Fabio Maldonado overcame a rough first round, a nasty gash and a game Gian Villante to earn his third straight victory Sunday night at UFC Fight Night 38.

Maldonado came on strong after Villante landed a knee that left his face a crimson mess, dominating him throughout the remaining minutes of the second and the entire third.

“I went back into my corner and they told me to throw large volume of punches,” he said. “Four at a time. I was in deep waters (early), but it is not always like it looks on the outside.”

Maldonado (21-6) has now topped Villante, Joey Beltran and Roger Hollett since three straight losses. He is 4-3 inside the Octagon overall.

“He is a very tough guy,” said Maldonado, of Villante. “I take my hat off to him.”