The Ultimate Fighting Championship kicked back into
gear on Saturday with UFC Fight Night 184 , a card rich with ranked
fighters as well as hungry prospects. While the undercard of “UFC
Vegas 18” was a mixed bag in the non-stop action department, the
main and co-main events featured definitive, dramatic stoppages.
Once the dust settled, some fighters had taken big steps forward
while others took equally large spills. Here is the stock report
for UFC Fight Night 184: Overeem vs. Volkov.


As always, it takes a lot for a heavily
favored fighter to merit a mention in this section. For a 4-to-1
favorite—as Sandhagen was in Saturday’s co-main event—winning was
expected, so he needed to show us something more. Mission
accomplished. By knocking Frankie
, a man whose toughness is the stuff of legend, out cold
in 28 seconds, the lanky Coloradan collected an all-timer of a
scalp for the trophy case. More importantly, Sandhagen demonstrated
the futility of making him wait any longer for a shot at
bantamweight gold. His quick and humiliating loss to Aljamain
last June, once a serious roadblock to title
contention, is less of an issue now that Sterling is finally set to
receive his own long-delayed title shot. Meanwhile, Sandhagen’s
back-to-back brutal stoppages of Marlon
and now Edgar have made an eloquent argument for him to
be the next to face whoever emerges victorious from Sterling’s
fight with reigning champ Petr Yan next

Even those observers who predicted Volkov
would defeat Alistair
may not have expected the surgical dismantling the
towering Russian delivered on Saturday night. While Overeem’s
career track over the last two or three years represents one of the
more remarkable late-career reinventions in heavyweight MMA
history, Volkov’s performance was the work of a man who had studied
all of Overeem’s recent fights, figured out what he was doing and
swept away all of the smoke and mirrors with ruthless efficiency.
Volkov’s crisp, accurate and deliberate punch combinations trumped
Overeem’s movement and high guard, and he landed heavy shots early
and often, right up until the merciful second-round stoppage. While
a definitive loss to Curtis
complicates Volkov’s prospects for a future title shot,
the former Bellator MMA and M-1 Global champ is still just 32 and continues to
refine his game, as he gradually packs more muscle onto his
imposing frame.

Dariush’s main-card tilt with Diego
was a rematch six years in the making, and while
Dariush emerged victorious once again, their second fight was even
closer than their first. So why does the UFC’s proudest
Assyrian-American appear on this list? Simply put, Dariush-Ferreira
was a rare lightweight matchup between fighters on long win
streaks, clawing at a Top 10 spot in the sport’s deepest division.
Whoever lost the fight figured to lose all that momentum, like
Sonic the Hedgehog disgorging a shower of coins, and with so much
at stake, Dariush came through. Now on a six-fight tear that
includes outstanding wins over Ferreira and Drew Dober,
Dariush is all but guaranteed a marquee name in his next fight, and
has to enter the conversation of legitimate title contenders.


Last fall, “The Moroccan Devil” was on the
short list of the biggest breakthrough stars of the Year of COVID.
He was a tier beneath Khamzat
, Kevin
or Joaquin
, certainly, but he had made a big splash with three
straight wins over fellow prospects, characterized by a flashy
kickboxing attack and punctuated by his charmingly high-energy
charisma on the mic. Less than six months later, the 24-year-old’s
star is in free fall and he is dangerously close to becoming “just
another guy” in one of the UFC’s most crowded divisions. Zalal’s
loss to Ilia
last September was excusable, as Topuria is a physical
brute and superior grappler who now looks like a future contender
himself, but Saturday’s outing against Seung Woo
is more troubling. As a 2-to-1 favorite over a fighter who
had been idle for all of 2020, Zalal found himself outstruck,
outwrestled and outhustled for 15 minutes. All is not lost; Zalal
is a young fighter at an outstanding camp in Factory X, who may
well experience the kind of physical and stylistic maturation that
Choi demonstrated in their fight. For now, however, Zalal takes
another step back. His next fight will have enormous stakes riding
on it.

Unfair as it may be, it’s difficult not to
compare Kape’s performance on Saturday to the Octagon debut of
two weeks ago at UFC 257. For a former champion from
another promotion debuting in the UFC, first impressions count for
a lot. They aren’t everything—Eddie
, Carlos
and Mauricio Rua
all lost their debuts and did just fine—but there’s something to be
said for making that walk for the first time, with all those
expectations on your shoulders, and authoring a moment like
against Chris Leben,
against Michael
, or Chandler against Dan Hooker.
For his long-awaited debut, former Rizin Fighting Federation champion Kape was
matched up with Alexandre
, a Top 10 flyweight with a history of lapses in
striking defense and fight strategy. Facing a challenging yet
beatable fighter in Pantoja, Kape simply didn’t deliver. Credit
must be given to the Brazilian, who fought one of the sharpest,
smartest fights of his career, but Kape showed few flashes of the
lightning-quick, dynamic striking that had made him such a prized
acquisition for the UFC. “Prodigio” will probably receive at least
two more chances to show that he is a contender at the highest
level, but he will never get another chance to make a first