Just three fights into the UFC 249 event, it feels like sports have officially returned to action. The preliminary portion of the card on Saturday night kicked off with a welterweight clash between Niko Price and Vicente Luque that had the potential to be a Fight of the Night contender coming in. The two men delivered beyond those expectations, fighting to an early contender for Fight of the Year before a Luque left hook caused enough damage to Price's eye to force the doctor to stop the fight late in Round 3.
Luque (18-7-1) and Price (14-4) wasted little time getting to work, with both men throwing heavy strikes. While Luque found early success with leg kicks, Price's right hand landed consistently. A first-round right hand from Luque began to raise some swelling on Price's face, however, and that foretold larger issues later in the fight.
The wild exchanges would continue in Rounds 2 and 3 with swelling mounting for Price as he continued to throw heavy shots to Luque's head. Late in the third round, a picture-perfect left hand from Luque sent Price stumbling backward and to the floor. After Luque followed him to the mat, he stood back up and welcomed the fight back to the feet.
But the damage was already done as Price's eye was swollen closed. With Price unable to see, the doctor informed the referee the fight needed to be stopped and the contest was waived off at the 3:37 mark of Round 3.
With the win, Luque rebounds from a loss to Stephen Thompson in his previous outing. He is now 7-2 dating back to 2017 and 11-3 since joining the UFC.
"I definitely think that I've gotten better since my last fight and that I'm still here. I'm still here to be relevant and get up that division and eventually fight for that title. I still have a lot to improve, I'm 28 years old, I'm excited for this and I'm excited for how much I have to improve," Luque said after the fight. "I was not able to show everything I've improved because Niko is an awkward guy and he came in hard and tried to take me out and brought different situations, but at the same time I felt happy with my performance. And considering how everything went for this camp, it wasn't the ideal camp with everything going on, but I feel good and I had fun in there."
Price was coming off a 2019 Knockout of the Year contender, a dispatching of James Vick with an upkick in October. He is 6-4 in his 10 most recent fight.
For complete results, highlights and analysis of the action on Saturday night, be sure to visit the CBS Sports UFC 249 live blog.