Jason Knight answered the call to fight a legend on just two weeks' notice, Friday night, and fought gamely but ultimately lost a decision to Tatsuya Kawajiri. The former Shooto champion and Pride title challenger worked out of early danger on the mat to control the majority of all three rounds in this featherweight main card bout.
Scores were 30-27, all-around, in favor of Kawajiri. The win was his eighth in his last nine bouts.
The loss is just the second of the 23-year-old's career. The 37-year-old took Knight down, early, but got tied up in the American's high rubber guard.
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From there, Knight threatened with triangle choke attempts and scored with big elbow strikes to the head. Eventually, Kawajiri escaped and pressed Knight against the cage.
Knight chose not to try and use the cage to get up and spent much of the rest of the round with his neck pinned against it, eating punches. In the second, Kawajiri continued his ground and pound attack, stopped only by an interfering referee John McCarthy and his stand-ups.
Kawajiri immediately scored another takedown after the first stand-up and passed to side mount. With amazing dexterity, Knight got his guard back, but spent the rest of the round on his back.
Kawajiri came out and scored with a spinning side kick in the final round, and followed up with another takedown.
Kawajiri began passing the guard and had his progress halted by McCarthy and another stand up. Kawajiri once more immediately took Knight down again and passed to the "I" position.
The worst stand up of the entire fight soon followed just as both men were entangled in a fascinating position where neither knew how to escape the other's grasp.
Instead of letting them sort out this position, McCarthy once again handed Knight an assist and stood them up. Kawajiri's strong grappling still won him the day, and Knight proved skilled and durable in his UFC debut.
Kawajiri's record improved to 35-8-2 and Knight's dropped to 16-2