Junior dos Santos turned in an excellent display of striking to close out UFC Fight Night 146 with a second-round TKO win over Derrick Lewis in the heavyweight main event from Wichita, Kansas, on Saturday.
The first round was one that alternated between staring contests, nearly comical lunging kicks and intense exchanges. Both guys demonstrated their power early on, as JDS landed a massive overhand right, and The Black Beast responded with a right kick.
The fight-changing moment was a spinning back kick that took the wind out of Lewis, though. He spent much of the rest of the round doubled over. But when dos Santos tried to capitalize, he came back with massive counters.
That turned out to be just a survival tactic. In the second round, dos Santos went back to work with his power boxing, and Lewis folded under the pressure. Another right hand put Lewis on the defensive, and the former champion kept the pressure on until Herb Dean was forced to call an end to the fight.
The knockout puts dos Santos among the most prolific finishers in the division:
The win is the third in a row for dos Santos. Cigano has put away Lewis and Tai Tuivasa in his last two fights, proving that there are still few who can withstand his power in a pure striking matchup.
JDS used his post-fight interview to openly question his No. 8 ranking in the division:
The battle of the big men wasn't the only action that transpired in Wichita. The night also saw the emergence of a welterweight title contender, a thrilling first round between Tim Means and Niko Price and a controversial return for Ben Rothwell.
- Junior dos Santos def. Derrick Lewis via TKO, 1:58 Round 2
- Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos def. Curtis Millender via submission (rear-naked choke), 2:35 Round 1
- Niko Price def. Tim Means via TKO (strikes), 4:50 Round 1
- Blagoy Ivanov def. Ben Rothwell via unanimous decision (29-28 x3)
- Beneil Dariush def. Drew Dober via submission (armbar), 4:41 Round 2
- Omari Akhmedov def. Tim Boetsch via unanimous decision (30-27 x3)
- Anthony Rocco Martin def. Sergio Moraes via unanimous decision (30-27 x3)
- Yana Kunitskaya def. Marion Reneau via unanimous decision (29-28 x3)
- Grant Dawson def. Julian Erosa via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 29-27)
- Maurice Greene def. Jeff Hughes via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
- Matt Schnell def. Louis Smolka via submission (triangle choke), 3:18 Round 1
- Alex Morono def. Zak Ottow via TKO (strikes, verbal submission), 3:34 Round 1
- Alex White def. Dan Moret via unanimous decision (29-28 x3)
Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos vs. Curtis Millender
In a battle of fast-rising welterweight prospects, Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos took a big step toward a high-profile fight with a submission win over Curtis Millender.
The Brazilian made it seven wins in a row with a brilliant grappling performance. After a smooth reactive takedown of an aggressive Millender early, it was all dos Santos on the ground. It didn't take him long to go from side control to mount, eventually taking the back and sinking in the rear-naked choke to draw the tap.
It not only increases dos Santos' impressive win streak but also showcases another side of his skill set. It's his first submission victory since 2014. Paired with his recent KO wins, he's showcasing the kind of finishing instinct that could make him a marketable contender.
The time has definitely come for a top-10 opponent. He made no bones about calling out an even bigger opponent after the bout:
Niko Price vs. Tim Means
Niko Price and Tim Means seemed bent on putting on an entertaining affair, and they didn't disappoint.
From the opening bell, both hard-charging welterweights swung for the fences. Price got the better of the opening exchange before Means promptly dropped him with a slam in retaliation.
But the fight wasn't meant to take place on the ground for long. The two worked their way up to the feet and got back to trading blows. Just when it seemed like Means was getting the better of the exchanges, Price countered with a flush right hand that dropped his opponent and brought the fight to an end.
Price's performance was one of the highlights of the night. Handing Means his first career knockout loss is a great way to get noticed and a big bounce back after a knockout loss to Abdul Razak Alhassan in September 2018.
Means fell to 1-3 in his last four fights with the loss.
Ben Rothwell vs. Blagoy Ivanov
Ben Rothwell and Blagoy Ivanov gave fans three minutes of lumbering heavyweights set on finishing one another. Neither was successful to that end, but they did provide plenty of fun exchanges in a decision win for Ivanov.
The rules of engagement were fairly simple. Rothwell played the role of aggressor, plodding forward with combinations and kicks while the former WSOF heavyweight champion countered with big strikes.
In the end, the judges favored the damage of Ivanov's strikes over the aggression shown by Rothwell.
It was a decision that sparked some controversy among Twitter analysts, but it was a close bout that was difficult to score.
The decision gives Ivanov his first win since coming to the UFC. His first bout was against a former champion in Junior dos Santos, so the organization has certainly pushed him into fights against quality competition and will likely continue doing so.
Beneil Dariush vs. Drew Dober
The lightweight tilt between Beneil Dariush and Drew Dober was a tale of two distinctly different rounds.
The first five minutes were all Dober. He came out aggressively and looking to brawl. It was a successful strategy, as Dariush was clearly losing the exchanges:
The second round took place in Dariush's world, as he was able to drag the fight to the mat. Once there, he was able to transition to mount and threaten with submission after submission. Eventually, the traps were too much for Dober, as the Iranian locked onto a triangle armbar that Dober couldn't shake.
It was Dariush's seventh submission win in his professional career, proving his mettle on the ground once again.
The loss stops some serious momentum for Dober, who brought a three-fight win streak into the bout.
Tim Boetsch vs. Omari Akhmedov
If his matchup with Omari Akhmedov is truly his last fight, Tim Boetsch went out with not a bang, but a whimper. The Barbarian struggled to put forth any offense at all against Akhmedov in a one-sided decision loss.
Akhmedov didn't exactly put forth a dominant performance in a somewhat ho-hum affair. He did, however, manage to break Boetsch's nose in the course of the action:
The 38-year-old Boetsch has been fighting in the organization since 2008. While he threw good volume throughout the fight, he simply wasn't able to make it competitive, and it's clear his performance in the cage has seen a dip. He's now 1-3 in his last four fights.
Boetsch has been public about the possibility of retirement, per Mike Bohn and John Morgan of MMAjunkie.
Akhmedov picks up his first win since returning to middleweight. He's now 3-0-1 in his last four fights.