Last night (Sat., Dec. 17, 2022), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returned home to the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada, for UFC Vegas 66. And the final event of 2022 was solid from top-to-bottom ... especially by UFC Apex standards. On the “Prelims” undercard, there were ranked fighters like Manel Kape and quality prospects like Said Nurmagomedov. The momentum built nicely into the ESPN+-streamed main card, a bevy of action fights headlined by a pair of big fights with title implications.
Let’s take a look at UFC Vegas 66’s best performances and techniques:
Close ... But No Cigar
Jared Cannonier vs. Sean Strickland was a classic game of inches and small numbers.
The strike statistics are absurd. Round-by-round, the two landed a nearly equal number of shots. Strickland did most of his work upstairs, whereas Cannonier largely landed to the body and lead leg. There wasn’t a single truly clear round in 25 minutes, and scorecards online varied wildly as well.
Ultimately, Cannonier’s power and forward pressure seemingly swayed the judges. Did they get the decision correct? That’s up for debate!
Alessandro Costa Had A Rough Debut
Amir Albazi is a tough ask on short-notice. In the first round, there was a lot of nervous energy, and neither man did anything too significant. Albazi settled into the fight in the second, however, and he immediately took over. His kicks started flowing, and his right hand landed hard early, producing a knockdown that allowed him to control the rest of the round.
Costa needed something big in the third. Instead, Albazi threw his first uppercut of the fight and landed perfectly, ending the Brazilian’s night in unpleasant fashion. That’s Albazi’s fourth straight win, and it’s really time to get him in the cage with a Top 10 opponent.
Caceres’ Perfect Shot
Alex Caceres doesn’t really knockout opponents.
In his 14th year as a professional, Caceres had previously stopped just three foes via strikes. Two of those wins came more than one decade ago, and the third was a doctor’s stoppage. He’s a high-volume striker, not someone who shuts off the lights with any type of consistency.
Power doesn’t matter when talking about a perfect head kick, however. The left cross-left kick combination is very much in vogue at the moment — ask Leon Edwards! — but Caceres put his own funk on it. His kick lagged far beyond his punch, reminiscent of when Carlos Condit dropped Georges St. Pierre even if that was a different setup. Similar to “GSP,” Erosa never saw the shot that floored him.
Unlike “Rush,” there was no consciousness left when his head bounced off the canvas. Just like that, Erosa’s career-best win streak is up in smoke, all because of a perfectly executed moment courtesy of “Bruce Leeroy.”
A Beautiful Lightweight War
Drew Dober vs. Bobby Green was just so good.
Much of the fight was the Bobby Green show. “King” was flowing, sticking Dober left and right with straights from either stance that Dober just couldn’t see coming. He carved up Dober, reversed his sole takedown attempt, and was interrupting his advances constantly with quick pokes and stabbing kicks.
Unfortunately for Green, Dober is made of steel. No amount of hard shots straight into the mush of his face deterred him. Dober just kept advancing, slowly inching forward so that his left hand was missing by smaller and smaller margins. When Dober did line up his left hand, he capitalized with a picture-perfect overhand left that handed Green a very rare knockout loss.
Put The Wrestler On His Back!
Michal Oleksiejczuk belongs at Middleweight. Cody Brundage represented the type of wrestling threat that really plagued Oleksiejczuk at 205 pounds, but he handled that threat far better at his more appropriate weight class.
Early on, Brundage was able to force the takedown. He never established great top position, however, as Oleksiejczuk continually forced him to scramble and keep adjusting rather than punch or submit. Before long, Oleksiejczuk was able to spin into top position.
Brundage seemed terribly uncomfortable on his back, just holding closed guard and taking shots. That’s a pretty typical reaction from young wrestlers accustomed to dominating top position. Guard work is not a priority, meaning that if a more experienced foe does gain top position, they’re often in for a world of hurt.
The Polish athlete wasted little time in dropping hammers, separating Brundage from his consciousness quickly.
Manel Kape Dominates
Kape absolutely looked like an elite contender last night against the very skilled David Dvorak. He dominated in three aspects of the fight, showing off the talent and skill that made him a RIZIN champion.
In the first, Kape looked sharp on the feet, working the counter. A well-timed body lock saw him taken down, but Kape answered with a beautiful kimura. He very methodically worked the hold from half guard, wisely looking to sweep as soon as he popped the wrist free. Dvorak showed off insane toughness to last until the bell.
Seriously, that shoulder was wrecked:
The second round was a kickboxing showcase. Kape stunned Dvorak on several occasions. He landed gnarly body punches, powerful overhand rights, and gorgeous intercepting knees. He did everything but secure a referee stoppage, simply because “The Undertaker” is durable as hell.
Kape did take his foot off the gas a bit in the final frame. Even so, he masterfully timed counter shots between Dvorak’s desperate swings, picking off some lovely counter shots. “Starboy” secured his third straight win as a result, and it’s long past time to get him off the “Prelims” and into high-profile fights.
- Said Nurmagomedov defeats Saidyokub Kakhramonov via second-round guillotine choke (HIGHLIGHTS): It’s a rare day that the guillotine defeats excellent chain wrestling. Fortunately for Nurmagomedov, his guillotine is pretty darn nasty! In the first, he came close to locking in the rear naked choke grip after securing a high-elbow wrap of the neck, but Kakhramonov popped his head free and dominated the position instead. He continued to do so for most of the fight, but Nurmagomedov found the same position in the second. Kakhramonov was pushing a brutal pace, and so he was a bit slower to react, which meant that Nurmagomedov was able to lock the grip and complete the choke.
- Rinat Fakhretdinov defeats Bryan Battle via unanimous decision: Fakhretdinov might just be a massive problem for a lot of Welterweights. He absolutely manhandled Bryan Battle, knocking him down multiple times and controlling him from top position for pretty much the entire fight. Fakhretdinov’s combination of physicality and ability to transition from strikes to takedowns is scary stuff, and he made a talented young prospect look completely helpless. It’s time to put him on the fast track!
For complete UFC Vegas 66: “Strickland vs. Cannonier” results and play-by-play, click HERE.