The Real Winners and Losers from UFC Fight Night 185

Lyle Fitzsimmons@@fitzbitzFeatured ColumnistFebruary 21, 2021

The Real Winners and Losers from UFC Fight Night 185

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    As combat sports nights go, this one was especially combative.

    A 12-bout Fight Night show at the UFC Apex on Saturday saw eight matches end inside their scheduled distances, with finishes coming via single-shot punches and knees alongside prolonged beatdowns and a submission.

    Highly touted bombers Curtis Blaydes and Derrick Lewis squared off in the main event, with the winner putting himself in the thick of the heavyweight division's championship conversation.

    Five of six prelim bouts ended in two rounds or less, as did three of six on the main card.

    Blow-by-blow man Brendan Fitzgerald and analyst Michael Bisping handled the announce team duties on the ESPN+ broadcast, while Laura Sanko handled backstage features and breaking news pieces.

    She was kept busy by an Octagonal oddity, which occurred when Chas Skelly's featherweight bout with Jamall Emmers was canceled when Emmers began suffering back spasms in the locker room. Skelly had already entered the cage, making it the first time in UFC history a fight was nixed after a walkout.

    "I feel like I should get my win bonus," Skelly said. "I weighed in, I made weight, I stepped into the cage. I did everything I could possibly do to be prepared for this fight, mentally and physically. It's not his fault, things happen that are out of your control sometimes."

    A handful of fighters also missed weight and forfeited parts of their purses in bouts that went on as scheduled, while featherweight Rafael Alves weighed in at an obscene 157 ½ pounds for a scheduled contest with Patrick Sabatini.

    The limit for a non-title featherweight bout is 146 pounds, making Alves' the biggest weight miss in the promotion's history and prompting the cancelation of the fight.

    The B/R combat sports team was there to take it all in and compile a list of the card's real winners and losers. Take a look at our collection, and let us know what you think with a comment or two.

Winner: 1-Shot Power

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    For six-plus minutes, Blaydes looked every bit like a top-shelf heavyweight contender.

    He controlled distance, strafed his opponent's calves with kicks and threatened multiple takedowns.

    But in a blink he was unconscious.

    Such is the danger of fighting a Derrick Lewis.

    The veteran heavyweight waited patiently for the one shot he was seeking and made it count when the time finally came, landing a right uppercut that left Blaydes stiff as a board and earned himself a crunching KO victory just 86 seconds into the second round of their scheduled five-rounder.

    "I couldn't really get it going," said Lewis, who tied an all-division UFC record with his 12th knockout. "I felt dead out there. That was the only punch I was waiting for the whole fight. I didn't care about the one-two, the jab or anything. I knew either that punch or the knee was going to land."

    Blaydes, who was coming forward at impact, collapsed to his back and took two more vicious hammerfists before referee Herb Dean leaped to his defense. Lewis, meanwhile, banged his chest in celebration and flashed his tongue like a lizard as medical personnel rushed into the cage to tend to his fallen opponent.

    The 30-year-old was unconscious for several moments but was up to a sitting position by the time Joe Martinez made the official announcement.

    "The thing that continually jumps off the page about this guy is this otherworldly power," Bisping said of Lewis. "All he's got to do is connect, and you go to sleep."

Loser: Taking It for Granted

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    Ketlen Vieira was having the time of her life.

    The Brazilian was singing, dancing and smiling as she made her walk from the locker room to the Octagon. She continued to sing and laugh as cageside personnel checked equipment and applied Vaseline.

    The subsequent 15 minutes weren't exactly a stroll in the park and left her bruised and bloody, and any remaining jubilation was snuffed out when Russian foe Yana Kunitskaya was awarded a narrow but unanimous decision after three grueling rounds between world-ranked bantamweights.

    Vieira entered the fight ranked sixth behind champion Amanda Nunes, a slot above Kunitskaya.

    All three judges scored it 29-28 for the winner.

    B/R went the other way and saw it 29-28 for Vieira, who had three takedowns and more than seven minutes of positional control time on the mat but never got anywhere close to a submission win.

    Meanwhile, Kunitskaya kept busy with punches and elbows throughout and finished with a 215-35 edge in strikes landed. She was on the bottom for much of the third round but reversed the position in the final minute and landed the punches and elbows that raised an ugly hematoma in the middle of Vieira's forehead and opened a cut just below her hairline.

    Based on the official scores, that final barrage was decisive.

    "Wow," Bisping said. "You have to be active on the ground. You cannot just take top position and expect it to be given to you. Even though Ketlen Vieira was on top, that does not win you the round."

Winner: Finding the Finish Line

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    It was anything but a victory lap.

    In fact, if you had not watched the fight's first 13 minutes, you would surely have thought Phillip Hawes was a beaten man when the buzzer sounded to end his duel with Nassourdine Imavov.

    The New Jersey native was wobbling drunkenly after a barrage of punches and elbows from his desperate foe and all but staggered forward into the Frenchman's arms in the final five seconds.

    But while it wasn't pretty, it was still successful. Hawes reaped the benefits of two rounds of striking and grappling superiority, riding it to a decisive margin in a majority decision over Imavov in their main-card middleweight bout.

    Hawes won two cards by 29-28 margins, while the third was scored at 28 apiece. B/R scored it 28-28 too, giving Imavov a two-point edge in the third after Hawes won two one-pointers,

    "I was pretty confident because I'd gotten the first two rounds," Hawes said. "He hit me with a couple good shots, and he got that [third] round. I wasn't hurt enough to go down. It's a new me, and those shots aren't taking me down. You're going to have to do more than that."

Loser: Hero Worship

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    Tom Aspinall gave Andrei Arlovski all the requisite credit.

    The Englishman said Arlovski, a former UFC heavyweight champion, was instrumental in his developing a love for the sport and was largely responsible for his decision to turn professional.

    But when Saturday night arrived, the credit was all flowing in Aspinall's direction.

    Just seven when Arlovski made his UFC debut, the 27-year-old turned in the most important performance of his three-fight Octagonal career with a second-round stoppage of the ex-titleholder.

    "That's a great way to mix things up," Bisping said. "I don't think Andrei Arlovski was expecting that."

    A narrow winner in a first round spent upright, Aspinall used a running double-leg takedown to get Arlovski to the floor and quickly turned it to a rear-naked choke when the veteran tried to get to his feet.

    A tap-out came seconds later at 1:09 of the second.

    "It took me a bit longer than usual, but it's all good," said Aspinall, who ended all his previous wins in 95 seconds or less. "I just shot him with a big-blast double. The Aspinall jiu-jitsu, baby! That's what it's all about. Rear-naked. Fight over."

    Aspinall improved to 10-2 as a pro and 3-0 in the UFC.

    "You need that experience," Bisping said. "You need the cage time. That was very beneficial for him tonight. He went to Plan B in Round 2. The entire heavyweight division and the world is on notice."

    Another 40-something big man met a similar fate three bouts later, when longtime contender Aleksei Oleinik was stopped by a flurry of punches, kicks and elbows just 1:55 into a bout with Chris Daukaus.

    Daukaus is 11-3 overall and, like Aspinall, 3-0 in the UFC.

    "This is exactly what I planned for, but Aleksei is a legend for a reason," Daukaus said. "I was definitely sweating it when we came into the cage. I just kept punching and punching and punching."

Winner: Embracing the Challenge

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    Julian Erosa has seen the downside of the UFC.

    His one-fight stint in 2016 ended after a KO loss at UFC 196, and a three-fight run across six months in 2018-19 was done after two more defeats by KO and another by unanimous decision.

    By the time he returned for a Fight Night win in June, he had fully adopted the warrior mindset.

    And when the cage door locked shut on Saturday, Erosa was more than ready to get things done again.

    "'I'm willing to die tonight in that cage' I told myself in the back," he said, moments after finishing rugged Nate Landwehr with a flying left knee in just 56 seconds. "I was willing to deal with the pressure, and I was willing to bring the pressure too. It was over before it started."

    The brawlers were frenetic throughout their brief encounter, with each man landing telling blows that wobbled the other. The fateful sequence came as Erosa charged forward and left his feet, feinting a right knee before plowing his left into Landwehr's head and leaving him slumped against the cage.

    Referee Mark Smith immediately stepped in as Erosa went in for follow-up shots, though Landwehr got to his feet and protested the stoppage.

    "[Feinting the knee] creates a little power, and he was out, man—damn," Erosa said as he watched a replay. "[Smith] saved his life pulling me off him."

Winner: Getting Back to Work

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    Aiemann Zahabi hadn't fought in 21 months before Saturday. And he hadn't won a fight in four years.

    So maybe that's why he was so determined to make an impact upon stepping into the cage with heralded prospect and slight betting favorite Drako Rodriguez.

    The 33-year-old Canadian emerged with one of the night's most memorable highlights, erasing his streaking foe with a single right hand to end their bout at 3:05 of the first round.

    Preceded by a flicking left jab, Zahabi stepped in with the power shot that landed on the point of Rodriguez's chin and dropped the Texan immediately to the floor. He swooped in with another pair of ground strikes just as Smith came in to rescue the stricken opponent.

    Trained by his brother, Firas, and a former workout partner of UFC Hall of Famer Georges St-Pierre, Zahabi had been on the short end of consecutive results against Ricardo Ramos (KO 3) and Vince Morales (UD 3). He hadn't had his hand raised since a decision over Reginaldo Vieira on Feb. 19, 2017.

    "That was quite a KO," Bisping said. "You can't land a shot any bigger than that one."

Loser: Poking the Polar Bear

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    Next time, Jared Vanderaa might go about things a little differently.

    The 28-year-old prefaced his UFC debut by suggesting Moldova-based opponent Serghei Spivac was only "basic" when it came to striking skills. It's doubtful he's got the same viewpoint in the aftermath.

    Vanderaa was under Spivac's control for the majority of the first round and then found himself a ghastly mess by the final minute of Round 2, when Spivac's dominance prompted the intervention of referee Chris Tognoni.

    Dubbed the Polar Bear, Spivac landed 107 strikes to Vanderaa's 27 across nine-plus minutes of work and spent better than eight minutes of that time in top position on the mat thanks to three successful takedowns.

    Fifty-one of those strikes landed on Vanderaa's head, leaving him with bloody gashes above and below his left eye in addition to a significant abrasion on the right side of his forehead.

    "I don't typically listen to the things my opponent says," Spivac said. "But if that's still the way he feels, that's OK."

UFC Fight Night 185 Full Card Results

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    Main Card

    Derrick Lewis def. Curtis Blaydes by KO (punch), 1:26, Round 2.

    Yana Kunitskaya def. Ketlen Vieira by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28).

    Darrick Minner def. Charles Rosa by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 29-27).

    Chris Daukaus def. Aleksei Oleinik by TKO (punches), 1:55, Round 1.

    Phillip Hawes def. Nassourdine Imavov by majority decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-28).

    Tom Aspinall def. Andrei Arlovski by submission (rear-naked choke), 1:09, Round 2.


    Preliminary Card

    Jared Gordon def. Danny Chavez by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28).

    John Castaneda def. Eddie Wineland by TKO (punches), 4:44, Round 1.

    Julian Erosa def. Nate Landwehr by TKO (knee), 0:56, Round 1.

    Casey O'Neill def. Shana Dobson by TKO (punches), 3:41, Round 2.

    Aiemann Zahabi def. Drako Rodriguez by KO (punch), 3:05, Round 1.

    Serghei Spivac def. Jared Vanderaa by TKO (punches), 4:32, Round 2.