Dubai: Mounir Lazzez didn’t just ace his UFC debut fight in the early hours of Thursday morning at YAS Island in Abu Dhabi, he forcefully proved a point.
The Dubai-based fighter showed the world that the UAE and the Middle East can produce top-level athletes.
Tunisian-born Lazzez, who is managed by the world-renowned MTK boxing and MMA management company, moved to Dubai nine years ago - confident that he can sharpen his skills here and find a way to realise his dream.
That dream was kindled in emphatic fashion inside the Fight Island Octagon, where he delivered an eye-popping victory over betting favourite Abdul Razak Alhassan via unanimous decision.
‘Showing no signs of first night nerves on the world’s biggest MMA stage, ‘The Sniper’ clinically cut down the highly-regarded Alhassan to leave no doubt about his superiority with the three judges scoring the 15-minute contest, 30-27, 30-27, 29-28 in his favour.
There was pain. But it is a pain Lazzer has felt many time before as he derisively brushed it aside.
I love this craft, I love when I get clipped and I see the will inside the eye of my opponent, that mental game, I love that, I love that deep water stuff
“I love this craft, I love when I get clipped and I see the will inside the eye of my opponent, that mental game, I love that, I love that deep water stuff,” he said after making history as the first Dubai-based fighter to score a victory on the UFC’s Main Card.
“My mental game, I’ve said it before, maybe you can be more technical and maybe you can be more powerful, but my will and my mental game, you can’t beat it.”
Careers and reputations are built on mental toughness and Lazzez, who trains out of the Team Nogueira Dubai is a gym in Dubai, is now looking forward to establishing himself in the UFC and scaling the summit.
“I’m healthy, 100%, I swear to God I’m ready to go in two weeks, but I let my management speak to the UFC, and when that idiot is ready, I’m ready to go,” he proclaimed.
“I want to thank my family and my team. We put in the hard work, and I am very blessed to show my skills. You’ll see me more even hungrier in my next fight.”
The Lazzez vs Alhassan fight, which was judged ‘Fight of the Night,’ was the first of five bouts on the Main Card, with the match-up between lightweights Kalvin Katter and Dan Ige being the main event.
In the five-round contest, Kattar’s boxing game built around his strong jab gave him the upper hand in a match against the fast and explosive Ige.
Add to that, laser sharp strikes to the body saw Ige fade away as the fight progressed and allowed Kattar to assume total control and land punches at will.
“It’s a good opportunity, I was happy to go out with my team and finally give ourselves a main event win, and what better spot than out here in Abu Dhabi on Fight Island,” said the No. 6 ranked American, Kattar.
“I feel great, my lungs were great, my cardio felt good. It was good to go and get five rounds because we’re eyeing that belt and we’re ready for five round fights.
“Everything was happening off the jab, so I was sticking to the jab, listening to my corners and we were able to go and get the job done.”
Murphy's law prevails
Meanwhile, Lerone Murphy, Khamzat Chimaev and Moestas Rukas earned $50,000 bonuses for their respective wins with all three coming inside the distance.
Murphy wasted no time to put away Ricardo Ramos via a TKO (strikes) at 4.18s of Round 1 while Chimaev secured a D’Arce choke to submit John Phillips in the very first minute of Round 2.
Bukauskas looked like a man in a hurry with his TKO victory over Vinicius Moreira, the referee calling a stop to the onslaught just before the gong sounded for the first round.
MTK Global, who are established in 18 countries worldwide including Dubai, scored a 100 per cent win record at Fight Night 172 at YAS Island, when Brazilian Taila Santos scored a unanimous decision victory over one-time Cage Warriors Fighting Championship Flyweight Champion Molly McCann from England.
The Fight Island series continues on Saturday, July 19 (Sunday, UAE) with another explosive card highlighted by the Deiveson Figueiredo vs Joseph Benavidez Main event.
UFCFight Night 172
Flash Forum, YAS Island, Abu Dhabi
Calvin Kattar def. Dan Igevia unanimous decision (49-46, 49-46, 48-47)
Tim Elliott def. Ryan Benoitvia unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Jimmie Rivera def. Cody Stamann via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
Taila Santos def. Molly McCann via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Mounir Lazzez def. Abdul Razak Alhassan via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 2
Khamzat Chimaev def. John Phillips via submission (D’Arce choke) - Round 2, 1:12
Jared Gordon def. Chris Fishgold via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-26)
Lerone Murphy def. Ricardo Ramos via TKO (strikes) - Round 1, 4:18
Modestas Bukauskas def. Vinicius Moreira via TKO (referee stoppage) - Round 1, 5:00
Liana Jojua def. Diana Belbita via submission (armbar) - Round 1, 2:23
Jack Shore def. Aaron Phillips via submission (rear-naked choke) - Round 1, 2:29