Canadian bantamweight Cole Smith loses UFC decision to Hunter Azure in Las Vegas

Bantamweight fighter Cole Smith is seen during the UFC official weight in in Richmond, B.C., Friday, Sept. 13, 2019. Canadian bantamweight Cole (The Cole Train) Smith lost a unanimous decision to American Hunter Azure on Saturday on a UFC Fight Night card. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

LAS VEGAS - Canadian bantamweight Cole (The Cole Train) Smith lost a unanimous decision to American Hunter Azure on Saturday on a UFC Fight Night card.

The judges all scored it 29-28 for Azure, a former Montana state high school wrestling champion who controlled Smith in the clinch for chunks of the first two rounds.

The 31-year-old from Britannia Beach, B.C., just outside of Squamish, used kicks early to keep Azure away but was taken down within the first minute. He got back up but was floored 90 seconds into the round by a combination to the head.

Smith (7-2-0) recovered and looked to take Azure down at the fence, knocking Azure's mouthpiece out with an elbow to the head in the clinch. Smith went down again in the round, losing his balance on an attempted kick.

The Canadian, who earned his black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu in July, took Azure (9-1-0) down briefly at the fence in the second round. Much of the round was spent fighting on the fence with each fighter looking for takedowns.

Behind after the first two rounds, Smith was more aggressive in the third. But the fight returned to a clinch at the fence, with Azure landing another takedown.

Smith took Azure down late in the fight, trying unsuccessfully for a rear-naked choke.

Alistair (The Demolition Man) Overeem, ranked sixth among heavyweight contenders, faced No. 9 Augusto Sakai in the main event at the UFC's Apex production facility.

The card lost two fights due to positive COVID-19 results with the Alexander Romanov versus Marcos Rogerio De Lima and Thiago Moses versus Jalin Turner bouts scrapped.

The UFC, calling it a precautionary move, also replaced Kevin Natividad with Dana White Contender’s Series alumnus Ray Rodriguez as the opponent for Brian (Boom) Kelleher.

The five-foot-11 Smith won his UFC debut in May 2019 with a unanimous decision over fellow Canadian Mitch Gagnon in Ottawa. The 135-pounder then lost a split decision to Miles (Chapo) Johns last September in Vancouver.

Azure also split his two previous UFC fights. He opened with a unanimous decision over Winnipeg's Brad (Superman) Katona, also in Vancouver last September, before losing by second-round KO to Brian (Boom) Kelleher in May.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 5, 2020.

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