Lucedale's Jason "The Kid" Knight went three rounds Friday night in his Ultimate Fighting Championship debut but was unable to come away victorious.
After three rounds the bout went to the judges, who awarded UFC veteran Tatsuya Kawajiri a unanimous 30-27 decision in the Ultimate Fighter 22 Finale featherweight event in Las Vegas.
Knight, 23, is a former Atlas Fights featherweight champion who trains at Alan Belcher's MMA Club in D'Iberville.
"It's a dream come true to fight in UFC," Knight previously told Sun Herald reporter James Jones. "I've worked toward this goal my whole life. I had my first MMA fight when I was 14. Being a MMA fighter helped keep me out of trouble. It's taught me a lot of discipline and self control."
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The 6-foot, 145-pound Knight almost got Kawajiri, 37, in a triangle choke submission in the first round, but was unable to complete the maneuver. Instead, most of the match was spent on the mat with the 5-foot-7 Kawajiri holding top position. Knight struggled to counter Kawajiri's takedown. In addition to six takedowns, Kawajiri (35-8-2) was credited with 98 ground strikes.
Knight (16-2) had 44 strikes and zero takedowns.
"My strategy was to shut him down in the first and second round and once he got tired, my plan was to finish him in the third. But he was pretty good, so I couldn't finish the fight," Kawajiri said to MMAJunkie's Steven Marrocco. " I couldn't really do much as I expected. He was very good."
The South Mississippian, who signed a four-fight deal with UFC, was a last-minute replacement for the fight. He took the spot of Mirsad Bektic, who pulled out because of injury.
Throughout the fight the commentators credited Knight for sticking in the fight despite his quick turnaround. Leading up to Friday night, Knight had won his last seven fights, including a second-round submission over Chechen Musa Khamanaev in Titan FC 35 on Sept. 19.