After being on the shelf for 1240 days, Australia’s Tyson Pedro (8-3, 4-3 UFC) has returned to the octagon with a bang, cruising to an easy first-round TKO over Ike Villanueva (18-14, 1-5 UFC) at UFC Vegas 52.
The impressive win puts the now 30-year-old back on the map and amongst the pack in the UFC Light Heavyweight division.
It also ends a tough three and a half years for the Western Sydney product.
Going into this fight, Pedro had not fought since a third round stoppage loss to MMA legend and former champion, Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua (27-12-1, 11-10-1 UFC) back in December of 2018, a bout where he tore his ACL.
Since then, he has also dealt with a number of other nagging injuries that have halted his career progress.
As a result, many experts were curious to see if the once highly touted prospect would be the same after such a long layoff, but it looked like the Aussie hadn’t lost a step.
The fight started really slow, with Pedro doing a good job of maintaining range and countering his shorter opponent. After catching Villanueva with a sharp one-two, Pedro accidentally landed a groin strike, which saw the bout paused for nearly two minutes.
When the fight resumed Pedro continued to establish his range, pushing Villanueva back and causing major problems with the outside leg kick.
The strike was so successful that in the final minute of the first, Pedro made Villanueva limp with one of the outside leg kicks, before dropping him with another with just ten seconds left in the round.
Moments later, the Aussie followed up with a barrage of strikes, forcing referee Mark Smith to stop the fight with five seconds left in the opening round.
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When talking post-fight to Daniel Cormier, Pedro was overcome with emotions after his first appearance in nearly four years.
“It’s surreal at the moment. I just needed to take it all in cause there’s a lot going on,” he told.
“I can’t put it into words, how hard its been. [After] four long years, this is the proudest I can say I am of myself in a long time.”
Despite the break, Pedro feels that he has matured as a fighter, evidenced by a more patient display.
“If you’ve seen my last couple of fights, they felt rushed,” he added.
“It was a bit amateurish of me. One thing that’s happened is that my mentality has gotten way better, I’m way more patient.
“I couldn’t say if that was me for sure, but it showed tonight.”
When asked about his next move, Pedro said that he wanted to fight as soon as possible. Not only to make up for lost opportunities to compete, but to make up for a lack of financial reward.
“First and foremost someone get me my daughter and then book me another fight because daddy’s gotta get paid,” he said.
Before his long hiatus from the octagon, Pedro was a top 15 Light Heavyweight and one of the most exciting fighters in the division.
This result has put him in the right direction to get him back to this position, where he will aim to compete with the division’s elite.
For all of the results from UFC Vegas 52, click here.
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