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Well, that was a reminder not to judge a book — or a fight
card — by its cover.

UFC Fight Night 185
started out fight week as a 15-bout
marathon, relatively low on ranked contender matchups and headlined
by a main event that promised to be a one-sided mauling. The
outlook did not improve when the card lost three of its most
interesting matchups in the last 36 hours, including the
ultra-rarity of one fighter walking out to the Octagon, only to
have his opponent not follow suit.

Despite the modest expectations and the setbacks, “UFC Vegas 19”
delivered a ridiculous night of fireworks, with so many
highlight-reel finishes that poor Julian
scored a flying knee knockout in under a minute and still
managed to get frozen out of the post-fight bonus derby. And that
horrible style matchup in the main event? Like a microcosm of the
card as a whole, it delivered more shocking violence than we had
any right to expect. On such an explosive, revelatory night of
fights, of course some fighters’ fortunes rose while others fell.
Here is the stock report for UFC Fight Night 185: Blaydes vs.


Saturday’s main event featured the Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight
division’s all-time leader in takedowns against its all-time leader
in knockouts, but the takedown guy was a 4-to-1 favorite for a
reason, as Curtis
’ relentless wrestling assault had been too much for any
man not named Francis
to handle. A round and a half later, Lewis had notched
a solid contender for “Knockout of the Year” — certainly the most
chilling. More importantly, it was the signature victory of his
career so far, positioning “The Black Beast” one more win away from
a title shot, at most.

Fans and media are often too eager to credit a fighter with
one-shot knockout power, and commentators trying to maintain
audience interest in a one-sided fight too often resort to telling
us that the losing fighter could turn things around at any moment
with a single punch. Perhaps more so than any other fighter in
history, Lewis actually embodies that ideal. It is worth noting
that while he entered the Octagon as the all-time heavyweight
knockout king, and he left tied with Vitor
for the most knockouts in UFC history, period, Lewis
had already been the all-time leader in knockouts in the third
round or later for several years. That isn’t too shabby for a guy
whose conditioning is supposedly one of his weaknesses. He may be
an endless source of sound bites, and a Top 5 pound-for-pound
social media follow, but underestimate this man’s skills and heart
at your own mortal peril.

Six months ago, Daukaus joined the UFC to
extremely modest expectations; if anything, he was the
less-promising older sibling of recently signed middleweight
prospect Kyle
. After a brutal knockout win over the aging, but still
wily Alexey
, it’s suddenly the big brother who is the subject of
attention, now 3-0 in the Octagon with three first-round finishes.
Part of the buzz is due to the step up in competition; while
Daukaus’ first two wins were over middling competition, Oleynik is
a recent Top 10 heavyweight and still a fringe contender. However,
at the same time, the older brother has been making strides
towards being less of the big brother. While he pushed the
heavyweight limit just two years ago in Cage Fury Fighting Championships, the
Philadelphia cop has slimmed down dramatically, coming in at a
svelte 234 for the Oleynik fight, with all the attendant
improvements in speed and athleticism — and cardio, presumably,
though that hasn’t exactly come up yet. Looking at the transformed
prospect on Saturday, it was hard not to imagine him cutting all
the way to light heavyweight, but why would he bother? In a UFC
heavyweight division where no fighter is more than four wins away
from the Top 10, Daukaus is right where he should be, 75% of the
way there.

The UFC announcers referred to Zahabi more
than once as a prospect we would like to see more of. The first
part of that statement may be a stretch, as the younger brother of
Tristar Gym head honcho Firas Zahabi is 33 years old and has
technically been on roster for almost five years. The second part,
however, is dead-on. With his brutal knockout of a far more highly
touted prospect in Drako
on Saturday, Zahabi reminded us of just how sharp his
offensive arsenal is — and, somewhat ironically for a scion of a
team sometimes accused of turning fighters boring, how potent and
aggressive he can be on the feet. Let us all pray that it isn’t
another 18 months before we see him in the Octagon again.


Vieira began the week as a surging
bantamweight contender, headed into a high-stakes bout with fellow
Top 10 fighter Yana
. Thanks to the current state of the division —
nearly cleaned out by Amanda
, with pound-for-pound spoilers Holly Holm
and Germaine
de Randamie
running interference — Vieira might well have
parlayed a convincing win over Kunitskaya into an immediate title
shot. Instead, Vieira takes an undeniable step back with a
razor-close decision loss to the Russian. Opinions will vary over
the decision, depending on whether you value Vieira’s general
dominance and protracted ground control over Kunitskaya’s bursts of
offense and visible damage, but Vieira also missed weight by two
whole pounds. Considering that that would have placed her three
pounds over the limit for a title fight, UFC matchmakers might have
been slow to grant her a title fight even if she had won on
Saturday. While the 29-year-old Nova Uniao bruiser will almost
certainly have more chances in the years to come, it’s hard not to
see this as a disappointment.

Last May, Rosa lost a unanimous decision to
in which he was completely dominated on the ground for
most of the fight. It was one of our first introductions to the
realities of empty-arena UFC events, as we could clearly hear a
frustrated Rosa — a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt — trying to
verbally goad Mitchell into letting him up so that they could slug
it out on the feet. It seemed fair to give Rosa a pass on that
fight; Mitchell is turning out to be the kind of MMA ground phenom
who will probably embarrass quite a few more highly credentialed
grapplers in the cage before all is said and done. However, Rosa’s
loss to Darrick
at “UFC Vegas 19” was even more lopsided. It was not
surprising that the burly Minner, a former college wrestler, had
such success bringing the fight to the floor, but what followed, in
all three rounds, was a one-sided clinic in top control. Rosa was
reduced to offering up low-percentage submission attempts from his
back, which were punished by Minner, who thwarted them easily and
advanced to more dominant positions. Rosa’s roster spot may not be
in immediate danger, since he has alternated wins and losses since
joining the UFC in 2014, but it’s growing more difficult to see
winnable matchups for him in the extremely competitive 145-pound