Don’t look now, but Darren Stewart is making his way up the UFC middleweight division.
Stewart (12-5 MMA, 5-1 UFC) lost his first three official UFC fights, but after an impressive first-round submission of Maki Pitolo on Saturday night on the main card of UFC on ESPN+ 32, He has now won three of his past four and five of his past seven.
Pitolo (13-6 MMA, 1-2 UFC) seemed content to make Stewart chase him in the early going, as he continually circled away while Stewart stalked him.
Eventually, though, Stewart caught up, and instantly started getting the best of their standup exchanges. The fight-ending sequence began when Stewart ducked a Pitolo spinning backfist attempt. In the ensuing clinch, Pitolo switched levels and went for a double-leg takedown. But Stewart made a swift and seamless transition into a tight guillotine choke, and it was just a formality before Stewart got the finish at the 3:41 mark of the opening round.
“I’ve been doing that takedown defense a lot with my team,” said Stewart, who dedicated his performance to a friend who recently died, Jahreau Shepard. “I said, ‘You know what? Let’s go for it.’”
It was the first career submission victory for the London native. Pitolo has dropped two of his past three.
The middleweight bout was part of the UFC on ESPN+ 32 main card at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. It streamed on ESPN+.
Up-to-the-minute UFC on ESPN+ 32 results include:
- Darren Stewart def. Maki Pitolo via submission (guillotine choke) —Round 1, 3:41
- Yana Kunitskaya def. Julija Stoliarenko via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-27)
- Beneil Dariush def. Scott Holtzman via TKO (spinning back fist) – Round 1, 4:38
- Tim Means def. Laureano Staropoli via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
- Kevin Holland def. Joaquin Buckley via TKO (punch) – Round 3, 0:32
- Nasrat Haqparast def. Alexander Munoz via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Andrew Sanchez def. Wellington Turman via knockout (punches) – Round 1, 4:14
- Gavin Tucker def. Justin Jaynes via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 3, 1:43
- Youssef Zalal def. Peter Barrett via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-27)
- Irwin Rivera def. Ali Alqaisi via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)