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Las Vegan falls short of last-minute UFC glory; big KO for champ — PHOTOS

Updated June 29, 2024 - 11:16 pm

There would be no fairy tale ending for Dan Ige in the co-main event of UFC 303 on Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena.

His story was wild enough without it.

Ige dropped a unanimous decision to Diego Lopes, losing 29-28 on all three cards in a bout he accepted just hours earlier when Brian Ortega fell ill and was unable to compete against Lopes.

“Eight weeks, six weeks, four weeks, four hours?” Ige said. “It doesn’t matter. This is what I live for. This is my dream. I get to wake up every day and do what I love to do.

“I got the call and said, ‘This is an opportunity to become a legend. This is a story I can tell my grandkids.’”

In the main event, Alex Pereira (11-2) retained the light heavyweight title with a devastating knockout of former champ Jiri Procházka (30-5-1).

Pereira dropped Prochazka with a left hook just as the bell sounded to end the first round. The challenger may have still been dazed when the second round opened, as Pereira went to the head with a kick that floored him again. Pereira followed up with punches to win by second-round knockout, just as he had to first capture the belt in November.

“I didn’t know how I was going to win, but I knew I was going to leave the octagon happy,” Pereira said.

The bout was booked just more than two weeks ago to serve as the headliner after superstar Conor McGregor had to withdraw from a bout against Michael Chandler because of an injury.

That’s far longer than Ige and Lopes had to prepare for their contest, which was just the latest twist for a card that was largely pieced together in the last few weeks

Ige (18-8), a Las Vegas resident, did his best to make sure fans still got their money’s worth. He texted UFC executives hours before the event to say he was ready and in shape in case Ortega was unable to fight.

“The doctors checked out Ortega, and he had a (103-degree) fever and he had to pull out of the fight,” UFC president Dana White said. “Ige was ready to go, so here we are. This is the (stuff) legends are made of, right here.”

Ige did his best to write that script, but Lopes (25-6) proved too much on the ground despite some positive standing exchanges from the late replacement, particularly in the third round.

The Nevada Athletic Commission was able to clear Ige so quickly because he had already been scheduled to compete on July 20. That also meant he was in camp and training for a fight.

White said there were no other options had Ige been unable to step in. Even though Lopes and Ige are ranked contenders in the 145-pound featherweight division, the fight was contested at 165 pounds because Lopes had already rehydrated and Ige obviously hadn’t cut weight at all.

“He’s in shape, and all his medicals are done,” White said of the unique circumstances for Ige, which include the fact he lives minutes from the arena. “He was probably sitting on the couch ordering the fight when he got the call. For him to jump up, be ready, run down here to weigh in and want to take this fight is crazy. He came in all fired up. He’s excited for this opportunity.”

Undercard results

Moments after the announcement was made on the broadcast of Ige’s addition to the card, rising welterweight contender Ian Machado Garry (15-0) earned a unanimous decision over Michael “Venom” Page (22-3) in the first fight of the main card.

Garry was able to neutralize the flashy striker by closing distance against the cage and getting the fight to the ground on several occasions. He is now 8-0 in the UFC.

Macy Chiasson (11-3) followed it up with a second-round TKO of fellow women’s bantamweight contender Mayra Bueno Silva (10-4-1) in a fight that was stopped by the cageside doctor due to a nasty cut caused by an elbow on the ground.

Bueno Silva’s repeated and boisterous pleas to continue were not granted.

Light heavyweight Roman Dolidze (13-3) snapped a two-fight losing streak with a unanimous decision over Anthony Smith (38-20).

Dolidze nearly finished the fight with a flurry in the second round before coasting to the finish line.

On the preliminary card, Reno-based bantamweight phenom Payton Talbott needed just 19 seconds to knock out Yanis Ghemmouri, and middleweight Joe Pyfer finished Marc-Andre Barriault with punches in just 85 seconds.

Andre Fili earned a split decision over veteran featherweight Cub Swanson, and Martin Buday took two of the three scorecards against former heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski.

Gillian Robertson, Rei Tsuruya and Vinicius Oliveira picked up unanimous-decision victories on the card, while Jean Silva scored a second-round knockout of Charles Jourdain.

Robertson’s win came against Michelle Waterson-Gomez, a veteran in the women’s strawweight division who tearfully announced her retirement in the cage at age 38.

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on X.

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