Two weeks ago Vancouver’s Tristan Connelly was a relative unknown in the fight world outside of Western Canada.
But after a star making performance as a late replacement to the UFC Fight Night 158 card at Rogers Arena in Vancouver on Saturday night, “Boondock” has set the world of UFC on fire.
He’s also $100,000 richer after earning fight of the night and taking the full purse after his opponent Michel Pereira failed to make the 170 pound weight.
Connelly was at one point a +$400 underdog, and his opponent dazzled him early with some of his capoeira skill, but Connelly remained focused.
His tweet earlier in the week seemed to foreshadow Saturday night.
He took over in the second round, and then electrified the crowd with some ground and pound in the third.
Connelly earned the unanimous decision (29-27, 29-27 and 29-28) and Vancouver’s newest star has arrived.
He said he felt confident coming into the fight, despite taking it on late notice and having it occur at a different weight class than he normally competes at.
“Short notice and a weight class up, this feels expected honestly, I knew I was going to win,” he said following the fight. “Honestly, I was expecting more flash from him, he fought a lot smarter than I thought he would. I didn’t expect him to take me down, that kinda surprised me. His jiu jitsu was better than I thought it would be, he wasn’t transitioning much, but I thought I’d be able to finish him a lot quicker, but he defended well. This is just what happens when you fight a guy in his hometown.”
The main event saw Justin Gaethje end Donald Cerrone via ref stoppage in the first round. Gaethje finished him off with punches at 4:18 of round one.
“It was difficult to fight a guy I consider a friend, I never want to do that again,” he said of the fight. “Donald is so tough. The ref in the back said if you fall on your face it’s over and I thought that happened two times, he’s my friend I didn’t want to keep punching him. I have no idea what’s next, every time I walk out here I question everything on purpose, I think they’re better than me, I think they work harder than me, I have something to prove to myself every time I step in here and I will never let myself down. Max effort if what I expect from myself. The Irishman is retired, I want a real fighter, I want the winner of Tony and Khabib.”
Squamish’s Cole Smith, the other B.C. fighter on the event, lost a close battle to Miles Johns. Smith came out strong early and controlled the fight in round one, but Johns took over in the second and unloaded with a barrage of shots in the third. Judges ruled it 29-28, 28-29 and 29-28.
It’s the first-ever pro loss for Smith, who made his successful debut at the UFC show in Ottawa in May.
“Feels amazing to get my first win, I came here into enemy territory against a very good, very tough, undefeated opponent,” he said. “It wasn’t exactly the fight that I wanted, but it was a learning experience, I got the win and am undefeated in the UFC, so that feels great. Dana White’s Contender Series prepared me for this, when I walked in I could hear the boos for me and the cheers for him, so there was a little bit of pressure and I wasn’t really used to that, but the Contender Series definitely prepared me more for that so I felt ready for anything.”
The main card also saw Glover Teixeira defeat Nikita Krylov via judges decision 29-28, 28-29 and 29-28. Heavyweight action between Todd Duffee and Jeff Hughes ended in a no-contest after an eye-poke.
Fan favourite Uriah Hall defeated Antonio Carlos Jr. via judges decision 29-28, 29-28 and 28-29.
The other main card fight saw Misha Cirkunov defeat Jimmy Crute via submission at 3:38 of round one.
Undercard action saw: Winnipeg’s Brad Katona lose to Hunter Azure via judges decision, Augusto Sakai defeat Marcin Tybura 59 seconds into round one via TKO, Chas Skelly beat Jordan Griffin by judges decision and Louis Smolka beat Ryan MacDonald by TKO at 4:43 of the first round.
The show drew an attendance of 15,114 and collected a gate of $1,774,585 CAD.