
The five-foot-six Santos, one inch taller than Robertson. had a five-inch each advantage on the Canadian.
Robertson pulled guard in the first minute, looking for a submission. But Santos resisted and found herself in top position, cutting the Canadian with an elbow from above. Robertson kept attacking, looking to fire elbows from below.
Robertson tried for a takedown early in the second round but Santos fought her off and then powered the Canadian to the ground. The two both looked for submissions with Robertson, her face bleeding, eventually reversing position.
But Santos fought back and regained top position, squashing Robertson against the fence.
Robertson tried for another takedown to open the third, pulling guard and trying for a guillotine choke. Santos fought her off and took top position.
Robertson kept fighting from bottom position and came close to an armbar with 90 seconds remaining. Santos coolly resisted, however.
Robertson, who entered the UFC after being part of the cast of Season 26 of “The Ultimate Fighter” reality TV show, fell to 6-3-0 in the UFC.
The 27-year-old Santos improved to 2-1 in the UFC since graduating from Dana White’s Contender Series. Robertson had been signed to fight Santos several months ago only to have the bout derailed by pandemic-related travel restrictions for the Brazilian.
Canadian bantamweight Aiemann Zahabi was slated to meet UFC newcomer Drako (The Great Drakolini) Rodriguez on Saturday’s undercard. But the 33-year-old from Laval, Que., the younger brother of renowned trainer Firas Zahabi, had to pull out after testing positive for COVID-19.
“It’s heartbreaking for me not to be there fight week in Vegas but thankfully my Covid 19 symptoms haven’t been too bad so far. Wishing you all love and safety during this pandemic,” Zahabi said on social media.
Robertson had been slated to face No. 11 Andrea (KGB) Lee at UFC 256 on Dec. 12. Santos, whose Dec. 5 fight was called off when her opponent tested positive for COVID-19, stepped in when Lee was injured in training,
Robertson’s bout was subsequently pushed back to Saturday with the change in opponents.