Brandon Moreno, left, improved his title-shot chances with a win over Brandon Royval, who injured his shoulder. 

The finish might have been a bit anticlimactic. But it was exactly what Brandon Moreno needed as he pushes toward a title shot.

Somewhere in a wild grappling scramble, Moreno’s opponent, Brandon Royval, dislocated a shoulder. Moreno, in top position, rained down blows to Royval’s head and Royval called out in pain, forcing referee Marc Goddard to step in and call it.

Officially, Moreno took home a TKO victory at 4 minutes, 59 seconds of the first round Saturday in the UFC 255 prelims in Las Vegas.

“I don’t know what happened in the fight,” Moreno said. “I just know I’m the winner right now.”

After the conclusion of the fight, Royval’s coach, Marc Montoya, popped Royval’s shoulder back into its socket.

The bout had major implications for the UFC flyweight division. Going in, ESPN had Moreno ranked No. 3 and Royval ranked No. 8 in the world at 125 pounds. The victory puts Moreno in line for a title shot that he had hoped to get Saturday night. Instead, the UFC tabbed former bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt to fight Deiveson Figureido. When Garbrandt withdrew, the UFC chose Alex Perez, not Moreno, as the substitute.

“To be honest, I was very sad when UFC [gave] Cody Garbrandt the opportunity for the title,” Moreno said. “You know what? I don’t care. I don’t need a title. I need to be the best in the division. If I wanted a title, I could buy one in the UFC Store.”

Royval had success on his feet early, but Moreno was able to take his back standing after a Royval spinning back elbow attempt. Moreno got Royval down and had back control for a solid duration of the round, though he didn’t do a ton of damage. Royval scrambled out, but Moreno was quick to get back into top position. It seems like during that particular scramble is when Royval injured his arm. Moreno, undeterred, kept the pressure on and landed hammerfists and punches to Royval’s head until Goddard stepped in.

Moreno (18-5-1) is unbeaten in five straight fights and has three straight wins. The Mexico native has not lost since 2018. Moreno, 26, has won six fights since 2016, the second most UFC flyweight victories after Figueiredo (8).

Royval (12-5) had a four-fight winning streak snapped. The 28-year-old Colorado native was a perfect 2-0 in the UFC until Saturday, both victories coming in the last six months.

— Marc Raimondi

Watch this fight on ESPN+.


Fight in progress:

Women’s flyweight: Katlyn Chookagian (14-4, 7-4 UFC, +220) vs. Cynthia Calvillo (9-1-1, 6-1-1 UFC, -260)


Results:

Light heavyweight: Paul Craig (14-4-1, 6-4-1 UFC) defeats Mauricio Rua (27-12-1, 11-10-1 UFC) via second-round TKO

Recap to come.


Middleweight: Joaquin Buckley (12-3, 2-1 UFC) defeats Jordan Wright (11-1, 1-1 UFC) by second-round KO

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Fresh off his viral knockout in October, Joaquin Buckley finishes Jordan Wright in their prelim bout at UFC 255.

What was Buckley going to do for an encore after turning in the knockout of the year last month?

That was the burning question for those who had seen Buckley’s ridiculous leaping, spinning back-kick KO six weeks ago.

But this time, Buckley did not make the highlight reel with his feet. This time he used his fists, and for the second straight time he handed an opponent his first career loss.

Buckley, a 26-year-old from St. Louis, fought like someone carrying the pressure of expectations. He threw every punch from the hip, and early on that did not serve him well, as many of his haymakers hit nothing but air. But in the final seconds of the first round, Buckley clipped Wright with a flurry of punches and dropped him. He didn’t have time before the horn to finish the fight, but he had his opponent hurt.

How hurt? Buckley wasted no time after the break to find out. He went right at Wright at the start of Round 2 and dropped him, and referee Herb Dean jumped in quickly as Buckley was unloading another flurry of punches. The end came at 18 seconds of the round.

For Buckley, it was his second straight victory after dropping his UFC debut.

Wright, 29, fights out of Los Angeles. He showed strong standup early, keeping Buckley at distance and avoiding big shots. But even when he was landing kicks to the body, they did not prevent his opponent from advancing. It seemed like just a matter of time. And it was.

— Wagenheim

Watch this fight on ESPN+.


Women’s strawweight: Antonina Shevchenko (9-2, 3-2 UFC) defeats Ariane Lipski (13-6, 2-3 UFC) by second-round TKO

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The referee is forced to stop the fight as Ariane Lipski is unable to fight back with Antonia Shevchenko on top of her unleashing a downpour of punches.

A multiple-time world Muay Thai champion like her sister Valentina, Antonina Shevchenko is known for her striking skills. But both sisters have mastered the other aspects of MMA, as well. And Antonina demonstrated that Saturday night.

Shevchenko stopped Lipski via TKO at 4:33 of the second round in a women’s flyweight bout. Shevchenko used her wrestling and grappling skills to get Lipski down in both rounds. From there, she got into dominant position and landed hard ground-and-pound until referee Chris Tognoni pulled her off.

In the first round, Shevchenko took Lipski down with a head-and-arm throw. She nearly lost position in a scramble, but Shevchenko got in top position and landed punches. Shevchenko got Lipski down again in the second with a throw, ended up in mount and then took Lipski’s back. All the while, Shevchenko was landing punches.

“I did what I want to do — improve as a fighter,” Shevchenko said in her postfight interview. “Improve my grappling, improve my wrestling. … You have to be good everywhere.”

Shevchenko, who celebrated her 36th birthday Friday, has won three of five fights in the UFC. The Kyrgyzstan native has two finishes in her past three fights. Lipski, a 26-year-old Brazil native, had a two-fight winning streak snapped.

— Raimondi

Watch this fight on ESPN+.


Welterweight: Nicolas Dalby (19-3-1 1 NC, 2-0 1 NC UFC) defeats Daniel Rodriguez (13-2, 3-1 UFC) by unanimous decision

Dalby won the fight by winning the battle over distance control, ending Rodriguez’s 10-fight winning streak.

It took Rodriguez most of the way through Round 1 to find his range. Dalby maintained his distance early on, and the 36-year-old out of Copenhagen, Denmark, landed kicks while Rodriguez was having trouble closing in on him with punches. When Rodriguez finally did find Dalby, he landed some crisp punches and had Dalby in retreat as the horn sounded to end the first five minutes.

From that point on, however, Rodriguez never showed the urgency to get in Dalby’s face. This was by no means a Dalby runaway — both men landed plenty, and Rodrigiuez had a big edge in significant strikes in each of the first two rounds. But Dalby never allowed his opponent to gain any momentum.

Two judges scored the bout 29-28 and the other had it 30-27, all for Dalby, who ran his unbeaten streak to seven in a row.

Rodriguez, who is 33 and fights out of Alhambra, California, lost for the first time in the UFC.

— Wagenheim

Watch this fight on ESPN+.


Welterweight: Alan Jouban (17-7, 8-5 UFC) defeats Jared Gooden (17-5, 0-1 UFC) by unanimous decision

Jouban put the squeeze on a guillotine choke. He swept into mount and it looked like Gooden was either on the verge of tapping out or going unconscious. Then, the bell sounded, signifying the end of the fight

No, Jouban didn’t get the finish he tried incredibly hard for. But he did earn a unanimous-decision win (30-27, 30-27, 30-27) over Gooden in a welterweight bout. It was the first time Jouban, a popular veteran, has competed since April 2019.

The bout itself was a very entertaining one. Jouban attacked nicely with a beautiful straight left and nice kicks to the body from the southpaw stance. Gooden, though, was able to absorb all of those shots and answer with powerful boxing. Jouban’s right eye was damaged because of a clash of heads in the first round and it looked bad by the third round. But Jouban still did more than enough to win.

The second round is what separated Jouban. Rather than loading up for haymakers like Gooden did, Jouban was content to land a jab, that straight left and some hard kicks to the body and legs. Several times, Jouban let loose with combinations that landed. Gooden came back in the third to land some hard right hands. But Jouban snared Gooden’s neck in a scramble and almost finished in the closing seconds with a guillotine.

Jouban, 38, has won two of three but has dropped three of five altogether. The Louisiana native, who lives and works as a model in California, was once considered a welterweight contender. Gooden, a 26-year-old Georgia resident, came in on a three-fight winning streak. This was Gooden’s UFC debut.

— Raimondi

Watch this fight on ESPN+.


Middleweight: Kyle Daukaus (10-1, 1-1 UFC) defeats Dustin Stoltzfus (13-2, 0-1 UFC) by unanimous decision

Daukaus got back on track after suffering his first career defeat in his UFC debut in June, getting the better of a fight that mostly was contested with the fighters chest-to-chest against the cage.

Daukaus, a 27-year-old out of Philadelphia, got the better of the exchanges on those sporadic occasions when the fighters were at distance, utilizing the long reach that comes with his 6-foot-3 frame. But mostly, this was a clinch fest, and Stoltzfus’ best weapon in those tight exchanges was dropping for a leg lock, which he did a couple of times to escape trouble.

But the 29-year-old Stoltzfus, who also is a Pennsylvania native, could not produce enough offense to keep Daukaus away from him. As a result, he saw a 10-fight winning streak end in his UFC debut.

Two judges scored the bout 30-27 and the other had it 30-26.

— Wagenheim

Watch this fight on ESPN+.


Welterweight: Sasha Palatnikov (6-2, 1-0 UFC) defeats Louis Cosce (7-1, 0-1 UFC) by third-round TKO

Palatnikov got smashed with combinations in the first round and was nearly finished. He took two hard strikes below the belt. Yet, somehow, the debuting UFC fighter ended up not only with his hand raised but with a finish.

Palatnikov stopped Cosce via TKO at 2:27 of the third round in a welterweight bout to open UFC 255. The bout was a war of attrition. Cosce beat Palatnikov up in the first round, which was one of the most exciting rounds of the year in MMA. Both men were bloody by the end.

Cosce caught Palatnikov with punches while Palatnikov was in the middle of a front roll in the first round. Palatnikov was trying to escape, but it didn’t work. Cosce poured it on from there, landing huge combinations. Palatnikov managed to survive the onslaught — and actually come back with big offense in the first. He landed hard elbows and a wild spinning back fist before the close of the initial five minutes.

“I knew, he’s a muscular guy,” Palatanikov said in his postfight interview. “If he [gives you] a few big shots and can’t drop you, he’ll get tired. … If I get hit, I get woken up.”

Palatnikov was the aggressor the rest of the way. He did absorb two low blows — one in the second and one in the third — but persevered through them. After the latter groin shot, Palatnikov came back from a pause in the action to rock Cosce with a huge right hand. He then slammed Cosce with punches on the ground until referee Chris Tognoni stepped in to call it.

Palatnikov, 31, is the first-ever Hong Kong-born fighter in UFC history. The Syndicate MMA product cashed as a +400 underdog. Cosce, a 25-year-old California native, earned his way into the UFC via a first-round TKO win over Victor Reyna on Dana White’s Contender Series in August.

— Raimondi

Watch this fight on ESPN+.


Still to come:

Men’s flyweight: Deiveson Figueiredo (c) (19-1, 8-1 UFC, -280) vs. Alex Perez (24-5, 6-1 UFC, +240)
Women’s flyweight: Valentina Shevchenko (c) (19-3, 8-2 UFC, -1600) vs. Jennifer Maia (18-6-1, 3-2 UFC, +900)
Welterweight: Mike Perry (14-6, 7-6 UFC, -130) vs. Tim Means (30-12-1 1 NC, 12-9 1 NC UFC, +110)
(c) = defending champion

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