Surging welterweight prospect Nah-Shon Burrell rode a strong third round to a controversial split decision over James Terry at Strikeforce “Rockhold vs. Jardine” on Saturday at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

All three cageside judges scored it 29-28: Glenn Trowbridge and Marcos Rosales for the 21-year-old Burrell (8-1, 3-0 SF), Junichiro Kamijo for Terry (11-4, 6-3 SF), who exited the stage in obvious disgust.

Terry appeared to control much of the first two rounds with occasional overhand rights, superior work in the clinch and repeated takedowns, three of them in the first five minutes alone. Burrell was effective on his feet in spurts but looked lost on the ground and failed to establish much of an offensive rhythm in the face of relentless pressure in close quarters.

Perhaps believing he was behind, Burrell emptied his arsenal in round three, as he blasted Terry with everything from stinging right uppercuts and standing elbow strikes to knees, body blows and leg kicks. Still, Terry, a protégé of former Strikeforce middleweight champion Cung Le, appeared comfortable with his effort as the fight closed. Rosales and Trowbridge disagreed with his assessment.

Gian Villante File Photo

Villante quickly defeated Smith.

Two-division Ring of Combat champion Gian Villante needed a little more than a minute to put away Trevor Smith in a light heavyweight encounter. It was over in 65 seconds.

Villante (9-3, 2-2 SF) shut down an initial takedown attempt from Smith, an All-American wrestler at Iowa State University, and went to work with his strikes. He smothered Smith (9-2, 2-1 SF) in the clinch and attacked with knees, a low kick and a stout left hand. A right hook put Smith in retreat mode, and Villante powered him to the ground. There, he fired off a series of hammerfists that called referee Kim Winslow into action.

The loss halted Smith’s streak of five consecutive victories.

King of the Cage mainstay Ricky Legere Jr. dealt Las Vegas-based Swede Christopher Spang his first professional defeat, as he captured a unanimous decision in a competitive welterweight bout. Legere (14-4, 1-0 SF) swept the scorecards by identical 29-28 counts.

Spang (4-1, 1-1 SF) simply could not stay on his feet. Scoring with repeated takedowns, Legere kept the fight where he wanted it with ground-and-pound and active top control. An athletic striker, Spang had his moments, including a tight first-round guillotine choke and a late third-round rear-naked choke, but not enough of them to make a difference.

Legere, who trains out of the Reign MMA camp, has won his last four fights.

Arizona Combat Sports representative Estevan Payan dissected Alonzo Martinez with clean, crisp striking en route to a one-sided unanimous decision in their 160-pound catchweight bout. All three cageside judges scored it the same: 30-27 for Payan (13-3, 1-0 SF), who has rattled off four consecutive victories.

Payan stung his foe with repeated jabs and heavy multi-punch combinations throughout the 15-minute encounter. The 29-year-old Rage in the Cage champion landed at a high rate and with authority, and, by the second round, had Martinez moving backward and shying away from contact. Payan stuffed and sprawled out of the Nebraskan’s attempted takedowns, and he punctuated his victory with a beautiful three-punch combination in the third round, as he put together a jab, right hook to the body and left hook to the head.

The defeat snapped a two-fight winning streak for Martinez (35-16-1, 0-1 SF).

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