The quickest way from point A to point B is a straight line.
Desmond Green proved that theory Saturday night at KeyBank Center and as a result is now 1-0 as a member of the Ultimate Fighting Championship circuit.
The crowd roared with delight during Green's introduction during the first UFC card to take place in Buffalo in more than two decades. The fans really voiced their approval once ring announcer Bruce Buffer informed them of the scores of the lightweight bout between the former University at Buffalo standout wrestler and fellow mixed martial arts veteran Josh Emmett.
Green, the Rochester native, triumphed via split decision triumph. He proved to be the more patient combatant in handing Emmett his first loss as a professional, 28-29, 29-28, 30-27.
Green improved to 20-5 overall, but he'll always remember his first UFC fight – a debut that essentially qualifies as a hometown one as several folks made the short trek from an hour away to see the 27-year-old dubbed "The Predator."
They helped make Green's night memorable before he even threw his first punch in the octagon.
"I wouldn't trade this debut for anything," said Green, who landed 51 strikes to the head of Emmett and also scored the only takedown of the match. "I was just getting energy from everybody. I felt I stepped in there with every supporter behind me."
Green's match was one of eight on the preliminary card prior to the start of the pay-per-view portion of UFC 210 that culminated with the light heavyweight championship bout between Daniel Cormier and challenger Anthony Johnson.
It's the first UFC bout to take place in Buffalo since Sept. 8, 1995.
Green – a former champion in two regional promotions before earning a contract with UFC – did not look out of place as his patient approach and willingness to duck blows from Emmett proved to be the difference. Green delivered counter strikes and precise, straight jabs to seize control.
He scored a takedown early in the third and final round and landed some punches and also used his wrestling background to keep his foe on the ground for a bit. Emmett did land several strikes to Green's legs throughout, but it wasn't enough to sway two of the three judges who saw Green as the victor.
"Him being shorter than me, it's really easy for me to get overexcited and fall into one of those shots so I just really wanted to pick my shots, be smart about it and be calm, cool and collected," Green said.
Green did admit after the fight he was almost caught up in the moment upon his introduction, looking around and celebrating. He quickly refocused himself.
"I'm like, 'all right Des, stay focused. You're here to get the win. The crowd loves you. You know that but if you lose this fight, all of that was for nothing,'" Green said.
He delivered a performance that gave fans a reason to keep cheering, especially at the end of the fight.
"It was just a perfect debut," said Green, who hopes to land a spot on a future UFC card in Buffalo should it return to the 7-1-6.
Another nearby favorite triumphs
He's not the only fighter from up the Thruway to enjoy Western New York homecooking.
Gregor Gillespie, a Rochester native who now lives on Long Island, remained unbeaten as a professional. The former national championship wrestler for Edinboro needed just 21 seconds to win by TKO against Andrew Holbrook in another lightweight bout.
Gillespie dropped Holbrook with a left to the face after connecting with a hard shot to the ribs and then pounced untop of his foe. Gillespie unleashed a flurry of punches -- forcing the referee to stop the fight.
"Couldn't be happier for Gregor," said Green, who knows Gillespie's brother wrestled against each other back in the day.
Bibulatov's debut a pain for Lausa
The action started slow, so much so that the fans -- a big early turnover for the sold out event -- wasted little time voicing their displeasure as the combatants during the opening bout of UFC 210's undercard went through their feeling out process.
The intensity picked up after that with Chechen fighter Magomed Bibulatov becoming the answer to a trivia question.
Who's the first mixed martial arts competitor to win a UFC bout here since 1995?
After a first-round of minimal action (although there was a low blow from Bibulatov to Lausa), things picked up significantly with Bibulatov improving to 14-0 in his professional career as he won his UFC debut via unanimous decision over Lausa, all by scores of 29-26, at KeyBank Center.
A second low blow during the second round seemed to take a bit of the steam out of Lausa as the fight was stopped for a bit with Bibulatov deducted a point for the foul. After that, Bibulatov dominated -- especially in the third round.
Bibulatov connected on a round-house kick and shortly after that took Lausa (7-3, 1-1 in UFC) to the mat, where he worked him over for the rest of the five-minute round.
According to postfight stats, Bibulatov spent 7:12 on top of his foe -- securing the only two takedowns credited during the match.
"The first fight in a new promotion is always hard," Bibulatov said. "It was a little bit challenging to concentrate, but it turned out well so I’m happy with the result. I wanted to feel him in the standup game because my background is in Karate and I feel comfortable with any kind of standup. When I got the point taken away I decided to go to the ground and take control and not take any risks. I would like to fight someone in the top-10 or 15 next.”
Unlike the opening fight, the second bout of the night wasted little time capturing the attention of the fans at KeyBank Center as the kicks and punches flew often between Katlyn Chookagian and Irene Aldana. When the lightweight women's bout concluded to nice applause, the aggressive Chookagian had her hand raised in triumph as she captured a split decision 28-29, 29-28, 29-28.
Chookagian used her long legs to kick and keep Aldana at bay but also landed more than the occasional punch to the face of her foe. Chookagian knocked Aldana down late in the second round. Aldana popped up but Chookagian kept attacking during the final 40 seconds of the round, with Aldana getting hit in the face while escaping from being trapped against the cage.
Chookagian had the better of Aldana during the final round. While Aldana (7-4) did land a couple shots in an attempt to swing momentum her way, Chookagian blunted that attempt to improve to 9-1 in her career, including 2-1 in UFC.
Burgos drops Rosa; Cummins, Usman victorious
Shane Burgos needed an impromptu haircut during his last fight as his ponytail got in the way of a December bout. Burgos' fists did the cutting in this one as the Monroe resident cut down featherweight foe Charles Rosa via third-round TKO to improve to 9-0.
After absorbing a punch from Rosa, Burgos countered with a four-punch combination, with a left hook flooring Rosa. The ref stopped the fight after Rosa got to his feet only to get drilled with another hard left to the face from Burgos.
Meanwhile, light heavyweight Patrick Cummins earned a much needed victory via majority decision over Jan Blachowicz, 29-28, 29-28, 28-28. The victory is the former Penn State wrestler's second in five bouts.
The 36-year-old snapped a two fight losing by taking over after the first round, getting his foe to the mat during the second and wearing him down. Cummins (9-4) did not relent during the third round in dropping Blachowicz (19-7) to his fourth loss in five fights.
In a welterweight bout, the penultimate fight of the preliminary card, the Nigerian Nightmare Kamaru Usman dominated Sean Strickland via unanimous decision, 30-27, 30-26, 30-26, to improve to 10-1 -- including 5-0 in UFC.
Usman's speed and strength as his mix of boxing and wrestling proved to me too much for Strickland (18-2) to overcome. Usman took down Strickland and cut him during the first round and never let up. Usman looked poise to end it via knockout in the third round after landing a hard punch but the octagon appeared to help Strickland stay on his feet as he staggered away to avoid further punishment but not the defeat.
Myles Jury used his version of a ground-and-pound attack to end a two-fight losing streak and improve to 16-2.
Jury stunned Mike De La Torre with a kick to the head and then got him on the ground where he really went to work. Jury had De La Torre pinned on the ground and unleashed a fury of strikes. He further got De la Torre trapped in a body scissors and continued pounding away until the referee stopped the fight at 3:30. It's the 10th time he has triumphed via knockout/TKO.
"I'm back," Jury exclaimed to the crowd in a post-fight interview.