The drop to middleweight was a success for Ronny Markes, who was able to use his size advantage over Aaron Simpson to narrowly edge out a split decision victory.
Markes started strong, coming forward and clipping Simpson with a short left hand. He then looked to take the fight to the mat, but was stifled by the takedown defense of Simpson. After a restart from the referee, Markes started scoring with his leg kicks. Simpson who had flashed his jab early in the round, finally connected with one right down the middle, and then landed a crushing uppercut that dropped Markes. Smelling blood, Simpson attacked with powerful strikes from the top as Markes struggled to regain his faculties. After pulling out of an armbar attempt, Simpson retreated, allowing Markes back to his feet. A big exchange ensued as time ran down on the opening round.
In the second round, Markes again found his target with stinging leg kicks. A failed takedown attempt by Simpson resulted in a clinch battle against the cage. After battling for position, Markes pushed off and took the center of the cage. Markes then earned a bodylock takedown after blocking a high kick by Simpson, and then went to work with elbows to the body. Simpson was able to get back to his feet near the end of the round, but it looked like the final round may determine the outcome of the bout.
Simpson came out in the third throwing winging right hands as Markes countered with strikes of his own, before clinching once again. While Simpson scored in close with punches to the body, Markes landed knees from the clinch. After breaking, Simpson slipped and ended up on the wrong end of a takedown attempt, but quickly got back to his feet. Markes took the back of Simpson looking to drag him back down to the ground, finally earning a possible fight-winning takedown in the process.
When the scorecards came in, it was Ronny Markes that was announced as the winner via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28).
Markes improves to 13-1 overall, winning his second fight in the UFC and extends his current win streak to six. The victory by the former light heavyweight is his first as a middleweight.
The loss by Simpson (11-3 MMA, 6-2 UFC), ends a three-fight win streak.