EFC 66: Undisputed and Unbeaten Pena

Demarte Pena’s undefeated streak and EFC Bantamweight Title reign remain intact, as he stops Irshaad Sayed in a title unification bout in the main event of EFC 66, which took place on Dec. 16 from the Menlyn Maine in Pretoria, South Africa.

Sayed closed the distance right away from the opening horn. as Pena attempted to get a takedown, but it turned into a counter-fest between the two. Sayed gets a quick takedown about two minutes in. Pena landed a hard head kick and scrambled on a collapsed Sayed, executing ground and pound. Sayed tried to get back up, but Pena brought him back down to the ground and tried to get in a choke. When that didn’t work, Pena went back to the ground-and-pound. This process continued until the end of the first round.

With about three minutes left in the second round, Pena scored another takedown against the interim champion. Pena scored yet another takedown with about 100 seconds left in the round, and yet another with about 30 seconds left. Each time Sayed got up from a takedown, Pena was ready to take him back down again. Pena tried to lock in a late leg lock, but the round ended before it could be locked in.

The third actually seemed to be in Sayed’s favor, as he did better in the striking game, and while Pena landed another takedown, Sayed landed a takedown of his own against Pena. But in the fourth, after Sayed blocked another potential hard head kick, Pena rocked Sayed with a couple of hard shots. Pena got Sayed back to the ground again, and Pena unleashed a number of punches and elbows, and while he lasted a long time on the ground, the referee stopped the bout with less than a minute left to give the win and title to Pena.

“In life, it is not about the belt you wear around your waist. It is about family,” Pena said after the fight. “I’m going to take some time off, this year has been really rough on me.”

In the co-main event of the evening, Andrew Van Zyl retained his EFC Heavyweight Championship with a victory over Jared Vanderaa. The two had a number of exchanges in the first round, with Van Zyl seemingly getting the best of the challenger. But in the second, Vanderra changed the pace of the fight, scoring two or three strikes for every one the champion landed. Vanderaa also began throwing more leg kicks, which definitely affected the champion.

Van Zyl continued to eat leg kicks in the third round, and it looked like his legs were going to give out at any minute. But with about two minutes left, the champion scored a takedown and nearly took Vanderaa’s back. Van Zyl was aggressive in the early part of the fourth, coming out firing with a hard combination that stunned Vanderaa briefly. But Vanderaa came back, firing away with more leg kicks and mixing it up with punches. It became clear by the end of the fourth that the champion was hurting. Van Zyl failed at a takedown attempt and Vanderaa landed a few hard shots on the defending champ before the horn.

After a back-and-forth fifth round, the bout went into the hands of the judges. While all three gave results of 48-47, two saw it in Van Zyl’s favor, giving him a successful title defense via split decision.

EFC 66 also saw the finale of the first season of The Fighter, with Brendan Lesar earning the win and middleweight title shot over Ibrahima Mane.

From the minute he picked up Mane and slammed him to the ground about 20 seconds in, Lesar was in control for the first two rounds, completely dominating the ground game. Every time he and Mane got into the clinch and Mane tried to get something going, Lesar countered and managed to bring the fight to the ground. Lesar got in three takedowns on Mane in the first two rounds.

While Mane started the third round strongly, Lesar still had control over the fight’s pace. But in the closing seconds of the fight, Mane landed a right head kick that knocked Lesar down, busting him open, and Mane landed some ground-and-pound. The referee, however, chose to let the time expire, as Mane desperately tried to lock in a rear-naked choke.

The judges awarded the bout unanimously to Lesar, who now earns a title shot against EFC Middleweight Champion Dricus Du Plessis.

Jose Da Rocha earned a win in a welterweight fight, while Philippe Rouch scored a split decision to earn a shot at Pena and the bantamweight title.

EFC 66 Results:
EFC Bantamweight Championship Unification Bout: (c.) Demarte Pena def. (ic.) Irshaad Sayed via TKO (Rd. 4, 4:23)
EFC Heavyweight Championship: (c.) Andrew Van Zyl def. Jared Vanderaa via split decision (47-48, 48-47, 48-47)
Middleweight: The Fighter 1 Finale Bout: Brendan Lesar def. Ibrahima Mane via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Welterweight: Jose Da Rocha def. Pupangua Tresor via submission (anaconda choke) (Rd. 1, 4:45)
Catchweight: EFC Bantamweight Title Eliminator: Philippe Rouch def. Gareth Buirski via split decision  (28-29, 29-28, 30-27)

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