Junior dos Santos is back on the championship track.
The 35-year-old dos Santos (21-5) looked sharp from the opening bell, using feints and leg kicks to soften Lewis (21-7, 1 NC) up. All the while, dos Santos appeared to be wary of Lewis’s vaunted knockout power.
“Cigano” scored the first major blow of the bout, landing a huge overhand right that staggered Lewis. He whiffed on a follow-up and nearly ate a counter left from Lewis, but for the most part dos Santos avoided the worst of what Lewis had to offer, including a few impressive high kicks that were blocked.
Near the end of the first, dos Santos landed a spinning kick to the mid-section that had Lewis hunched over in pain and the effects of that strike appeared to carry over into the second round. There, dos Santos picked his spots and eventually connected with another big right hand that left Lewis turtled up against the fence. Dos Santos fired away with punches until Lewis fell to his knees and referee Herb Dean waved the bout off as Lewis failed to defend himself against dos Santos’s follow-up strikes.
The official time of the stoppage was 1:58 of round two.
Post-fight, dos Santos led the crowd at InTrust Bank Arena in singing “Happy Birthday” for his son and then declared his intention to challenge for the heavyweight title again.
“I don’t care as long as I get active,” dos Santos said. “I want fights, UFC. Man, to tell you the truth, how can these guys be in front of me in the rankings? They put me back there, I don’t know why, but that’s fine, that’s fine, I’m here to fight again and regain my belt.”
Dos Santos has now won three straight fights, with his last two coming by way of knockout. He is tied with Ruslam Magomedov and Justin Willis for the second-longest active UFC heavyweight winning streak behind champion Daniel Cormier (4) and his 10th UFC KO puts him into a tie with Lewis and rival Cain Velasquez on the promotion’s all-time list.
From the start, the movement of “Capoeira” befuddles Millender. Zaleski landed strikes to set up a takedown and Millender’s attempt at a guillotine choke was easily shrugged off. An ensuing scramble resulted in Zaleski taking Millender’s back where he immediately hunted for a choke. 2:35 into round two, Millender was forced to tap out to a rear-naked choke, his first loss in four UFC appearances.
Zaleski has now won seven straight, putting him into a tie with Santiago Ponzinibbio for the second-longest streak in the welterweight division behind UFC champion Kamaru Usman (10). The 32-year-old Brazilian’s last three wins have all come by way of knockout or submission.
“I’m making history in the UFC,” Zaleski said in Portuguese afterwards (translation per MMA Fighting’s Guilherme Cruz). “This is my seventh win in a row, and it should be the eighth. Man, I want someone from the top five. Anyone? Let’s go.
“Or the belt, no problem. Let’s fight. I want to fight. I just want to be valued in here and show my work.”
A potential welterweight brawl lived up to its billing as Niko Price (13-2, 1 NC) and Tim Means (28-11-1, 1 NC) threw down for almost five full minutes until Price dropped Means with a right hook and finished with ground-and-pound with 10 seconds remaining in round one.
Price started off fast, hurting Means early with a flurry that forced Means to scoop Price up and slam him to the mat. Means worked to improve his position, but Price was able to get out and turn the fight back into a striking match. Still, Means looked to have steadied the ship and he was backing Price up with straight punches that were finding the mark. However, he walked right into a pinpoint counter from Price, which led to Price pouncing on a fallen Means for the finish.
Price has now won three of his last four fights, all by knockout or submission, while Means has lost three of four.
Returning from a hiatus of over 1,000 days, Ben Rothwell (36-11) saw his comeback spoiled by a gritty effort from Blagoi Ivanov (17-2, 1 NC). The former Professional Fighters League heavyweight champion used a stick-and-move strategy for three rounds, using short combinations to slow the advance of Rothwell. As the bout progressed, Rothwell increased his output and began to land combinations of his own.
Nose bloodied, Rothwell continued to press forward in round three and appeared to pull ahead in the striking department. However, it was too little too late and when the scorecards were read, all three judges awarded the fight 29-28 to Ivanov.
This was Ivanov’s first win in the UFC. Rothwell was competing for the first time since April 10, 2016, after serving a two-year USADA suspension.
After an action-packed first round that saw Dober wade through Dariush counters and pour on the pressure, the second was a more controlled affair as Dariush took Dober down early with plenty of time to work. Dariush methodically worked to mount, throwing punches from top position and searching for submissions. Dober was able to avoid several dangerous positions, but eventually found himself in an unescapable armbar that had him submitting at the 4:41 mark of round two.
With the loss, Dober saw a three-fight win streak snapped. Dariush has now won back-to-back contests.
Akhmedov used clean boxing counters and an accurate right hand to bust Boetsch up and stay ahead on the scorecards throughout their three-round encounter. In the second round, Akhmedov landed a straight right that badly damaged Boetsch’s nose. He kept out of Boetsch’s range in the third and continued to counter en route to a trio of 30-27 scores in his favor.
See the full results for UFC Wichita here.