Dennis Bermudez had manhandled Jimy Hettes for two-plus rounds. And after all those slams and takedowns and punches, it was a knee that stopped the fight.
Bermudez, who trains at Bellmore Kickboxing Academy and Long Island MMA, delivered that knee to the head of Hettes for the TKO victory at UFC 171 on Saturday night in Dallas.
The win is the sixth straight for Bermudez, who was ranked No. 12 in the UFC's featherweight division heading into the night. His six-fight win streak is tied with champion Jose Aldo for the longest in the division.
"I'm looking forward to improve my spot in the rankings," Bermudez said after the bout. "Going 6-0 in the UFC is absolutely incredible."
Bermudez (14-3 overall, 6-1 UFC) last lost to Diego Brandao in the Ultimate Fighter 14 finale on Dec. 3, 2011. Since then, he has steadily improved his skill set, going from wrestler to well-rounded mixed martial artist.
The stoppage of Hettes (11-2, 3-2) was Bermudez's first TKO in the UFC and it stopped a run of three straight wins by decision.
From the beginning of the fight, Bermudez manhandled Hettes with takedowns, leg trips and slams. He continued that throughout the fight, even passing Hettes for most takedowns in the UFC featherweight division's history (which began in 2011). Hettes was first coming into the fight with 21 and Bermudez second with 20. By the end of the fight, Bermudez had 26 takedowns to Hettes' 21.
"His striking, if he got in too close, he didn't hesitate to take him down," trainer Keith Trimble said. "He was rag-dolling him. I'm really proud of the way he executed everything."
Trimble said the plan heading into the fight was to keep it standing as much as possible since Hettes has a strong jiu-jitsu and judo background. Bermudez stayed relaxed in his striking throughout the fight, rarely throwing an out-of-control punch.
"I told him, 'keep your arms loose, keep your shoulders loose, and your hands steel," Trimble said.
Ten of Hettes' 11 career wins have come via submission, and he's very active off his back. Bermudez did a perfect job of avoiding getting caught in Hettes' guard when in top position or postured up to strike. In the third round, with Bermudez already having won the first two rounds on all three judges' scorecards, he played it smart by twice backing off on the grounded Hettes and letting him stand back up. At one point, Hettes took a body shot form Bermudez and flopped to the ground looking to catch an oncoming Bermudez with his legs for a submission attempt. That was Hettes' best chance to win the fight, but Bermudez wisely did not pursue the fallen Hettes.
"Why play into his game?" Trimble said. "That was his only shot really at the end, catching him with something stupid."