Amir Albazi passed his first test against the flyweight elite but not with flying colors. Albazi snuck out a split decision win against former interim title challenger Kai Kara-France at UFC Fight Night in Las Vegas on Saturday.
"There is no name. There is only one thing I want. I want to get that title. That is all that matters," Albazi said. "I want to get my title. I'm next."
The decision was by no means a robbery but will certainly be disputed. It was a good performance in Albazi's first fight against a flyweight ranked in the UFC's official top five, but it likely won't inspire an immediate title shot.
The pick'em odds were a fair and accurate reflection of this modern-day twist on striker vs. grappler. Kara-France nearly lapped Albazi in significant strikes. Albazi effectively neutralized his opponent when the fight hit the mat. Kara-France's takedown defense held up well enough to keep the fight in his realm for the majority of the 25 minutes, but the judges sided with Albazi.
Albazi secured a pivotal takedown in Round 3 and nearly submitted Kara-France with a rear-naked choke. Kara-France -- stretched out and in deep trouble -- remarkably wiggled free and ended the round unloading punches from inside Albazi's guard.
Kara-France and Albazi shared the experience of fighting past three rounds for the first time on Saturday, but their body language was far from identical. Albazi was visibly slower entering Round 4, yet Kara-France looked faster the further the fight progressed. Kara-France appeared to land harder and more damaging blows across the final two frames.
Albazi is now a perfect 5-0 in the UFC. Kara-France is on the first two-fight losing skid of his double-digit UFC career.