MMA Junkie’s Fight of the Month for May: Short-notice newcomer thrills in defeat

With another action-packed month of MMA in the books, MMA Junkie looks at the best fights from May 2023. Here are the five nominees, listed in chronological order, and winner of MMA Junkie’s Fight of the Month award for May.

At the bottom of the post, let us know if we got it right by voting on your choice.

Nominee: Movsar Evloev def. Diego Lopes at UFC 288

Movsar Evloev (17-0 MMA, 7-0 UFC) rolled the dice in putting his undefeated record on the line against short-notice newcomer Diego Lopes (20-6 MMA, 0-1 UFC) in their featherweight bout, and it almost cost him.

After stepping in as a replacement on five days’ notice, Lopes gave an outstanding account of himself, threatening with multiple close submissions. Evloev navigated the danger and found a stride for his own offense, though, and managed to claim a unanimous decision after three exciting rounds.

Nominee: Aljamain Sterling def. Henry Cejudo at UFC 288

Aljamain Sterling (23-3 MMA, 15-3 UFC) eked by Henry Cejudo (16-3 MMA, 10-3 UFC) in a close bout to set up a grudge match with rival Sean O’Malley.

Cejudo returned from a three-year layoff to challenge for Sterling’s bantamweight title. It was a back-and-forth contest for five rounds that was light on damage but heavy on solid technique from both sides. Ultimately, two of three judges valued Sterling’s work more, and he was awarded the split decision win for his fourth consecutive title defense.

Nominee: Brent Primus def. Mansour Barnaoui at Bellator 296

Mansour Barnaoui (20-5 MMA, 1-1 BMMA) gave Brent Primus (12-3 MMA, 10-3 BMMA) no choice but to dig deep in enemy territory, and the former Bellator lightweight champion rose to the occasion.

Primus and Barnaoui engaged in a fast-paced, back-and-forth affair in which the American ultimately came out victorious by unanimous decision. After 25 minutes, the judges scored the fight 48-47 across the board for Primus, who advanced to the lightweight grand prix semifinals, where he’ll get a shot at champion Usman Nurmagomedov.

Nominee: Mackenzie Dern vs. Angela Hill at UFC Fight Night 224

Mackenzie Dern (13-3 MMA, 8-3 UFC) completely overwhelmed Angela Hill (15-13 MMA, 10-13 UFC) for 25 minutes to achieve her first UFC main event win after two previously failed attempts.

Dern, a grappling specialist, showed off a more well-rounded game than ever when she defeated Hill by a lopsided unanimous decision. She put together her striking and grappling over the course of the fight, leaving with the definitive win and strawweight title contender status attached to her name.

The winner: Evloev vs. Lopes

Evloev had to give just about everything he had to beat promotional newcomer Lopes at UFC 288 in Newark, N.J.,

Lopes took the fight on just five days’ notice when Bryce Mitchell pulled out, and although he did get his hand raised, his stock went up and he proved he belongs in the UFC.

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Evloev was a massive favorite of nearly 10-1 when the contest began, but Lopes threatened him with deep submissions on multiple occasions. UFC president Dana White praised Lopes after the fight for his heart and awarded the pair an extra $50,000 each for Fight of the Night, but Evloev was the ultimate victor as he extended the winning streak to begin his career to 17 consecutive fights.

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Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie