At 36 years old, former two-time UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir has re-invented himself as a striker.
The promotion's all-time leading heavyweight submission artist, Mir earned his second consecutive knockout win at UFC San Diego, landing a perfectly timed left hook counter to finish Todd Duffee.
Trading punches from the start, Mir and Duffee worked against the cage in the early part of the round, both connecting on heavy strikes.
With the action circling around the Octagon, Duffee threw a lazy lead hook, opening the door for Mir's finishing blow.
The stoppage came at the 1:13 mark.
"That's why I trained so hard for this fight ... my victory wasn't going to be about who I had it over, but what kind of victory it was," commented Mir, who took home a Performance of the Night bonus. "Todd Duffee was a guy I didn't want. The guy isn't ranked and he's capable of knocking you out ... I think you're seeing now that as long as you have the heart to stand up against the criticism and not quit, you can improve and get better."
In the co-main event, eleventh-ranked lightweight Tony Ferguson earned a unanimous nod over number nine Josh Thomson, taking home a Performance of the Night bonus in the process.
Ferguson, who has now won his six straight bouts, used his flashy combination of striking and jiu jitsu to outwork and outland Thomson on the feet and on the ground, opening up a huge cut on Thomson's forehead in the second round.
Clearly in control heading into the third round, Ferguson danced his way around the Octagon looking for takedowns and submissions, including his signature m'Arce choke and an inverted triangle. But with Thomson bloody and slippery, Ferguson was unable to finish the contest.
"[I] got the chance to go out there and throw a lot of punches. I thank Josh Thomson for taking the fight," offered Ferguson. "The fight tested my conditioning as I haven't been to the third round in a while. Had a couple submission attempts working, but he slipped out."
Undefeated bantamweight Holly Holm kept her perfect record in tact in the evening's featured bout, topping Marion Reneau via unanimous decision.
Known for her world-class boxing, Holm relied on her diverse kicking attack to keep Reneau at a distance for the majority of the bout.
Holm landed leg, body, and high kicks at will, mixing in her feints to keep Reneau off balance. Her volume and pace would prove to be the difference, as Holm cruised on the scorecards.
"I'm happy with the win, but I'm one of those fighters who's never really happy with their performance," commented Holm. "I showed a little bit more than I did in my UFC debut, but still not as good as it can be. I started putting things together that last round, just wish I started sooner."
A battle of veteran bantamweights Manvel Gamburyan and Scott Jorgensen resulted in a unanimous decision for Gamburyan.
Opening up with kicks, Gamburyan landed a heavy looping hook to stun Jorgensen, who countered with a takedown. With the pair scrambling and rolling for position, Gamburyan looked to lock in a guillotine choke. Jorgensen would escape, only to be slammed to the mat moments later.
The second and third rounds played out in similar fashion, with both fighters trading punches, kicks, takedowns, and submission attempts. Gamburyan proved to be the more aggressive of the two, throwing and landing at a higher output.
A former competitor at both lightweight and featherweight, Gamburyan improves to 2-0 at 135 pounds.
"I hurt my hip coming into this fight and almost didn't make it. But I pulled out of a fight in April and I just couldn't do it again," stated Gamburyan. "I go after each opponent the same - try to grind them out and finish. Scotty's a veteran, tough, scrappy guy and I couldn't finish him."
Lightweight prospect Kevin Lee made quick work of taekwondo specialist James Moontasri, with a first-round rear naked choke.
Lee, who has now won four straight contests inside the Octagon, moved forward from the opening bell, trading kicks with Moontasri. But an accidental eye poke from Moontasri to Lee looked like it might halt the contest before the action really started.
Fully recovered, Lee stormed back to corner Moontasri against the cage wall, where he unloaded a punch and kick combination. Lee then clinched up to land a huge takedown before taking the back and slapping on the body triangle.
With a few more punches to the side of Moontasri's head, Lee was able to slip his forearm under the chin and lock in the choke. The tapout came at 2:56.
"I knew what was going to happen before the fight started. I think everyone could see that coming," offered Lee. " I can take down anyone in the division. I wanted to stand and strike with him ... but jiu jitsu is the main part of my game."
Kicking off the main card, welterweights Alan Jouban and Matt Dwyer went toe to toe in a wild back-and-forth affair that was named the evening's Fight of the Night.
With both fighters using much of the first round to gauge distance and find their timing, Jouban finally found his rhythm midway through the frame. But an illegal knee to Dwyer's head resulted in a point deduction from referee Herb Dean.
The infraction kept things tied after the first; however, in the second round, the action heated up, with both Jouban and Dwyer throwing and landing heavy punches and elbows. And while the finish looked apparent for Jouban, Dwyer regained his composure to finish out the round.
In the third, Jouban continued his offensive onslaught en route to victory.
"I knew we would put on an exciting show to kick off this main card," commented Jouban. "I was a little worried with the point deduction and knew I would have to bring it the last two rounds. It was nothing intentional."
The UFC continues with its fourth event in eight days on Saturday, July 18, when the promotion makes its first visit to Glasgow, Scotland.
UFC San Diego Official Results
Frank Mir def. Todd Duffee via knockout (punch) R1, 1:13
Tony Ferguson def. Josh Thomson via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26)
Holly Holm def. Marion Reneau via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-26, 29-28)
Manvel Gamburyan def. Scott Jorgensen via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Kevin Lee def. James Moontasri via tapout (rear naked choke) R1, 2:56
Alan Jouban def. Matt Dwyer via unanimous decision (29-27, 29-27, 29-27)
Sam Sicilia def. Yaotzin Meza via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
Jessica Andrade def. Sarah Moras via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Rani Yaya def. Masenori Kanehara via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Sean Strickland def. Igor Araujo via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26)
Kevin Casey def. Ildemar Alcantara via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Lyman Good def. Andrew Craig via TKO (strikes) Rd 2, 3:37