Lerone Murphy Edges Gabriel Santos in Heated Contest

Lerone Murphy and Gabriel Santos, UFC 286 weigh-in ceremony Photo: Jamie Theodosi/Cageside Press

In short order at UFC 286, former LFA Champion Gabriel Santos takes on Leron Murphy in a featherweight bout.

Murphy is coming to the end of a long offseason in which he last fought at UFC 267 in October 2021. Although time has passed, “The Miracle” remains a stern test for the debutant Brazilian.

Santos wasted no time changing levels and was the star of Saturday’s game with a well-timed two-legged drive within a minute, but Murphy recovered almost immediately. They returned to the mat in one play, with Murphy leading the charge — even though Santos was struggling to grab an arm. However, Murphy folded Santos against the fence, which forced the Brazilian to ease off his surrender attempt and Murphy got back on his feet.

Back in range, Murphy kicked, even though it was Santos’ kick, and it landed with a loud thud. Murphy had success with his right hand. Santos kicked away the leading leg. A converted knee and a batter flowed off Murphy, who later fired a blocked head kick. But just as Murphy opened, so did Santos, who knocked down his opponent again with a minute left in the round. They didn’t linger for long, and Murphy showed some positional transitions on his feet, which he showed fluidly throughout the round.

Santos finished with a big left hand and the pair came together, forehead to forehead, jaw behind the horn. Just the right amount of heat in a really fun round.

On the second, Murphy opened up and pinned Santos against the fence. Santos tried to reverse; Murphy’s muscles passed him and his knee landed on his thigh. The referee warned Murphy to show him he was trying to improve his position, which he did, bringing Santos down. Murphy took some body shots and stood up. Santos also climbed up. Moments later, a low blow that seemed to just brush past Santos stopped the action, but they didn’t stop for long.

Back on track, Murphy punches back. Santos received a punch, and Murphy kicked high and spun. A kick from Santos knocked Murphy down, and Murphy was then knocked down by Santos’ single-footed shot. Murphy gave up on the back trying to get up, and Santos was on top, locked with body locks. With seconds left in the round, Santos locked onto a bar, but Murphy broke free at the buzzer.

The third over saw Santos complete a strike with less than a minute to go. Crossing his legs, Murphy scrambled to his feet, again risking his back, though this time he narrowly escaped. Murphy then reversed along the fence and fired with an elbow on the break, followed by a blocked head kick.

Lerone Murphy started his punches in the third quarter and had more gas in the tank than Santos — not surprising since Santos replaced Nathaniel Wood on short notice. Murphy’s right hand is money, and Santos picked up Murphy and slammed it hard, it might as well stand firm.

After 15 minutes of intense action, Lerone Murphy claimed a split decision victory.

Official result: Lerone Murphy def. Gabriel Santos by split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)

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