The Real Winners and Losers From UFC Fight Night 174August 9, 2020
This was a pit stop before a major pay-per-view show next weekend.
But that doesn't mean it was just another Saturday night at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas.
The 12-bout card was packaged as another Fight Night production on ESPN and featured a trimmed-down broadcast team that included blow-by-blow man Brendan Fitzgerald and analyst Paul Felder.
Megan Olivi was on hand for locker room features, and Joe Martinez handled cage announcing duties.
It was the 14th show put on by the company since its early May return from a pandemic-related shutdown and its second since returning from a monthlong stint at Fight Island in the United Arab Emirates.
"To think of so many sports and so many athletes who have nothing going on these days, and here we are calling fights again," Felder said. "It's a pretty good life we're leading."
Chalk ruled the roost as 10 of the 12 fighters who climbed into the Octagon as favorites were rewarded with victories, and none of the four fighters making their UFC debuts emerged victorious.
Six of 12 fights went the scheduled distance, and the ones that didn't reach the final horn ended in a variety of ways—including a rare KO by spinning backfist, three others with single-punch suddenness and two more by choke-prompted submissions.
Ranked heavyweights Derrick Lewis and Aleksei Oleinik took center stage for the main event, but we'll keep you in suspense for a bit on that specific result. As always, Bleacher Report put together a comprehensive list of the real winners and losers for the show, and we encourage you to read through to see how your takeaways matched up with ours.
Winner: Keeping a Promise
True to his "Black Beast" nickname, Lewis promised mayhem.
And even after enduring an initial five minutes that featured far more monotony, the UFC's fourth-ranked heavyweight delivered on his assurance.
Lewis shook off a series of early headlocks and choke attempts from No. 10 heavyweight and submission specialist Oleinik and then returned with a signature striking attack that quickly yielded success—in the form of a TKO just 21 seconds into the second round of a scheduled five-round main event.
It was Lewis' 24th career victory, his 19th by knockout and his 11th by knockout within the UFC, establishing a new record among heavyweights and placing him just one stoppage away from the promotion's overall record across all weight divisions.
"It feels good, especially knowing what I was up against," Lewis said.
Oleinik reversed a takedown and spent the latter half of the first round attempting to work his man into a submission choke position. It wound up being largely a side headlock and never strayed too close to danger, but Lewis was still forced to bear most of Oleinik's weight and looked fatigued heading back to his corner.
Nevertheless, he emerged for the second round with instant aggression, leaping to drive his left knee into Oleinik's chest and following with a sweeping right-hand punch that dropped the 43-year-old to his back. Lewis immediately pounced and used both hands to throw 23 unanswered punches—some landing flush, others not—before referee Herb Dean intervened.
Oleinik and his team did not protest the stoppage.
"He was a tough guy, and he was strong," Lewis said.
Loser: Doubting an Ex-Champion
It was easy to suggest Chris Weidman's best days were long, long gone.
And future bouts may ultimately prove that to be true.
Nevertheless, the former three-defense middleweight champion woke up the echoes for at least one night, scoring just his second win in five years with a grinding unanimous decision over No. 11 contender Omari Akhmedov over three rounds at 185 pounds.
Now 36 years old, Weidman won his championship in 2013 and held it until a shocking fourth-round KO by Luke Rockhold at UFC 194 handed him his first professional loss in 14 fights. He'd managed just one win in his five fights since, including a disastrous one-fight rise to light heavyweight last fall, before returning to his original division and promising a run that'd get him back to past glory.
Against Akhmedov, who'd not lost in six bouts since 2016, Weidman sought to take the fight to the ground and did so in the first round while racking up more than two minutes of positional control. The burly Russian was more successful in the second as Weidman appeared to be suddenly slower and more stiff, but the former champ rallied again in the third and kept his foe horizontal for more than half of the round.
"What a performance tonight by Chris Weidman," Felder said. "He got back to wrestling. Back to where he's dominant."
Weidman was given 10-8 verdicts for the final round on two scorecards and wound up earning two overall 29-27 nods and a 29-28 edge on the third.
"There was a lot of pressure on me, and I'm happy to get my hand raised," he said. "Not too happy with the performance, but I needed a win, and I got it done. I can't be that mad. The game plan was get to his legs, stop his initial movements and get to my submissions.
"I'm back, man. I'm back. All the top-tier guys, I'm coming for you. It's me on the right page, and that's a problem for everybody."
Winner: Maintaining Momentum
Let the record show that Beneil Dariush lost a fight 27 months ago.
Because it looks like might be a while before it happens again.
The 31-year-old lightweight recorded his fifth straight victory in dramatic, violent and impressive fashion to open Saturday's main card, dropping Scott Holtzman with a spinning backfist to the jaw and prompting an instant intervention from Dean at 4:38 of the opening round.
It was the eighth spinning backfist KO in UFC history.
"Lightweight's got a player. He just put everybody on notice," Felder said. "Look out."
That appeared to be sound advice throughout the brief encounter, which saw Dariush shake off a pair of eye pokes to land two powerful knees that rattled Holtzman and put him into survival mode. The fight briefly went to the ground before it got back to a vertical setting, which allowed Dariush to unleash the fight-ending sequence—in which his left elbow and forearm actually connected with Holtzman's jaw.
"To go in there against a durable guy like Scott Holtzman and get him out of there," Felder said, "that's something to celebrate."
Dariush, who missed weight Friday and was forced to forfeit some of his purse, agreed.
"Sometimes it happens," he said. "I forget everything, and I just do stuff."
Loser: Answering the Bell
Middleweight Trevin Giles was scheduled to face Kevin Holland to open the main card at last week's Fight Night show in Las Vegas but was removed from the slot when he fainted just before the walk to the cage.
Holland stayed local and got back on the schedule for Saturday night's follow-up card, on which he was matched with newcomer Joaquin Buckley in a scheduled three-rounder.
As it turned out, Buckley may have been better off sitting out.
The 5'8" slugger vainly attempted to topple his long, lean 6'3" opponent with wild power shots, but he was too frequently rewarded with heavy damage from pinpoint counter shots. That scenario repeated itself in decisive fashion in the third round, when a single Holland right hand dropped Buckley to the mat and promoted an immediate stoppage from referee Mark Smith.
"That has been what he's been doing all night. Waiting for his moment to capitalize on the counter," Felder said. "It was a laser-sharp right hand. That was a sniper of a right hand. You don't see it done any better than that."
Holland improved to 18-5 overall and 5-2 in the UFC, and he recorded his second Octagon KO of 2020 after a first-round stoppage win in May over Anthony Hernandez.
"He was short. So it was harder to find a lot of things I wanted to find. So I wanted to wait," Holland said. "If I could have went a lot faster, I would have. But it wasn't there right away."
Winner: Mullet Power
It's been a good few months for mullets.
The business-in-front, party-in-back hairstyle has been worn to great success by charismatic heavyweight Tanner Boser thus far in 2020, resulting in a pair of KO victories in which he's spent barely more than 10 combined minutes in the Octagon.
If Saturday is any indication, Andrew Sanchez is looking for a piece of the action too.
The veteran's hair is a slightly lighter shade and he carries a couple dozen fewer pounds while laboring down at middleweight, but Sanchez was just as devastating a commodity in recording a sudden first-round KO of slight favorite Wellington Turman in the fourth fight on the preliminary card.
Sanchez landed a quick left jab and followed with a long right hand that dropped Turman to his back, which left him vulnerable to two ground strikes and a quick intervention from Dean.
"You're going to find a lot more fighters growing mullets after what Tanner Boser and Andrew Sanchez are doing this summer," Felder said. "I was really, really impressed with how loose he was."
The win was his 12th in 17 career fights and fifth in eight UFC appearances.
"I've been working on all kinds of things. My last fight was all defense. But that's just a piece of the puzzle," Sanchez said. "I've been working on my striking. I'm throwing bombs, and I'm throwing heat. It feels good after being called a boring wrestler. Now I'm a complete mixed martial artist. I can relax in there. I can open up. I can throw heat. Goddamn, I'm excited."
Loser: Keeping Shorts On
Gavin Tucker was already having all sorts of problems.
The Canadian had been dropped to his back after absorbing a thunderous uppercut from Justin Jaynes and was enduring a follow-up guillotine choke attempt with more than a minute remaining in the first round.
But just as it looked like the end was near, survival mode kicked in.
Tucker squirmed frenetically to loosen Jaynes' grip, and in doing so prompted his shorts to slide away from his waist and down to his knees—revealing camouflage-style boxer briefs to the Apex and ESPN audiences.
"It's a good thing he's wearing them, or we could have a situation here," Felder said.
Undaunted by the wardrobe malfunction, Tucker turned the adverse situation to his advantage and had Jaynes scrambling to escape a choke of his own by the end of the first round. He dominated the second five-minute session with strikes and then got the finish in the third after flooring Jaynes with an uppercut and cinching in a rear-naked choke that yielded a submission at 1:43.
"That was nonstop, relentless pursuit of a submission victory," Fitzgerald said. "Very impressive stuff, especially when you consider where he was early on."
Winner: First to Three
It's a good time to buy stock in Youssef Zalal.
The Moroccan-born featherweight is only 23 years old and still just 12 fights into his professional MMA career, but he's already showing the kind of stuff that transforms fighters into superstars.
Zalal provided highlight material strikes, dominated on the mat and exuded nearly nonstop enthusiasm and confidence in capturing a wide three-round decision over octagonal newbie Peter Barrett.
The triumph made Zalal the first fighter with three UFC wins in 2020.
A spinning back kick in the first half-minute of the first round will no doubt make the social media rounds for the imminent future after it dumped a wide-eyed Barrett to his back and appeared as if it would result in a quick stoppage.
Barrett toughed it out, however, and regained his feet to avoid danger for the balance of the round.
The fight went to the floor several times across the final 10 minutes, with Zalal making several attempts at submission chokes and pounding Barrett with strikes. The stoppage never came, but the youngster was still rewarded with two 30-26 scores and another 30-27 tally from the judges.
"He's just 23 years old and as bright a prospect as the UFC has on the roster," Fitzgerald said.
Zalal landed 54 significant strikes and had nearly a 65 percent accuracy rate, alongside three takedowns and more than six minutes of control time.
"I had a lot of things to prove to myself. I'm young. I learn every day and every fight," Zalal said. "I was excited. I'm young. You give me an opportunity, and I'm gonna take it. I'm very grateful."
UFC Fight Night 174 Full Card Results
Derrick Lewis def. Alexey Oleynik by TKO (punches), 0:21, Round 2
Chris Weidman def. Omari Akhmedov by unanimous decision (29-27, 29-27, 29-28)
Darren Stewart def. Maki Pitolo by submission (guillotine choke), 3:41, Round 1
Yana Kunitskaya def. Julija Stoliarenko by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-27)
Beneil Dariush def. Scott Holtzman by TKO (spinning backfist), 4:38, Round 1
Tim Means def. Laureano Staropoli by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
Kevin Holland def. Joaquin Buckley by TKO (punches), 0:32, Round 3
Nasrat Haqparast def. Alex Munoz by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Andrew Sanchez def. Wellington Turman by KO (punches), 4:14, Round 1
Gavin Tucker def. Justin Jaynes by submission (rear-naked choke), 1:43, Round 3
Youssef Zalal def. Peter Barrett by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-27)
Irwin Rivera def. Ali AlQaisi by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)
Performances of the Night
Andrew Sanchez, Darren Stewart, Gavin Tucker, Kevin Holland