UFC Vegas 65: Five Things We Learned
UFC Vegas 65 was not what we expected. The original main event was supposed to be Derrick Lewis vs Serghei Spivac, however, the fight got canceled during the prelims due to an illness from Lewis. As a result, the main event became Kennedy Nzechukwu vs Ion Cutelaba. Without Lewis and Spivac the main card did not have a single ranked fighter. In terms of talent, this was one of the most underwhelming top-tier cards in a while. Nonetheless, we learned a few things about a couple of the UFC’s best prospects.
Kennedy Nzechukwu Doesn’t Quit
Kennedy Nzechukwu was the winner of the impromptu main event after he landed a massive knee that hurt Ion Cutelaba badly. He then landed a flurry of punches and got the finish. The fight was not always going in his favor though. Nzechukwu lost the first round by a wide margin as Cutelaba landed some solid strikes and tallied a lot of control time. In round two, Nzechukwu made an adjustment and landed the knee as Cutelaba went for a takedown.
The one thing to know about Nzechukwu is that he does not quit. It does not matter how badly he losses a round or how hard he gets hit, he will not stop fighting. If you want to beat Nzechukwu you have to separate him from consciousness or win on the judges’ scorecard because he is not going to quit.
Jack Della Maddalena is a Problem
Jack Della Maddalena may have been the biggest winner at UFC Vegas 65. Maddalena showed out as he knocked out Danny Roberts in the first round. He has now won all three of his UFC fights by first-round knockout. Against Roberts, he once again displayed his absurd boxing. He strikes in such an effortless fashion, but he is highly effective. Every time he throws, he lands and it hurts his opponent. Strategically, he digs to the body well and can counterstrike at an elite level. Simply put, he can strike with the best welterweights in the world. It is evident that he is the division’s best prospect. Keep an eye out for Maddalena, you may see him in the rankings sooner than you expect.
Natalia Silva is an Elite Prospect
Natalia Silva absolutely smoked Tereza Bleda at UFC Vegas 65. If you have not seen the video, check it out below.
There is more to this fight than the finish though. That is not to take away from the finish, it was incredible. The things that Silva did outside of the finish were impressive too. Bleda is a tremendous grappler. Her path to victory in this fight was to take Silva down and control her on the ground. That is exactly what she tried to do. However, Silva showed impressive takedown defense and was able to land a nice sweep on the ground. She was not perfect, she was taken down several times and got caught deep in a triangle choke. However, she showed the skills needed to grapple with the strong wrestlers in the women’s flyweight division. Still, the thing that makes her stand out is her striking. In most of her fights, she will have an advantage in that department.
At this point, I’d crown Silva as the best prospect in the women’s strawweight division. Originally, I had her just behind Karine Silva, but I think she has proven to have a higher ceiling.
Waldo Cortes-Acosta Continues to Impress
At UFC Vegas 65, Waldo Cortes-Acosta won his second UFC fight in a three-week span. In his first bout against Jared Vanderaa, he proved that he has solid boxing. However, against Chase Sherman, he looked even better. Cortes-Acosta showed a lot of tools that will help him find success at heavyweight. First off, he is super quick. Pair his quickness with his impressive jab and you are off to a good start. In addition, he flows very well at heavyweight. He can avoid shots while staying in a position to return with his own offense. Plus, he can land powerful overhands and elbows easily. Overall, it looks like he will be a tough heavyweight to trade with.
I do think Cortes-Acosta has holes. The most evident are his grappling flaws and his inability to check leg kicks. In the future, those deficiencies could cause issues. Despite that, I am not ready to count him out. I think we are looking at a raw prospect with a lot of natural talent. If he can make the necessary improvement he could reach the rankings. If he can not, he will face serious adversity.
Muslim Salikhov Gets Backs on Track
Muslim Salikhov and Andre Fialho were both trying to get back on track at UFC Vegas 65 after losing their last bout. Salikhov was the one that was able to accomplish that goal. Salikhov was able to pull ahead by landing a lot of early shots to the body. Later, he began to go upstairs with spinning heel kicks that landed and hurt Fialho. From there he had a massive advantage and he slowly picked Fialho apart before finding the finish in the third round. This was probably the biggest win of his career. Not only did he look great, but he was able to add Fialho’s name to his resume. That is probably the biggest win on his resume too. More importantly, this win is keeping him close to the welterweight rankings. At 38 years old, that is crucial if he wants to make a run in the UFC rankings.