Justin Wilcox (file photo) was unable to continue following an eye poke. | Photo: Sherdog.com

An inadvertent eye poke form Gesias “JZ” Cavalcante left surging American Kickboxing Academy representative Justin Wilcox unable to compete 31 seconds into the second round of their anticipated lightweight match at Strikeforce “Overeem vs. Werdum” on Saturday at the American Airlines Center in Dallas. The result of the bout was a no decision.

“I was trying to put more pressure [on him] in the second round,” Cavalcante said. “I came forward and threw the punch. I was expecting him to come in, so I was trying to keep the distance. He came in with his head and got poked in the eye. I didn’t really feel it, but, unfortunately, that’s what happened.”

Wilcox (11-3, 5-1 SF), who entered the cage on the verge of lightweight title contention, made a quick impression, as he bullied Cavalcante to the ground in the first round and later delivered crisp strikes to the head of the two-time K-1 Hero’s 154-pound grand prix winner. The right cross found its mark more than once on Cavalcante (15-4-1, 1 NC, 0-1 SF), who sprawled effectively and managed to stay off his back in the first five minutes.

All of their work was rendered moot inside the first minute of round two, as Wilcox, in pursuit of the Brazilian, took a violent poke to the left eye and could not see well enough to go forward with the fight.

“I don't think I was winning,” Cavalcante said. “I don't know if it was close. I’ve got to watch it. In the first round, I was patient in order to loosen up. In the second round, I was more comfortable and came with more pressure. I put everything in God's hands. I was ready tonight. I always come ready to die. I’m just going to fight through [the setbacks]. God gives me the spirit to go forward.”

Conor Heun File Photo

Heun's arm looked to be injured.

Conor Heun escaped three potential fight-ending submissions from Magno Almeida and claimed a hard-earned unanimous decision over the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt in a preliminary lightweight duel. Heun swept the scorecards by matching 29-28 counts.

Victory may have come at a price for Heun (9-4, 1-2 SF), whose right arm appeared bruised and disfigured in the aftermath. Almeida trapped the 31-year-old Boulder, Colo., native in a nasty second-round armbar, clinging to the submission for more than half a minute. Heun refused to give in.

Almeida (9-2, 1 NC, 0-1 SF) again threatened from his back in the third round, first with an armbar and later with a choke. Heun freed himself from both, moved into top position and unleashed a barrage of punches, hammerfists and elbows from inside the Brazilian’s guard, finishing with a flourish. The win snapped a two-fight losing streak for Heun.

Nah-Shon Burrell utilized superior hand speed and timely takedowns, as he took a unanimous decision from American Top Team’s Joe Ray in a 180-pound catchweight match on the undercard. All three judges scored it 29-28 for Burrell (6-1, 1-0 SF), who has won four fights in a row.

Ray (5-1, 1-1 SF) had his best chance at victory in a wild first round, as he threatened Burrell with armbars, kimuras and leg locks from his back. Burrell escaped each time and pushed the fight into round two, where he appeared to be the fresher of the two men. He scored with multiple takedowns over the final 10 minutes, landed the cleaner and more effective strikes and generally controlled the action between the two.

Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts representative Isaac Vallie-Flagg made his living in the clinch with close-quarters knees and elbows en route to a controversial split decision over Brian Melancon in a preliminary catchweight bout. All three cageside judges scored it 29-28, two of them siding with Vallie-Flagg.

Melancon (5-2, 0-1 SF) roared out of the gate, firing away with heavy power punches. Some of them landed, others missed. His barrage led to a takedown and ultimately the full mount in the first round. Melancon transitioned to Vallie-Flagg’s back and worked for a rear-naked choke, though his efforts went unrewarded.

After a hotly contested round two, they fired away at one another with low kicks, knees and body shots. Melancon scored with a pair of takedowns in the second half of the period, again moving to mount without the desired end result. Vallie-Flagg (12-3-1, 1-0 SF) later returned to his feet and tagged Melancon with knees to the body and elbows to the head, inching ahead on two of the scorecards. The 33-year-old remains unbeaten in his last 10 appearances.

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