NEW YORK -- One year after coming up short in a UFC title bid in Madison Square Garden, Stephen Thompson picked up a much-needed win in the iconic venue.
Thompson (14-2) defeated Jorge Masvidal (32-13) via unanimous decision at UFC 217 on Saturday, good for his first victory in 17 months. The bout took place on the undercard of the pay-per-view event.
All three judges saw it convincingly for Thompson, via scores of 30-26, 30-27 and 30-27. The win keeps Thompson in title contention, despite a loss to defending champion Tyron Woodley at UFC 209 in March.
"I could have done better tonight, but everybody knows I'm not giving up on that title baby," Thompson said. "I'm going for it.
"I pulled out a win tonight. I've been out eight months with a knee injury. It was good to get back in the Octagon, in New York City."
Thompson, of Simpsonville, North Carolina, flustered Masvidal on the feet throughout. He kept his veteran opponent off-balance, constantly switching stances and changing up his striking pattern.
His biggest shot came in the second round, when he dropped Masvidal, of South Florida, with a right hand in the middle of the cage.
To his credit, Masvidal, 32, continued to pressure Thompson -- even after the knockdown. He targeted Thompson's leg with kicks early, but eventually was forced to march forward and try to cut off the cage. He opened a small cut under Thompson's right eye late.
Despite an apparent hand injury in the second round, however, it was Thompson's night. He's now won eight of his last 10, but has faced Woodley twice and failed to capture the title.
Prospect Paulo Costa smokes former champion Johny Hendricks
Brazilian middleweight prospect Paulo Costa (11-0) finished Johny Hendricks (18-8) at 1:23 of the second round, improving to 3-0 in the UFC.
Costa hurt Hendricks with head kicks and punches along the fence early in the second frame. Hendricks, a former welterweight champ, tried to circle away several times but couldn't find a way to back Costa up.
With Hendricks hurt, Costa began unloading right uppercuts along the fence. Referee John McCarthy mercifully stepped in, despite protests from Hendricks.
Hendricks, 34, falls to 1-5 in his past six fights. He moved up to the 185-pound weight class this year. Costa, 26, has finished all 11 of his pro fights.
Vick stuns Duffy late in second round for eighth UFC win
Vick, of Fort Worth, Texas, dropped Duffy with a right uppercut near the end of the round and followed him to the ground with strikes. Duffy was still moving as the fight was called off, but he was badly hurt.
It was Vick's eighth win in the UFC and fifth finish. His only loss came via first-round knockout to Beneil Dariush in June 2016. He has been vocal in 2017 about fighting a highly ranked opponent.
Saturday could be a breakout performance for the 30-year-old. Prior to the finish, he out-struck Duffy 43-to-26 according to Fightmetric.
Ovince Saint Preux knocks out Corey Anderson in devastating fashion
OSP lands electrifying head-kick KO
Ovince Saint Preux lands a staggering left-head kick on Corey Anderson that knocks him out in the third round of UFC 217.
Welterweight Randy Brown (10-2) threw a snag into any hype that had been building around Mickey Gall (4-1), as he handed him his first loss in a unanimous decision (29-27, 29-28, 29-28).
Brown, of Jamaica, took Gall down in the first and third rounds and had little trouble controlling him from top position. Gall, of New Jersey, put together a strong effort in the middle frame, but he had no answer for Brown's top game in the bookend rounds.
Gall attempted one last-ditch guillotine in the final minutes, but Brown easily cleared his head and continued to score points with elbows and punches. Brown moves to 4-2 in the UFC.