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Vannata gets back in the win column

If you’re an MMA fighter who hasn’t won in his last four fights, and not since December 2016, it helps to have a fan in high places.

More important, though, it helps to win a fight.

Saturday in Melbourne, Australia, Albuquerque lightweight MMA fighter Lando Vannata defeated Brazil’s Marcos Rosa Mariano by first-round submission (Kimura) on UFC 234.

Vannata, in improving his record to 10-3-2, secured the submission hold with just five seconds left in the round. Mariano is 6-5.

Though he had signed a new, four-fight contract before leaving for Australia, Vannata said after Saturday’s fight that his four-fight victory drought (two losses, two draws) had been on his mind.

“(The victory) means everything,” Vannata said. “… I love this game so much. I enjoy these moments so much. To go out there and get back in the win column was an absolute pleasure.”

The Vannata-Mariano fight, originally scheduled for an early prelim slot to be streamed on UFC Fight Pass, was elevated to co-main event status on Saturday’s pay-per-view telecast. The event lost its original main event when Robert Whittaker was pulled from his scheduled fight against Kevin Gastelum after being diagnosed with a hernia.

After Saturday’s card, UFC President Dana White said the decision to upgrade Vannata’s fight to the PPV telecast was a no-brainer.

“Tell me the last (bad) fight you saw that kid in,” White said. “It doesn’t exist. The kid’s an animal. I love the way that kid fights.”

Of the fight itself, Vannata said it basically unfolded as he had expected.

“We kind of had a game plan to go in, take him down and do our work on the ground,” Vannata said. “But we just wanted to let it come naturally, just flow with it.

“We knew he had good standup, but I have good standup too. So I had no problem exchanging in striking. But we were looking to take it to the ground once it presented itself.”

LEO WINS: In Carson, Calif., Albuquerque boxer Angelo Leo dropped Alberto Torres twice en route to a victory by lopsided unanimous decision on Saturday night. All three judges’ scorecards read 79-71 after the eight-round bout.

Leo improved his record to 16-0 with eight knockouts. Torres, of Sacramento, Calif., is 11-2-3 (four KOs).

Torres was down in the second and fifth rounds as Leo, who now lives and trains in Las Vegas, Nev., remained unbeaten. The bout was contested at the 126-pound featherweight limit, although Leo intends to campaign principally at the 122-pound super bantamweight limit.