Last night (Sat., Nov. 19, 2022), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returned to UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada, for UFC Vegas 65. In the last couple years, we’ve seen some mediocre fight cards grace the Apex stage, but we’ve never seen a pedestrian card lose its main event just hours before the card began (details here). Derrick Lewis’ last-second trip to the hospital derailed one of just two fights between ranked opponents (the other being Jennifer Maia vs. Maryna Moroz), but there was still a bit of action spread out among the many decisions.
Let’s take a look at UFC Vegas 65’s best performances and techniques:
Ion Cutelaba manages to win until he loses perhaps more consistently than any other fighter on the roster.
“The Hulk” started so well. He stunned Kennedy Nzechukwu with a crispy combination early and used that opening to get his wrestling going. The commentators derided that decision, but I didn’t hate it. After all, the end of the wrestling exchange was a takedown into mount — not bad! Cutelaba controlled most of the round and landed some decent shots, and he never seemed to expend a ridiculous amount of energy.
What happened between rounds?!? Cutelaba immediately started whinging sloppy hooks and ducking for way-too-far takedown attempts. There was no composure or strategy. Predictably, Nzechukwu timed him with a couple hard knees, Cutelaba grew more desperate, and the finish materialized moments later.
Cutelaba throws fights away, and Nzechukwu makes it a habit of coming on strong late — this one wasn’t a huge shock.
Kung Fu Reigns Supreme
Muslim Salikhov just beat the tar out of a dangerous striker ten years his junior.
There were some concerns about Andre Fialho making the walk for the fifth time this year, but the Portuguese boxer looked sharp early. His hands and counters were on point, and an early right hand seemed to stun Salikhov. Later, “The King of Kung Fu” admitted the shot disrupted his vision and had him seeing multiple Fialho’s in the cage.
Most 38-year-old veterans don’t survive getting stunned and swarmed. Salikhov managed to clinch and avoid any gigantic blows, however, extending the fight into the second and recovering between rounds. He returned rejuvenated, a testament to his conditioning, which is often one of the first things to falter late in a career.
When Salikhov finds his range, it’s so fun to watch. He is not a perfect technician, but a deceptively athletic striker with a deep bag of tricks. Salikhov can spin so effortlessly, and it’s up to his opponent to guess in a split-second whether a stabbing back kick, brutal hook kick, or less likely backfist is heading his way. Guessing correctly still can hurt, and one wrong selection can end the fight immediately.
That’s not what happened though. Salikhov methodically picked Fialho apart, and his punishing shots — many of which were to the body — forced Fialho to hesitate. After getting him to shell up, Salikhov then lined up the perfect spinning shot to seal the deal.
A Cut Above The Average Contender
Lots of fighters were signed to UFC’s roster from Contenders Series in 2022. A large percentage won’t see the roster by 2024, and fewer still will ever earn a spot in the Top 15 of their division.
Jack Della Maddalena sure looks like an exception. The Australian Welterweight secured his third straight first-round knockout win last night (watch highlights), proving himself a level above the tough and experienced Danny Roberts.
Maddalena is a very clean striker. He manages to maintain good pressure and presence without sacrificing his defense, remaining in his opponent’s face without being easy to hit. That’s a rare skill, and he also shows off his experience by countering his opponent’s offense with good head movement. Again, uncommon for MMA — which has so many weapons to consider that every engagement is dangerous — and absolutely brutal when combined with his precise body punching.
- Natalia Silva defeats Tereza Bleda via insane third-round knockout (HIGHLIGHTS): This was very much a striker vs. grappler battle. Bleda started strong, taking the first frame and nearly locking up a triangle choke. She started to tire in the second, however, resulting in more and more defended takedowns and landed strikes. Her hands are fast! With everything up for grabs in the third, Silva stunned her foe and timed a spin kick landed perfectly, just as Bleda was looking to change levels into a shot. Her foe hit the floor, and Silva improved to 2-0 in UFC.
For complete UFC Vegas 65: “Cutelaba vs. Nzechukwu” results and play-by-play, click HERE.