Mike Perry started his climb back up the welterweight division with a bloody split-decision victory over Paul Felder at UFC 226 on Saturday in Las Vegas.
Felder had been scheduled to fight James Vick next week in Boise, Idaho, but when Vick was called to fill the gap against Justin Gaethje in August, he pleaded to step in against Perry, who had also lost his original opponent, Yancy Medeiros.
Though that meant a trip up to welterweight after Felder had racked up three consecutive victories at lightweight, he was willing to risk it.
Though he didn’t come out on the winning end of the decision, Felder gave everything he had against his larger opponent.
Felder and Perry were both aggressive from the opening bell, but clashed heads in their first exchange, opening cuts on both men. That didn’t slow them down for the remainder of the round, though, as each got his shots in on the other. Perry landed some solid elbows and Felder showed crisp boxing and landed a spinning backfist.
Perry opened strong in the second frame, scooping Felder above his head and slamming him to the canvas, but couldn’t keep him there. Quickly back on their feet, Perry landed another powerful elbow, the same as he had in the opening round.
Coming off of the fence, Felder kept pressing forward with his boxing, which eventually opened the path to several oblique kicks to Perry’s lead leg.
Perry, however, bided his time and eventually landed a brutal left hook that opened a gash near Felder’s right eye that quickly painted his face crimson. The fight was halted briefly for the ringside doctor to check the cut, but Felder was allowed to continue.
Perry again took Felder down. Though Felder was quick to regain his feet, he ate several hard punches and a knee from Perry before the two exchanged elbows as the round closed.
In between the second and third rounds, Felder indicated to his corner that he had broken his arm, but it was difficult to see that during the fight, as he never stopped using it.
Perry landed several stinging jabs and a hard right hand, but Felder wouldn’t go away. In fact, he kept fighting back, landing a spinning head kick in the final minutes. Perry shot on Felder again late in the fight, but couldn’t get him down, instead driving knees into the backs of Felder’s thighs as the clock ticked down.
Felder threw everything he had into the final 30 seconds, twice finding a home for his driving knees, but neither he nor Perry could find a way to put the other away.
By the end of 15 minutes, both men were left bloodied and bruised, looking like they’d just walked off the set of a horror film, leaving the fight in the hands of the judges.
When the scores were read, two judges saw it 29-28 for Perry, while another scored it 29-28 for Felder. Perry walked away with the split-decision victory, thankful to finally put an end to his two-fight skid.
“I feel great. I just got back to the basics and got my first decision victory. I’m gonna stick with it. This is a blessing. This is a privilege to be in here,” said Perry.
“You don’t know what it means to me to be in here during International Fight Week, this was a dream for me since I was a baby.”
With the win, Perry improves his record to 12-3 and moves a notch up the welterweight ladder, while Felder, now 15-4, will likely return to his lightweight stomping grounds.