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UFC Vegas 65: Nzechukwu vs. Cutelaba Winners and Losers

The real winners and losers from UFC Vegas 65

UFC Fight Night, UFC Vegas 65, Nzechukwu vs Cutelaba, Kennedy Nzechukwu,
UFC Vegas 65: Nzechukwu v Cutelaba
Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC | BE Graphic: J.M. Williams

A fight card that didn’t have much going for it as far as name recognition went took a massive hit before the preliminary card came to a close. With the UFC Vegas 65 main card approaching, the UFC commentary team announced the UFC had scratched the originally scheduled heavyweight main event between Derrick Lewis and Sergey Spivak.

Those who put that disappointment behind them and remained tuned in for the entire event got their fill of action in the replacement headliner. In that light heavyweight scrap, Kennedy Nzechukwu picked up an impressive knockout victory thanks to the knees he landed to the head of Ion Cutelaba.

The main card featured two other outstanding stoppages. Muslim Salikhov put away Andre Fialho via strikes and the rising Jack Della Maddalena picked up his third consecutive first-round UFC knockout win.

Read on for the complete list of winners and losers from UFC Vegas 65, which took place at UFC Apex and streamed on ESPN+.

Winners

Kennedy Nzechukwu: Kennedy Nzechukwu and Ion Cutelaba got the top spot on the UFC Vegas 65 fight card after medical issues forced Derrick Lewis out of his scheduled matchup opposite Sergey Spivak. Nzechukwu, who has been with the UFC since 2019, made the most of the opportunity, coming back from a rough first round to get the second-round TKO win.

With his stoppage win, which came via knees to his opponent’s head after some poorly timed takedowns from Cutelaba, Nzechukwu has two consecutive knockout victories.

The 30-year-old Nzechukwu is still a work in progress, but he’s fighting out of a good camp in Fortis MMA and he seems anxious to learn and comes across as an incredibly coachable and eager fighter.

Waldo Cortes-Acosta: I don’t know how far Waldo Cortes-Acosta can climb in the UFC heavyweight division, but he moved to 9-0 overall and 2-0 in the UFC with his win over Chase Sherman. Cortes-Acosta has heavy hands and as he showed in lighting up Sherman in the second round, he can put a flurry of strikes together without completely running out of gas. His striking isn’t anything to write home about as far as technique goes and he is a headhunter, but we’re talking heavyweight and sometimes power is all that matters in that division.

Muslim Salikhov: Muslim Salikhov had a bit of a tough first round against Andre Fialho, but he came back strong in the second round to hurt his opponent via an impressive display of striking where he mixed up his targets and techniques. That striking advantage carried over to the third round, where he earned the stoppage win. The stoppage was a big bounce-back for Salikhov, who saw his five-fight winning streak end in July with a TKO loss to Li Jingliang.

Jack Della Maddalena: The 26-year-old Jack Della Maddalena moved to 3-0 in the UFC with his third consecutive first-round knockout win, finishing UFC vet Danny Roberts at 3:24 of the first round.

Della Maddalena, who fights out of Perth, Australia, looks like he has an incredible upside. It’ll be interesting to see who the UFC gives him in his next outing, but it would not be a surprise if that opponent is listed in the official UFC welterweight rankings.

A main card bout on the UFC Perth event in February would be a perfect fit for the up-and-coming scrapper

Jennifer Maia: NeitherJennifer Maia nor Maryna Moroz are known for their striking accuracy. Maia entered the bout at 36 percent and Moroz at 32 percent. Still, Maia did a nice job of finding the mark in this contest, landing 43 percent of her significant strikes and winning the decision.

Kevin Natividad vs. Ricky Turcios: The bantamweight contest between Kevin Natividad and Ricky Turcios was a fun fight that lacked defense. Both fighters got after it on the feet and the scrambles on the mat were just as entertaining as the striking.

Turcios picked up the split decision win. The difference in this contest might have been the final minute of the third round when Turcios’ ability to keep the pedal to the floor left Natividad fighting off a submission and then eating ground strikes.

Vanessa Demopoulos: Vanessa Demopoulos is on a three-fight winning streak after earning a unanimous decision win over Maria Oliveira at UFC Vegas 65.

Demopoulos used her wrestling and ground-striking skills to pick up the victory. One thing that gave me pause in this fight was that Demopoulos’ striking was a little reckless. She threw a lot of full-power strikes, leaving her open for counters. She’ll need to keep an eye on that as she works her way up the rankings.

Natalia Silva: Natalia Silva, a former Jungle Fight champion, debuted with the UFC in June after being out of action for more than two years. Her debut was very impressive. What stood out in that fight was her striking. That aspect of Silva’s game was also the high point of her second UFC fight. In the third stanza, Silva stopped the debuting Tereza Bleda with a perfectly timed spinning back kick. The kick landed as her opponent dropped levels and caught Bleda on the jawline. Silva’s stoppage KO was very impressive.

The downside of Silva’s performance was that she spent a long time fighting off a submission attempt in the first round. Silva’s work on the ground showed that she needs a lot of defensive work on the mat.

Losers

Ion Cutelaba: It would not be a surprise if UFC Vegas 65 is the last we see of Ion Cutelaba inside the octagon. With his knockout loss to Kennedy Nzechukwu, Cutelaba is 2-6-1 since 2019. He’s been finished in all six of those setbacks.

Chase Sherman: With his loss to Waldo Cortes-Acosta, Chase Sherman fell to 2-5 since May 2020. Even in the heavyweight division, that’s probably not good enough to stick around.

Zhalgas Zhumagulov: Zhalgas Zhumagulov started his fight opposite Charles Johnson by putting a lot of pressure on his opponent, which helped him to make up for the height and reach he was giving up. His striking combinations were effective and he seemed to have the edge in power. However, Zhumagulov was on the receiving end of two low blows and that might have been the reason he faded in the third round.

I find it hard to criticize his fight IQ for not pursuing a finish after he hurt Johnson’s leg in the final five minutes because of the low blows.

Zhumagulov isn’t a bad fighter, but he is on a three-fight losing skid after UFC Vegas 65, and that’s never a good thing.

Maryna Moroz: UFC fighters are not going to win many fights with a significant striking landing rate of 29 percent unless they drop their opponent a few times or do a lot of damage. Maryna Moroz landed 80 of the 272 significant strikes she attempted against Jennifer Maia and had zero knockdowns. She lost.

Maria Oliveira: Maria Oliveira learned a lesson in her strawweight bout opposite Vanessa Demopoulos. That lesson was that advantages in height, reach and striking skills are useless if you can’t get off the mat when your opponent takes you down.

Fernie Garcia: Fernie Garcia is a powerful striker, but the 30-year-old spent too much time looking to find the perfect spot to land a knockout blow and not enough time using jabs to set up his big punches. Garcia also struggled greatly with his takedown defense and ability to get off the mat once his opponent Brady Hiestand got the fight to the ground. Garcia dropped to 1-2 in the UFC with the unanimous decision loss.

Tereza Bleda: The 20-year-old Tereza Bleda made her UFC debut on Saturday. She had a good opening round, seeming to come close to scoring a submission win. However, she needs work on her striking and cardio, which failed Bleda in a big way before her knockout loss. Silva was 6-0 heading into UFC Vegas 65.

Fans: Many UFC Vegas events feel as if they are designed to fulfill ESPN’s content demands. When the UFC Vegas 65 Vegas card lost its main event between Derrick Lewis and Sergey Spivak and saw the light heavyweight scrap between Ion Cutelaba vs. Kennedy Nzechukwu to headlining status, the weak nature of these events became even more visible.

James Krause: James Krause, who was to be in the corner of Miles Johns, was reportedly not allowed to corner his fighter at UFC Vegas 65. After his win, Johns said Krause received a call during the team meal the night before the fight informing him he would not be permitted to corner his fighter. Johns did not have any other information to offer at the post-fight press conference and was unsure if the call came from the UFC or the Nevada State Athletic Commission.

Neither

Charles Johnson: In a fight plagued by fouls, Charles Johnson took a split-decision win over Zhalgas Zhumagulov. Johnson picked up his volume in the third round, after landing two low blows on his foe, but he seemed to struggle with the power and pressure of Zhumagulov in the early going of the fight.

Johnson got the win in this one, but it was not a great performance and the jury should remain out on his upside and potential in the UFC.