Two recent additions to the welterweight division opened the prelims at UFC 279 on Saturday, as Darian Weeks and Yohan Lainesse faced off.
Both had dealt with a rough start to their respective UFC careers after impressive, undefeated runs on the regional scene and thus now looked to step over each other to get their first win with the promotion.
Weeks had been dealt a particularly rough hand, facing veteran action fighter Bryan Barbarena on short notice for his debut and then one of the hottest prospects at 170 lbs, Ian Garry, for his sophomore effort. Still, he showed promise in each fight as he took both men to decisions and did not make it easy any step of the way. Lainesse, for his part, had hurt his debut opponent, the ever-durable Gabe Green, badly in the early stages of their fight but the Canadian ran into cardio issues and was finished late in the second round.
The match between the two seemed likely to have a similar dynamic to that fight against Gabe Green, as Lainesse’s power can be deadly to anyone but if able to weather the storm, it seemed Weeks would have a great shot at taking over the fight with his superior gas tank. The fight opened with a bit of a feeling out process as Lainesse circled the cage before darting in with the occasional attack.
Lainesse landed two big right hands early on but Weeks recovered well from both, despite stumbling backwards each time. A vicious stomp by Weeks that buckled the lead leg of Lainesse drew a reaction from the crowd at one point. Soon after, a clinch exchange ended with Weeks on a front headlock, perhaps attempting a front choke, but it did not come to fruition and they returned to open space. Weeks put on more of a pace in the striking at the end of the round but the Canadian mainly avoided by circling the cage and the round ended, possibly with a 10-9 advantage for Yohan Lainesse. However, both corners seemed to think they had won the round.
The second stanza started with no major changes in the dynamic of the fight. Lainesse kept circling the cage away from the power of his opponent and did not offer much offense, though at one point he lunged in and got caught by a solid left hook. After that, Lainesse circled away less than before but he still did not offer much volume as the seconds ticked past the halfway mark of the round. Weeks then attempted a takedown and got in on a double leg against the cage, before lifting and throwing his opponent to the ground. Lainesse, however, was able to instantly spring back to his feet and take the fight back into the striking range. Another takedown attempt from Weeks, a single leg this time, followed a period of inefficient striking for each man, but Lainesse used the whizzer well to maintain his footing. Later on, Lainesse shot a takedown of his own despite being presumably at a disadvantage in the wrestling but he was stuffed, at which point Weeks landed a few good shots right before the buzzer to finish off a much better round for him. The fight was potentially tied going into the third round.
Before the third round, Darian Weeks’ corner informed him that his foe was tired. On the other hand, Weeks himself looked completely fresh. Perhaps due to this cardio aspect, the live betting odds shot north of five-to-one in favor of Weeks. The striking was once again mostly even to start the round and Weeks shot multiple takedowns throughout the middle portion of the round but was stuffed and ended up in clinches each time. Off of the break of one of these clinches, a spinning back elbow seemed to land at least partially for Weeks but Lainesse seemed unbothered. After this, Weeks took a big deep breath for the first time. Lainesse got back to his early, low volume, cage-circling ways which did not bode well for his chances to win on points. As the last minute of the fight rolled around, both men started to open up a little bit more, but were able to evade each other’s attacks for the most part, though the Canadian landed one big round kick to the body. A late front kick to the face from Weeks and then a guillotine attempt and failed flying knee from Lainesse ended a relatively low-volume affair throughout.
The final round was close due to a lack of effective offense and seemed hard to score though many seemed to think Weeks had done enough. However, the judges disagreed and a split decision went the way of Yohan Lainesse, who was overjoyed to get in the win column while Darian Weeks’ team radiated surprise and frustration.
Official Result: Yohan Lainesse def. Darian Weeks by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)