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UFC Vegas 65 Review: Kennedy Nzechukwu seizes the moment!

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Just hours before he was scheduled to take on Sergey Spivak in the main event of UFC Vegas 65, Derrick Lewis withdrew due to a non-COVID related illness. There is still no official word on what caused the sickness, but as they say in showbusiness, “The show must go on!” The fighters who did participate displayed their skills and toughness in an event that would leave fans in attendance and those watching on television satisfied with the effort and entertainment. There’s a lot to unpack here; without further ado, let’s get into it!

Nzechukwu vs. Cutelaba

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Light Heavyweight veteran, Ion Cutelaba, began round one with an impressive striking combo that made a visible impact on rising star, Kennedy Nzechukwu. However, instead of capitalizing on the momentum he’d gained, Cutelaba curiously began grappling with his opponent. Nzechukwu did a good job of fighting against Cutelaba’s wrestling skills, but eventually Cuteleba was able to take him to the mat. Nzechukwu would fight to his feet only to suffer a second takedown within the round.

In round two, Nzechukwu appeared determined to prevent a repeat of the previous round. He began the round with a flying left knee that made an impact on Cutelaba’s chin and wobbled him. Cutelaba showed amazing resolve by staying on his feet but Nzechukwu would not be deterred. He forced Cutelaba to back into the cage and then began pummeling him with punches. Cutelaba was rendered defenseless and the referee was left with no choice but to stop the fight.

At 6’5″ tall, Kennedy Nzechukwu has the potential to pose a big problem for his opponents in the Light Heavyweight division. He is only 30-years-old, so he is in the midst of his physical prime. If he continues improving at this pace, it won’t be long before he is being discussed for a shot at the title.

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Sherman vs. Cortes-Acosta

Heavyweight combatants Chase Sherman and Waldo Cortes-Acosta began the first round of their bout with relative caution. That changed around the two-minute marker of the round, when Cortes-Acosta landed a nice striking combination that left Sherman visibly stunned. Sherman was unable to match Cortes-Acosta’s striking power, however, he did manage to score a takedown in the final minute of the round.

In round two, Cortes-Acosta landed a right jab, left uppercut, right hook combination that stunned Sherman early on. Sherman’s only response was to wrap his arms around Cortes-Acosta to prevent himself from being knocked out. However, Cortes-Acosta’s onslaught would not stop. At the minute-and-a-half mark Cortes-Acosta landed a significant right jab and then began to dance and taunt Sherman. Another barrage of punches in the final minute of the round put the exclamation point on a dominant period of action for Cortes-Acosta.

Knowing that he was facing an insurmountable deficit on the scorecards, Sherman gave it all he had in round three. Although he put forth a valiant effort, it was not enough to overcome Cortes-Acosta’s switch in strategy from aggressor to counterpuncher. Ultimately, Cortes-Acosta coasted in the final round, yet he was still awarded a unanimous decision victory by the judges. The former minor league pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds is looking better every time he enters the octagon; he has a bright future in his newfound favorite sport!

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Fialho vs. Salikhov

Andre Fialho and Muslim Salikhov were content to stay on the outside and use calf-kicks and jabs to score from distance for the first three minutes of their bout. Eventually, Salikhov grew bored with being cautious and decided to execute a well-timed level-change and takedown. Fialho eventually fought to his feet and immediately landed a right jab that caused the left eye of Salikhov to begin swelling up.

Salikhov began round two by relying on calf-kicks, then mixing in well-timed jabs that kept Fialho off balance. Two minutes into the round, Salikhov began advancing forward and landing his left jab with increased frequency. Near the end of the round, knowing he had to do something to make his presence felt, Fialho swung wildly; he missed and his own momentum carried him to the mat. Salikhov seized the moment, pounced on his opponent and began pummeling him with strikes and elbows. Fialho was saved by the bell, lucky to survive the round.

Salikhov started round three as if he was on a mission to take the fight out of the hands of the judges. A spinning back kick to the body of Fialho seemed to knock the wind out of him and cause irreversible fatigue. He followed that up with a beautiful spinning back kick that landed on the right side of Fialho’s face. Fialho was left in a daze and seemed to have the sense knocked out of him. The referee could tell Fialho was no longer able to fight back, thus he mercifully stopped the fight. This was an impressive performance for Salikhov that should result in a boost in the Welterweight hierarchy when the new divisional rankings are released early next week.

Della Maddalena vs. Roberts

Jack Della Maddalena looked impressive in his bout against Danny Roberts tonight. He began the first two minutes of the fight with an incredible barrage of punches that would have knocked out most fighters. How Roberts managed to survive the onslaught is anyone’s guess. After Roberts fought his way to his feet from being knocked to the canvas, Della Maddalena mounted a second attack; this time Roberts was unable to fight back. The referee stepped in and stopped the fight. This is now the third consecutive fight that Della Maddalena has won by first round knockout!

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Johnson vs. Zhumagulov

The story of Charles Johnson versus Zhalgas Zhumagulov is a tale of multiple fouls being committed by each fighter. In the first round, Johnson was called for a thumb to Zhumagulov’s eye. Later, he was called for a kick to his opponent’s protective cup. In the second round, Zhumagulov returned the favor by kicking Johnson in the cup. Before the end of round three, each of them would commit at least one more foul, apologizing to one another every time. Eventually the referee grew tired of the debacle and issued a stern warning to both of them. Yet he never deducted a point.

At the end of the third round, the two fighters collapsed into each other’s arms and engaged in a warm embrace. This was a close fight when the two men weren’t poking one another in the eye or kicking one another in the cup. Johnson was awarded a split decision victory; however, it is safe to say that nobody who witnessed this train wreck is clamoring for a rematch between these two fighters.

Major Takeaways

Jack Della Maddalena is a young fighter who has now won his third consecutive fight by way of a first round knockout. The UFC is constantly looking for the next Conor McGregor; they may have found him. Paddy “The Baddy” Pimblett is a chatter box who excels at self promotion, but he has not exhibited the exciting ability to knock opponents out that Della Maddalena has. Pimblett has promoted his way into being a mainstay on pay-per-view events, but Maddalena looks as if he is going to achieve this same result through his actions in the octagon and leave the attention drawing antics alone.

What’s Next

The UFC returns next week with another edition of Fight Night. This time the event will take place in Orlando, Florida. The main event of the evening features welterweight veterans Stephen Thompson and Kevin Holland in a match that could have future championship implications. You won’t want to miss it! As always, we’ll have all the latest updates about the outcomes of the fights, as well as in depth analysis, available right here at World in Sport!

Until next time, take care of yourselves, and each other.

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