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MMAjunkie's 'Fight of the Month' for May: Contenders battle in Brazil

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With another action-packed month of MMA in the books, MMAjunkie looks at the best fights from May 2018. Here are the five nominees, listed in chronological order, and winner of MMAjunkie’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.

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The Nominees

Kai Asakura def. Manel Kape at Rizin FF 10
After it looked like he was going to be the victim of an early knockout, Kai Asakura’s (4-1) pace and conditioning allowed him to rally against Manel Kape (9-3) for a split-decision victory in a 130-pound catchweight bout.

Kape came into the fight with clear confidence. He danced around the ring and taunted his opponent early before connecting with some hard strikes that put Asakura in trouble. Asakura survived the storm, though, and he managed to hurt Kape back during one of many wild opening-round exchanges. Asakura’s offense got better as the bout wore on, and he got the decision. Kape was irate and refused to embrace post-fight.

Jack Hermansson def. Thales Leites at UFC 224
In one of the more impressive wins in his UFC career Jack Hermansson (17-4 MMA, 4-2 UFC) scored a memorable third-round finish of Thales Leites (27-9 MMA, 7-5 UFC), becoming the first man to stop the former UFC title challenger with strikes in the process.

After suffering a rib injury and going down big over two rounds, Hermansson came out wild in the third. Hermansson somehow survived another tough spot and then moved to mount, where he started to tee off with powerful punches. Swinging away like a man desperate for a finish, Hermansson blasted his opponent with big shots, drawing a TKO stoppage just over two minutes into the final round.

Kelvin Gastelum def. Ronaldo Souza at UFC 224
Kelvin Gastelum (15-3 MMA, 10-3 UFC) pushed himself into the upper tier of UFC middleweight title contention when he defeated fellow contender Ronaldo Souza (25-6 MMA, 8-3 UFC) by the narrowest of margins.

Gastelum has lost just once in seven UFC fights at middleweight. He extended that run when he defeated “Jacare” by split decision after a competitive bout where each man had several moments. With the win, Gastelum might very well be next for a title shot at 185 pounds.

Angela Lee def. Mei Yamaguchi at ONE Championship 73
In her first fight since being involved in a horrific car accident in November, Angela Lee (9-0) successfully defended her women’s atomweight title for the third time.

Lee emerged victorious against Mei Yamaguchi (17-11-1) for the second time in her career, taking a unanimous decision in another competitive, back-and-forth fight. The fight wasn’t quite as action-packed as the first, but it provided plenty in the way of entertainment.

Claudio Puelles def. Felipe Silva at UFC Fight Night 129
Felipe Silva (8-2 MMA, 1-2 UFC) battered and bruised a seemingly outmatched Claudio Puelles (8-2 MMA, 1-1 UFC) for the better part of three rounds. Then he tapped out to set his opponent up for a “Comeback of the Year” contender.

Silva utterly battered Puelles for more than two rounds of their lightweight bout. With his eye essentially swollen shut, “El Nino” had one trick left up his sleeve. He turned to attack the leg, locking in a kneebar that saw Silva grimace before reluctantly tapping nearly halfway through the final round.

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The Winner: Kelvin Gastelum vs. Ronaldo Souza

It didn’t come easy, but Gastelum picked up a signature win after three thrilling rounds with Souza.

Souza made it clear he was looking for the takedown early, though Gastelum showed solid defense to remain upright at the start. However, Souza then went for the leg, using the ensuing scramble to drag Gastelum to the floor. Once there, Souza’s top game was heavy, pinning Gastelum down and advancing to mount. Souza patiently drove in elbows from the top until Gastelum turned and exposed his arm. Souza latched hold and put in an earnest attempt at the finish, though Gastelum battled through and pulled free just before the bell.

Gastelum pressed with strikes to open the second, and he drew blood from his opponent’s face in the early exchanges. Souza countered with a barrage of kicks to the legs and body and also drove for the occasional takedown that he simply couldn’t find. Souza seemed to tire as the round wore on, and Gastelum landed a flush two-punch combination that sent his opponent crashing to the floor. Unsurprisingly, Gastelum declined to follow, and Souza had to crawl back to his feet.

With time winding down, Souza started to find his range, tagging the chin multiple times, though Gastelum didn’t seem all that fazed by the flurries.

Gastelum looked the fresher man to start the third, but Souza didn’t hesitate to fire back in the pocket. Souza continued to look for the takedown, but Gastelum responded well each time, sprawling and returning to his feet to strike. Souza was clearly exhausted, but he continued to press forward and did get a brief takedown, though he was unable to keep the action on the canvas.

On the restart, Gastelum was the man walking forward, but Souza found some rhythm to his counters and continued to touch the chin. Still, Gastelum never once seemed bothered by the strikes. The action was non-stop until the very end, though it was Gastelum who finished on the attack. In the end, it was just enough for Gastelum, who took the fight on two of three judges’ cards, earning a split-decision nod.

“I expected to win, but I wanted to finish the fight and guarantee the title shot,” Gastelum said after the win. “Now I don’t know if I will get it, but hopefully I will. I thought I was going to finish after the knockdown, but he is a tough guy, he is very durable. The crowd was not so welcoming this time, but I still got some support after the win.”



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