Round 1 – Zhumagulov looking good earlier. He cracked Molina with some good ones. Zhumagulov ties up Molina against the fence and knees his thigh. Referee Herb Dean warns Molina about a fence-grab. Zhumagulov trying really, really hard for a single-leg takedown. He gives it up and switches to the back clinch. Molina smacks him with a few punches as Zhumagulov holds him around the waist. Finally, Molina breaks Zhumagulov’s grip. They’re back in the center of the cage. Zhumagulov hurls a pair of punches in a wild combination that misses. Molina looks a bit fresher after the grindy first four-or-so minutes. Zhumagulov shoots again and Molina quickly stuffs him. Zhumagulov lands a combination. The round ends. 10-9 Zhumagulov.
Round 2 – Molina lands a beautiful counter leg kick that sends Zhumagulov stumbling. Moments later, Zhumagulov grabs hold of Molina and shoves him against the fence – again. This time, however, he dumps Molina to the canvas. Molina quickly slides back up against the cage. Zhumagulov working again for a single-leg. Zhumagulov slides down Molina’s leg for a super low single-leg takedown. Perhaps too low, as Molina slips his foot out and ends up on top. They scramble to their feet and Zhumagulov takes a breath. He signals for a timeout. There is a large amount of tape flapping off his gloves. Herb Dean calls timeout. The tape is cut. The action resumes. Molina lands a leg kick. They exchange and Zhumagulov tags Molina with a crisp left hook. That hurt. Zhumagulov shoots and eats a big strike, too. Zhumagulov gets a double-leg on Molina, who briefly threatens a guillotine choke. Molina scoots his way to the cage, like his life depends on it. He gets to a standing position before the round ends. 10-9 Zhumagulov.
Round 3 – Molina lands a nice overhand right after a few tit-for-tat exchanges. Zhumagulov lands an uppercut. Molina throws a head kick, but it’s blocked. Simultaneous leg kicks land. Molina is finding more success this round, largely because Zhumagulov hasn’t really tried to tie him up. Why that is? Possibly cardio. Zhumagulov has his hands low and isn’t throwing often. Zhumagulov lands a few punches and finally shoots. Molina remains upright. He shoves Zhumagulov to the ground and lands a few punches. The horn sounds as the final punch lands. It may have been a tad late as Zhumagulov points out. But they’re cool. They shake hands. MMA Junkie scores it 29-28 Zhumagulov.
Result: Jeff Molina def. Zhalgas Zhumagulov via split decision (28-29, 29-28, 30-27)
Records: Jeff Molina (11-2 MMA, 3-0 UFC), Zhalgas Zhumagulov (14-7 MMA, 1-4 UFC)
Referee: Herb Dean
Judging: Mike Bell (29-28 Zhumagulov, scoring Round 3 for Molina); Sal D’Amato (29-28 Molina, scoring Round 2 for Zhumagulov); Anthony Maness (30-27 Molina)