LAS VEGAS — Canadian featherweight Felicia (FeeNom) Spencer snapped a two-fight losing streak with a dominant TKO win over Leah (Nidas) Letson on the undercard of a UFC Fight Night card Saturday.
Spencer (9-3-0) used a gruelling clinch game to punish Letson at the fence throughout the fight. And referee Mark Smith stepped in four minutes 25 seconds into the third round, with Spencer in full mount and raining blows from above.
Letson (5-2-0) had not fought since November 2018 when she won her UFC debut in a split decision over Lithuania's Julia Stoliarenko. Letson had been sidelined by a thyroid issue, among other health problems due to overtraining.
The 29-year-old was a cast member on Season 28 of "The Ultimate Fighter,'' making it to the semifinals of the reality TV show.
Former featherweight champion (Blessed) Max Holloway, ranked the No. 1 contender among 145-pounders, outlasted No. 3 Yair Rodriguez for a hard-fought decision (49-46, 48-47, 48-47) win in the main event at the UFC's Apex production facility.
"This guy's a beast," said Holloway.
Brazilian heavyweight Marcos Rogerio de Lima (19-7-1) stopped (Big) Ben Rothwell (39-14-0) with a flurry of big blows just 32 seconds into the first round in the co-main event.
Spencer stuck to Letson like glue at the fence for most of the fight, punishing the American with elbows, knees and punches as she looked for a takedown. Letson stayed on her feet, but was in defensive mode most of the fight.
The 30-year-old Spencer, a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and taekwondo, improved to 3-3-0 in the UFC. The Montreal-born Spencer, who now calls Orlando home, had lost three of her last four, albeit to elite opposition.
The former Invicta FC champion lost a split decision to Brazilian Norma (The Immortal) Dumont last time out in May. That marked her first outing since June 2020 when she lost a decision to featherweight champion Amanda (Lioness) Nunes at UFC 250.
The 30-year-old Spencer won her first seven fights, including her UFC debut, before losing a unanimous decision to former featherweight champion Cris Cyborg at UFC 240 in July 2019. She rebounded from the Cyborg loss by beating France's Zarah Fairn Dos Santos before stepping in against Nunes and Dumont.
At five foot seven, Letson had a one-inch height and three-inch reach advantage.
Spencer came out fast, pressuring Letson at the fence. She maintained the clinch, landing a nice elbow as Letson looked to fight off a takedown. But it came at cost with Letson's face soon showing damage.
Letson escaped the fence with just over a minute left in the round, but Spencer took her right back there, landing elbows.
Spencer took Letson back to the fence to start the second round, then took her down. Letson got back up quickly and Spencer almost went down, but managed to keep her equilibrium and started the clinch work again at the fence.
Letson finished the round on her knees, eating punches and then a knee as she got up. She complained of stomach cramps to her coaches as she went to her corner after the second round.
Down two rounds, Letson came out in the third with purpose and took Spencer down within 20 seconds. But Spencer reversed position and started punching as the two stood back up.
A bloodied Letson looked exhausted and out of answers as a busy Spencer kept striking. Another takedown followed with Spencer landing big elbows from above.
Spencer finished the fight with four takedowns and a 56-17 edge in significant strikes.
"I wasn't surprised by her toughness at all," said Spencer. "I'm always ready for a war, obviously. I always hope for a finish sooner but I definitely was confident in my takedowns."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 13, 2021