Cat Zingano already had warm feelings for Boise before she arrived this week for UFC Fight Night 133.
As a kid, Zingano regularly visited relatives in the City of Trees, spending time with cousins and an aunt.
“It was always a good trip,” Zingano said. “We would end up outdoors, in these natural parks. I think we were even picking berries in season places. It was super cool.”
Saturday night at CenturyLink Arena was no vacation for Zingano, but her feelings about Boise haven’t changed.
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Zingano put Marion Reneau on her back for much of their women’s bantamweight match, earning a unanimous decision victory with an unofficial record of seven takedowns.
“God I love Boise. This is the perfect place for this to be what happened tonight,” Zingano said. “I came here, we found incredible restaurants, so many people with this light behind their eyes, smiling, happy. The weather is great. There’s just a good energy. I’m so happy the UFC decided to come here, and I hope it brings only good things for this city and this state.”
The win ended a stretch of three straight losses for Zingano, who relied on her background as a four-time All-American college wrestler to best the seventh-ranked Reneau.
“I feel so amazing. It feels so good to be back on top — to put it all together again and realize what I can do out there,” Zingano said. “It wasn’t part of the game plan; it was all a part of the dance. Thinking and then not thinking, just following what I thought was right. It’s all about growing. One day at a time.”
Saturday’s event was a first for the UFC in Idaho. The soldout crowd of 5,648 was spirited throughout the night, even breaking out a chant of “Boise State!” at one point.
“This city has an incredibly loyal and strong fan base that have been supportive since we first announced we were coming to town,” UFC Senior Vice President Peter Dropick said. “UFC is especially appreciative to the city and the CenturyLink Arena staff that helped make this a sold-out event.”
▪ In the heavyweight main event, Brazilian Junior Dos Santos and Bulgarian Blagoy Ivanov stayed on their feet throughout the .five-round fight.
But Dos Santos appeared to be the much fitter fighter, landing 110 total strikes compared to Ivanov’s 51 to win the fight by unanimous decision. All three judges scored the bout 50-45 for Dos Santos.
“Oh my gosh, Boise, I love you guys. This city is awesome,” Dos Santos said. “The whole time during the fight, I was thinking about one year ago. I was stopped and — one year later — I am victorious again.”
Both men ended the fight with bloody faces, but former UFC heavyweight champ Dos Santos was the only one with a smile on his face.
“You usually don’t throw jabs at southpaw guys because they are good at countering that, but I started finding a place for my jab and the rest just came natural,” Dos Santos said. “To my son, I did everything I could to bring this victory home for you. I am not sure what is next but a rematch with (Stipe) Miocic would be very welcome.”
▪ Twenty-two-year-old Sage Northcutt drew big cheers from the crowd when he gave Boise fans a shoutout following his knockout victory over Zak Ottow. Northcutt used a takedown and then hit Ottow with three hammer-fists to the head, forcing the referee to halt the welterweight bout with 3:13 left in the second round. The exuberant Northcutt celebrated the win with a backflip.
“What I said in the Octagon about words being powerful was meant for a couple of different things. One, I feel like there is too much negativity in the world and I think a great thing that martial arts teaches you is to be respectful,” Northcutt said. “We should be more thoughtful with what we say to each other. Two, I feel the power in words that you can turn into reality. Just like Conor McGregor says he will knock his opponent out and does, I did tonight. Know your words are powerful and use them wisely.”
▪ A fight broke out between two spectators at the start of the third round, temporarily hijacking the spotlight during Rick Glenn’s split-decision win over Dennis Bermudez in a featherweight bout. Glenn connected on 48 significant strikes and had one submission attempt.
“I could tell early that he didn’t want to stand with me. I thought I was close to getting the finish in the first but then the takedowns started,” Glenn said. “He didn’t want to get hit with any of my weapons, but I tried my best to stay active off of my back. I think my elbows are some of the best in the game.”
▪ Niko Price used six hammer-fist punches to Randy Brown’s head for a knockout victory with 3:52 to go in the second round.
“I hit him with three and then shouted for (referee) Herb (Dean) to stop the fight. I saw his eyes change and I didn’t want to hit him anymore,” Price said. “We are all here to see who is best and grow together so, when I knew he was done, I called for the ref to stop the fight. I’m known for my right hand, but now guys are going to have to worry about both.”
The Florida welterweight fighter, who raved about eating breakfast at Goldy’s earlier in the week, was a ham during many of the media events. Price is three inches shorter than the 6-foot-3 Brown, so Price stood on his tip-toes during their faceoff Friday morning at The Grove Hotel.
▪ Back from a two-year suspension for doping, Chad Mendes put Myles Jury on the canvas with a left hook about 2 minutes into the first round of their featherweight fight. Mendes then proceeded to pound away on the curled up Jury, eventually eliciting a technical knockout at the 2:52 mark.
“This moment is incredible. You don’t know what to expect after a long layoff so, to go out and finish the fight that way, I’m on cloud nine right now,” Mendes said. “A big part of the game plan had been to wrestle but — once I was out there — I could just feel it coming. I’ve been hitting a lot of my training partners pretty hard this camp so I felt it out a little, found the range and unloaded.”
▪ In the final prelim of the night, Mexican fighter Alejandro Perez won by unanimous decision over Eddie Wineland, the 15th-ranked bantamweight in the world. Perez extended his winning streak to seven dating back to June 2015.
“I’m very happy to have the win tonight. Eddie is a very tough opponent and very respected,” Perez said. “He is a counter puncher and he is very precise with those punches, so I had to be careful not to get caught.”
▪ Near the end of the first round, Alexander Volkanovski bloodied Darren Elkins’ face with a right hook. But the gritty Elkins — nicknamed The Damage — didn’t go down easy. The featherweight fight went the full three rounds, with the Australian Volkanovski winning by unanimous decision for his 15th consecutive victory, including a 5-0 record in the UFC.
“I wanted the finish but I had some setbacks along the way. I injured my rib on Wednesday and that really forced me to be more patient and wait for things to come to me,” Volkanovski said. “He’s a very tough guy. I hit him with all I could in the moment but, as I said, my rib was giving me a lot of problems so that affected the fight.”
▪ Russian Said Nurmagomedov was victorious in his UFC debut, taking a split decision over Justin Scoggins. Nurmagomedov is the 26-year-old cousin of UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov.
“I was a little nervous to hear the decision was split. I knew I had won the third round, but I wasn’t sure how the judges would score the first,” Nurmagomedov said. “I wanted to have a more dominant performance tonight, so I am not sure what is next yet so soon after this fight. I want to go back, rest for a week and then make some challenges later.”
▪ Brazilian Raoni Barcelos put Kurt Holobaugh on his back with a right uppercut to the chin for a win by knockout in the third round of their featherweight bout that was eventually declared the “Fight of the Night” by the UFC. Barcelos threw a series of four punches that sent Holobaugh on his heels, the last of which ended Holobaugh’s night.
“I am thrilled with the fight tonight,” Barcelos said. “I have dreamed of being in the UFC and, to win like this, is unbelievable. I want to stay in the UFC forever and you have to put on a show to do that.”
▪ Veteran Liz Carmouche controlled her women’s flyweight bout against Jennifer Maia, scoring four takedowns and landing 111 total strikes for a unanimous decision victory. Carmouche, who lost to Ronda Rousey in the first ever women’s UFC match, admitted after Saturday’s win that she fought despite being sick.
“I’m very happy with how things went tonight. I always want the finish but, if that doesn’t happen, I just want to be dominant and dynamic,” Carmouche said. “When I fight a black belt, I want that submission. When I fight a world class striker, I want to knock her out. I feel that the team I have now is allowing me to continue to grow, and that’s what I’m most excited about.”
▪ Mark De La Rosa, nicknamed the Bumblebee, earned a win by submission in the second round with a rear naked choke of Elias Garcia. The 23-year-old fighter out of Houston, Texas, said after the bout that he wanted to fight on the UFC’s Dallas card in September.
“I feel great. This is exactly how I saw the fight going down,” De La Rosa said. “I knew I would be stronger and faster, so I just used those things to my advantage.”
▪ Thirty-six-year-old Jessica Aguilar of Houston, Texas, landed 99 total strikes and a takedown to defeat Jodie Esquibel of Albuquerque, N.M., by unanimous decision in a women’s strawweight bout that opened Saturday’s card.
“It feels amazing to have my first UFC victory,” Aguilar said. “... Boise has been amazing. I try to block out crowd noise and just focus on the fight, but I could hear the support and I’ve felt it all week in the city so it’s extra special to win here, in front of this crowd.”